An Informal Discussion of the Ethics of Eating Meat

I wrote this piece in two stages. In the first stage, I felt fairly grounded in my position and in the second, I grappled with it more heavily. Throughout this piece I struggle with my own thoughts and perspective on this issue.

The other day, Firefox suggested an article called Are we wrong to assume fish can’t feel pain? Curious, I clicked on it. It was a fantastic article explaining and presenting evidence that fish are smarter, more socially adept, and overall more complicated creatures than we usually assume. Seriously, go read it if you haven’t. It’s long but it’s easy to read and digest while also packed with fascinating information.

It also brought up a question of ethics. Is it ethical to eat fish, given that they obviously feel pain? Do we need to rethink fishing methods?

This leads to other areas of similar thought, namely, is it ethical to eat meat at all?

I want to ask, is this even an ethical issue?

To some extent, yes, it is something to grapple with, a question of whether we should or should not eat animals. There are people on both sides for various reasons.

I can understand bringing ethics and humane treatment into how we obtain meat. The animal shouldn’t needlessly suffer. That, in fact, is often a reason people stop eating meat.

But I don’t think eating meat is itself wrong.

I’m finding that as I work through my reasoning for this that I’m questioning my motives for this belief. Do I think it’s okay to eat meat because I always have? Do I think it’s okay to eat meat because it tastes good? If that is why I think it’s okay, should I change my mind? Is taste and habit a real defense?

I have biases on this issue, and I’m well aware of them. I’ve gone hunting. My family has raised rabbits and ducks for food. In the case of the ducks, we ate the eggs and later the ducks. I helped my dad slaughter the ducks and I’ve helped him skin a deer. He processed rabbits, deer, and fish in our kitchen.

There are ways to avoid eating all animal products, but it is expensive and time consuming. If this became less of a barrier, it might change more people’s minds. Vegans have to put in a lot of extra effort to keep their food entirely plant-based.

Vegetarians, on the other hand, simply don’t eat meat, but may enjoy eggs, dairy, and other animal products which vegans don’t. Not all of them will, but it is possible.

There are ways to be vegan or vegetarian and get enough vitamins and minerals. That sometimes includes taking supplements to keep from having deficiency. Those supplements also increase the cost of the diet. In most cases, though, all the vitamins and minerals necessary can be obtained entirely from plants. That could change for people with allergies or other dietary restrictions.

I freely admit that eating meat or animal products isn’t required to live, at least in the developed world. If it was, this would not be a question of ethics, it would be of survival.

It is not a moral issue among other animals when one animal eats another, from our human perspective. Presumably the animals don’t discuss the ethics of what they eat and how they obtain their food. If they were capable of such discussions, they are still in a state of struggling to survive such that they wouldn’t have the conversation. Additionally, many animals are carnivores by necessity.

Humans are omnivores. Other animals, like some turtles, are omnivores. Gorillas eat insects and plants. Even dogs will enjoy apples, carrots, and other plants, though they are primarily carnivores.

This ethical discussion of eating meat only applies to areas of the world where the standard of living is high enough to suffer little consequence by cutting out meat.

If an animal is being put through massive suffering and poor living conditions to bring it to the table, I would feel that unethical. If, however, it was a free range chicken with plenty of space and good food and was killed quickly, I would have fewer reservations about consuming meat.

Ethics and morality are highly contextual. If you have ever explored the multitude of variations of the trolley problem, for example, you will know this. In the problem, either one person or five will die because of an oncoming train or trolley. In some iterations, you can push someone into the path of the train, in others you pull a lever to change the path. Depending on what is required to sacrifice one to save five can change a person’s answer.

It is the same with the ethics of eating meat. I’m thinking through everything and it’s complicated. It might be a simple thing for some people, but I went into this piece to defend eating meat. Now, I am open to changing my mind and my diet. In fact, that may be how this concludes.

To do more research for this piece, I watched this video from a vegan speaker. He brings up a lot of points and questions that I am grappling with. He used to eat meat and he grappled with it as well. This is very much a discussion with myself to explore what I think and why.

