Intelligence Squared: Animals Should Be Off the Menu


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Intelligence Squared’s 2012 series of debates kicks off with a look at the ethics of eating meat. Six speakers are divided into two teams for lively and insightful arguments for and against the proposition, ‘Animals Should Be Off the Menu’.

Speaking for the proposition are Peter Singer, Philip Wollen and Veronica Ridge; against it, Adrian Richardson, Fiona Chambers and Bruce McGregor. Their cases are followed by questions from the floor and finally, the audience vote.

For analysis of the event – including a transcript of audience vote results – read our article covering the debate.



09 Apr 2012

Filmed on:

20 Mar 2012


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26 comments so far:

I'm watching this on ABC today on my day off and it is completely inspiring. It re-ignites the fire and conviction I felt as a passionate little 7 year old. Back in 1989 I remember being horrified to see spires of burning cattle across the UK as the Mad Cow Disease crisis ravaged the countries farming community. I remember being startled to realise where the meat we ate came from - and what cost. Thanks Wheeler Centre for a such a stimulating session.

Non Jenkins
11 April at 11:29AM

A very worthy topic for debate. I hope it inspires people to realise that eating fruit, vegies, grains, legumes, juice etc is not a strange or extreme thing to do, in fact we all do and can live very well without eating animals and calves milk and the product of a chickens menstrual cycle (just saying what it is). We can live well and so can animals and the environment, please consider this diet, time runs out every second for animals and every year for the earth.

11 April at 05:01PM

Brilliant debate...Well spoken on both sides... But no contest at all. Animals SHOULD be off the menu.

JJ Miller
11 April at 09:34PM

In India, we say that you are what you eat. How true! The side for the proposition obviously thrive on appetizing greens. The other, sadly, on dead animals which seem to have made them brain dead.

There can be no two opinions as to which side won the debate.

Thank you, Wheeler Centre for a fabulous contest.

Dr. S. Chinny Krishna
12 April at 12:20PM

I just finished watching this debate. I'm glad the question was raised for discussion. My thanks to the Wheeler Centre.

I am for taking animals off the menu. As the speakers for an animal free diet clearly pointed out, there is no need or reason to consume animal products; an animal free diet is healthy, it's better for the environment, and it removes the issue of animal exploitation and suffering altogether. There is no good reason to consume animal products. Taste buds or convenience do not hold any serious weight up against these other questions.

The speakers for consuming animal products never made any satisfactory points in regards to the ethics of farming, killing, and consumption of animals. Nor did they offer any real responses to the environmental issues that are even now in the mainstream such as climate change contribution from farming, water usage in meat production, the amount of land required for farming animals, the amount of energy required to produce meat as opposed to the energy you get out in return, and waterway pollution from farming.

The speakers for consuming animal products would have been better off without having Adrian Richardson as a speaker. He was a complete embarrassment.

12 April at 12:30PM

"In India, we say that you are what you eat. How true!"

On the other hand, you could have said the side for the proposition were a bunch of fruits, or were vegetables. Tidy linguistic plays do not an argument win!

That said, I did think this was a really enjoyable debate and agree with whomever said Adrian Richardson wasn't a very convincing speaker — "I love meat"... um, yeah, so?

Jesse X
12 April at 12:37PM

A wonderful experience sharing an evening with you in Melbourne from Seattle in USA.. Thrilling to see intelligence squared however, its no contest at all as the future thinking representatives of humanity told it like it is that we must evolve to take animal flesh and "anything with a face" off the menu. thank you .

Eileen Weintraub
12 April at 03:23PM

Animals ought to be off the menu because of all the reasons outlined during the course of the debate.

Shubhobroto Ghosh
12 April at 08:15PM

Usually, I don't like to take a moral or ethical position on issues because, I believe, we aren't all born or faced with the same realities and, therefore, have different reasons for the choices we make. But, having been vegetarian for almost twenty-three years, it's hard not to take a position on meat. It's like Philip Wollen said, if slaughter houses had glass walls, there would be more vegetarians in the world.

Kunal Vohra
12 April at 09:31PM

A fantastic talk by Philip Wollen! As vegan of 33 years I can vouch for the fact that no animal needs to suffer in order for us to live a healthy and happy life.

