Latest Stories

Why do we continue to eat animals?


Animal agriculture makes a 40-percent greater contribution to global warming than all transportation in the world combined; it is the No. 1 cause of climate change.”

Now that most Lent-observing Catholics are abstaining from meat on Fridays, let’s go beyond the ritual and be inspired by a different book besides the Bible: Jonathan Safran Foer’s “Eating Animals.”

It took me two years to finish reading it. It’s not long (only 368 pages) or boring (it’s very engaging), but I kept putting it off because, like the author, I waver between being a vegetarian and an omnivore.

After seeing the author featured on “Ellen,” I took to Foer’s non-preachy, non-judgmental manner and his honest inquiries about our relationship with food. And sure enough, the same tone resonated in his book.

I was already two weeks into being vegetarian and halfway through the book when my early pregnancy had me crave for what my body had been denied: meat. My foundation was weak, so I succumbed; and I could not continue to read something that made me ashamed about myself.

Only after my breastfeeding days were over was I able to focus again on finishing the book. Foer’s voice is insightful and informative. Even in his interviews, there is no trace of condemnation, as he understands people’s cultural connection with food.

I quote Foer at length, as he offers his ideas more eloquently.

Unselective omnivore

“Everything is possible again.”

What woke Foer up to the choice he had to make was the birth of his child. He foresaw his child’s possible question on why we eat some animals and not others. I never had such thoughts as a kid; I just accepted what was food and what was not.

But as a new parent, I have to be prepared to face why it is deemed horrible to eat dogs but not pigs, cows, chicken or fish. Foer discusses facts about each of these animals and how our logic behind why it’s okay to eat them and not our pets does not hold water.

“Ironically, the utterly unselective omnivore—‘I’m easy, I’ll eat anything’—can appear more socially sensitive than the individual who tries to eat in a way that is good for society,” he writes.

I have a few vegetarian friends, and they’ve never made me feel bad about what I ate. I end up observing what is similar in what we ate, and realize that I can just have more of what we both eat and less, if not none, of the meat.

“Factory farming is a mind-set: reduce production costs to the absolute minimum and systematically ignore or ‘externalize’ such costs as environmental degradation, human disease and animal suffering. For thousands of years, farmers took their cues from natural processes. Factory farming considers nature an obstacle to be overcome.”

Two documentaries

A couple of movies illustrate this best: “Home” (2009), a beautifully shot documentary by Yann Arthus-Bertrand, and “Earthlings” (2005), a graphic film about how we use animals as pets, food, clothing, entertainment and for scientific study.

While “Home” takes its time to drive its point home through a meaningful visual montage of our world before and after industrialization, “Earthlings” is more in-your-face, with actual footage of animal cruelty; it’s impossible not to be moved or react.

But the message is the same: “Silently, the animal catches our glance. The animal looks at us, and whether we look away (from the animal, our plate, our concern, ourselves) or not, we are exposed. Whether we change our lives or do nothing, we have responded. To do nothing is to do something.”

In promoting his book, Foer said he doesn’t care how his message gets spread (how the contents of his book get distributed) so long as it does get spread. Bertrand made his documentary available for free downloading online, because the message he wants to put across is more important than a copyright (regardless of his sponsors).

Lent is a time for reflection. During these 40 days, we Catholics usually give up something we like as a sacrifice to commiserate with or be reminded of Christ’s suffering.

During Holy Week, TV stations air family-friendly shows or religious classics. Do include these documentaries and/or read “Eating Animals” with your personal contemplation, and see how acting on this new knowledge can bring about real change in the world.

Christian conundrum

“It’s a classic dilemma: How much do I value creating a socially comfortable situation, and how much do I value acting socially responsible?”

His question, too, is just like a Christian conundrum: In your thoughts and actions, who do you want to please more—others or your God? Foer tackles each argument we have for eating animals with factual openness, and it all boils down to: We like how animals taste.

“Perhaps in the back of our minds we already understand, without all the science I’ve discussed, that something terribly wrong is happening. Our sustenance now comes from misery. We know that if someone offers to show us a film on how our meat is produced, it will be a horror film. We perhaps know more than we care to admit, keeping it down in the dark places of our memory—disavowed. When we eat factory-farmed meat we live, literally, on tortured flesh. Increasingly, that tortured flesh is becoming our own.”

More diseases come from having a meat-heavy diet than from a plant-based one. Meat is also more expensive and more prone to contamination. And yet we favor it daily, meal after meal.

