The New York Times Magazine is running a contest, inviting carnivores to write a 600-word ethical defense for eating meat.

The Times notes that many celebrated vegetarians and vegans have presented their case that not consuming meat is the only clear ethical eating choice. Meat eaters, the Times says, readily discuss why they like meat and explain the cultural underpinnings of its consumption.

"But few have tried to answer the fundamental ethical issue: Whether it is right to eat animals in the first place, at least when human survival is not at stake, " New York Times ethicist Ariel Kaminer wrote.

The staff ethicist's job depends on being able to gin up a new ethical dilemma week after week, year after year. The generally recognized transgressions, popular as they are, have been covered ad nauseum.

We recognize that many people have made a choice not to eat meat, the same as some people have chosen to eat only natural or organic food. We support their right to choose, whether they have done so as part of their religion, in pursuit of what they consider a healthier diet, out of concern for the environment, or because of their own sense of ethics.

In the absence of a legal or religious prohibition, it is for each person to choose.

It would never occur to us, or most farmers and ranchers we know, to dictate to others what they should or shouldn't eat. We continue to be surprised the courtesy is not always returned.

If it is in that spirit the great thinkers of the effete salons of Manhattan have devised this contest, we would be curious how it would play in the Times' etiquette column.

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