Excuses and force of habit have blanketed the ethicality of consuming meat for pleasure; its questionable morality being served bare faced and often consumed blindly with little pause for flavour. Yet sequestered as the issue may seem, it remains just as paramount. In a day and age where meat is no longer a necessity and often consumed for the sole purpose of pleasure, for many the question of morality remains to be answered: this is just as much food for thought, as it is thought for food.
To begin, clarification should be issued between what constitutes as pleasure as opposed to necessity. Clinical nutritionist Dipika Joshi states that ‘protein is not the main concern for those avoiding animal based foods, but rather the vitamin B-12’. The vitamin is essential for brain functionality and as some believe it exclusive to animal based products, B-12 can be used to defend the view of meat as a necessity. However, unbeknownst to many, the vitamin is also available in fortified vegetarian products. . With vegans able to live healthy and long lives, and a number of examples of vegetarian athletes and Olympians, it is clear, with an educated diet, meat consumption is not essential; and if not essential, then it is consumed for pleasure.
Moral permissibility, or ethicality, is relative and personal, where circumstance and individualistic moral standards dictate the perception of what is acceptable. However, one can compare an act against an already established set of standards in order to assess its permissibility. In the context of the proposed argument, eating meat for pleasure can therefore be observed as ethical if it adheres to pre-existing standards; standards arguably breached when considering the act of meat consumption in relation to the processes involved in its obtainment.
The United Kingdom animal welfare act was the first to recognise animals as ‘sentient beings, not merely commodities’ with laws instated to prevent ‘unnecessary suffering to an animal that is being destroyed to provide food for mankind’ . Such ideals appear rapidly debunked when observing the reality: chickens are confined to limited space and are commonly inflicted with burns and disease; pigs feature tail mutilations; cows have horns removed with saws . This is but a glimpse of the several acts breaching current standards; the surface of animal welfare may appear glistening with well-intentioned legislation, but the harsh reality remains submerged.
The defence that the consumer is dissociated from the aforementioned unethical acts by solely consuming meat is arguable when regarding their direct influence on the demand for the product. Through the simple contribution of purchasing meat raised by intensive farming techniques, they increase pressure on free-range farmers, who place higher regard for animal welfare, to convert to less ethical methods. In addition, the belief that their contribution is non-existent – as a single choice to refrain from purchasing meat will have insignificant impact on the intensive farming industry – can be countered from a virtue ethicist’s viewpoint: that as collaborating with an unethical act is immoral in itself, it should not be done.
The ethical ambiguity is further consolidated when regarding not only the double standards of governmental law, but also certain social prejudices. Pet owners’ affiliation with animals such as dogs and cats have led to increased social values and rights prescribed to certain animals in favour of others. A division has been formed between domesticated animals, where factory farmed produce fall into a grey area with many consumers both accepting their lifestyle as socially normal but morally unethical.
An interesting hypothetical argument therefore arises that, ‘if animal welfare is ensured until the death of the animal, is it then morally acceptable to consume its meat for pleasure?’ Still, ambiguity presides, with the two central concerns being:
a) The morality of raising animal life for the sole purpose of consumption
b) The act of purposefully killing an animal
The issue of double standards where practices seem contradictory to governmental law is nullified by the refinement of the argument and the two concerns may even be observed as compliant with social normalities. Consider pets, as an example, which, although granted more rights than any other animal, are often euthanised when their nature conflicts human interest such as during instances of behavioural disorders like aggression . As both society and law are currently accepting that circumstance may permit animal euthanasia, current standards would similarly permit the humane death of farm animals for the benefit of human interest and pleasure.
However, although legalities and social prejudice govern common perceptions of morality, it does not define them; moral standards may vary from one individual to another and depending on their perception of the deserved rights of the animals in question, one may never perceive the deliberate killing of an animal as moral. They may also argue that the former concern, a), is an infringement of the basic animals right to freedom and therefore immoral.
Yet for someone to follow the viewpoint where animals should not be used to serve the trivial interest of mankind, but only in moments of necessity, then careful consistency within their own moral standard should be followed in all contexts of animal use. The immorality of the consumption of meat for pleasure is tethered to similar stances on animal uses in drug development, clothing and transport to name a few. Therefore, one who refrains from eating meat on the ethical grounds of preserving their rights for freedom should similarly avoid all other animal based products derived by human killing.
It is difficult to evaluate a definitive conclusion from the latter argument as the question is convoluted in several underlying personal concepts of morality. However, what is apparent is the current hypocrisy rife in governmental, social and personal standards in regards to current intensive farming techniques. The diminished costs provided by such techniques have driven demand for meat until now, the habit of meat consumption is so commonplace, that social acceptability has lead to lax in animal welfare law enforcement. It is imperative to assess first what is morally important to oneself in regards to animal welfare and, once a moral stance has been gathered, understand the ethical obligation to follow it.
 B-12 in vegan and vegetarian diets,Dr Justine Butler, accessed 2014,
 Animal welfare legislation, BBC, 2014, accessed 2014
 Animal Farming, Animal aid, 2014,accessed 2014
 Animal Euthanasia, RCVS, 2012, accessed 2014