A roasted, skewered pig is the centerpiece of a typical celebration. Steak or endangered fish is a staple for a fancy meal. We endure the troubles of getting them on our plates only because they taste good.

“We can’t plead ignorance, only indifference. Those alive today are the generations that came to know better. We have the burden and the opportunity of living in the moment when the critique of factory farming broke into the popular consciousness. We are the ones of whom it will be fairly asked, What did you do when you learned the truth about eating animals?”

Meatless day

Will our celebrations really be incomplete without an animal carcass on our dining table? How long can you try going without? Watch your grocery bill drop when you stop shopping in the animal morgue, as well as your weight and cholesterol.

Borrowing from WildAid, “When the buying stops, the killing stops, too.”

Think your choices don’t matter as an individual? Foer says this: “How effective would [a bus boycott] be if protesters use the bus when it became inconvenient not to? How effective would a strike be if workers announced they would go back to work as soon as it became difficult to strike?”

Abstaining from meat and fish will be the best way we can literally save the world.

If you can’t go hardcore vegetarian or vegan just yet, one meatless day a week is a good start. Add more days as you get more comfortable; treat meat as a garnish instead of the main course.

“We know, at least, that this decision will help prevent deforestation, curb global warming, reduce pollution, save oil reserves, lessen the burden on rural [areas], decrease human-rights abuses, improve public health, and help eliminate the most systematic animal abuse in world history.”

Kind diet

Instead of, or even on top of, our sacrificial offerings of self-denial this Lenten season, let’s try to commit to a kind diet; one that is free of cruelty and full of love, not only during these 40 days but also beyond.

I’m still not a vegetarian, but I’m slowly getting there. I’ve been eating less meat for most meals, and for occasions like my son’s birthday party, we served only one meat dish. Our Valentine’s spread was meat-free. It hasn’t been difficult getting my 2-year-old to eat his veggies because he’s been used to it.

I’ve happily discovered that a brand of almond milk (also in chocolate!) that I really like is even cheaper than regular cow’s milk, and it tastes good, too (same calcium content, just not a good protein source, but that’s what other veggies are for).

We cook at home more, and we are eating better, even more frequently, but weighing less. Interacting more with how our food is prepared makes us more aware and in touch with what we put in our bodies.

“It might sound fantastic, but when we bother to look, it’s hard to deny that our day-to-day choices shape the world. One of the greatest opportunities to live our values—or betray them—lies in the food we put on our plates. Sometimes we simply have to make a decision because one’s conscience tells one that it is right.”—Martin Luther King

And what is Christianity all about, anyway, but a way of living like Christ, to be kind and compassionate, to do what is right?

“If nothing matters, there is nothing to save.”

Follow Us

Follow us on Facebook Follow on Twitter Follow on Twitter

Recent Stories:

Complete stories on our Digital Edition newsstand for tablets, netbooks and mobile phones; 14-issue free trial. About to step out? Get breaking alerts on your mobile.phone. Text ON INQ BREAKING to 4467, for Globe, Smart and Sun subscribers in the Philippines.

Tags: Animals , Food , Holy Week , Lent , Lifestyle , Religion

  • AllaMo

    Where then is the sympathy for the veggies?

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000923389289 David Bobir

    Why all the words? Answer to the headline…Cos they taste good!

  • beerhunters

    not one well performing professional athlete is a vegetarian or vegan. i wonder why all of them are meat eaters!

    • jemps

      joe namath, carl lewis, martina navratilova, robert parish, prince fielder, dave scott, billie jean king, emily jans, jim morris, that’s just fr a cursory google search.

      • beerhunters

        They only became vegetarians at the end of their careers, not at the height of their active years.. please don’t twist facts!

      • jemps

        lol, troll. what you said isnt true. :) please stop hiding behind an alias and actually produce something worth discussing.

