The Word of Wisdom and animal cruelty

ArthurMormon, Word of Wisdom 58 Comments

I had one of those “oh, great” moments today as I was searching the news online.  I have “oh, great” moments now and then.  For instance, about a week after the semester started here at the University of Kentucky, as I was locking up my bike, I realized none of the other bikes had helmets with them.  It then dawned on me:  no one on campus wears their helmet.  I’ve been the one geek on campus who wears a helmet!  All the people that looked at me and smiled- were they really just laughing at the helmet?

Then I remembered that I’m married, so who cares if I look like a geek?  What, are they not going to go out with me?  I like being married for this and many other reasons.

But today I had another “oh, great” moment when I found the following headline:  “Video shows chicks ground up alive at egg hatchery“.  The quite disturbing (to me) video in question can be found here.  Great!  So not only are companies committing cruel acts towards animals, I’ve been contributing to this ever since I was born!

It’s not like I didn’t know that the animal harvesting business is cruel.  If you don’t believe me, a quick Google search of “meat industry cruelty” will convince you very quickly.  I remember once I boycotted Kentucky Fried Chicken for probably over a year due to the fact that some of their practices led to poor treatment of chickens, overcrowding, etc.  I’m in Kentucky, remember!  Avoiding KFC in Kentucky is like trying to avoid getting hit by raindrops in Portland.  However, a couple months ago my co-worker brought in a bucket of the Colonel’s Original Recipe and I just couldn’t resist.  It was just so good.

So I’m part of the problem, I suppose.  As I watched this video of these cute little helpless chicks being ground up alive, my mind pondered a few things.

First of all, isn’t it strange that this strikes me as “wrong”?  On Earth, Nature is incredibly cruel.  Lions must hunt down sick, weak gazelles, chase them down and bite them in the neck till they suffocate and die.  Polar bears have to eat baby seals.  That’s just the way Nature works, so why does it strike me as cruel?  It strengthened the idea, to me, that there’s something inside us that isn’t “of this world,” or else why would cruelty register at all?

Secondly, the practices at the egg hatcheries make sense, on paper.  Male chicks have little value to the industry.  They don’t grow big or fast enough to sell as food (I can think of a few starving countries in this world that would love a shipment of thousands of free male chickens, but that’s another matter), and they don’t lay eggs.  The hatcheries just do what has to be done.  Grinding them alive is a lot more humane than other ways to kill them.

Still, it bothers me.  I can’t help but admit that it bothers me, and there’s something inside that just wonders if what we’re doing is right.  Unfortunately, I can’t get around the fact that, by eating eggs, I’m condoning those practices as well.  What is the solution?  Should I stop eating eggs?  Should I go vegetarian?

Then I remembered a little something I read once.  It goes like this:

12 Yea, flesh also of beasts and of the fowls of the air, I, the Lord, have ordained for the use of man with thanksgiving; nevertheless they are to be used sparingly;
13 And it is pleasing unto me that they should not be used, only in times of winter, or of cold, or famine.
14 All grain is ordained for the use of man and of beasts, to be the staff of life, not only for man but for the beasts of the field, and the fowls of heaven, and all wild animals that run or creep on the earth;
15 And these hath God made for the use of man only in times of famine and excess of hunger.

Umm, what if we all actually lived the Word of Wisdom?

Now don’t get me wrong, people.  I’m a burger-eating, kebab-loving American just like the next guy.  I wouldn’t consider myself “liberal” and I didn’t vote for Obama.  Before you label me as some kind of Communist, tree-hugging, pinko, PETA spy planted to infiltrate the Mormon blogging community, consider some facts.

Let’s assume that eggs are included in “the flesh of beasts and fowls of the air.”  Americans love meat.  Americans love eggs.  We can’t even get through a meal without one or the other.  Vegetarian sections of menus at restaurants are basically footnotes, and every big family meal needs a pot roast or a turkey or a ham, and as a result, we live in a culture that relies on meat.  This means the model of having a family farm, where you grow up with the animals and slaughter the fatted calf only during times of great celebration, is no longer viable as an option.

Think about the family farm.  Each meat eater must take care of the animals on the farm and slaughter them personally.  Each animal is rationed, fed, sheltered, and generally taken care of until it is necessary to eat.  Perhaps I’m wrong, but I imagine this model fosters a more compassionate relationship with the animals that are slaughtered.  For instance, most Americans would be revolted at the prospect of eating a family pet (say, a dog for instance).  Why?  Well, dogs are family, and you don’t eat family.  A familial relationship with an animal creates a reverence for that animal’s life.

In our current society most people don’t even associate the meat they eat with livestock, and they certainly don’t know how to slaughter an animal themselves.  This creates a disconnection between people and the animals they eat.  Due to the quantity of animals we eat, we now have to treat animals literally like items on an assembly line.  The Lord said “it is pleasing unto me that they [animals] should not be used” except during certain times like famine.  Christ even said that one sparrow doesn’t fall to the ground without God noticing (Matt. 10:29).

