Maybe more interesting is the question ‘Why are some animals seen as okay to eat and others aren’t?’
After all, by this definition dogs and cats are also made of meat but most people wouldn’t eat the family pet. This is partly because they’ve established an emotional connection with that animal, and partly because they believe they possess qualities (intelligence, feelings) that make them different to ‘food’ animals.
It is very convenient to think of certain animals as having lesser intelligence and capacity for feeling than ourselves or other animals, and therefore being ‘just meat’. It makes it easier for us to ignore their suffering.
Many factory farm or slaughterhouse workers admit they wouldn’t be able to do their job if they thought of the animals they work with as living, feeling creatures rather than just ‘meat’.
The language used helps: ‘meat’ rather than ‘flesh’; ‘broilers’ or ‘layers’ rather than ‘chickens’; we eat ‘steak’ or ‘rashers’ rather than ‘cow’ or ‘pig’. This renaming helps distance us from the process by which our food is raised and slaughtered and allows us to avoid the unpleasant truth.
Every day we learn more about the intelligence of animals we previously thought were stupid (pigs, chickens). We now know many species are capable of complex reasoning, empathy, compassion, loyalty and grief.
So are they really just made of meat? Technically speaking, so are people. Would you eat them?