I don’t think I was wrong about what I said already, that if it were a question of survival, it would be different. If it were about maintaining an ecosystem, it would be different. If the animals were not bred specifically to be food and then slaughtered, it would be different. If there wasn’t needless suffering in the meat and dairy industry, it would be different.

There is a difference between the meat industry and hunting. In the latter, the animal was wild and you know how and when it was killed.

In Illinois, there is a problem with overpopulation of deer because humans killed off a lot of wolves in the area. There aren’t any predators for the deer anymore. Deer die because of cars, hunting, and hunger.

Why would it be gross to eat a deer but not a cow? If you eat beef, why not venison? Why the animals we do eat and why is it reprehensible to eat others? Why does eating veal (the flesh of a calf) and eating beef feel different? Why do I feel more disgusted by the former?

As far as survival is concerned, I view meat as acceptable. I’m not against animal products as a whole, either. But should I change my mind about eating meat? Since it isn’t necessary for me, should I stop?

I feel very stuck on this issue. I’m struggling to find valid reasons to excuse it.

The animals are not euthanized, they are slaughtered. Would that make a difference? If they were able to live good, full lives and did not feel pain when they died, would that be better?

I don’t want to give up meat, if I’m being honest. But I also don’t know that I can comfortably continue eating it without considering the animal that had to die. It’s unfortunate that something has to die for us to live, since none of us are plants or photosynthesize. The least we can do is give it the best life possible. I don’t feel that that is happening in most cases based on the information I have.

Due to my research and this complicated and rambling discussion with myself, I’m going to reduce and mostly eliminate meat from my diet at least until there is change. There is potentially a solution in lab grown meat, and if it becomes affordable I would be open to trying it. I have problems with the treatment of animals in the meat industry, so I will not support that for the sake of my taste preferences.

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Why I Don’t Wear Makeup

If you were to put a bunch of makeup in front of me, I would have literally no clue what to do with any of it. I’m a simple, no frills person and my getting ready routine consist of me brushing my teeth, washing my face, putting on some toner, getting dressed and fixing my hair.

Why don’t I wear makeup like the majority of teenage girls? Here are my four main reasons why:

 

 

  • My Time Is Valuable

 

I am of the mindset that I could use my time in a more constructive and productive way than taking time to apply makeup. I could read, study, sleep, work, spend time with my family, or sometimes watch my favorite studytubers or clips of broadway shows. Another positive of this routine is that I only need a short amount of time to get ready for the day or to go out. We all have 24 hours in a day and I want to make the most of my time.

 

 

  • Makeup Is Expensive

 

According to this article on Allure, women spend an average of $300,000 on facial beauty products in their lifetime. That is a very large amount of money and could be saved for a number of practical or non-practical purposes. For example, said money could be used for an emergency fund, college tuition, rent, or a down payment for a vehicle or house, travel, seeing concerts or shows, or buying books.

 

 

  • Self-Acceptance Is Important

 

I think it’s important to be confident and comfortable with who you are and how you look without making changes to your appearance, even temporary ones. It can be unnerving going out when my face isn’t clear but I think it’s important to be able to walk around and carry myself with confidence even if don’t particularly feel it at the moment.

 

Sometimes, I worry about what other people will think of how I look at a particular moment. However, I realize that a lot of the fear of perception is actually just me getting inside my own head and I don’t want to be ruled by fear of perceptions or merely perceived perceptions.

 

I also am a firm believer in looking past a person’s outward appearance and looking at who they are and their hearts. Some of the most beautiful people I have met are not the most outwardly beautiful but are beautiful because of who they are and how they carry themselves.

 

  1. It Just Isn’t Interesting

This is perhaps the most straightforward of my reasons. If you know me at all, you will know that I am very much no frills and no nonsense. I don’t understand the attraction of makeup nor do I understand why people consider it a necessity. Makeup is not something I find interesting or useful so I simply don’t invest any of my time or resources into it.

