'Green' Swede Says It's Okay To Eat Meat

alsis35/CC BY-NC 2.0
Lots of animal products at this classic Swedish 'smorgasbord'.

Vegetarians have taken the high ground against meat eaters for decades by pointing out not only the links of meat eating with disease and disability, but also the practice they consider unethical -- keeping sentient beings penned and miserable just to put bacon on the table.

In fact, vegans and vegetarians have a good argument for the moral high ground, simply because so much of our food is industrially produced. Read a book like Jonathan Safran Foer's Eating Animals and you'll end up feeling bad about eating animal flesh as well as not too thrilled about your fellow human beings.

TreeHugger founder Graham Hill seems to have negotiated something of a middle ground with his concept of the Weekday Vegetarian, with weekends that are open to choice.

Yet the dilemma still remains for most ecologically-minded folk: is it better to completely eschew meat-eating and be a vegetarian or even a vegan?

It's a little like the bike-helmet question or the God question – it may never have a clear yes or no answer.

Now Swedish Green Party member Maria Gardfjell has entered into the fray. At Sweden's largest yearly eco-conference, Almedal, Gardfjell said she thinks it is important, for environmentally-minded Swedish "eco-friends" to eat meat.

Why?

Gardfjell says organic and grass-fed meat production in her homeland needs to go up, in order to protect farmland.
She's doesn't support meat-free Mondays, which have been a success in many Swedish communities, with cafeterias and school joining in the effort to have one day without meat.

Gardfjell says global meat consumption should go down, but Swedish meat production should increase.

Her three main arguments are that Swedes are importing too much bad quality meat from other countries; that animal husbandry is an important part of Swedish agriculture, especially organic agriculture, and that meat production of the organic sort saves farmland from development and increases biological diversity.

Gardfjell's detractors say that she's a mouthpiece of the meat industry, and that having cows is no reason to go on eating them.

Gardfjell also says that vegetarians frequently "focus too intently" on what carnivores are consuming, and that the focus - by meat eaters, too - should be on sustainable agriculture rather than eating meat or not eating meat.

Meanwhile, Sweden's official policy is to reduce meat consumption, and the country has an actual goal - cutting meat eating 25% by 2020. So far, they aren't succeeding in this.

Per capita meat eating dropped a little in 2009 but since then has risen to its highest level yet - 65 kilos a year (about 140 pounds). One thing Gardfjell is right about - most of the increase Swedes are eating is meat imported from other places.

Tovar Cerulli is a vegetarian-turned-hunter who earlier this year wrote a book, The Mindful Carnivore, to explore the question of taking personal responsibility for killing the meat we eat. Cerulli says meat eating is not a black-and-white question but one that we, as animals, must continue to ponder.

And, he reminds on his blog, even the Dalai Lama eats some meat.

Tags: Animal Rights | Animals | Animal Welfare | Farming