Three current and former vegetarians -- now a rancher, a hunter, and a butcher -- got together at The Atlantic to help provide some reasonable justifications for eating meat. A litany of standard arguments (meat's unhealthy, it's cruel, it's environmentally destructive) get brought out during these conversations and they frequently lead to an impasse or an unpleasant argument at dinner tables. But the key to diffusing a fight is to see each other's point of view, and hearing the answers to these arguments from former vegetarians certainly helps do that. Tovar Cerulli, formerly vegan hunter who avoided animal products because of their cruelty is especially compelling:
I became a vegetarian at 20, after reflecting on the compassionate words of Buddhist teacher Thich Nhat Hanh. Soon I went vegan. Almost a decade later, having moved back to a rural community from New York City, I realized that all food has its costs. From habitat destruction to combines that inadvertently mince rabbits to the shooting of deer in farm fields, crop production is far from harmless. Even in our own organic garden, my wife and I were battling ravenous insects and fence-defying woodchucks. I began to see that the question wasn't what we ate but how that food came to our plates. A few years later, my wife -- who was studying holistic health and nutrition -- suggested that we shift our diet, and my health improved when we started eating dairy and eggs. It improved still more when we started eating chicken and fish. Two years later, I took up a deer rifle.
The rest of the piece is great, with Niman Ranch's Nicolette Hahn Niman sort of narrating the discussion. As we get ready for a weekend that will, in many cases, involve a table full of way more food than is probably appropriate, it's well worth thinking about how how what we eat impacts the planet, our health, and our fellow creatures. And within all that philosophizing, to perhaps justify that second portion of ham.