Is It Ethical to Eat Meat?

Over the last few years I have dramatically reduced my meat intake and over the last few months I have started to follow a strict vegetarian diet for moral, health and environmental reasons.

I would just like to start a discussion about how Ozbargainers view the topic.

This isn't an attempt to convert anyone or a means by which to make vegetarians and vegans feel superior. Rather I would be interested to hear peoples opinions.

Please lets keep the discussion rational and civil! :)


  • Curious, how many supplements do you take now?

    Every vegan/vegetarian I've known (not many I'll admit) have needed supplements… Even a relative who is bringing her kids up vegan, needs to give them supplements.

    Certainly not the natural way

    • Interested to know as well.

    • +25 votes

      Plenty of non-vegetarian/vegans also end up with vitamin and mineral deficiencies too.

      It's entirely possible to eat a lot too, but still not get the right nutrients.

      But yeah having said that, it's also easy for a vegetarian to live off processed / junk food and end up sick. A vego who is conscious and manages their diet carefully and thoughtfully can easily have excellent results in blood tests (I say this because its the simplest guide to overall health).

      I had a vegan friend who just ate takeaway fries and potato chips and rice, etc. Meanwhile in my vego days I would eat nuts, fruit, veggies, beans/legumes, all whole foods… and never ever suffered anaemia. Never took iron supplements either.

      • Plenty of non-vegetarian/vegans also end up with vitamin and mineral deficiencies too.

        Which is probably caused by lifestyles (diet, environment, etc.) far removed from that which we evolved to live.

        Vitamin D deficiency is pandemic across the developed world with prevalence rates of 25–95+ % from population to population, caused by a lack of sunlight exposure.

        Humans didn't evolve to cover up most of our skin with clothing, nor did we evolve to avoid meat.

        • Erghh, we also didn't evolve to sit on a couch or at a desk for 90% of the day.

          The vast majority of people would benefit from a vegetarian/ vegan diet as the vast majority of people are overweight (there are also plenty of elite level athletes who are vegan).

          Also refer to your mouth when you make that last statement. Our teeth does not suggest we evolved with a meat heavy diet..

        • @Bargain Hunter 007:

          The vast majority of people would benefit from a vegetarian/ vegan diet as the vast majority of people are overweight (there are also plenty of elite level athletes who are vegan).

          But that's just a diet… We certainly aren't designed to purely live off a vegan diet from birth or even childhood.

        • @Bargain Hunter 007:

          The vast majority of people would benefit from a vegetarian/ vegan diet as the vast majority of people are overweight

          How do vegetarian or vegan diets treat obesity?

          From my reading, obesity is largely fuelled by energy-dense high-carbohydrate and simple-carbohydrate (sugar) foods — these foods are vegan.

          Meat on the other hand, contains negligible carbohydrate but is rich in essential amino acids and essential fatty acids.

          (there are also plenty of elite level athletes who are vegan)

          What does plenty mean?

          There are plenty of people in the world and plenty of athletes.

          What proportion of elite athletes are vegan?

          Our teeth does not suggest we evolved with a meat heavy diet..

          I'm arguing against vegetarianism, which is a diet devoid of meat. I'm not arguing for a "meat heavy" diet.

        • @Scrooge McDuck:

          1. Veg peeps live longer and are slimmer:

          1. Plenty, was to suggest that any athlete could choose to go vegan without concern of diminishing performance. As in.. even elite athletes don't need to eat meat for performance so the average person certainly does not.

          2. Take 'heavy' out.

          1. And with that I shall leave the forum for today as that was 20 minutes that could have been much better spent! Unless my lazy ramblings made someone look into a veg diet of course :D, but I'm not sure this is the forum for that kind of thinking :S
        • @Bargain Hunter 007:

          Veg peeps live longer and are slimmer:

          Skip to the last line:

          the study didn’t examine other factors, such as exercise or socioeconomic status. It merely showed an association between eating patterns and weight, not a cause-and-effect relationship.

          Correlation is not equivalent to causation.

          Plenty, was to suggest that any athlete could choose to go vegan without concern of diminishing performance. As in.. even elite athletes don't need to eat meat for performance so the average person certainly does not.