 

In conclusion, I have a various reasons why I don’t wear makeup. First, I want to use my time as efficiently as possible. I also want to be a good steward of my resources. Next, as a young person, I think it’s really important that you learn to value yourself exactly as you are. Lastly, I simply have no interest in the subject. Personally, I’d rather save my money or use it on experiences and other purchases that I think are more useful and beneficial.

 

Readers: Do you wear makeup? Explain why or why not in the comments below!

“The Second Act Industry,” a Response

Recently I came across an article published by the New York Times titled “The Snake Oil of the Second Act Industry” by Alissa Quart. She details how middle-aged people, especially those who are stressed by their lack of retirement funds, attempt to pivot their career lives to make more money before they retire. She details some problems with the industry surrounding this phenomenon, termed the “second act” and the problems with the industry. Overall, she argues that the middle-aged are being taken advantage of by the second act industry and the government needs to provide more social support. In this piece, I have responded to specific portions that I felt deserved a response. The full article can be read here.

 

“I call the businesses propelling that promise of reinvention the “second-act industry,” and it includes for-profit universities, certificate programs and coaches getting in on the new trend — all of them helping, for a fee, people who are trying to get back into or ahead in the work force.”

Some of these programs may in fact take advantage of the middle-aged people they purport to help, as this article asserts. However, some of the blame may be on the people using these services and their blind trust in the programs or degrees being offered. Some investigation into the service, the promised results, and the actual results could help people weigh the pros and cons of such as products and services. That does not mean it would be easy, but if more people become aware of how careers are changing and how hiring practices are changing, it would become easier to adapt to the current job world and discern between scams and legitimate companies.

 

“The industry appeals to anxious and sometimes underqualified middle-aged students who are enticed by a constellation of websites, special programs, self-help books and gurus.”

People are drawn in by the promise of more earning power. The methods purported may be questionable and the price may be too high, but people are willing to pay for it. I agree with the later assertions that something needs to be done to help the middle aged people who fall into this trap, but I do not agree with the proposed solution. As more people test strategies for the current job market and given a larger body of proof, it will help the aging members of the work force adapt more effectively.

 

“To survive as workers, we have to deny, on some level, the realities of our bodies — bodies that age and give birth. While more people are working later in life because of happy things like longer life expectancy, they are also doing so because of very sad things, like a lack of Social Security benefits or retirement plans.”

It is unfortunate that so many people have planned their retirement with Social Security in mind. This places a burden on taxpayers and fuels emotionally charged arguments for why it must be kept, such as, “it cannot be repealed because people rely on it.” When people have the capacity to plan for retirement by saving money, they may partially have themselves to blame for their newfound poverty. However, a lot of people either do not have extra income, have relied on faulty retirement savings methods, or did not save enough to account for inflation and the increased living costs that come with being older. This is a problem, and it will take time and effort to “fix it” and to take care of the elderly people who are currently relying on Social Security benefits.

 

“The real problem is that middle-aged people are unlikely to have pensions or savings because of inadequate federal social support in this country. Unfortunately, individual ambition… doesn’t always do the trick.Yet we continue to believe. Perhaps it’s because the roots of our faith in second acts are long.”   

Federal social support comes from the money taxpayers make. The more the government forcibly takes from those working now, the less they have available to use for themselves and their families. Instead of solving the problem, this could just move more of it to younger people. In fact, based on this article and what I already know about this problem, it seems like federal social support enacted in the past helped cause this problem, not that further social support programs will fix it. I talk about this more in a later paragraph.

 

“So instead of putting the blame on people caught in this bind, what if we had better anti-ageist work policies? What if companies were incentivized to hire older workers? And what if middle-aged people who are casting about for a second act had real societal support while they did so, like free after-school programs for their children or a monthly basic income guarantee, like the one now being piloted in Ontario?”

This is not a solution I would back. In fact, if such a program were presented to people in my community, I would vote against it and encourage others to do the same. These “free after-school programs” will cost money, and who will pay for them? Taxpayers. Who pays for Social Security? Taxpayers. Instead of people voluntarily helping others who need it, either financially or in some other way, the government forcibly takes money from everyone in order to help them. This government welfare is often not the best way to help the person in need, or it is ineffective. Additionally, having more of these tax-funded programs will require higher taxes, thus decreasing the benefit for those who it is supposed to be helping. If instead private institutions or groups of people came together and either raised money to help people in this situation or volunteered their time to help them, that would be more effective and would not require the government to steal money from everyone.

