Colgate Panel Asks “How Much Meat Should We Eat?”

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Humans should be eating significantly less meat, according to a faculty panel discussion on Oct. 19 at the Edge Café. Three professors, from environmental, philosophical, and natural science backgrounds, led the conversation, which was presented by Hancock Commons and the Sustainability Council. 

Panelists Rebecca Metzler, associate professor of physics, and Ben Lennertz, assistant professor of philosophy, represented a vegetarian point of view. 

Metzler, a strict vegetarian since middle school, told the story of her English teacher showing a video of a slaughterhouse, and how her eating habits have been changed ever since.

“In that video, showing cows and pigs, it was quite clear that the animals knew that something was not right,” Metzler said. “All of these animals have a central nervous system, and can feel, perceive, react, and try to avoid that pain.”

Lennertz added: “Usually [people] are vegetarians for one of four reasons. There are health-based vegetarians, religious vegetarians, those centered in animal rights and welfare, and sustainable or environmental-related vegetarians.” Lennertz chose to discuss the latter two reasons in depth, as they focus on moral standards and living habits. “It just seems wrong to look at a creature, and then injure it, kill it, then eat its flesh. Some people may not agree, but we can look at the state of food production to make these judgements clear. These animals deserve not to be killed, and almost all of us can fulfill our nutritional needs in other ways.”

Chris Henke, professor of sociology and environmental studies and director of the Environmental Studies Program, focused on sustainability issues related to meat production. Agricultural land use, methane emissions, and labor exploitation were mentioned by Henke as factors that have been disproportionately contributing to a lack of sustainability within the industry.

In speaking on the issue of sustainability and preservation of our environment, Henke expressed his worries for the future generations and their lifestyles. “We can still meet the needs of the present generation, without limiting the abilities of future communities to have a quality of life that we would want for ourselves. We want them to not be limited in the future to have a good quality of life, because we did too much in our time on Earth that created negative impacts,” said Henke.

After sharing their respective opinions on the sustainability of meat, the three professors allowed time for discussion and questions from the audience. 

“I was interested in the topic because so many of my friends prefer various diets for different reasons,” said Kelsey Beausoleil ’23. “While I do not see myself becoming a vegetarian, I do see myself eating meat in moderation more after hearing the environmental perspective.”