          Elite sports by their very nature are competitive.

          So if a vegan diet had a negligible effect on performance, at a steady-state vegan elite athletes would be in the same proportion to all elite athletes as vegans are to all people in general.

          Similarly, if a vegan diet had a beneficial effect on performance, vegan athletes would be in a higher proportion.

          So what are the proportions?

          Are there any top 10 athletes in any sport who are vegan?

          Only Carl Lewis comes to mind, but I'm not sure I trust the integrity of a 80s/early 90s US track and field athlete…

          Take 'heavy' out.

          So you're suggesting that humans evolved without meat?

          From your source:

          If you listen to one camp, our ancestors got most of their nutrition from gathered fruits and nuts; successful kills of big mammals may have been more of a treat than an everyday reality. A paper out just this month suggests that even Neanderthals—our north country cousins and mates— may have eaten much more plant material than previously suspected. Meanwhile, more macho camps of academics paint a picture of our ancestors as big, bad, hunters, who supplemented meaty diets with the occasional berry "chaser." Others suggest we spent much of our recent past scavenging what the lions left behind, running in to snag a half-rotten wildebeest leg when the fates allowed.

          Can't help but notice the negative emotive imagery in the last line quoted — not very scientific.

        • @Scrooge McDuck:


          I don't think the proportions are high. I don't think it gives you an advantage.

          My personal experience. I felt better when I was a vegan. However I found it to hard to keep that lifestyle. I do it for my own personal health/ethical reasons. I don't think lab grown meat will change my diet much. Meat tends to make me Ill if I eat allot of it. So I will eat the same amount I do know. I will probably source the lab grown stuff first. If it tastes good.

          However imo allot of meat substitute foods that vegans try and push taste disgusting.

        • @Scrooge McDuck: To start with some correlation is not scientific evidence line, then to switch to asking how many top ten pro athletes are vegan is a bit much. Even if 20% of pro athletes were vegan, which you don't know (hence you asking), you would still be stuck by your requirement for causality rather than correlation. At the end of the day, if you are anti-correlation, asking for proof in a form that would show only correlation is laziness.

        • @twocsies:

          I was refuting Bargain Hunter 007's points, not making my own original ones.

          To conflate correlation with causation is fallacious.

          And to describe something as plentiful without quantifying it in proportion to the base is meaningless.

          I can only refute the points as they're made.

        • @Scrooge McDuck: On the other hand, correlation and causation can, and often do, go hand in hand. If you have no causational studies, as is the case for specialised diets, then you will never have evidence for causation. People who refute things by saying causation doesn't go with correlation are usually wrong.

          Edit: Most people are wrong about some things. It would be the rare person who does not have any fallacious beliefs, human reasoning just doesn't work that way.

        • @Scrooge McDuck:

          What proportion of elite athletes are vegan?

          I remember coming across this site years ago
          Down the right side is a list of Vegan athletes. If anyone out there knows how many non vegan athletes are out there, I suppose we could get an estimate of proportion (would be very low I'd imagine)

    • Thanks for the reply.

      I admit I haven't had a blood test but that is definitely on the cards to check out my levels.

      Yes eating a vegetarian diet can make it more difficult (but certainly not impossible) to obtain certain micronutrients etc. However, when you take into account the moral and environmental issues (leaving aside health for now) then I believe its better to supplement then eat meat.

      In terms of health, factory farmed animals are given antibiotics and who knows what else to ensure they don't get sick, to increase milk production, to increase their physical size etc. - this cant be natural either surely??

      Thanks again!

      • I have seen millions of people living on vegetarian diet(from specific parts of India), and they all live without much of problem. They might have vitamins or nutrients deficiency but I guess it may be minimum.

        Ps:I'm myself vegetarian and never took any supplements. But I don't have problems with people eating meat.

        • I have seen millions of people living on vegetarian diet(from specific parts of India), and they all live without much of problem.

          Oh, really?

          The World Bank estimates that India is one of the highest ranking countries in the world for the number of children suffering from malnutrition. The prevalence of underweight children in India is among the highest in the world, and is nearly double that of Sub Saharan Africa with dire consequences for mobility, mortality, productivity and economic growth.

