The Matter of Meat: A history of pros and cons

Eating meat: some say we've evolved to do it. It's in our DNA. It's how we got our big brains. Yet others, including Pythagoras in the 6th century BC, and even Dr. Frankenstein's "monster", have argued that eating meat is bad for our bodies, cruel to animals, and toxic to the planet. Now -- perhaps more than ever -- clear-cut answers can be hard to come by when it comes to the matter of meat. Kevin Ball serves up the arguments.

Eating meat: some say we've evolved to do it. It's in our DNA. It's how we got our big brains. Yet others, as far back as Pythagoras, have argued that eating meat is bad for our bodies, cruel to animals, and toxic to the planet.  Now — perhaps more than ever — when it comes to the matter of meat, clear-cut answers can be hard to come by. Kevin Ball serves up the arguments.  

**This episode originally aired November 23, 2016.

Meat: we may have evolved to eat it, but arguments that it’s bad for our bodies, cruel to animals, and harmful to the planet go back thousands of years 1:38

Who Said What?

Famous quotes about meat

5 years ago
Duration 1:57
Famous quotes about meat 1:57

Guests in this episode:

  • Carol Adams, author of The Sexual Politics of Meat: A Feminist-Vegetarian Critical Theory
  • Gary Francione, professor and legal scholar at Rutgers University, and author of several books on veganism and animal rights
  • Nicolette Hahn Niman, cattle rancher, author of Defending Beef and Righteous Porkchop​
  • Roger Scruton, philosopher and farmer, author of several books including Animal Rights and Wrongs
  • Marta Zaraska, freelance science journalist and author of Meathooked: the history and science of our 2.5 million-year obsession with meat
  • Colin Spencer, English artist, playwright, and author of several books including Vegetarianism: A History
  • Bob Fischer, assistant professor in the Department of Philosophy at Texas State University
  • Mark G. Thomas, human evolutionary geneticist, Professor of Evolutionary Genetics at the Research Department of Genetics, Evolution and Environment at University College London.

Reading List: 

  • The Sexual Politics of Meat: A Feminist-Vegetarian Critical Theory by Carol J. Adams, published by Bloomsbury Academic, 2010.
  • Animal Rights: The Abolitionist Approach by Gary L. Francione and Anna Charlton, published by Exempla Press, 2015.
  • Defending Beef: The Case for Sustainable Meat Production by Nicolette Hahn Niman, published by Chelsea Green Publishing, 2014
  • The Righteous Porkchop: Finding a Life and Good Food Beyond Factory Farms by Nicolette Hahn Niman, published by Harper Collins, 2010
  • Animal Rights and Wrongs by Roger Scruton, published by Bloomsbury, 2006.
  • Vegetarianism: A History by Colin Spencer, published by Grub Street Publishing, 2016.
  • Meathooked: The history and science of our 2.5 million-year obsession with meat by Marta Zaraska, published by Basic Books, 2016. 
  • Project Animal Farm: An Accidental Journey into the Secret World of Farming and the Truth About Our Food by Sonia Faruqi, published by WW Norton, 2016.
  • Cows Save the Planet by Judith D. Schwartz published by Chelsea Green, 2013.
  • Mad Cowboy: Plain Truth from the Cattle Rancher Who Won't Eat Meat by Howard Lyman, published by Scribner, 2001.
  • Ethical Vegetarianism: From Pythagoras to Peter Singer by Kerry S. Walters and Lisa Portmess, published by State University of New York Press, 1999.
  • Catching Fire: How Cooking Made Us Human by Richard Wrangham published by Basic Books, 2010.
  • Dominion: The Power of Man, The Suffering of Animals, and the Call to Mercy by Matthew Scully published by St. Martin's Press, 2003.
  • Slaughterhouse: The Shocking Story of Greed, Neglect, And Inhumane Treatment Inside the U.S. Meat Industry, by Gail A. Eisnitz, published by Prometheus Books, 2006
  • Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer published by Little Brown & Company, 2010.

Famous vegans: 

  • Bryan Adams, Canadian singer
  • k.d. lang, Canadian singer
  • Bif Naked, Canadian singer
  • Paul Watson, Canadian conservationist, Captain of the Sea Shepherd
  • Sinead O'Connor, Irish singer
  • Georges Laracque, Canadian NHL player
  • Carl Lewis, former US Olympian
  • Venus Williams, American tennis champion
  • Hank Aaron, former Major League baseball home-run champion
  • Mike Tyson, former heavyweight champion of the world
  • Bill Clinton*, former President of the United States (*"mostly" vegan)
  • Al Gore, former VP of the United States
  • Ellen Page, Canadian actor
  • Thom Yorke, British singer, Radiohead frontman
  • Ellen DeGeneres, American comedian and talk-show host
  • Joaquin Phoenix, American actor
  • Miley Cyrus, American singer
  • Grace Slick, American singer
  • Chrissie Hynde, American singer
  • Woody Harrelson, American actor
  • Coretta Scott King, American civil rights activist
  • Moby, American singer
  • Morrissey, British singer, frontman for The Smiths
  • Stevie Wonder, American singer
  • Prince, American singer
  • Barry White, American singer
  • Paul McCartney, English musician and former Beatle
  • "Weird Al" Yankovic, American parodist
  • Pamela Anderson, Canadian model, actor and activist
  • RZA, American rapper, producer, leader of the Wu-Tang Clan
  • James Cameron, American director

Some famous historical vegetarians:

  • Pythagoras, Greek philosopher and mathematician
  • Leonardo da Vinci, Italian artist and inventor
  • Benjamin Franklin, Founding Father of the United States
  • Leo Tolstoy, Russian author
  • Franz Kafka, Austro-Hungarian (Czech) author
  • Nikola Tesla, Serbian American inventor
  • Thomas Edison, American inventor
  • Mohandas K. Gandhi, Indian lawyer and activist
  • George Bernard Shaw, Irish playwright
  • Percy Bysshe Shelley, English poet
  • Mary Shelley, English author
  • Isaac Bashevis Singer, Polish-American author
  • Albert Einstein, theoretical physicist
  • Albert Schweitzer, French-German theologian
  • W.K. Kellogg, founder of the Kellogg company

Songs about Meat:

**This episode was produced by Greg Kelly.


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

Become a CBC Member

Join the conversation  Create account

Already have an account?