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Abstaining from Red Meat is Not Eco-Friendly

LA Times op-ed discusses how giving up red meat only increases the suffering of other animals raised for food.


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Bioethics professor Peter Singer and animal-rights activist Karen Dawn co-authored an op-ed in the Los Angeles Times wherein the duo debunked the myth that abstaining from the consumption of red meat is environmentally and ethically beneficial. When “aspiring ethical eaters” opt out of consuming cows and pigs (or animals considered “red meat”) for perceived environmental reasons, they rely on other animals such as chickens and fish to fill in the gap. However, doing so increases animal suffering since, when considered by weight, replacing a bigger animal will require more smaller animals to be killed. While the argument has been made that raising chickens for food produces less greenhouse gas emissions, the authors point out that “a diet that is responsible for hundreds of times more suffering is not made ethical by producing a lower level of greenhouse gas emissions.” Regarding ethical concerns, the authors discuss recent findings that prove fish are no less sentient than other animals—the bycatch issue where industrial fishing kills mammals such as dolphins—and how federal humane laws do not extend to birds, allowing more than one million chickens and turkeys to be boiled alive each year. Singer and Dawn claim that those abstaining from red meat practice “speciesism”—or arbitrarily assigning value to some animals (usually those who more closely resemble “pets”) while devaluing the sentience of others. They explain how the dairy and egg industries factor into the ethical and ecological equation by contributing mass pollution and fueling cruel practices, such as confining birds in battery cages and removing baby calves from their mother cows to be sold as veal. Instead of replacing the consumption of cows and pigs with other animals, the writers recommend choosing a plant-based diet (if even part-time) in order to effect change.

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