Vegetarians give in to humanely raised meat

In Arts & Entertainment, Food, Top Stories
Daniel Ramos takes a bite of a giant, juicy hamburger. Photo courtesy of Lanae King/For the Daily Titan

It’s become downright fashionable to eat meat again.

The fashion started a couple years ago, when vegan actress Jennifer Connolly succumbed to her pregnancy cravings for turkey burgers. Next, former-vegan actress Mariel Hemingway, who starred in Woody Allen’s “Manhattan,” began touting the virtues of buffalo meatloaf and grass-fed pot roast. Recently, acclaimed vegetarian chef and cookbook author Mollie Katzen admitted that she too is foraging for more than just roots and berries down on the farm.

What’s prompting this carnivorous conversion among the rich and not-so-famous? For some former vegans and vegetarians, it’s the availability of cruelty-free, fully-sustainable, free-range beef, lovingly raised on small farms by producers concerned more with the animal’s welfare than with their profit line. Many people say this kinder, gentler form of cattle-raising mitigates the factors that caused them to become vegetarian or vegan in the first place.

Sociology major Crystal Wishart, 34, converted to vegetarianism three years ago after watching Fast Food Nation, a 2006 film that examined the health risks involved in the fast food industry and its environmental and social consequences.

“I was so grossed out by it, I couldn’t fathom eating meat of any kind,” she recalled.

Last year during a trip to New Orleans she “succumbed to all the yummy smells and sights” and began eating meat again. Now she peruses the aisles of Trader Joes and Whole Foods Market for humanely-raised, sustainable beef and chicken without regret, she said, not only because of the way the animal was raised but because the meat is healthier, fresher and tastier than factory-produced meat.

“Do I think that I am unethical or immoral because I eat meat? No. It’s just a personal choice,” Wishart said. “I see how some people can think that (eating humanely-raised meat) is more ethical or moral because the animals are fed better and treated better, but I hate to sound harsh – the ending is just the same for them.”

The term “sustainable” that has crept into foodie lexicon over the past few years, refers to products that can be produced indefinitely with little impact on the system in which they were produced. Experts say the current meat industry is not sustainable because it is abusive to the environment, the animals and the humans that process the animals – a system that will cause worse damage and suffering if it continues on its present course.

Heather Stoltzfus, outreach chair for Slow Food Orange County, a non-profit organization that promotes consumption of sustainable, natural foods, explained there are several reasons to eat sustainable meat.

“You support a producer who is a steward of the environment as well as animal and human life instead of a corporation pursuing the bottom line,” she said. “At the same time you enjoy an animal knowing that it has lived its life as it was meant to be lived.”

Stoltzfus said many vegetarians give up meat in protest of industrial farming conditions that are harmful to the animals, the environment and the people who work with and eat them. Meat raised in a manner where these conditions are not present may be attractive to them.

A vegetarian for 18 years, Stoltzfus has recently considered adding sustainable meat to her diet.

“I try to support the best producers possible,” she said. “So is it better for me to buy and eat a sustainably-raised chicken and help the farmer stay in business or buy GMO tofu from a large corporation that is destroying the land they grow on? In some cases eating meat is a sustainable and even compassionate choice.”

While some former herbivores cite taste and environmental concerns as primary reasons to eat meat again, others emphasize that a well-balanced diet that includes meat offers nutritional benefits they cannot get from vegetables alone. Indeed, experts say that grass-fed, free-range beef packs a nutritional punch, offering health benefits that factory-produced, corn-fed beef does not.

Archana McEligot, associate professor of health sciences at Cal State Fullerton, explained that grass-fed beef has been shown to have lower saturated fat and higher polyunsaturated fatty acids and a better omega-6 to omega-3 ratio, reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease and some cancers.

But she adds that vegetarians can get similar benefits by consuming a plant-based, dark leafy green diet, taking an omega-3 supplement or eating flaxseed oil and walnuts.

Ultimately, for some staunch vegans and vegetarians, there are few arguments that will convince them to return to their meat-eating ways.

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  • Jody

    I agree with so many of the other posts. Like Luke said, there really is no such thing as “humane meat.” It’s obvious to anyone who has watched a farm animal being killed that they don’t enjoy it, and I’m sure they would rather be elsewhere. And everyone should see how their meat is getting to their plates.

    Also, the health reasons will always be a great reason for going vegan. You just can’t deny all the health studies and statistics out there proving the benefits of vegetarian diets. As dee put it very well, 4 examples is not a very good argument. How about an article about all of the folks going vegetarian and vegan. I’m sure you would have many more examples!

