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"Turkeys and chickens eat meat," wrote member Diane.M in a thread she titled "Animals Eat Meat, Why Not Humans?". "It is the natural part of the food chain and nature. Why do you think it is unnatural for humans to eat meat?"

For vegetarians, this was a clear shot across the bow. In the 209 posts that follow (as I write this), several rushed to defend vegetarianism as an ethical choice, citing the horrific treatment of livestock ("it's not the eating of the meat that's the problem it's the conditions under which animals for slaughter are kept that's the problem," writes lunababy_moonchild), and the diversion of resources to cattle that might otherwise feed the Third World. "We could ship all that grain to our fellow humans who are starving to death in various parts of the world," writes aksjg in post #55.

Loopy adds a surprising dimension to the usual debate by quoting an article in the Times of London exposing the secret pain of plants: "'Scientists at the University of Bonn have discovered that plants do indeed cry when they are cut, moan when they are ill and gurgle when they are well. The more stress we subject them to, the more noise they make." This prompts wandering_layman to observe, "I've yet to find anything more delicious than a nice, medium-rare filet mignon, with a screaming salad on the side."

Woven through these warring views is a compelling discussion of whether natural law corresponds with moral law. "Just because something is natural doesn't mean it's moral," says uzpez2000 at post #13. Marianah notes that the meat doesn't justify her end: "If a cannibal came and ate me, would that be right just because he wanted some meat? I have the right to live and my life overpasses his need for meat."

Packy, meanwhile, homes in on the social/natural divide. "Eating or not eating meat has nothing to do with morality. . Morality is the code by which humans within societies exist together. Obviously it would prohibit violence against its own people, but animals, whether humanely treated or butchered, do not effect the basic fibers of social interaction."

But cdave protests that meat eating is a social crime. "I prefer to leave most matters of morality up to the individual. Swearing, smoking, consentual extramarital sex, etc are all personal choices. However, I find it difficult to say the same about things that cause harm to others, such as murder, molestation, and eating meat."

"Also, why do we humans use animals for moral guidance on meat-eating but nothing else?" cdave adds mischievously. "If you're going to follow (non-human) animals, go all the way!! Let's make our homes in nature! Let's go around naked!! Let's poop in the front yard!"

If other species aren't a proper moral guide, can we look to our own? Diane.M, the thread's author, takes a structural approach: "We have canines in our mouth for a reason!" Other posters imply a certain symbiosis between our bodies and meat protein. "The average Japanese has grown 5 inches in height since the introduction of meat (not string beans, avocados, or succotash) to their diet since WW2," writes Mr. Natural at post #119.

Diane.M's argument doesn't convinces runegirl: "Humans have to cook meat before they can eat it. If it were a natural food, we would be able to eat it raw and/or slightly spoiled, the way most other animals do." The pro-protein thrust, too, soon dead-ends into own assumptions. "Countries that have adopted a Western diet have grown taller, but what has this got to do with anything?" asks shapeshifter. "What is a 'normal' height? Is taller better?" Mr. Natural isn't ready with a comeback.

Our ability to make choices, several members say-choices independent of our biological impulses--is precisely what makes us human. "Because humans have the power to decide to otherwise," writes Marianah early in the debate, "why should we have to kill for our food when we don't have to?" But whatever we eat, we kill, and we're making a moral choice, as stevegraywolf's Native American perspective points up. "As for vegans being more spiritual/moral--sorry, but that is silly. Indians believe that everything has a spirit. To kill anything is still killing. You and I are no better than a blade of grass, a deer or a buffalo."

Of course most of us would make a distinction between killing a buffalo and picking a blade of grass. But the distinctions, as uzpez argues, are "no closer to natural law than the polls that rank college football teams. . Suppose rats are as sentient as chimps. Does that move them to the top of your list?"

If the combatants on the board can't eat together, at least they can have tea, and the discussion takes a pause around post 200 to discuss members' favorite kinds: green, black or mixed. Only dreamcatcher1 refuses to make nice. "Tea," he tosses out, "goes great with meat."

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