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I’m a Meat-Eating Loser – I Didn’t Win the New York Times Ethicist Contest

Artichokes stacked for sale at Whole Foods, Berkeley, CA. Photo by BF Newhall

Of all the things to eat in the world, I'm particularly grateful for artichokes. Photo by BF Newhall.

By Barbara Falconer Newhall

I’m not bitter. I didn’t win the “Why It’s OK to Eat Meat”essay contest the New York Times put on a few weeks ago. I didn’t even make the final six, which were published today on the Times website.

But I’m OK with that. Five of the six finalists for the contest by the NY Times Ethicist column presented deeply thoughtful, caring essays addressing the question — How can it possibly be OK to eat meat these days when so many folks are choosing vegetarian diets and making a powerful moral case for their decision?

Chicken wings, legs and breasts in butcher's case. Photo by BF Newhall

Chicken wings, legs and breasts for sale at my local Whole Foods. Photo by BF Newhall.

The Times lined up a tough panel to judge the contest, “a veritable murderer’s row of judges — some of the most influential thinkers to question or condemn the eating of meat: Peter Singer, Michael Pollan, Mark Bittman, Jonathan Safran Foer and Andrew Light.”

The panel’s final decision will be announced on May 6. Meanwhile, the public gets to go online and vote on the six finalists through April 24.

To my dismay the vegetarian author of “I’m About to Eat Meat for the First Time in 40 Years” is pulling in 41 percent of the online votes right now.

It’s a cop-out of an essay. The still-anonymous author says she/he is going to be eating meat – but only in vitro meat, “grown from real cow, chicken, pig and fish cells, all grown in culture without the mess and misery.”

To my mind, this essay doesn’t follow the rules of the contest, which asked for a defense of eating – real – meat. So if Mr/Ms I’m-About-to-Eat-Meat wins the contest, yes, I will be bitter.

Cattle feed lot extending acres. Photo by BF Newhall

Cattle feed lot extending acres into the distance at Harris Ranch, CA. Photo by BF Newhall

My favorite essay, on the other hand, is the one entitled “Sometimes It’s More Ethical to Eat Meat Than Vegetables.” For one thing, I like that the author suggests we remember to be grateful to the living things that die so we can eat.

But if worse comes to worst, and Ms/Mr I’m-About-to-Eat-Meat wins the contest, I won’t take my pique out on the animal kingdom. Most likely, I’ll forget my troubles with my usual comfort foods – a bowl of vegetarian popcorn and a glass of vegan beer.

Tuesday: My losing essay.

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