NORMAN — Bruce Friedrich, vice president of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), returned to his old stomping grounds Tuesday to debate University of Oklahoma speech team members on the ethics of eating meat.
The debate took place in a lecture hall inside OU's Dale Hall.
"I'll just tell jokes," the Norman High School class of 1987 member said after starting with a pair of one-liners. "It might go over better than advocating veganism in Norman, Oklahoma."
Friedrich got serious in a hurry, saying meat operations consume 14 times the water, 25 times the land and 20 times the fossil fuels it would take to raise crops just for humans.
He said it's an equation that wastes resources while raising prices and lowering food supply, all of which makes global poverty worse.
He also showed a one-minute snippet of film of chickens and pigs being treated and kept in inhumane ways at meat production plants.
"The film shows how meat animals are fed and treated, and that is standard agricultural practice," Friedrich said.
OU students Clayton Dodds and Dawn Norton agreed in the parliamentary style debate that inhumane treatment does happen at some facilities, but also said a growing number of people in the industry are committed to more humane conditions.
Dodds said eating meat is a self-preserving act, and doing so does not mean consumers are OK with cruel treatment of animals at some facilities.
"Just because you are a consumer doesn't mean you condone cruelty," he said. "You are not held accountable because you are eating out of self-
But Friedrich said people who don't eat meat have lower cholesterol and risk for heart attack and cancer.
"If you pay someone to do something, then you are saying, 'Yes, do it again; yes, do it again,'" he said.
Before the debate, Friedrich said he visited 20 college campuses last school year and that OU is his fourth of this year. He said the audiences tend to weigh both sides with an open mind, because they're already "thinking about how they're going to lead the rest of their lives."