If we again assume that unnecessary animal suffering is displeasing to God, well, He already gave us a solution, didn’t he?  It’s in Section 89 of the Doctrine and Covenants, quoted above.

And yet, when you ask a Latter-day Saint what the Word of Wisdom is, a disproportionately large amount of time is spent on whether decaffeinated coffee is okay, or whether hot chocolate and iced tea are “hot drinks,” or about tannic acid or prescription medication or medicinal marijuana, or whether we can drink Mountain Dew daily.  What about the direct consequences of animal suffering?  What if eating meat sparingly was explicitly part of the temple recommend questions?  Imagine if the For the Strength of Youth pamphlet mentioned, “The Word of Wisdom is not just about tobacco and alcohol.  Eating meat and eggs sparingly reduces overcrowding at egg hatcheries and cattle farms, which cause animals, which God gave us and commanded us to be good stewards over, to suffer from stress, pain, anxiety, and fatigue.”  Not to mention that the cattle and pig industries cause pollution of our air and water, but that’s a different post altogether.

I don’t think I’ll become a vegetarian anytime soon, and I’m not necessarily even making the argument that eating meat is fundamentally wrong.  Yet, the article and video were eye-opening, to me.  From now on, I’m going to drastically cut my meat and eggs intake, partly because of the effect it has on the environment, and the quality of life of the livestock and chickens we use, but also out of obedience to my Heavenly Father.

What if I cut down my meat consumption to perhaps one meal a day?  I usually have cereal for breakfast, but I eat meat for lunch and dinner.  If I cut out meat from one of those meals, I’d be roughly cutting my meat consumption in half.  It’s a place to start, anyway.  Perhaps soon, down the road a bit, I could cut out a little more meat than that.  I’m not expecting myself to make a huge, drastic lifestyle change right away, but think of the good that can be done if we all just cut down our meat consumption in half.

We are always looking for magical, new ways to change the World we live in for the better, yet we’re quite blind sometimes to living by what has already been revealed.  The Word of Wisdom was given almost 200 years ago.  It’s about time I start living it.

Comments 58

  1. My brother started dating a girl who is a vegetarian. She is pretty ‘religious’ about it, I mean that in a good way. As a result I re-considered the WoW section that you note. I wanted to cut my meat down, but my wife did not. We are not good cooks and so frozen meat is pretty important us. I am admit that I am weak, but I sense a real issue here. In families I think it would take everyone to agree to make the adjustment. I too don’t advocate being vegetarian but I concur that we could cut down the amoutn meat we eat.

  2. I attempt to keep my red meat consumption relatively low, however I think that the lack of emphasis is due to our cultures, many other cultures would interpret section 89 as not eating meat unless absolutely necessary. IMO perpetrating such animal cruelty once or twice a week is worse in the sight of God than those who drink or smoke once or twice a week. however our culture is much too permissive of this type of behaviour. Would the Bishop discipline a battery chicken farmer?

    Food prices low and profits high which in turn supports the economy as a whole, small time farmers suffer, quality of food suffers, animals suffer however prices are lower. Lower for those in low income families, who would not be able to afford higher food prices, my auntie has ten children and the cheaper the food the better.

    I’m not sure what the answer is, buying organic foods, reducing the amount we consume, or actively seeking to stop animal cruelty, support these low income families and super families with tithing contributions.

    Whatever the answer, God is watching so look busy.

  3. I would just note that, (“perpetrating such animal cruelty once or twice a week is worse in the sight of God than those who drink or smoke once or twice a week.”) from what I understand of Joseph Smith, IMO he would have seen it far far worse.

  4. #4. Yes, I’ve heard that argument put forth by Maddox and other gentle Internet think-tanks. Every now and then, animals get caught in combines and harvesters. But read again- I’m not saying killing animals out of necessity is fundamentally wrong, nor am I arguing for complete vegetarianism. I’m just arguing for the minimizing of meat consumption.

    So what’s your point, exactly?

  5. Arthur,
    Interesting post. Reducing meat consumption is something I think we could all get behind, especially in light of the fact that it has more of an affect on our environment than our consumption of oil. One thing that might help is to research local farms and buy local, organic meats. This will of course cost more, but that’s kind of the point. Three huge advantages: 1) Most if not all of your ethical issues go away. Many of these local/organic/sustainable farms treat their animals very well, allowing them to live to the full measure of their creation. In fact, the Church owns an enormous ranch (among many) in northern Utah/Southwest Wyoming, called Deseret Ranch, that practices all sustainable principles and has done amazing things with it (the water table has raised, wildlife has returned, the cows roam completely free feeding off the native grasses, etc.). My understanding was that they were working on getting completely off fossil fuels, though I’m not sure where they are on that goal. 2) You see the real cost of meat (local organic farms aren’t subsidized like the Big Ag farms that deliver your fast-food, Walmart meats). Knowing the true cost of a product gives a good perspective. 3) More expensive meat is a very good incentive to eat less of it.

    It is, of course, easy for me to recommend checking out local farms because here in Brooklyn we have a great farmers market every Saturday so a lot of my research has already been done for me. But a really good book you should check out is The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan. Fascinating stuff.

