What is the meaning of meat eating?

Carnivores, omnivores, vegetarians -- the lines are blurrier than ever, and we'd like to hear your thoughts

Published August 19, 2010 12:20AM (EDT)

Tonight, we have the privilege of publishing a beautiful, fascinating story by Luke Meinzen on eating horse in Mongolia. As I read it, I felt transported to that huge country of small moments, listening to conversations between a curious traveler and his gracious hosts. But more than that, I found myself thinking much about the central question of the piece: Why are some animals fair game for the table, and some not? What does it mean to eat meat?

As a cook and meat eater, I don't ask myself these questions often enough, and I, too, had occasion to really think about them when I recently killed my dinner for the first time. I'll explore some of my thoughts in an essay on Friday. The flavor, I have to admit, was delicious, but the feeling was much more complicated than that.

Thoughtfulness and conflictedness about meat eating -- either in the abstract, or in the reality of our daily lives -- is as much a part of our national conversation as I've ever seen. "Fast Food Nation," "The Omnivore's Dilemma," "Food Inc.," "Eating Animals" -- all of these were hits and bestsellers, the questions they raise about meat eating no longer just the chitchat of the self-congratulatory and the scolds. In this context, I've seen meat eaters turn to vegetarianism, vegetarians turn to meat eaters, and people everywhere on the spectrum turning inward to ask themselves why they eat -- and love -- what they eat. The questions are about ethics, morals, the environment, economics, social justice, land use, class, race, gender, tradition -- you name it.

There's an honesty and a sense of searching that's exciting in this public conversation, wherever your own beliefs lie. We'd love to hear your thoughts and stories. Over on Open Salon, we're asking for posts from people curious or conflicted about their own carnivorism, and I hope you find yourself moved to write there.

The issue is deeply felt for many, and passions will arise. I suppose it will be inevitable that there will be those who will take the opportunity to scold, lecture or mock others for their choices. But in the spirit of open conversation, please, let's focus here on hearing one another out. Looking forward to talking with you. 

By Francis Lam

Francis Lam is Features Editor at Gilt Taste, provides color commentary for the Cooking Channel show Food(ography), and tweets at @francis_lam.

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Ethics Of Eating Food Food Fights Food Traditions Vegetarianism And Veganism