Life and Death

Kimberly Harkte posted a guest post by Harvey Ussery titled What to Tell Vegetarians Who Say Eating Meat is Immoral. Most of the arguments that vegetarians have against eating meat have to do with their own health concerns and that of the animal being eaten. There is an assumption that killing an animal is immoral.

Ussery argues against CAFOs where animals do suffer during their short lives but reminds us that there are other ways of raising animals. There are backyard chickens and rabbits that may become food. Local farmers who raise smaller numbers of pasture raised cattle and pigs also offer humane treatment and quality life. Ultimately though, these animals do die to become food.

I side with Ussery in his argument. I think the vegetarian who believes that there is moral superiority in not eating meat, thinking they are not participating in the death of another living thing may not be as correct as they think. What about the wild life that is displaced for all those vegetable farms? Are they not dying so that the vegetables can eat? Do we get rid of all predators? There are those who feed their cats (who are obligate carnivores, meaning they are unable to get all the essential nutrients from anything but the flesh of other animals) vegetarian diets. Is this humane to the cat?

Death is part of life. We are part of a circle of life. I live and I kill things as I eat them. They may be plants, bugs or animals. When I die, I too will become part of the food chain on the other side, or so I hope. Our current burial regulations and funeral practices will mean that it will take far longer but the microorganisms that will feast on my dead body will do so no matter what barriers we attempt to put between what is left of our flesh and the ground. The microorganisms who feed on me will feed larger forms of life and ultimately condition the soil so that other plants and animals live.

It may be that I kill things, but ultimately I have hopes that my body will allow other things to live when I am done with it.

Life does not exclude death. In fact, to live fully, to be completely in touch with life requires an intimate awareness of death. It would be nice to ignore it, but nature doesn’t work that way. There is a reason some animals are predators and others are prey.

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