Team argues ethics of meat
Published: Thursday, September 9, 2010
Updated: Wednesday, July 25, 2012 22:07
The Texas A&M Speech and Debate Team's Omar El-Halwagi and Audrianne Doucet argued Monday about the ethics of eating meat with Bruce Friedrich of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.
Friedrich, who started the debate series "Is Eating Meat Ethical?" is vice president of PETA, the largest animal rights organization in the world.
The debate was one of nearly 20 debates Friedrich participated in across the country with university debate teams. He started the series in 2009 at the University of Pennsylvania.
Friedrich has yet to debate academic departments on the campuses he has visited. Departments like animal science declined his invitations, Friedrich said, "because I don't think they can win the argument."
El-Halwagi, a senior business major and the debate team's president, won the Pi Kappa Delta national competition in extemporaneous speaking.
His partner and team treasurer Audrianne Doucet, a senior women's and gender studies major, was recognized with a Women's Progress Award in March from the Texas A&M Women's Resource Center for her campaign to end the high-heels and makeup dress code for female debaters.
The format of the debate included six speeches, where each side took turns making arguments and attempting to dismantle the other team's stance.
Friedrich began the debate by arguing gluttony, global poverty and animal cruelty were caused by eating meat.
"It takes 20 calories given to an animal in feed to produce one calorie of meat for that we can eat. Most animals expend the calories they consume, so cycling crops through them is hugely inefficient," Friedrich said.
Friedrich said the use of crops to feed animals for slaughter contributed to the rise of crop prices.
This raises in price keeps people who live in developing countries from being able to buy food they need to survive. Friedrich said if people ate less meat, fewer crops would be used to feed the animals for slaughter. This would lower crop prices which would decrease global poverty.
He said there is no moral difference between a cat and a chicken, or between and dog and a pig.
"If you wouldn't eat my cat, you shouldn't eat a chicken," Friedrich said, ending his first speech.
Friedrich focused most of his examples on the treatment of chickens in the meat industry. "Chickens are the most abused animals in the world and also the smallest," Friedrich said. "Most people have no idea how badly farm animals are treated."
He said if they knew, they would make a lifestyle change to become vegetarian. Friedrich adopted vegetarianism in 1987 while he was in college studying economics.
He said he is not asking people to change their beliefs because "97 percent of Americans are opposed to animal cruelty already. I am just educating them so they can align their actions with their beliefs."
El-Halwagi, who spoke first against Friedrich, said farming was an option for decreasing inefficiencies in the meat industry. "Just because the process of meat production is not ideal," El-Halwagi said, "does not mean that eating meat in itself is bad."
"We should begin to examine where our meat comes from and make sure it is treated well before slaughtering," El-Halwagi said in response to Friedrich's argument concerning animal cruelty.
In regard to Friedrich's argument on global poverty, Doucet and El-Halwagi debated that many in the internationally impoverished community depend on meat for sustenance.
The winner was not declared Monday, but El-Halwagi said: "I think both sides made valid points and were focused on the need for there to be an educational element in the arguments, which is imperative."
Doucet said her favorite part of the debate was watching the crowd of nearly 175 students and nonstudents' reactions.
"It was interesting to see the students' responses to Bruce's presentation. The focus afterward seemed to be against Bruce because most people at A&M do eat meat," Doucet said.
"I am a vegetarian myself," Doucet said. "I guess I was technically debating on the ‘wrong' side, but I still believe there are ethical reasons to eat animals."