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‘But Can They Suffer?’: The malevolence of meat

Philosophers may disagree about whether animals have rights, whether it’s okay to eat animals with great lives, and so on. But there is only one major philosopher who defends current factory farming conditions and he doesn’t think animal suffering is bad at all.

MATTHEW ADELSTEIN: With the upcoming farm bill that could determine the fate of lots of animals, it’s time to question our consumption of meat. The farm bill could contain protection for animals, or it could continue to sanction the horrific mistreatment that is rampant… Matthew Scully… wrote an entire book denouncing cruelty towards animals [Dominion: The Power of Man, the Suffering of Animals, and the Call to Mercy]…

As a philosophy major, I read lots of philosophical disputes about various topics. For nearly every opinion, no matter how crazy, there’s at least one philosopher who defends it — one philosopher even argues that all statements are true; not just some of them, all of them. Now, one would expect that eating meat falls in this category — a controversial topic that philosophers disagree about… And they sort of do. They disagree about whether animals have rights, whether it’s okay to eat animals with great lives, and so on.

But there is only one major philosopher, [Timothy Hsiao (Assistant Professor of Philosophy and Humanities at the University of Arkansas Grantham)], who defends current farming conditions and he doesn’t think animal suffering is bad at all. By his logic, it’s not bad when cats are set on fire, unless it bothers humans or makes us more likely to hurt humans. No one defends current farming practices because, considered philosophically, they’re utterly indefensible.

Suppose you’re choosing between two options. One option will produce a bit more enjoyment for you, but it requires enormous amounts of unnecessary suffering. Of course, most of us would agree that we should, in that case, take the other option — the one that doesn’t cause tons of extra suffering for the sake of trivial benefits. But this is the choice that we make every time we decide whether to eat meat versus plants. Eating meat causes tons of extra suffering for the sake of mere taste pleasure, but taste pleasure does not justify enormous cruelty — just as it would be impermissible to be cruel to animals for the sake of a pleasant smell or a pleasant sound, so too is it impermissible for the sake of a pleasant taste.

Why does eating meat cause tons of suffering to animals? Well, the animals you eat are treated terribly before they’re slaughtered. And the greatest culprit of the abuse? Factory farms. 99 percent of meat in the U.S. comes from factory farms; thus, if you purchase meat, it is almost certainly coming from one…

I haven’t time to describe in detail the practices of all meat-producing factory farms, but they’re all similarly cruel.. Factory-farmed pigs, while pregnant, are stuffed in tiny gestation crates, unable to turn around. These pigs will never be able to lie down comfortably over the course of their entire lives.

Male pigs are castrated with no anesthetic. They also have their tails ripped out without anesthetic. Their teeth are also ripped out with no anesthetic… Pigs never get to turn around, spend time outside, or see the sun, except immediately before slaughter.

This is just a small sample of the horrors of the pig industry. And the other industries are similarly cruel. When consumers buy food from this industry, they support and enable the continuity of its practices. Thus, eating meat causes lots of animal cruelty — weeks of suffering from the average purchase — and is seriously wrong… People may worry about the health effects, but studies have consistently found that vegans have better health overall…

Ultimately, there are lots of things people say about meat. But none of it justifies what we do now — there’s a reason there exist virtually zero philosophers defending eating meat in current conditions. Perhaps the hypothetical happy cow can be eaten permissibly, but when nearly all animals live short, miserable existences, animals must, for now, be off the menu. SOURCE…


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