The Meat Equation

How to make the morally right choice when it comes to what to eat and what not to eat


People make a wide range of what-to-eat choices. You will find people in the entire spectrum from vegans to vegetarians to pescatarians [1] to full blooded “I only eat red meat”-arians. What you should eat is clearly a choice.

The worst thing you can do is to let someone else make this choice for you. It might be religion, social pressure, ignorance etc. that leads you to your current eating habits. If you are the kind of person who doesn’t want to make this choice yourself, then this article is not for you.

The choice really boils down to a simple equation.

Pleasure - Damage


On one side of the equation are things in favor of eating the food. This is mainly the pleasure you derive from eating the food. Also its nutritional value, long-term health benefits etc.

On the other side is the damage, i.e. the reasons why you shouldn’t eat that food. There can be a lot of reasons here. E.g. the food might be bad for your health. Eating it might cause a negative environmental impact. Maybe you don’t like the way the plants or animals are raised [1, 2]. Or you don’t like the pain suffered by the animal when it dies [1].

You can’t avoid damage. Even if you live off the land like a hermit, the damage is always more than zero.

The important thing here is to not ignore the second part of the equation. If you do, you are no better than those who eat what they eat because that’s what their parents ate. Make sure you do your research & don’t remain ignorant.

Now, the choice is simple. If you think the pleasure you derive from eating something outweighs the damage it does, you should eat that particular food. If the pleasure you derive is not worth the damage, don’t eat it.

The key here is that you should make your own choice. Any choice is fine, as long as you do your research & are satisfied with it.

My personal policy is thus. I am vegetarian, but eat meat in 2 cases:

  1. When it’s a kind of meat or delicacy I’ve never eaten before
  2. When I am really hungry and have no meatless options available

In these cases, for me, pleasure is greater than damage. In all other cases, I just can’t justify the pain suffered by the animals due to me eating meat.

Can you formulate your personal policy based on the equation above?