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Is The Term Conscientious Meat Eater An Oxymoron?

...we're friends for the moment, at least until Thanksgiving...

…we’re friends for the moment, at least until Thanksgiving…

Meet Novella Carpenter, Oakland, California resident, urban farmer and former vegetarian turned conscientious carnivore. In the new issue of Utne Magazine she talks about what it’s like to both raise meat and farm in urban setting (appropriately title Blood & Guts) What’s most telling about this piece is not about urban farming at all; instead it is her troubling views on her time as a vegetarian:

I think [my] philosophy was really juvenile. It’s hoping something doesn’t have to die. It’s very Babe or Charlotte’s Web. But the final, logical conclusion to being a vegetarian or vegan is that farm animals will cease to exist.

And on conscientious meat eating:

A lot of my vegan and vegetarian friends have told me, ‘This is the only acceptable way for you to eat meat.’ I think that’s true. You see the conditions that [factory-farmed animals live] in. If it’s this mindless thing where you don’t know where the meat came from, you don’t know how it died; to me that’s kind of gross.

Could her example be a clear case against movements such as Proposition 2, the possible consequences brought on by the animal welfare movement and the push towards so-called “humane meat”?

Plug in your thoughts below.


  1. Comment by


    on #

    I don’t think her example is against something like Proposition 2, because she is someone who is caring for her animals and seemingly giving them a decent quality of life…while they are alive, that is. It’s “preferable” certainly, to the horror of a factory farm existence. But I’m so tired of “reformed” vegetarians who go back to being omnis making the case that vegetarianism and veganism are juvenile, or like in a recent article in the Brooklyn Paper, “no longer fashionable” or some such crap. Please. I’ve been vegetarian for 17 years. I can’t and won’t give it up, which I’m sure is the same as most of you reading this blog, because it’s an inherent part of the way I chose to live my life. It’s not fashion. It’s part of my concientious choice to, in my own small way, not bring suffering on living things, and secondarily, to put more healthy foods into my body. I really don’t understand why people who don’t want to be veg anymore feel a need to justify their backsliding by mocking us. If you want to kill, the blood’s on your hands. You have to live with that. If it doesn’t bother you, then fine. But I won’t do it, and I refuse to be made fun of because of it.

  2. Comment by


    on #

    Where do omni’s come up with this rubbage?

    Here is the real glory quote:

    “Some people have argued that a life lived for the purpose of dying is not a real life.

    You could say that, but you?re ignoring human culture. [People] and domesticated farm animals are tied together. They?re interlocked; they?ve coevolved. We?ve made [farm animals] exist, and they?ve helped us survive. And so for me, it?s like, why don?t we keep up that beautiful tradition? Part of that tradition is dying, but part of that is surviving. Those animals continue to exist because of us.”

    I’m sure over the course of human history, we could have applied the same logic to slavery…

    Then she goes on to talk about ritualistic killing to help her cope… my god this woman has lost all sense of reason!

  3. Comment by


    on #

    I don’t think the term “conscientious meat eater” is an oxymoron. There is a difference between accepting the torture involved in factory farming (eating any meat that crosses your plate) and deliberating seeking out meat from animals which were raised in a humane, loving environment filled with good food, fresh air, the naturalized company of fellow flock/herd, and wide open spaces.

  4. Comment by


    on #

    I’m confused. What would be so horrible about a world without farm animals? I don’t think this is like a world without elephants and zebras. Cows and pigs and chickens as we know them are relatively recent inventions, and I don’t think the world is so much more wonderful with chickens that can barely haul their own bodies around, or cows made into distended hunks of meat with legs.

  5. Comment by


    on #

    Yes, I would rather people raise the animals that they eat. But I personally think it is DEAD WRONG to eat the body of a dead animal.

  6. Comment by


    on #

    I agree; I would rather see cows, as a species, go extinct or evolve into a new “wild” animal that fits into the ecosystem rather than have the systemic exploitation of the species. In non-CAFO farms, there are sometimes “pet” cows, ones people keep without ever eating. I mean, we domesticate other large animals like horses, and people don’t eat those, so I don’t think it is such an unreasonable idea.

  7. Comment by


    on #

    Does anyone know of any other vegan/veggie blogs that arent so accusatory and negative as this one? Frankly im getting sick of it – beginning with the bad journalism on burritoville (sorry i dont mourn restaurants with rude staff and roaches) to the shockingly distasteful article on Travis Barker, I come here for community and encouragement, not juvenile mudslinging that likens our nation’s electoral process. if anyone has suggestions please post. thanks.

  8. Comment by


    on #

    Hey Lauren,

    Isn’t your comment negative and accusatory? I don’t see how this post is negative and accusatory. From the looks of it SuperVegan is presenting something and then asking some questions of the readers.

    Maybe you should start your own blog. One that is filled with encouragement and community. Then you wouldn’t have to come here and be negative and accusatory.

  9. Comment by


    on #

    I don’t consider supervegan accusatory or negative, in fact I find it refreshingly realistic, logical and not subject to the sort of “appeal to everyone, make excuses for meat eaters” sentiments that seem to happen with a lot of veg spokespeople and organizations.

    Veganism and animal rights will only truly succeed when we recognize eating meat as a form of oppression like any other- inexcusable. This site does that.

  10. Comment by


    on #

    Yes, consciencious meateater is an oxymoron. You may believe that killing an animal one way is better than another, but it is deplorable for an animal rights advocate to consider killing an animal at all as “humane”.

