October 31, 2010

Cornell Forensics Society Debates Meat With PETA

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Bruce Friedrich, vice president of PETA, visited campus on Friday to debate the Cornell Forensics Society — currently top-ranked among collegiate debate teams — over the question: “Is Eating Meat Ethical?” Friedrich, who is taking a nationwide tour of college campuses, is a divisive figure in the controversial People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. He is behind many of the notoriously radical campaigns people often associate with the organization, one of which is streaking with a sign reading “GoVeg.com” in front of Buckingham Palace during a visit to the United Kingdom by then-President George W. Bush. Friedrich said that if audience members agreed with him that eating meat increases global poverty, hurts the environment and leads to animal cruelty, they would agree with PETA’s ethical viewpoints. Twenty calories are required to make one calorie of meat, Friedrich said, using an analogy of throwing away 19 bowls of spaghetti to eat one.Meat drives up the price of food for individuals in developing countries, where a majority of agriculture land is used to harvest feed for animals, according to Friedrich. Harvesting animals requires 25 percent more carbon emissions, he said.Friedrich based his argument on a United Nations study, “Livestock’s Long Shadow.” The team of Cornell students called this study into question, citing recent retractions that Friedrich suggested could go both ways. “Ninety-seven percent of Americans don’t agree on anything … but they agree there should be laws protecting animals from cruelty. But sadly, there aren’t laws protecting farm animals from cruelty,” Friedrich said. “Once you meet them, it’s a lot harder to eat them.”Eating meat is the equivalent to entering a mercenary relationship, Friedrich said, where individuals are directly allowing and paying for the promotion of poverty, environmental degradation and cruelty in which they themselves would never engage. The team of Cornell students focused on what they considered the unrealistic nature of Friedrich’s argument. They said that destroying the meat industry would cost 6.2 million jobs in the U.S. and, indirectly, roughly 17 percent of U.S. gross domestic product. The students also objected to Friedrich’s point on wasting food for animal production, arguing that most of the corn produced that animals eat is not edible for people. “Animals are not actually inefficient, they’re allowing us to recycle all sorts of wasted products that would not otherwise give use,” Daniel Blackman ’13 said, one of the students participating in the debate. “Rather than being a trashcan, the cow is actually a converter that allows us to get that one bowl of spaghetti.” The students further suggested that creating diverse vegetables would increase the use of resources as much as, if not more than, meat. “We think it begs the question, is eating vegetables ethical?” Blackman asked jokingly. The team built its argument around the idea that excessive consumption of meat may be unethical, but moderation is not. Friedrich agreed that while less would be better than more, none at all would be ideal. He also emphasized that Cornell was one of few large campuses that had not yet agreed to buy eggs from suppliers “who don’t cram the hens in this tiny location where they can’t spread their wings for their entire lives.”“The boys did a tremendous job. They represented the team in a very good way,” said Leah Salgado ’12, Cornell Forensics president.

Original Author: Tajwar Mazhar