13 April at 08:13AM

There are so many reasons why meat should be off the menu. Within years we will look at this time as being barbaric. Since I was a little girl I was discusted with the idea to eat a cow or pig. I loved those animals, you can not eat what you love! Their curiosity, if you take time to interact with them, is amazing. When she comes towards you, a bit scared but curious sniffing your hair and look at you with her big lovely eyes I can not imagine anyone whould like to eat her. A pig can look at you in such a human way. Many of them, from the truck they are in to the butcher looked into my eyes and I felt so quilty,..... if people only took the effort to look into their lives, there would be more vegetarians.

Hester Bartels
13 April at 10:38AM

Herbs give flavor to all kind of food, not the meat itself!
There are so many alternatives for a tasty food!

Hester Bartels
13 April at 10:48AM

This was an inspiring debate and I loved and applauded the impassioned speech delivered by Phil Wollen.

It was good to see the idea of humane slaughter challenged. The term "humane" has been a way of making the unpalatable acceptable. Despite the apparent good intentions of the promoters of such an idea, the reality is that we that we are talking about the killing of another species because we regard them as inferior and simply here for our purposes and profit. We do not tolerate such behaviour towards members of our own species, no matter how humanely carried out. When we stop tolerating it towards other species, our true humanity will start to shine and the term "humane" given its truest meaning. Thank you for helping to bring wisdom and intelligence to the case for the vulnerable and the voiceless.

Gypsy Wulff
13 April at 12:04PM

i am extremely happy and feel very inspired and motivated with Phil Wollen's particular point of views and also appreciate the spirited and informative arguments on behalf of the animals by other distinguised speakers. It gives all of us a great feeling to work hard from the ground level . Absolutely grateful to you all for making this debate a huge and astounding success for the animals.

pradeep kumar nath
13 April at 03:19PM

It was disappointing to see that the opposition did not even address the issue of ethics, without addressing that issue there was no contest. You cannot ignore an area of an argument by either stating it has no merit in the discussion (a lazy argument) or by ignoring it (just plain lazy), particularly when culturally it appears to be one of the major concerns raised around the topic with the exception (maybe) of the environment. A major win for the affirmative who covered all bases of their argument.

Sandy Fernee
13 April at 05:37PM

Here in the Netherlands my boyfriend and I have heard many good things Philip does. In Melbourne he has a building and a lot of animalrights organsiations are allowed to use the space there. For 29 years I'm vegetarian (my boyfriend too) and I'm still healthy, so this is a living proof meat is unnecessary. If nobody wants to have an excursion in a slaugtherhouse, why are they still there than? I want to be vegan; 1 vegan counts for 2 vegetarians. We wish you and your wife good luck and a very long life.

Roos Burger & George Winters
13 April at 08:12PM

Just about everyone agrees that it is wrong to unnecessarily harm animals. We think it is wrong to hurt or kill them for our pleasure, our entertainment or our convenience. Yet almost all of our use of animals for food, sport or fashion can ONLY be justified for pleasure, entertainment or convenient. It is certainly not necessary to eat chicken or drink milk, to wear leather or to watch jumps racing. Therefore it is wrong to hurt and kill animals for these unnecessary reasons, and if we want to live by our values we need to go vegan.

13 April at 09:30PM

Yes, animals should be off the menu for so many reasons!

14 April at 02:07PM

Wow!! What a fantastic couple of hours! The negative side didn't have a leg to stand on and as Bruce McGregor said - he was on a hiding to nothing! They would also have done better to leave their uncouth chef fellow at home! He didn't do his side any favours. Or maybe it was better to bring him along and let the audience get a good long look at him and what he stood for!

Loved it when the young fellow came a cropper when he thought he had caught Philip Wollen out with his "leather" shoes!!

It's a pity Veronica Ridge didn't use the word vegan though instead of "vegetarian" as she left herself wide open for criticism about the dairy industry. In fact Peter Singer used "vegetarian" a few times too and I thought it weakened his argument - not that they had anything to worry about - as they were home and hosed, while the negative side just stumbled and bumbled along!!

And as the moderator said - imagine this sort of a result 20 years ago!! Good stuff! Best couple of hours I've had in a long time!

