Human Exceptionalism

Some Vegetarians Eating Meat Again

This story doesn’t surprise me. Human beings are omnivores biologically. That means eating meat is natural for us–and healthy when consumed in moderation. This is why vegetarianism requires discipline. (In this regard, I recall a statement by a very well known animal liberationist, who shall remain nameless because the conversation was private. This person told me that pizza restaurants caused the person to salivate, stating, “That’s how addicted to meat and cheese I am.” I responded that the reaction wasn’t an addiction, it was the body’s normal response to natural food.)

In any event, apparently an increasing number of now former vegetarians are again eating meat if it is ethically raised, e.g. grass fed beef, uncaged chickens, no factory farming, etc. From the story in Food and Wine:

Former vegetarians are some of the most outspoken proponents of eating meat. “I was vegan for 16 years, and I truly believed I was doing the right thing for my health,” says the actress and model Mariel Hemingway, who is the author of Healthy Living from the Inside Out. “But when I was vegan, I was super-weak. I love animals, and we should not support anything but ethical ranching, but when I eat meat, I feel more grounded. I have more energy.”

Even chef Mollie Katzen, author of the vegetarian bible the Moosewood Cookbook, is experimenting with meat again. “For about 30 years I didn’t eat meat at all, just a bite of fish every once in a while, and always some dairy,” she says. “Lately, I’ve been eating a little meat. People say, ‘Ha, ha, Mollie Katzen is eating steak.’ But now that cleaner, naturally fed meat is available, it’s a great option for anyone who’s looking to complete his diet. Somehow, it got ascribed to me that I don’t want people to eat meat. I’ve just wanted to supply possibilities that were low on the food chain.”

I understand the drive to become a vegetarian–if it has a face, don’t eat it–and I understand going back to meat. About 20 years ago, I went veggie, but promised myself that if my body told me to begin eating meat again, I would. At first I felt good, but after about a year, I began to crave chicken in a rich sauce. Then one day, I desperately wanted eggs. Acting on the craving, as if I were a starving man, I wolfed down 6 hard boiled eggs as soon as I could cook them. It was then I knew: My body needed and wanted meat. So, I went back to natural eating.

I respect people who control their appetites in furtherance of a moral principle or in obedience to religious dogma. Good for them. Such self control is an example of human exceptionalism in that we are the only species to refuse to act naturally based on belief. But eating meat is not immoral. It is natural. And it is good for us.