  • Kim

    These “vegetarians” turned “happy meat” eaters are delusional and using lame excuses to continue their addiction tothe flesh of other sentient beings. Shame on their lazy non compassionate selves!

  • Veda Stram

    Humane meat? Humane slaughter? There are no such things. And you know it. It’s time to stop having your “cravings” and “yearnings” and “wants” be of more importance than saving life. I’ve been vegan for 21 years and I adore, I revel in and I smack-my lips about everything I eat!

  • larry

    Here’s a good video on the subject:

  • Colleen Patrick-Goudreau

    It’s such a false dichotomy to say they prefer “humane meat” (no such thing) over GMO tofu from a “large corporation” – as if those are their only two choices. The bottom line is they’re choosing their personal convenience and pleasure over ethics, justice, and compassion and wanting to appear to take the high ground in doing so. They’re kidding themselves – and killing animals for naught. A bloody shame.

  • Soliel

    One thing that is rarely discussed with meat eating is the fact by buying meat, you are paying a fellow human being to kill.

    There are brothers and sisters out there who for eight hours a day weild a knife and kill all day long. This is harmful not only to their spirits, but effects their families (more abuse in slaughterhouse workers lives) and the community.

    When you eat meat…you are part of this problem. Poor people with little choices in life are killing, for YOU.

    For this reason alone, meat is a terrible wrong.

    Compassion and thoughtfulness never go out of style.

  • AWA

    You really need to look at all of the discussion about this post on the Facebook page of Animal Welfare Approved.

  • Richard Gimbel

    The flip-floppers sited in this article are lazy, plain and simple. There is no such thing as humane animal slaughter. This should be quite obvious to any thinking person. Eat meat or don’t but please do not fool yourself into believing that consuming animals on any level is the healthy or environmentally sound choice. Come on, Dude!

  • anon

    There sure are a bunch of whiny vegetarians in the comments section. Meat isn’t terribly wrong, meat is natural– get over yourselves.

  • Hypntick

    To those who refer to the torture to the souls of the ones doing the killing: They’re killing food. Food. Nothing more, nothing less. It’s something that’s been done for hundreds of thousands of years. Amazingly enough it’s what has gotten us to be the dominant species on the plant. No I do not agree with non sustainable food sources, as it would harm our place as dominant species. I am for humans first and every other form of life on this planet a very distant second.

  • Evz

    Wow, I think there’s been a misunderstanding… ‘cave in’?! To meat?… can I just say, ew?

    When you drive past an unfortunately deceased dog or cat or rabbit, on the side of the road, do you think to yourself, “mmmmm,mmmm, mmmmm: if only I could eat me some ‘a THAT!”?

    Ground beef (or pork chops, or whatever) triggers for me nothin’ but the same ‘ew!’ response as roadkill. Could I eat it if I had to? Surely… in dire circumstance, I’d bar no holds — insects, grubs, mammals, birds, whatever I had to eat to live… but geez, why would I eat that if I didn’t have to? I don’t care WHAT it tastes like, that’s just gross. Like, if human-liver pate was really really deliciously scrumptious: still gross.

    ‘Less bad’ is not ‘good’, but still better than ‘more bad.’ If you’re gonna choose to kill ’em, it’s nice that you’re NOT inflicting all that additional cruelty beforehand.

    But the further up the food chain you eat, the less efficient the food production; ‘eco-friendly’ arguments weaken when sustainable veg protein is the alternative… ‘sustainable’ beef production will always be less efficient than sustainable plant production, since the cow uses most of what it eats for its own energy needs.

    And (this is just my personal moral definition of what food *isn’t*, in the absence of need): all mammals & birds dream, play, care for their young, and have a nervous system similar enough to ours that we can study THEM to learn HUMAN physiology (especially mammals)… that’s just too d*** close to me to eat, if I don’t have to. If you’re a veg-head for moral/ ethical reasons, I don’t see how it matters what label’s on the package.

    Also, the adverse health effects of a meat-based diet are unchanged regardless of ‘humane’ labeling (increased risk for heart disease, cancer, stroke, diabetes, etc.). And the risk of fecal contamination/ e.coli is no less in ‘humane beef’ than in CAFO meat (good recent article about this on…

    So, um, yeah, I’ll just go ahead & pass, thanks! *Anything’s* better than what we’ve *been* doing, with animal agriculture in the US. But wow: I sure wouldn’t eat it… ew.