        • @Scrooge McDuck:

          strawman argument

          This has everything to do with poverty not being a vegetarian

        • @Heracles26:

          strawman argument

          pyramid brought up Indians as an example in support of vegetarianism. I replied arguing that the example of Indians doesn't support vegetarianism. That's not a straw man.

        • @Scrooge McDuck:

          You're arguing that because malnutrition exists in India more than anywhere else that it is a result of vegetarian diets

        • @Heracles26:

          No, I'm not!

          I'm arguing against the point that India is a good example of nutrition. I didn't bring that up, pyramid did.

        • @Scrooge McDuck:

          My mistake then sorry!

        • @Heracles26: The vegetarianism in India has nothing to do with poverty. Rather, you will be surprised to know that vegetarianism is more common across comparatively richer states/ communities / socio-economic classes of the nation. It's hilarious to learn how ignorant people connect malnutrition and poverty in India to vegetarianism.

          Also, although a different debate all together, poverty and malnutrition is hyped up considering the population of the country. It's not as though you would walk on the roads and see heaps of kids suffering from poverty and malnutrition. Prevalence of it is very subjective and varies hugely from a state or city to another. There is no way it can be generalised for the country of 1.25 billion population, 100 different cultures and 40 different languages.

        • @virhlpool:

          Yes, the US is vastly meat eaters:

          But does eating meat tend to cause obesity?

        • @Scrooge McDuck: It's a question similar to: But does not eating meat tend to cause malnutrition?

          Vegetarians in India alone would probably be as many as population of at least 15 European countries or even more. Are they all affected by malnutrition? How ignorant it is to be even thinking so!

        • @virhlpool:

          It's a question similar to: But does not eating meat tend to cause malnutrition?

          For the last time:

          I did not make a point about Indians, vegetarianism or malnutrition.

          I simply refuted pyramid's point that Indians are a good example of nutrition.

        • @Scrooge McDuck: I think now we are talking two different topics. I wanted to point out that being vegetarian does not mean that He or she may have nutritional deficiency. India is vast country and Yes there are millions of people leaving healthy life without eating meat and yet there are another millions who are suffering from malnutrition. Hope this makes more sense.

        • indians eat a crap ton of carbs and oils not to mention dairy. Western diets don't necessarily agree with this so they get a lot of calories. Also, the varied spices and vegetables they consume compared to your broccoli hating white man

      • If antibiotics are concerned, what about the tons of chemicals they use when growing/processing pretty much everything else we consume? Even the organic stuff isn't that "organic" not to mention not affordable for a lot of families.

        A lot of people are interlinking obesity and meat consumption and being healthy with vegan diets but it should be addressed closely. Most foods are processed with chemicals these days, this combined with large food portions and easy access to cheap and unhealthy items plus the work environment (lack of exercise etc) in the western society is whats really behind obesity.

        Vegan/vegetarians on the other hand are often health conscious individuals to begin with so the reason for them not being obese isn't so much that they cut out meat. If they were to live off fried carbs and processed products + lacked physical activity - they too would be going down the line of obesity.

        • Organic doesnt mean what it did years ago. The term is now biodynamic a ploy to get you to spend even more for food

    • +15 votes

      I've been veg for 8 years now and I can confirm that I don't take any supplements.

      Anecdotally I don't know any people that take supplements except for one person who's diet consists of only pasta and noodles.

      I do have some protein powder after a big gym session though.

    • There's no need for any supplements other than B12.

      • Yes, and only vegans need the B12 supplement, a vegetarian diet gets B12 from dairy and eggs

        • There isn't necessarily vitamin b12 (cobalamin) in dairy, eggs or meat.. It all depends on how they were farmed.

          Many non vegans are also deficient in vitamin b12, they just don't know it unless they've had their blood tested.

      • Technically, if you are careful to consume the very few vegetable foods that contain b12 such as Laver seaweed, you don't necessarily need those supplements either.

      • Isn't that in Vegemite?