  6. I think the Word of Wisdom, like any other scripture, is open to interpretation. Our church leaders have certainly interpreted the same scriptures different ways as we have gone through the last nearly 200 years. Women can’t speak in church, women can speak in church. Blacks can’t hold the priesthood, blacks can hold the priesthood. Polygamy is essential to get to the celestial kingdom, polygamy is grounds for excommunciation.

    With regards to the Word of Wisdom, interpretation of it varies with the leadership that happens to be in charge in the setting of the current societal values. In times of temperance movements, the alcohol portion is emphasized, even to the point that the sacrament prayer (one of 3 set prayers we have in the church) was changed and wine was removed from the ordinance. Up through the 40’s, 50’s and on, there are stories of excellent bishops and other leaders who drank their cup of coffee, etc.

    Lessons aside, I think the Word of Wisdom’s role has been changed in the church from one that is truly about health to one that is basically a checklist for the sake of obedience. If it was truly about health:

    – A glass of red wine each day would be seen as ok (and could arguably be within an interpretation of the WofW)

    – Wine would actually be used in the sacrament, as revealed in the Book of Mormon and the D&C

    – We would still avoid tobacco

    – We would teach moderation with stimulants (and I would argue that a cup of coffee is much more healthy than a 44oz Diet Coke)

    – We would emphasize the points made in this post, that meat should generally be avoided and we should actually have semi-vegetarian diets (ironically, this is actually the most clear point of the whole section – much more clear than “hot drinks” – we just ignore it)

    – We would talk a lot more about BMI / weight, as un-PC as that may be. In the talk of healthcare reform, the cost is $1 TRILLION over 10 years, or around $100 billion /year. We have DIRECT medical costs of around $160 BILLION annually in this country, directly related to obesity. This would help our health MUCH, MUCH more than avoiding a beer or a cigarette.

    – We would stop demonizing people who drink, smoke, etc. The vast, vast majority of the world has learned how to have a glass of wine or beer with dinner without becoming alcoholics, spouse-beaters, deadbeats, etc. It is only within our community that we talk about these ills of alcohol yet ignore the ills of obesity and everything else.

    My 2 cents.

  7. I’ve had similar thoughts – it’s so interesting to me that the Word of Wisdom has evolved in the way that it has. The current list of rules we follow is almost unrecognizable when you actually read the text of D&C 89. Cracking open a cold beer (which section 89 says is OK) will cost you your temple worthiness, but no one blinks an eye when there are hamburgers at the ward cookout in July (which section 89 says is not OK.)

    I second Rusty’s recommendation to read The Omnivore’s Dilemma. It’s a great read and was very eye-opening for me. Since reading it we have decided to join a produce co-op to support a local farm. Now I just need to find a good meat source.

  8. I’ve gained a new perspective since owning a small farm and I’m sure my Grandfathers perspective of farming in order to survive was much different than mine. We have several well-cared for chickens that have opportunities to free range as well as feed on nutritious grain. (It takes some getting used to knowing that we are eating eggs that are laid utilizing the nutrients of the bugs we see them eat).

    Our chickens are fun, personable to a degree, but also incredibly cruel to each other. When one becomes lame, the others trample it. If you try to introduce a new one into their clique, it is tortured. We have to keep the new crowd separate from the older crowd. We never wanted roosters, but the feed stores who sell the chicks only give you a 90% chance that the chicks are female, so filling the odds, we now have a rooster. So, there is a debate about what to do with it.

    We also have to do our best to keep the chickens secure from the local varmints…weasels, raccoons, mountain lions, coyotes and birds of prey. At some point, they will be too old to lay eggs, and we will have to decide what to do with them.

    I’ve watched our mother goats ignore their newborns and in some cases found that the kids were apparently trampled on. Our mother cats have ignored one or more kittens of a litter when they intuition apparently told them that they already have more to nurse than they can handle.

    We’ve faced the dilemma of putting down a housecat because, try as we might, it couldn’t get over the tendency to urinate in the house. We tried to find another home for it, but who wants a cat that can’t be housebroken.

    So when I hear of chickens in a cozy warm megafarm that is protected from their natural predators, it doesn’t bother me so much to hear that the roosters are being destroyed. Imagine what all those adult roosters would do to each other. Cruelty is still something that I don’t countenance, but my farming perspective has necessitated a shift in what I consider cruelty. But hey, cutting down meat consumption is a great idea.

  9. For whats its worth, there was a time, under Lorenzo Snow when it seemed like meat might be include as part of the word of wisdom.

    President Lorenzo Snow believed the Word of Wisdom was “violated as much or more in the improper use of meat as in other things, and (he) thought the time was near at hand when the Latter-day Saints should be taught to refrain from meat eating and the shedding of animal blood.” (cited in Arrington, An Economic Interpretation of the WoW, 47.)

  10. Arthur,

    I suppose that I’m a footnote. 😉

    I stopped eating meat several years ago to address approximately the concerns you identified above, though my increased awareness came through attention to beef and pork slaughterhouse practices, rather than chicken ranching. If for ethical reasons, I wouldn’t consider treating an animal in a particular way myself, I can’t think how it’s moral to pay someone to do it for me and deliver the results in styrofoam and plastic wrap.