    Lauren: You’re in the wrong place. Do you really think we should support people like Travis Barker who advertise that a meatless diet is unhealthy just because he was once a vegetarian? Ask yourself to whom you pay allegiance, to the animals or simple-minded celebrities and websites?

    Clearly the woman in question reached a new level of juvenile by deeming herself as a consciencious omnivore. We should take note that this is the sort of message that animal welfarists like Peter Singer push. If we’re going to be serious about animal rights, we need to acknowledge veganism, not vegetarianism or “consciencious omnivorism” as the starting point.

    Proposition 2? Vote NO!

    I explain here:

  11. Comment by


    on #

    Being vegan is about more than animal rights and “hoping something doesn’t have to die”, that statement is what’s juvenile. It’s about doing your part to preserve this hurting planet and caring about it’s inhabitants. However I think it is naive to expect everyone to feel compassion for animals, some people really only see food when they look at an animal. This is why I think you can be a “conscientious meat eater” by understanding where your food comes from and only supporting local farmers who care about animal welfare,to a degree anyway, and the environment. That to me is at least a small step in the right direction. Things aren’t going to change over night after all. All we can do is continue to do our part for the animals and planet, and inform those we know about veganism.

  12. Comment by


    on #

    I’m a vegan and a vegan activist. However, I think there’s a serious moral question of whether raising a happy animal and killing her with as little suffering as possible is worse than the animal not being born at all, which is in fact the issue when it comes to farmed animals — they are not replacing wild animals. Being non-speciesist, if I were in the position of such an animal, I’d choose to live the abbreviated life rather than none at all. Life is a gift, no matter how short. Of course, best of all is for the animals to live her natural lifespan, but seeing as that’s not the alternative here, I’m not sure that conscientious meat-eating isn’t possible.

    Of course, this doesn’t apply to factory farming at all!

    I know it’s a repugnant suggestion — imagine proposing doing the same for humans! — but that doesn’t make it wrong. If we’re logical, a happy life short life for these animals may be their best bet, especially when you consider the many animals killed in the process of plant agriculture… well-cared for grass-fed beef may cause less death and suffering than a vegetarian diet. The issue is non-trivial!

  13. Comment by


    on #

    I think “conscientious meat eater” isn’t REALLY an oxymoron by definition. But I know what your getting at. A conscientious meat eater is basically someone who knows where their meat comes from and (thinks they) tries to respect the life and death of the animal. I do not agree with it, but if killing animals to eat is ok in their conscience…that is their loss.

    Humane Meat is an oxymoron. Meat can NEVER be humane in this day and age. Even if the animal lived the happiest life EVER….it would have that life taken from them violently. I guess “Conscientious Meat Eater” is the new spin of “Humane/compassionate Meat eater” cause that has been meeting with some opposition.

    Who knows….all I know is that the article made my skin crawl and blood boil.

  14. Comment by


    on #

    Although SOME people will rationalize their behavior instead of changing their behavior, I still think that we should continue to work to improve animals’ lives in ANY WAY that we can in the meantime. Especially since most people aren’t even THINKING about their behavior in regards to the animals they are eating. Prop 2 is a good way to help the animals at least a tiny bit in the reality of the here and now while simultaneously making people start to think about the food they put in their mouths.

    Let me put it this way… if all animals were currently being farmed in a somewhat ‘compassionate’ manner, would any of us push for them to be farmed much more inhumanely, so that we could more easily make the argument that they shouldn’t be farmed at all? NO! Of course not.

    I think that the woman in this article is not representative of most people. I think that most rational, moderate people would conclude that it’s a whole lot easier (and rational) to just give up on the flesh eating thing & go across the street for a Boca burger or a vegan chicken patty, than to start farming & slaughtering animals in the backyard and creating rituals to deal with the guilt of knowing it is wrong to kill!

    I think we should be focused on the majority of people who are going to be a little more balanced & moderate than this woman and are more likely to make steady, slow, consistent, and more lasting decisions that move either one direction or the other. Hopefully, measures like Prop 2, will get those people moving consistently in the RIGHT direction rather than vacillating all over the place like this woman or moving even farther in the WRONG direction, like we, as a society, have been doing the past several decades.

    I think that for MOST people (not this woman obviously), but most rational people, accepting that farm animals matter, is probably going to be a first step toward accepting that maybe they matter enough not to be eaten! (psychologists say that MOST people make consistent decisions, so Prop 2 would be a first step toward a vegan conclusion, under that rationale).

  15. Comment by


    on #

    I agree with Karlene 100%–I’m a vegan in large part because I care about the fate of the planet, and eating animals is not as ecologically efficient or sustainable as sticking to a vegan diet. With this in mind, continuing to use domesticated animals for food as a way to preserve species diversity doesn’t really make sense–the most serious current threat to biodiversity is the rate at which we’re using up the earth’s resources and accumulating waste.

    In her interview, Carpenter says she performs slaughter rituals because “what we’re doing is something that needs to be forgiven.” I just don’t understand why people choose to continue to do something that requires forgiveness–for many reasons–when there’s a relatively simple, viable alternate option.

  16. Comment by

    Shelly Smithberger

    on #

    We DO NOT NEED to eat animals to live. We DO NOT NEED to raise animals for food. Most Humans WANT to eat animals. Most humans, if they were given the choice, would not choose to kill an animal for their food. If she chooses to kill animals to pleasure her taste buds and her wallet, then she has to live with herself, we’ll see how long she lives…Colon cancer anyone??
    I wonder if she has a ritual for dealing with her LUST for killing and her GREED! Maybe she can run on the 2012 ticket with Palin! Yikes!
    Rock on Veggies! Vegan Peace, Shelly