      • Vitamin B12 is something that everybody should be concerned about- not only vegans. These days even cows are being injected with B12 to help meat eaters reach their daily dose.

    • I know many vegetarians/ vegans. None take supplements. All are much healthier than the average joe (wide range of reasons, not suggesting these people would not be healthier than the average joe if they ate meat either).

      The vegans will eat fortified (with b12) food once a week.

    • Just vitamin B12. Normally you could get that from the dirt on veggies, but everything gets washed before it goes to market now.

    • This is certainly the case in the Western world and is due to the nutrient poor vegetables and a narrow inclusion of vegetables and grains in their diets.

      But agree with you on the "not the natural way".

    • I'm curious, have these people actually experienced symptoms of various vitamin/mineral deficiencies?
      And if so, were these mitigated by supplements?

      I ask because I read somewhere things like "multivitamins are useless because they won't be absorbed" and "all they give you is expensive urine".

    • How many people take supplements in Australia where most of the people eat meat? Most of the non vegetarians are so ignorant that they think vegetarians dont get enough nutrition through vegetarian foods.

    • After eating vegetarian for 3 years, I had my blood checked and my GP said everything looks perfectly fine.
      I don't even eat healthy at all. Never took any supplements either.

      Guess it depends.

      Vegan might be a different story though, haven't tried that yet.

    • I grew up vegetarian and never needed any supplement. The whole idea that vegetarian diet is somehow nutritionally deficient is the biggest myth of our times.
      If you dig around for peer reviewed research with right sample and adjustment it comes to the same suggestion.

    • the only supplement vegans need is b12. Good thing it is cheap, easy, and effective. And besides a lot of farmed animals are actually supplemented b12 nowadays, so taking a pill is no less natural than getting it from meat.

    • I think the idea of supplements is grossly overstated. I'm 28 YO Male, Vego for over 2 years, never had to take any form of supplements. It comes down to your ability to plan, organize and cook nutritious food to ensure you're still eating good sources of protean, iron and B12.

      Now I tend to hang around a lot of Buddhist who are also vego and rarely do I see anyone having to use supplements. My partner requires iron supplements however, but she would require them regardless of being vego or not.

      All this is all anecdotal evidence and by no means fact, just my experience.

      As for OP, I think when it comes down to the question 'Is it ethical to eat meat', I believe there is no one answer anyone here can give you. Studying Ethics is so vast and there are many different philosophies. So I think it's a question you should reflect more upon. I found my answer and acted accordingly, best of luck finding what works for you!

      If you want general vego advice, head up /r/vegeterian on reddit. :)

  • +23 votes

    Better to stop eating specific types of meat like beef due to the impact cows have on our environment.

    • What about the ethical/moral side?

      Yes I would agree that even if people cut down their beef consumption it would have a huge benefit on the environment.


      • +13 votes

        It's not a concern of mine so I don't consider it.

      • You can't put a price on moral conduct or ethics. You can't say that ethical behavior is better for the environment, since well, ethics and morals are a social construct.

        It is a human concept and mother nature doesn't care about how you farmed those pigs and chooks.

        But you can put a price on negative externalities caused by cattle farming — that being the production of CO2 gases, environment pollution etc.

        To me, ethics / morals are irrelevant in the long run, towards the preservation of our planet. We are merely satisfying our egos and 'feel-good' meter by choosing to apply humane treatment to animals, but does it help the Earth??

        • It is reasonable to say ethical behaviour is better for the environment. If you can show that moral/ethical behaviour promote the well-being of present and future sentiment beings, then a necessary part of it would be to preserve the environment.

          Ethical/moral behaviours are constructs, just like love and empathy you have for fellow beings.

          I certainly feel good doing the right things. I think my ego was as it was before I decided eat also in a moral and ethical way.

        • morals are a social construct.

          What do you mean by this?

      • Why do you keep bringing up ethical/moral? You are saying that people that eat meat have no ethics or are immoral?

        The reality is animals eat other animals - that is natural. There is nothing remotely ethical/moral about eating meat. Although impact on the environment is a very valid reason to limit/stop eating meat.