  11. #9. This is the only issue that gives me pause. I think that Nature in general is incredibly cruel, like I said. So really what I’m advocating is to be better to Nature than it is to itself, which requires a leap, I admit.

  12. There is a pamphlet that was put out by Dr. John R. Christopher, a world-renowned herbalist, called “Just What is the Word of Wisdom.” It addresses this debate of eating meat sparingly and why we eat meat sparingly- or why we should eat it sparingly. It goes beyond what we aren’t supposed to do and delves into what we are supposed to do and why. May I suggest that anyone truly interested in the Word of Wisdom pick up a copy of it and compare it against what the scriptures teach. It changed the way our family eats- drastically. And I am so thankful that it has. Our lifestyle changes have proved that we really can “run and not be weary” as promised in the Doctrine and Covenants.

    It does however contain changes that pertain to things other than meat, such as: refined flours and sugars. It only strengthens the evidence in a pamphlet written in 1930 called The Word of Wisdom, where Apostle John A. Widtsoe taught that refined flour was contrary to the Word of Wisdom.

    Like I said, a complete lifestyle change happened for us when we started to live the Word of Wisdom through our own studies.

  13. Some various responses:

    #6. I think you’re absolutely right.

    #7. It makes you wonder why certain things were emphasized over others. The temperance movement?

    #10. I think I read a bit about this, and also about the fact that Lorenzo Snow disapproved of those who hunted for sport, who had no need of the animals they killed.

    #13. So let me ask you this, when you say you had a complete lifestyle change, do you include expenses in this as well? If you really avoid refined sugars and flours and eat meat sparingly, do you find that you’re spending more money on the whole? Just curious, as I’m just a poor, newly-wedded college student.

  14. What is the solution? Should I stop eating eggs? Should I go vegetarian?

    No one wants to hear it but yes, it’s the only solution. For 28 years I rationalized why I shouldn’t or didn’t need to be a vegetarian. But there came a point when I just couldn’t justify it anymore. Going veg is not as hard as most think it is. It doesn’t take long to lose your craving for meat. I’m not saying that you’ll NEVER crave meat again. But you won’t feel like you HAVE to have it anymore. There are good enough alternative products on the market today to make you feel like you haven’t really given anything up. Especially with products like Quorn. It’s so close to the real thing that it seems like such a small sacrifice to make for animal welfare and the environment. There’s something wrong in society when you can buy a whole roasted chicken for about 3 or 4 bucks but can only get a couple of soy patties for the same price. Same with red meat. If you compare the price per pound for hamburger vs. soy burgers, it’s clear that something’s off.

    As far as eggs are concerned, I haven’t been able to give those up yet. Maybe someday, but for now I only buy organic eggs even though I’m paying about 8 bucks a dozen for them in Norway, which is a good incentive to not overconsume them. Organic doesn’t mean 100% ethical, but I’m weak for eggs. I try to make it up to my conscience by switching to soy milk, which hasn’t been a problem.

    The way I personally interpret the WofW is exactly what it says: ONLY in times of cold and famine. But my reasons for going veg were not religious, but rather ethical.

  15. Arthur-
    Yes, I include expenses as well. Surprisingly we don’t spend much more than we used to when we did eat processed foods. We eat meat probably once a week, and when I say meat- I mean all animal products… eggs, cheese, meats, milk, etc. Because we aren’t buying those things nearly as often as we used to, our budget is freed up for things like nuts and freshly-ground nut butters, seeds (for sprouting and for eating in it’s seed form), whole grains (that we either mill into our own flour or soak for a warmed oatmeal-like breakfast or for bread making) and of course fruits and vegetables. I am not going to lie to you you and say that it is cheap, because it isn’t, because if we don’t make our own bread we try to buy a sprouted grain bread and those run about $4 per loaf. But, we would have spent that $4 on cheese before, so it is a trade off we are willing to make. We’ve found that farmer’s markets are great places for fresh, local produce that is not nearly as expensive as super-market produce because it is sustained in the community, and because it isn’t shipped from states or countries away we eat more of what is in season at the time.

    We are pretty newly married ourselves and one of us is still in school, so we understand money being tight. Something else that has changed with this lifestyle is that we aren’t sick nearly as much as before- which means less money being spent at the doctor’s office- which means we have seen in action the Lord’s promises hold true; not to mention free up money that was being spent at the doctor’s office to be put into a savings account or to be used to help those in our community. We are not prefect in this by any means, and we are learning as we are going that sometimes we need to make adjustments for things in the budget or go without certain things, too. It’s been a sacrifice for us in some aspects. But it has been rewarding.