 

“We should look to create fixes for middle-aged workers that are not solely reliant on private inspirations or pricey new degrees. We need public solutions for midlife career atrophy and joblessness so that people don’t get into even deeper debt and blame themselves for their failures.”

These public solutions will require increased taxes, which hurt everyone. The “pricey new degrees” are not effective, yes, that is true. In the changing job market, tangible skills are more valuable than a degree, because so many people have degrees. The value of the degree has decreased but the price has increased. While yes, the middle aged people facing this problem might be prone to blame themselves, it is not a social or societal problem for the most part. The government has lied about Social Security, presenting it as a form of “insurance,” and misleading people as to how it functions, contributing to the problem. Back when FDR enacted the New Deal and instituted Social Security, it was intended to be temporary. Instead, people protested attempts to repeal it after the economy had recovered from the Great Depression (not even because of the New Deal, as Tom Woods details well in 33 Questions About American History You’re Not Supposed to Ask). Now, it has been around long enough that people plan for Social Security to help supplement their retirement savings. Will it be hard for people when or if it is repealed? Yes, because they are dependent on this money that is taken from all the working people and handed to them. But it is not and should not be the government’s job to take care of people in this way. We should be caring for each other, not relying on the government to help people.

Panem vs the US: Could Fiction Become Reality?

The Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins is a well-known story about romance, revolution, and resilience. The books and movies follow Katniss Everdeen as she is thrown into a fight to the death against twenty-three other teenagers for the entertainment of the Capitol and her subsequent involvement in a revolution to overthrow the Capitol’s rule over the general population.

Recently, I decided to reread The Hunger Games to compare the book world to the real world.

The country Panem occupies a large part of former North America, the landform of which has been severely altered due to the rise of sea levels. Surrounding the Rocky Mountains are thirteen Districts which have been subjugated by the Capitol located within the mountains. The Capitol uses force via Peacekeepers (armoured soldiers similar to the Stormtroopers in Star Wars), to keep order and ensure that each District produces enough resources to meet the Capitol’s demand. Seventy-four years before the books begin, there was a revolution to overthrow the Capitol which ended in failure. Following the failed revolution, the thirteenth District was supposedly destroyed. At the same time, the governing body in the Capitol instituted the Hunger Games in order to pit the Districts against each other to ensure division and to instill enough fear to quell the thought of any further revolts. For a time, this method worked and peaceful submission was maintained.

In terms of technology, people, for the most part, have access to much of the same items we do. However, there are several instances where technology is more or sometimes less advanced than the world we know. In the Districts, people tend to live slightly more primitively due to their poverty. However, every household, no matter how rich or poor, has Capitol-issued televisions for the sole purpose of disseminating propaganda. In the Capitol, the majority of people tend to have the standard of living close to middle class Americans although there are citizens that live on the two extremes of being either extraordinarily rich or devastatingly poor.

For clothing and fashion, there is both similarity and stark contrast to Western civilization. In District 12, the poorest people who live in the Seam wear plain clothes that often are infused with coal dust while the richer merchants, whose clothes are also relatively simple, tend to be cleaner and have more variety. This is not unlike today. In contrast, among citizens of the Capitol, wild fashion, including “aesthetic” over-the-top body modifications, is common. The people dye their hair unnatural colors or wear wigs in order to stand out. Both men and women wear heavy, extravagant makeup. This is more dissimilar to today, where while some people dye their hair bright colors and men sometimes use makeup, most do not go to the extremes seen in the book.

The books focus mainly on the relationship between the government and its citizens, especially the citizens in the Districts. Both the Capitol overall and President Snow specifically subjugate the Districts. The annual Hunger Games are meant to remind the Districts of their failed revolt and the Capitol’s power over them. The level of control that the government has in the books is greater than that seen in the United States today, however, our government is taking more and more power over citizens. In some countries of the world, there have been governments that control or have controlled their citizens with methods similar to the Capitol. The examples that most closely match Panem are Communist dictatorships of the past and present, or even religious groups that are better termed cults.