        • Of course I'm not saying that. I was simply asking what his ethical and moral views are on the topic. Nowhere have I said that meat eaters are immoral or unethical

          That is the naturalistic fallacy - something isnt good just by virtue of being natural

        • Thre is no greater moral concern with eating meat. There are two types of ethics. Cultural and personal. Cultural are the accepted morals of a group of people. Personal are your own set of morals. There is no overarching global set of morals that we live by.

          So while I have ethical questions around eating meat. My friend sitting next to me may have no such dilema. So it is perfectly fine for them to eat meat. As it fits in the moral compass if their personal and cultural beliefs.

          All I could do as a vegan is live a healthy and balanced lifestyle. If someone asked me what my lifestyle is I will tell them. But I will never enforce my beliefs or lifestyle into someone else

        • Humans can control their instincts and have plenty of other options to work around unlike animals. Comparing humans to animals on not being able to control instincts would lead to many other social problems related to stealing, sex, violence etc.

          I eat meat and I think it is immoral and unethical to kill animals, but I am a hypocrite as I am not doing what I think is right.

        • @StiffHindQuarters: well if you want to talk about options, we have 7 billion people in the world, majority are meat eaters, we breed and catch land and sea animals for food, we ARE of course animals too. Much of our grazing country is not good enough for efficient cropping, we'd be killing off herds and other animals to try grow more and clear more trees, and have mass food shortages (moreso than the world does already) to try put in place sufficient alternatives to feed everyone suitably as vegetarians. Not to mention the worsening of malnutritcian and health issues in poorer countries that already have food shortages (most of the population).

          I find it curious, I'm a country person, most of these sort of " moral dilemmas " and greenie views alike seem to come out of first world cities. Most of the world does not have options.
          Most of the rest of the world and country areas remain far more in tune with the harsh realities of life.

    • +2 votes

      Well better eat the bastards to stop the impact.

      Problem solved.

  • The real question should be is it ethical NOT to eat meat. I mean, your making yourself unhealthy, which is a cost on tax payers to the health system. Your propping up foreign pharmaceutical companies by needing supplements because you don't eat meat & pharma's are THE most unethical business in existence. There are completely legit arguments to be had about the ethics of how we raise & slaughter meat, no one would deny that.

    The main implications on society of the debate though is the epigenetics at play. Because we know now that the lack of health/protein/good fats in our diet is actually detrimental genetically to our children and grand children. There is an overwhelming ethical argument to doing whatever it takes to keep our children’s brains and genetic inheritance as strong as we can. To do otherwise is monstrous, both to the children harmed by their parents’ well-meaning but poorly researched vegan diets, and to our evolution as a species.

    Changing the type, source or volume of meat consumed/sourced is one thing, but by choosing not to eat it at all and then pushing the consumption of meat as an "ethics issue", you are making a negative impact on tax payers, society and creating a risk to future generations.

    • Thanks for the response!

      I admit if I did have children I don't think I would feed them a vegetarian diet and whether or not this is healthy or not I cant say - I wouldn't want my kids to be test subjects.

      But as was mentioned above, vitamin deficiencies are present in meat eaters as well. Age as well as a number of diseases and disorders require supplementation too so I wouldn't say that vegos are a huge part of the supplement business. Even if we were all meat eaters supplements would exist and rightly so. The unethical practices of these businesses should be addressed if that is the case.


      • It's not just about whether you feed your children a vegetarian diet, it's also about what you, yourself, eat. Your epigenetic markers control how your genes are expressed, including the genes in sperm and egg cells. A study of male mice pups who were overfed, found that their offspring had symptoms of the metabolic diseases that their fathers had without over eating, and a study of mothers and children during the dutch famine found the same effect in humans. The compounds they say promote beneficial markers (omega-3 fatty acids, choline, betaine, folic acid and vitamin B12) are mostly found in meat, by not eating/supplementing them you're probably doing a disservice to your future children, and possibly grandchildren.

      • There are some strange statements going on here like meat eaters have vitamin deficiencies as well is an argument to be a vegetarian. That is a complete nonsense argument. It is exactly the same as saying smoking is fine because non-smokers can have lung cancer as well.