Author James McWilliams on Our Unthinking Decision to Eat Meat

Today we’re talking about a highly sensitive, and at the same time, incredibly personal issue…the morality of the food we eat. Many of us, and I include myself, are omnivores. We eat meat and animal products but deplore the suffering that that takes place on industrial farms, specifically the annual slaughter of 10 billion animals for food in this country alone. Moreover, we know that the animals we eat are sentient: conscious, social, intelligent and self-aware. Pigs, for instance, are thought to be smarter than domestic dogs, and about as intelligent as young human children. So in order to feel better about enjoying our bacon and eggs and those delicious barbecued ribs, those of us who can afford it buy from markets and restaurants that are sourced by holistic and sustainable farms where the animals are vegetarian fed, given no hormones or antibiotics, and humanely raised, not as objects and not to suffer, but to lead happy healthy lives.


In his new book, The Modern Savage, James McWilliams suggests that we’re willfully fooling ourselves; that not only do animals suffer on these idyllic family farms but that supporting them does nothing either to stop industrial animal production or an agricultural system that is depleting our planet’s natural resources at the very time when they’re drying up.

James McWilliams is a historian and the author of five previous books. His articles on animals, food, and agriculture have appeared in publications such as the New York Times, Slate, and The Atlantic. We’re talking to him via telephone from Texas State University where he teaches.

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