  • Mary

    My client – La Cense Beef – has organic beef made from healthy grass fed cows. Happy cows make healthy beef which better for you.

  • RickyC

    The Veg movement has always had people switch back and forth. It is expected that as their is more attention paid to high profile people turning Veg, there is going to be more attention paid to those that turn back. I don’t think it is a matter of being lazy, I think it is a matter of just being misinformed. Being veg is really easy once you make it a habit. It is not too hard to find locally grown organic vegetables and tofu. I have been vegan for about 4 years now, and once I learned where to look at the grocery store and where to shop it is really easy now.

  • RickyC

    Going back to the small meat farm model is not fully-sustainable. Think about how much meat America eats. To produce the amount of needed meat would require more farm land, tons of workers, and drive up cost that 99.9% of Americans will not pay. The factory farms will win in the end as long as Americans do not reduce the amount of meat they eat.

  • lola

    Vegans behave like cult members. Stop pushing your propaganda. Humans are omnivores. By buying humanly raised meats you support sustainable farming. Vegans are too much like creepy televangelists!!

  • being vegetarian made me a lot healthier and leaner`:,

  • manny

    I know this is old but to you people who are complaining about people that convert bck to eating meat that is raised humanely, does the circle of life not mean anything to you? So every other animal that eats meat should be ashamed of theirselves. Even the ones that will surely eat you should have shame on theirselves. So next time your about to be eaten by something shame them and they should forget all about how hungry they are. I was a vegetarian for a little but I discovered whole foods with all their humaney raised meat. The only reason why I went vegetartian was because I watched Food Inc. Come on now you guys. Humans are omnivores, bears are omnivores, you can’t go around passing judgement on people because maybe their bodies are telling them they are missing something. Shame on you guys, with all your rhetoric you’re just as bad as everyone else.

  • Melvin

    anyone who uses animals eating other animals to justify eating meat is being silly. some animals eat their children. so the next time you get hungry just drizzle some sauce on that baby and toss it on the grill. mmmm tasty right? animals do not know any better than to kill for food. it’s instinct. humans on the other hand have a choice. if people want to eat meat then that is fine but don’t use silly reasons as to why.

    people who are ex vegetarians were never vegetarian to begin with. no true vegetarian would ever think of going back to eating meat and certainly wouldn’t be tempted by any type of meat. and about the humane killing thing, how about someone humanely kills your parents. i mean, as long as they didn’t suffer through it it’s alright right? let them go free. people will come up with anything to stray from being a vegetarian. just admit you don’t have the dedication to keep it going.

  • Lindsey

    I’ve only been vegetarian for 2 months and I’ve never felt better, to be honest. I don’t believe in this humane meat thing. I don’t think these people had a clear idea about why they went veg in the first place. It’s important to think through your opinions and beliefs and know exactly why you are doing what you are doing. That way you won’t be swayed and “cave in” when someone tells you differently. I haven’t been tempted to eat meat yet, I enjoy my processed soy products and no I don’t eat them every day, I’m not stupid. Processed ANYTHING is bad for you if you meat so much of it.

    I know there are some people due to health reasons, blood type etc that go back to meat because their doctors say they should. It’s very hard for them and I feel for them but everyone else who “just couldn’t resist the smell of bacon any more” or “liked the look of that cheese burger” you weren’t really vegetarian to begin with.

  • Aaron

    I became a vegetarian about 4 months ago after seeing the Paul McCartney Video “If slaughterhouses had glass walls, then Everyone would be a vegetarian”. Prior, I had no connection to my food and probably ate more meat than an average person. I had decided the reason was the inhuman treatment of the animals.

    I totally disagree with some of the people out there that say there is no way to humanly treat and kill an animal (I think this is a denial on your part to accept that you do not have the moral strength to give up meat). Here is an easy example: ; there are many more if you search. And when the man said in the article “I see how some people can think that (eating humanely-raised meat) is more ethical or moral because the animals are fed better and treated better, but I hate to sound harsh – the ending is just the same for them.” This is a massive oversimplification of the situation. Just because in the end the animals die, the way they die is pretty important too. That would be like saying well it doesn’t matter what humans achieve on earth because the earth will be destroyed anyway. That kind of attitude is irresponsible and an easy way to justify eating inhumanly treated animals. You can ignore your morals, but not the truth. Imagine if you were a criminal receiving the death penalty, would you rather get the injection or get bashed over the head with a hammer repeatedly until you die? You die either way don’t you?

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