Although the state of Panem seems a little absurd at the moment, the US government is gradually becoming increasingly controlling and oppressive. One cannot help but see some parallels between Panem and our own society. Perhaps it is not so far fetched to believe that our own society could one day dissolve into post apocalyptic chaos.

What comparisons or contrasts have you noticed between the real world and Panem? Let us know in the comments!

Can a Bully Reform?

Picture this:

You’re in the supermarket deliberating if the prices for eggplant are worth it or not, when a stranger approaches you. You’re naturally wary and your mind races through all the possible outcomes of this encounter. The stranger calls you by name; by now, you try to place a name on this other person but your mind comes to a blank.

They also apologize, even daring to hug you at the end.  In the midst of all this, all you want to do is push this person off and run for your life. But you don’t. You politely wait until the hug is over and quite blatantly ask for their name. The person is hesitant but after a few moment’s pause, complies. He says his name is Ian and suddenly the memories come flooding back to your mind.

Ian was the name of the semi-popular boy in high school that bullied you for four years straight. He mocked you everyday for dressing poor and called you every name in the book. He made fun of your appearance because you wore braces at one point. The calmness you had faded; anger sparked and all you wanted to do was bop Ian with the eggplant. You didn’t buy his nice act for one minute because if it was one thing you knew, it was that bullies didn’t change for the better.

 

Would that have been you? Would you have accepted Ian’s changed behavior or would you have held onto the past, refusing to acknowledge his good work?

Many of us encounter bullies, be that at our school, the workplace or even our own homes. Bullies aren’t something everyone wants to talk about, especially when it comes to them changing.

Before we get into that, let’s define a bully: a bully is a person who uses strength or power to harm or intimidate those who are weaker.

Teasing someone about their appearance is bullying. Forcing someone to do your homework is bullying. Making fun of someone online is bullying.

It’s often hard for us to accept that change is possible with everyone, even our worst enemy. We don’t think they’re capable under all that cold exterior, when in reality it happens more than we think it does. Society tends to say change isn’t possible, the church says it is. Which is more reliable?

My pastor has often said that hurt people hurt people.

He’s right — when we’re hurting, we tend to want to lash out at those who are happy or have it better than us. It’s a common variable. It’s especially prominent when it comes to revenging those who have hurt us. We want them to feel the pain, we want them to suffer. Scoffing at Ian’s apology or giving him the cold shoulder and watching his face drop with disappointment would be satisfying to that part of us that still feels hurt but most definitely not the best way to handle such a situation.

Does this change your perspective a little? Take that leap if you encounter one, give them a smile and most of all, realize that they’re trying.

 

Erica is Potterhead who enjoys writing, doing tricks on her skateboard and is a huge lover of Batman. She’s about to start her second year of college in hopes of becoming a surgeon in the future.

Parenting: Featuring my Upbringing

“Don’t you guys fight at all?” a young friend asked me as she watched my siblings interact at a youth retreat.

I paused for a moment to think.

“Come to think about it, no,” I replied.

Every time I give that answer, people look at me like I just told them I have superhuman powers.
Culture has gotten to the point where everyone believes that it’s normal for families to be at odds with each other constantly. I wasn’t raised like that.

It goes back to parenting. I owe my perspective and confidence to my parents, who modeled what relationship was supposed to be. Here are some ways they raised us that differ from “normal” parenting.

1. I never heard my parents raise their voices out of anger or frustration.
I don’t understand why anyone thinks they are going to prove a point by yelling. Here’s the thing: humans are selfish. They tend to think of each situation from their own perspective. This perspective will only be strengthened if others throw opposing opinions loudly in their faces.

Children are individuals. I think parents forget this often. They try to mold their kids into a certain behavior pattern that hopefully holds up as they grow into adulthood.And when the child shows his individuality by contesting a parent’s wish, mom or dad freaks out, trying to frantically put the nice behavior pattern back together. Yelling tends to be preferred approach.