    Some of our friends and family think it is silly that our daughter hasn’t had sugar- unless it is in its natural form (in fruits or from raw local honey) yet. They balk that we don’t eat the typical mega-store diet. It is not conventional, and it isn’t for everyone, but when I look back in the scriptures and look at the number of years that those men and women lived, I am astounded. And they lived the Word of Wisdom without being told to do so. So while some may balk and some may mock, we continue to live the lifestyle that we do because we feel so alive. If life begets life, for me, it only makes sense that the majority of the food I eat be living foods, no refined or manufactured chemical-laden shelved products. Like I said, it isn’t for everyone, but it has radically changed our lives in all aspects.

    I have neglected to mention that it has changed us spiritually, too, but that may be for another post.

    Did that answer your question? Or was it more confusing?

  16. #15 – I don’t understand how the price of soy compared to the price of meat indicates that something is off or that there’s something wrong with society. Your opinion that not eating meat is more moral is just that – your opinion. I’m not even suggesting that you’re wrong, only pointing out that it’s a subjective moral position, and one that also happens to be in the vast minority. From a market point of view, I think it’s perfectly appropriate that soy is far more expensive. There’s relatively little demand for it. From a moral or ethical point of view I think it’s also questionable to suggest that there’s something “wrong with society” because they prefer chicken to soy patties. That is a typically condescending and heavy-handed position to take with respect to people who choose to eat meat and not feel guilty about it.

  17. Our family lived leanly for many years while in grad school, and we never really reestablished a meat-focused diet after school was over. I still bring a lunch with me to work and eat mostly PB&J every day (delicious!) and meat only about half the nights of the week. I also make a point to only eat meat at one meal of the day. My wife and I usually share one chicken breast and that’s just plenty for our needs (have you seen those frozen Costco chicken breasts? they’re ridiculously large!), and we hardly ever eat other kinds of meat aside from a monthly pork roast or the occasional gourmet hot dog or bratwurst. Its not that hard to avoid meat, and it saves lots of money.

  18. That answered my question perfectly. The part about not getting sick as often intrigued me as well. This is an effect I never would have predicted. I imagine processed foods aren’t as healthy but I wouldn’t have guessed that this is quantifiable.

    Your lifestyle might be a little further than I think we wish to go at this time, but I think it’s people like you that make it easier for people like me to take STEPS in that direction, anyway. I appreciate your input. And if it changed you spiritually, that’s all for the better.

  19. Brjones, my point was that there’s something wrong when, taking into account what it costs (in terms of money and the environmental factor of the meat industry) to feed, raise, slaughter, package, transport, and roast a chicken it can be bought for a couple of dollars. You’re right, soy is in poor demand compared to chicken and other meat. I think that’s a problem when we look at the ethical and environmental cost of the meat industry.

  20. We use whole wheat flour for most of our cooking, but primarily ground ourselves from bagged wheat. Tasting our own baking with store bought whole wheat flour will confirm that it leaves foods flatter and heavier compared to freshly ground whole wheat flour. The investment of a grinder ($250) and a Bosch mixer ($300, but a must for regular bread making) can be tough.

    We look for soy milk (or regular milk) that is marked down as it is approaching the “use by” date and freeze it for later use. (Works ok except for Skim Rich/Skim Supreme). That sometimes cuts the price in half.

    I would like to find more variety and lower price soy patty options even if its just as a change from the same old burger/chicken patty. My wife has made some patties from soy beans, but that is time consuming and not as convenient for storing.

  21. Your opinion that not eating meat is more moral is just that – your opinion.

    I prefer the word “ethical.” I ate meat for 28 years and I wouldn’t say that I (or you, or anyone else who eats meat) is “immoral” for doing so. “Unethical,” yes, and I apply that label to myself, which is why I quit eating meat in the first place. I came to the realization that it was unethical. I’m not saying you’re a bad person or unethical in other ways just because you eat meat. But I can’t imagine that anyone could legitimately argue that it’s not more ethical to not eat meat than to eat meat. I don’t think that it’s just my “opinion.”

  22. #20 – Faithful, again, I’m not saying I disagree with you, but it’s still just a matter of perspective. Your opinion is that the value of the environment and the humane treatment of animals outweigh the benefits of inexpensive meat. There are many who would disagree with you. I realize that the majority of meat eaters are ignorant to the details of such a conversation, but ultimately I don’t think you can treat the weight of environmental concerns or the “ethical” treatment of animals as moral absolutes. Especially when you consider that there are other factors such as those in #9 that help explain some of those behaviors. Let me reiterate that I’m not personally disagreeing with your position. I just don’t think it’s as morally absolute as you are treating it.

  23. It’s also unethical of me to drive to church when I can take the train. I do both, but I *should* only take the train. And yet I don’t because sometimes I put my own selfish desires (i.e. comfort of own car vs. waiting outside in the cold for the train) above what would be the clear environmentally ethical choice. Whether it comes to animal welfare or environmental issues, it’s almost always a problem of misplaced priorities on the part of human beings. Once we know what the *right* thing to do is, we should do it. But we don’t.

  24. # 25 – I think you’re taking an unbelievable amount for granted in these comments. I think it’s wonderful that you think that taking the train to church is more ethical than driving, but that’s just your opinion. Saving the environment is not a moral absolute, although I’ll admit it’s close, but that’s only true because almost everyone agrees that it’s important. I don’t believe you can or should make categorical statements about what is universally right or wrong for everyone.

