In late March, the New York Times announced an essay writing contest in which readers were invited to make the strongest possible ethical case for eating animals. The Times put together a panel of judges — Mark Bittman, Jonathan Safran Foer, Andrew Light, Michael Pollan, Peter Singer — to sift through the entries and collectively decide which one was best.

The contest is now over, and the panel has released what it thinks were the best six entries.

Here’s a taste (no pun intended!):

As a vegetarian who returned to meat-eating, I find the question ‘‘Is meat-eating ethical’’ one that is in my head and heart constantly. The reasons I became a vegetarian, then a vegan, and then again a conscientious meat-eater were all ethical. The ethical reasons of why NOT to eat meat are obvious: animals are raised and killed in cruel conditions; grain that could feed hungry people is fed to animals; the need for pasture fuels deforestation; and by eating meat one is implicated in the killing of a sentient being. Except for the last reason, however, none of these aspects of eating meat are implicit in eating meat, yet they are exactly what make eating some meat unethical. Which leads to my main argument: eating meat raised in specific circumstances is ethical; eating meat raised in other circumstances is unethical. Just as eating vegetables, tofu or grain raised in certain circumstances is ethical and those produced in other ways in unethical.

What do you think? Did any of the essays make you rethink your views on eating meat?