Can Vegans Eat Meat?!

Recently, and not for the first time, as I was eyeing the remains of pork sitting on the table (it was a gathering of both omnivores and herbivores alike), my friend asked me: “if Veganism is partially about reducing waste, isn’t it more wasteful to not eat the leftover food - even if it’s meat?”

As I pondered this question, I noticed that this is not the first time this thought has occurred to me. Technically saying, yes. The best solution would be to eat the leftovers - regardless of what it’s made of - however, the line between the terms of Veganism and consumerism is very much blurred.

Ultimately, Veganism is about consumption. Consumption, by dictionary definition, refers to “the action of using up a resource”. We have full control over what we choose to eat, and by deciding to abstain from meat, dairy, and eggs, we have the privilege to take advantage of our positions as consumers to benefit animals, the environment, and ourselves.

Why Veganism is so largely adopted and why it is rendered effective is because it reduces the consumption of animal products. As I mentioned in one of my first posts, “5 Vegan Myths Debunked: What You Should Stop Saying to Vegans”, the meat isn't 'dead' because some farmers on the other side of the world feel like slaughtering animals for fun. The large amount of production is driven by the high demand for meat, and if there wasn't such a high demand, then there wouldn't be a reason for the animals to be killed in the first place. Of course, one person's diet isn't going to make an enormous impact (however, going vegan for a year does largely reduce your carbon footprint and use of natural resources--about 400,000 gallons of water, 7,300 pounds of CO2, and 14,600 pounds of grain are saved!), but each person who rejects the consumption of meat contributes to the falling demand, and if this proceeds as a collective effort, the result will be a lack of need for a massive yet deleterious industry.

Therefore, by terms of consumption, demand, supply, and all things Economics, eating the leftover meat on the table is not antithetical to the principles of Veganism. That is, if the remaining portion is from the dish ordered by someone with the intention of completing the meal (for example, a regular meat-eater or a food caterer). Since it has already been ‘consumed’ (in this case, meaning bought), it doesn’t increase the original demand for meat. Thus, by eating the leftover meat, you wouldn’t be adding to the detriment of consumption, but rather, you would be reducing the amount of waste generated.

However, this differs in the case when you do have the choice to ‘consume’ the animal products. If I am presented with a menu, selecting an animal option would be contradictory toward my philosophy of Veganism. Even though it has already been ‘consumed’ by the kitchen staff, until it reaches my plate, the food can still be served to someone else - thus reducing the quantity demanded.

This is not to say that all vegans should eat leftover meat that is ‘consumed’ by other people. As I mentioned in my post, “What Does it Mean to be Vegan?”, I am an abstainer, meaning that it would be difficult for me to occasionally indulge in animal products, and doing so may actually affect the overall consistency of my lifestyle. Personally, I do not eat leftover meat as I find it extremely disturbing to do so after being informed of all the unethical practices that take place behind the scenes. But to answer the original question posed at the start of this post, eating leftover meat would in fact be the most economical and sustainable practice - that is, if the food was ordered by someone with the intention of finishing it.