    And for what it’s worth, below are Websters’ definitions of the words “ethics” and “ethical”, and they are completely intertwined with the notion of morals. Ultimately, you’re telling me what is and isn’t moral, and I don’t think anyone has the right to make such decisions for another human being.

    Main Entry: eth·ic
    Pronunciation: \ˈe-thik\
    Function: noun
    Etymology: Middle English ethik, from Middle French ethique, from Latin ethice, from Greek ēthikē, from ēthikos
    Date: 14th century
    1 plural but sing or plural in constr : the discipline dealing with what is good and bad and with moral duty and obligation
    2 a : a set of moral principles : a theory or system of moral values —often used in plural but singular or plural in construction b plural but sing or plural in constr : the principles of conduct governing an individual or a group c : a guiding philosophy d : a consciousness of moral importance
    3 plural : a set of moral issues or aspects (as rightness) <debated the ethics of human cloning

    Main Entry: eth·i·cal
    Pronunciation: \ˈe-thi-kəl\
    Variant(s): also eth·ic \-thik\
    Function: adjective
    Etymology: Middle English etik, from Latin ethicus, from Greek ēthikos, from ēthos character — more at sib
    Date: 1588
    1 : of or relating to ethics
    2 : involving or expressing moral approval or disapproval
    3 : conforming to accepted standards of conduct

  25. I hope I communicate this story right.
    Years ago, [and maybe they still do this] – BYU had a summer program where students would spend a couple weeks in the desert wilderness and at the end, they would bring forth a sheep that they brought with them. And in a solemn ceremony, they would slit the throat of the sheep, in the name of Jesus Christ, – and prepare a meal.

    Society has gone far beyond those days where such respect was given. Yet the counsel of Heaven is still there, – to eat meat, sparingly.

  26. #25. I’ve found that this is a problem when these types of topics get introduced. It makes discourse quite difficult when one side (or both) treats their opinions as “obvious” moral/ethical truths. Vegetarians often get accused of self-righteousness and being preachy, and can end up polarizing the issue needlessly. Then every time the issue comes up, both camps are already firmly entrenched… I wonder if there’s really a way to get around that.

  27. It’s hard to say that switching to soybean products is more ethical unless you know the conditions under which the soybeans were grown. Slashing and burning of rain forest to grow soy beans is a sad but common occurrence from what I hear. If meats are raised and grown locally, then you also cut down the carbon footprint of the soy products being trucked to your grocery store. We live next to an organic dairy and those cows seem pretty content with life. Occasionally one makes a break for it and starts walking down the paved street, but they mostly just graze and take a peek at what the humans might be bringing them to eat. Unfortunately, most of our neighbors milk is powdered and sent overseas rather than being sold locally.

  28. After reading a book called The China Study, I embarked on a diet of whole foods that was totally plant based. I felt so much better in so many ways. My Barrett’s esophagus got completely better, my tendency to irritable bowel disappeared, my connective tissue disorder from inflammation in all my muscles and joints improved, my skin got softer, nails stronger and sleeker, hair softer and more resilient, and my diabetes improved.

    I think it’s an extremely healthy way to eat. Animal-based foods seem to cause a lot of inflammation at least in many people. The book cites studies that showed decrease in cancer rates, heart disease, etc. And it’s not just the fat, it’s the animal proteins that cause problems. I was skeptical because this was so different than what I’d been taught all my life. But after trying it myself I’m convinced.

    The ethical issues aside, I think it’s far healthier not to eat animal based foods. But it’s nice to realize it’s no sacrifice to give up killing animals in order to live.

  29. Jesus ate broiled fish and honeycomb when he visited his disciples after his crucifixion. He also fed the multitudes with five loaves of bread and two fishes. I primarily eat fresh fruits and vegetables and whole grain breads but also include a little meat in my diet. I respect those who choose a vegetarian lifestyle, but feel that this diet works best for me. I suspect that with diet and food moderation and tolerance goes a long way.

  30. #5: I wouldn’t say “every now and then.” My understanding from those who have observed the process is that mice scatter like starlings ahead of the plow. The ones that aren’t killed by the plow probably face slow starvation. Ground-nesting birds, various predators, and other vertebrates are also vulnerable, to say nothing of invertebrates. Lots of individual animals die from habitat loss due to agriculture. Although animals raised for meat die themselves, the pasture land where they graze is much more amenable to various sorts of animal life than it would be if used to raise crops.

    The processing and transportation of crops also takes a toll on animal life in terms of habitat loss, road kill, energy requirements, and so on. Of course, meat also has to be processed and transported, but considering the overall impact on animal life required for raising and processing any kind of food, it’s not at all clear that a vegetarian diet has any real positive impact on animal cruelty. We may feel better if we don’t see the animal on our plate, but most of the animals that die to provide our food don’t actually end up as part of our meal.