Maureen Collier
14 April at 09:23PM

This really was an enjoyable debate. I would have liked to see more rebuttals, particularly in regards to some of the weak ‘arguments’ from the negative. On the whole, as I expected, there were numerous reasons for leaving meat off the menu and few, if any for leaving meat on the menu apart from ‘I love meat’….which is not an ethical reason. Some of the excuses given by the negative side were laughable at best (we have to breed animals to kill and eat to save them from extinction….please), 2 of the 3 speakers on the negative side were there to protect and promote their animal based businesses, not to discuss the ethical dilemma of continuing to utilise sentient beings in the face of so many reasons not to (including environmental, from a food security point of view – which they tried to argue was a reason TO eat meat…where I believe the affirmative made a much more scientifically based argument), health-wise, and finally from a cruelty point of view.
The usual chestnuts were trotted out by the negative side to try and trip up the affirmative, including ‘but I bet you wear leather’…’but I’m a beef farmer, and the dairy industry is more cruel’… I was surprised the negative didn’t come out with ‘but you step on ants, so that nullifies my need to think about the steak on my plate’!!! Not to mention ‘but poor fishermen in the back waters of China can’t leave meat off their menu’, as if that, by osmosis makes rich people in the West somehow exempt from thinking about the ethical issues.
All in all, an excellent debate, of which I would like to see more. Clearly, those on the affirmative side have given a great deal of thought to the issue, whereas those on the negative have not. More debates like this and more attention to this discussion will hopefully make people think before they open their mouths and throw a piece of dead animal inside.

Kellie Blume
15 April at 10:43AM

As an almost-vegan, I admit that my existing beliefs bias me toward the affirmative, but nonetheless I agree that the negative side didn't argue a very strong case. So it goes.

It remains important that these discussions happen; what I'd really love to see, actually, is some comment from people who, after attending the debate, remained undeterred omnivores. Or even those who changed their mind toward the negative team's view. I'd like to understand why!

For anybody who wants to jump quickly to the results, here they are for your convenience;

For: 65%
Against: 22.5%
Undecided: 12.5%

For: 73.6%
Against: 19.3%
Undecided: 6.9%

16 April at 02:53PM

Interesting. I love Pete Singer; I thought he made a lot of sense. the oppositions points were very scientific and unfortunately quite convincing in terms of ecology. I think what they were discussing was a small view of meat/animal production, not looking at it in realistic, large scale terms. lol, Bruce McGregor shot himself in the foot by bring up dairy and killing the males. Surely thats part of our point; we want to reduce/stop milk production as well. And the Wild Women program he talks about took the (im assuming) uneducated opinions of these women and built upon it. Good on them for helping these communities, but isnt it convenient that it conforms to the dominant discourse of food production! And the affirmative isn’t denying the importance of animals, we love them, and acknowledge they have a place in ecology, but we cannot stand them being eaten. Although i agree with the second speaker for affirmative i thought that his argument was very emotional and could potentially turn sciencey-minded people off, then again, so did the last meat eating speaker. you cannot have 'respect' for meat... because you supported killing it. The epicurean speaker for the affirmative was so inspiring as well, especially in terms of us having the choice. Rant over

17 April at 05:15PM

Philip Wollen stole the show for me. I don't see how his passion and love for saving these helpless animals could not convince anyone of the ignorance of seeing them slaughtered and put on a plate in front of them to enjoy as a meal.
I do hope that ABC TV will continue provide us with usefull debates as this one.
Philip D'Souza

Philip D'Souza
21 April at 04:58AM

The passion and conviction of Philip Wollen should be enough for anyone to question the eating of meat. And I hope everyone on the negative side follows up with the viewing of Earthlings.

29 June at 10:59PM

The vote was unfair, a real debate with a voting public would have had an even number of for and against! I would have loved to see the debate with a more convincing audience. Disappointing!

15 July at 04:46PM

It is time to end slaughter houses not just that the end of hunting for all animals. Slaughter houses= holocaust Hunting=shooting people. All that is living are beings animals and humans are the same. Animals surpassed humans, humans are the most disgrace beings and ppl believe we are better than animals. There are far more important matters to this. Animals have feelings innocance and souls humans do not who kill animals are psychopaths nazis. It is time to end all for animals suffering for humans to let all animals live in peace without disruptions

11 July at 03:48PM

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