  • beerhunters


  • http://www.facebook.com/kenjie.hasaki Kenjie Hasaki

    At the end of the day we all die, so eat (meat), drink and be merry while you can…

Copyright © 2014, .
To subscribe to the Philippine Daily Inquirer newspaper in the Philippines, call +63 2 896-6000 for Metro Manila and Metro Cebu or email your subscription request here.
Factual errors? Contact the Philippine Daily Inquirer's day desk. Believe this article violates journalistic ethics? Contact the Inquirer's Reader's Advocate. Or write The Readers' Advocate:
c/o Philippine Daily Inquirer Chino Roces Avenue corner Yague and Mascardo Streets, Makati City, Metro Manila, Philippines Or fax nos. +63 2 8974793 to 94
  1. 12 other things you can do at Pico de Loro Cove
  2. Lover’s quarrel linked to hunger – study
  3. Encounter with a ‘Mangkukulam’
  4. ‘Kamias’ for fever, ‘siling labuyo’ for headache–first aid in the kitchen
  5. How Vitamin B can be a remedy for ‘manhid’ and neuropathy
  6. Summer treat for your aspiring astronomers
  7. Sarah Geronimo and Matteo Giudicelli sing ‘All of Me’–and we all swoon
  8. Marcos grandson to wed beautiful Rocha scion
  9. 90 percent of Filipino households don’t practice proper toilet hygiene, sanitation
  10. ‘Heaven is for Real’: Nonfiction book on life after death reaches screen
  1. Dominique–Gretchen and Tonyboy Cojuangco’s daughter–now an endorser
  2. Why is the lifestyle set now afraid to wear jewelry–before Kim Henares?
  3. Marcos grandson to wed beautiful Rocha scion
  4. France makes work beyond 6 p.m. illegal
  5. Sarah Geronimo and Matteo Giudicelli sing ‘All of Me’–and we all swoon
  6. South Koreans crave Asia’s smelliest fish
  7. How Vitamin B can be a remedy for ‘manhid’ and neuropathy
  8. Ever heard of HydroBob?
  9. 90 percent of Filipino households don’t practice proper toilet hygiene, sanitation
  10. Boots Anson-Roa to wed in Eddie Baddeo
  1. Mary Jean Lastimosa is new Miss Universe Philippines
  2. Did Angara ruin Pia Wurtzbach’s chances at Bb. Pilipinas?
  3. Dominique–Gretchen and Tonyboy Cojuangco’s daughter–now an endorser
  4. Manila in shock over model Helena Belmonte’s death
  5. Vinegar test helpful vs cervical cancer
  6. From Jeannie to mom of suicide victim
  7. San Vicente beaches hidden but not for long
  8. Borgy and Georgina are back; others are off–again
  9. Sen. Angara: I thought Pia Wurtzbach gave a good answer
  10. Ex-Givenchy model fights for ‘Yolanda’ survivors


  • Our Lady of Piat: Centerpiece of Cagayan’s gifts to Christianity
  • Sign maker to be nailed to cross for 28th time
  • 50 Quezon City cops each carry 30-kg crosses
  • AFP: Abu Sayyaf group, not MILF, target of Basilan operation
  • Massive infra spending set
  • Sports

  • Federer would skip tennis to be with wife, newborn
  • Manny Pacquiao in PBA? If so, he’ll wear No. 17
  • PSC sets Blu Girls US training
  • Power Pinoys settle for 7th place
  • Successful coaches to get raise
  • Lifestyle

  • Are your favorite malls open this Holy Week break?
  • Celebrate Easter Sunday at Buddha-Bar Manila
  • Moriones feast: A slow, steady transformation
  • Weaving ‘palaspas’ a tradition kept alive in Tayabas City
  • Finalists announced for best translated books
  • Entertainment

  • Why Lucky has not bought an engagement ring for Angel
  • Derek more private with new girlfriend
  • ‘Community’ star happy with return of show’s creator
  • Jealousy is kid stuff
  • Mommy-daughter adventure continues
  • Business

  • PH presses bid to keep rice import controls
  • PSEi continues to gain
  • Number of retrenched workers rose by 42% in ’13
  • PH seen to sustain rise in FDIs
  • Gov’t subsidies to state firms fell in first 2 months
  • Technology

  • Smart phone apps and sites perfect for the Holy Week
  • Tech company: Change passwords or suffer ‘Heartbleed’
  • Filling the digital talent gap
  • SSS to shut down website for Holy Week
  • Another reason to quit social media this Holy Week: your safety
  • Opinion

  • Editorial cartoon, April 17, 2014
  • A humbler Church
  • Deepest darkness
  • ‘Agnihotra’ for Earth’s health
  • It’s the Holy Week, time to think of others
  • Global Nation

  • First Fil-Am elected to Sierra Madre, Calif. city council
  • UC Irvine cultural night to dramatize clash of values in immigrant family
  • Filipino sweets and info served at UC Berkeley Spring Fest
  • Milpitas, California kids wrap up a successful run of ‘The Wiz’
  • Netizens welcome Japan’s visa-free travel plan