  31. #32. To be honest, I don’t believe the effect is as drastic as you make it sound. It sounds like a far-fetched, grasping-at-straws attempt to invalidate the claims of vegetarians. I’ve seen crops harvested… I grew up next to miles and miles of corn and tobacco fields, and I just must have missed the animal holocaust you’re describing. Especially your second paragraph. Roadkill? Really? Should that really factor into our decision-making? Can you point me to a website with some statistics or something, at least to satisfy my skeptical mind?

    Either way, I’m not sure what your point is. Even if we accept what you’re saying, I’m not exactly sure what you’re trying to add to the conversation. That the cause is hopeless? That we’re going to kill no matter what we do?

  32. When it comes to my eating habits, I ask myself one question:

    WWTND? (What Would Ted Nugent Do?)

    But seriously, he has a great philosophy when it comes to this issue. He doesn’t eat anything he hasn’t killed or grown himself. I think it’s ridiculous for vegetarians to even attempt to get people to completely stop eating meat. Why not meet (no pun intended) them halfway? At least get them to do it in a more environmentally friendly way? Everyone has seen the pamphlets with the animal cruelty pictures, but they still eat meat. Time for a new strategy, i think.

  33. Really, I’m not just making stuff up as I go. I happen to be a vertebrate biologist by profession, and I have a pretty good idea of population sizes. Frankly, the idea that one can plow a field without killing a bunch of vertebrates is ludicrous. You may have lived near agricultural fields, but have you ridden on the tractor to see what animals are turned up? The number of animals exposed by these activities are sufficient to allow coyotes, hawks, and other predators to make a fine living following tractors around from field to field (see here for example:

    If you’re concerned with animal cruelty, I’m not sure why roadkill wouldn’t be in your equation. And if the only animals in your equation are the ones that end up on your plate, you are certainly overlooking the majority of the impact that your diet has on the animal community. If you give up hamburgers for broccoli, the cow may be happy about it, but the animals that died to produce the broccoli might have a different opinion. It’s obviously hard to get an accurate estimate of the number of animals that would die in various ways to get a serving of broccoli to your plate, but the number is clearly not zero, and arguably could be larger than the number of animals that die to get a hamburger to your plate. And I don’t know that I would want to argue that a cow slaughtered for market suffered more than the mice, rabbits, birds, and other animals sliced by the plow, eaten by a hawk, or that starved to death from habitat destruction in the broccoli field.

    As a matter of fact, we WILL kill no matter what we do. If you’ve got a plan for producing food without killing animals, I’m all ears.

  34. I sympathize with the vegetarian point of view. But I don’t have that type of self discipline. Don’t some vegetarians sometimes lust and dream of a nice juicy double cheesburger or some pork chops or a nice filet steak [medium rare] or…..

  35. #35 – I think Left Field was responding, at least indirectly, to Faithful Dissident’s assertion that not eating meat is inherently more ethical than eating meat because of the loss of animal life. I think the point was extremely pertinent.

  36. That makes some sense, I agree, but on the other hand, my original post was about minimizing animal suffering by observance of the Word of Wisdom. I appreciate the input but have not yet been convinced that there is more animal suffering and loss of life by harvesting grains than there is by harvesting livestock.

  37. Roadkill seems to be a concern for large numbers of barn owls, according to NPR. For some reason, they fly out in front of semi-trucks along interstates. Scientists have walked along the roadsides to estimate impact to populations.

    Interestingly, although agriculture may mean the end to some ecosystems, it can result in the creation of others. I saw a program about rice fields in Japan that have been used for hundreds of years that are flooded by man made irrigation systems. All of those man made systems have created territories for animals that have adapted to the seasonal agriculture activities in the irrigation canals and into the fields.

  38. #42 – I would probably agree with you, Arthur, although I am not well informed about either. I do think it’s an interesting issue, though. I think we all just assume that meat = killing animals and vegetarianism = no animals killed. And although I would agree that it seems intuitive that more animals would suffer and die from the production of meat than from agriculture, I think most of us have probably not considered the alternative implications.

  39. #44. Perhaps, but in my experience, every time I’ve had this conversation with anyone (like I said, since Maddox brought it up, maybe 8 or 9 years ago, on his inflammatory website), somebody brings that argument out, and I remain unconvinced.

  40. #45 – Well, I had never really considered it until now, but, as you can tell from my exchange with Faithful Dissident, I don’t really feel compelled to prove that animals suffer as much due to agriculture as due to meat production in order to justify the consumption of meat. Ultimately I think it’s a personal health and/or moral decision, and I respect the decision that each person makes for him or herself, and think everyone deserves the same courtesy.

  41. I have read most of the posts but not all but this is something I’ve been thinking about for a long time. I really value my body as a temple. I’ve always wanted to be healthy, yet I really struggled with the reality that obeying the WoW doesn’t keep me healthy (or even necessarily spiritually healthy). I agree with the premise that the better we treat our bodies, the better it is for our brain and spirit. I just don’t understand how having a diet Coke loaded with aspertame, several bags of chips per day, hotdogs with white bread and mayo, and ice cream by the gallons would not keep me out of the temple. It would make me, most likely, obese, diabetic, give me high blood pressure, increase rates of cancer, etc etc. Yet, golly, have an ice tea or a coffee, I’m doomed to hell. Made no sense at all.