Parents are to be guides, not slave masters. They have in their hands the life of an individual. Using forceful tone to prove a point only hinders.
(There was one exception to the yelling in my life. If there was an emergency, then was the time my parents used the powers of their voices. This way, we learned to act quickly and without question in the face of danger. We knew instinctively that there was a reason for the tone our parents took on. Even then, it was only one quick word, then they would reduce to normal levels to talk us through emergency procedure.)

2. My parents always heard my opinion.
This goes back to the individuality concept. Many times kids don’t want to do what their parents ask because they don’t understand the reasoning behind the request. My parents didn’t just tell us to do things because they said so. Instead, we talked about the situation that caused them to come to their decision.

When dad and mom were wrong, they admitted it. If my ideas were worth putting into action, they reconsidered their position. If my opinion was faulty, I was never the worse for speaking my mind and hearing the whole process of reasoning.

The result? I trusted my parents enough to do things just because they said so. I knew that they had solid reasoning behind their decisions, and I based my actions off that knowledge.
You can’t build a relationship by shutting down the voice of your child. Instead, focus on setting precedent by hearing his or her ideas and expressing your position genuinely.

3. Honesty was always the first priority.
We knew that we had an alibi if we would only tell the truth. My parents always heard us out. We didn’t get punished for making mistakes, but we weren’t spared if we lied about our actions.

Mistakes are a part of life. My parents taught me to realize that facing those mistakes head-on is the best key to personal growth.

Honesty also helped my relationships grow stronger. If we had quarrels as children, we knew that if we were honest, we would be given the chance to fix our wrongs and move on. This birthed healthy relationship mindsets in our hearts.

Now, we are simply honest with each other about our thoughts, feelings, and ideas. This keeps our relationships open and solves any problems that might come up. We have hard conversations, but we leave with stronger connections than we came with.

Did my parents do everything right? Absolutely not. But I appreciate the mindsets they built in me and I apply many of the same principles they taught me to my interactions with children today.
And if and when I have kids, I will be sure to use these three tools daily.

Lolita Allgyer is a passionate self-educator that loves anything that challenges her thinking. She is currently a Marketing Associate for Praxis, an apprenticeship program that seeks to help young people propel their careers. She also manages a podcast called Educationeering, where she interviews critical thinkers and trailblazers about their views on education. She writes every day on her blog or other mediums like Quora. You can find her work at lolitaallgyer.com.

Lessons on Dating: Positive Christian Influence

I have grown up going to church in a Christian home with Christian parents. I am currently unsure of my beliefs in God, but I have learned some important lessons about dating and romantic relationships from various Christians in my life.

  1. Unconditional love. No one is perfect and everyone makes mistakes. The Christians in my life, including my parents, have modeled unconditional love and taught me that this is an important aspect of a successful romantic relationship. Loving someone despite their mistakes, imperfections, and habits that can be annoying is tough but incredibly important. Love cannot be based entirely on emotions, because it will not last. This takes me to my next point, which is interrelated.
  2. Forgiveness. People hurt each other unintentionally or intentionally while driven by anger. Being forgiving and asking for forgiveness in these situations strengthens the relationship. It is not forgetting the offense or saying that it does not or did not matter or have effects, but rather it is moving on from that, not letting it have continuing effects and interfere with the relationship. It is important to not have an attitude of self-righteousness or of being better than others, but rather to care about the other person’s feelings.
  3. Faithfulness/Commitment. At a point of exclusivity, using the words boyfriend and girlfriend, or being a couple, not becoming romantically, emotionally, or physically involved with anyone else. I know it has been pointed out before, but I’ll say it here: Cheating not only breaks the trust of the other person, but it also causes emotional damage in the person being cheated on. The point of an exclusive relationship is to only be with that person and the relationship will last longer if there is faithfulness from both sides. This along with unconditional love and forgiveness will lead to a better, stronger relationship.

These are three lessons I learned about dating and romantic relationships from the Christians in my life that are applicable regardless of religiosity.