    I spent time studying diets and converted to a mostly Mediterranean way of eating– mostly wild fish, fruits and veggies, olives/olive oil, whole grains, eggs, and some cheese. I drink a coffee with 1/2 and 1/2 almost daily, deleted all sodas or anything with aspertame or artifical sweeteners. I still don’t drink alcohol or take drugs or use tabacco. I exercise almost every day. The result has been amazing. I’ve never been overweight but I still shed 8 pounds in one month, have kept it off, have low blood pressure, lots of energy and feel fantastic. I eat organic red meat about once per month. I guess I’m not temple worthy, though. Yet so many of my fellow church goers can get to the temple and I am horrified but what I see some of them eating at ward potlucks.

    I may be way off topic but I agree with limiting meat and I read the article about the treatment of chics, and I’ve read in the book Skinny Bi*ch about the treatment of other animals in meat farms, and the result to our environment and it was gut wrenching and disgusting. How can we in good conscience support that industry?

  42. I don’t see that it’s my job to prove the null hypothesis.

    If someone wants to make a case that a change in diet will result in a decrease in cruelty, then let’s consider all the possible sources of cruelty and then we can evaluate the merits of the argument.

    I have no idea who Maddox is.

  43. #48. Alright alright. The only person to seriously try to quantify the cost of animals dying to produce grains is a guy named Steven Davis. His results were based on quite a bit of guesstimating, because it’s hard to count how many animals are killed by combines, obviously. Wikipedia has a reference to his study and two counter-arguments that criticize his methods and results:

    I encourage everyone to read what it has to say about the issue and come to a conclusion based on the facts.

  44. Thanks for pointing out that discussion of the issue. I wasn’t aware that anyone had attempted to quantify the effects of agriculture.

    Maybe I missed something, but it seems to me that Matheny assumes that a hectare of land used for raising cattle kills the same number of animals as a hectare used for farming. That can’t possibly be true; plowing and establishing a monoculture is going to wipe out nearly all of the vertebrate community, whereas a hectare of pasture will still support a reasonable community of vertebrates. Also, Matheny uses polemical language to exaggerate the suffering of food animals while dismissing the suffering of animals killed on cropland. When it’s my time to go, I probably wouldn’t choose to be sliced by a plow, eaten by a predator, or starve to death slowly.

    I don’t know what to make of Lamey’s argument. I can’t imagine why animals eaten by predators wouldn’t count in the equation. We’re the ones who removed the vegetational cover and exposed the animals to predation. We do this for the purpose of producing food, and as a direct result, animals are killed that would have otherwise survived. How does that not count as animals killed to produce crops?

  45. #47: Lulubelle

    If it were up to me, I would a) give you a temple recommend, as tens of thousands of people have been through the temple in our Church’s history who were also coffee drinkers, and b) have you give my ward’s lesson on the Word of Wisdom so we can focus on what’s really important about it and not on the “check-boxes” that pass for WofW observance.

    It’s a catch-22, however, because my feeling this way will also likely preclude me from ever being in a position of leadership where I can make those decisions.

  46. According to BYU historian Tom Alexander, during “New Interpretation” discussions in the early 20th century, there was indeed some argument that we should not eat meat because Joseph Smith had said animals have souls. Ultimately, the bretheren did not go along with that. But you raise a good question. I’ve always wondered why, in all our discussions of WOFW, we do not pay more attention to the part about moderation. Judging by the stomachs in my priesthood quorum, we could use some.

  47. #53. I think it kind of boils down to… what is easily quantifiable? People don’t want words like “moderation,” they want words like “forbidden” and “under no circumstance.” People WANT checkboxes. So when the Bishop asks whether you follow the Word of Wisdom, it’s easier to just go down a checklist than it is to search your heart and see if you REALLY obey the spirit of the Word of Wisdom.

  48. If your doctor told you that you should only eat chocolate “sparingly” from now on, how often would you eat it? Every day? Once a week?

    When I read D&C 89 I know that I have a lot of improvement to make in 1) being more grateful for the food (especially animals) we have to eat and 2) eating those animals less often, or “more sparingly.” I like that the WoW is somewhat vague (“moderation” vs. “never” or “forbidden”)–it’s up to us to work with the Lord to figure out what’s best. Everyone’s situation, challenges, understanding, etc. is different.

  49. If you really want to get super ethical Faithful Dissident, perhaps you shouldn’t go to church at all and you should use the money you would have spent on gas, or on the train, or on soy beans, to pay for a starving child’s rice.

    Human suffering is paramount to animal suffering, and therefore, one should ease the pain of all starving humans before one criticizes those who eat cow instead of soy.

    I don’t mean to be critical in any way and I agree with you that it is better to harvest a field than to kill animals. BUT, I think this type of ethical debate is secondary to easing the suffering of humans. And there is some truth to the famous notion that every dollar spent on anything but food for the world’s hungry is tainted with their blood.

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