Why I think not eating animals is a better moral choice

I’ve been blogging somewhat occasionally since October last year, primarily about animal welfare/rights in respect to our farmed animals. While researching, commenting and blogging about this, I’ve noticed an interesting thing. Almost without fail, people who disagree just don’t understand the actual point being made. Or if they do, they do a remarkable job of ignoring it.

Maybe I’m wrong, but I just think it’s such a simple proposition that almost everyone should be able to ‘get it’. Today’s post then, explores the proposition and why it should be so obvious and irresistible. That it isn’t rather flummoxes me!

As simply as possible, here’s what it looks like to me. We are animals and part of nature, that is true. And nature exists by way of many awful processes – most life consumes other life of some sort. The predations of carnivores or the lifecycles of parasites and so on are pretty horrible.

Human beings aren’t somehow remote from that – we did indeed once need to hunt to survive and in many places we still must do that. I have no problem with that. A community in some remote place who hunts the occasional deer or pig or whatever for food is behaving in accord with nature. The animal is free and subject to the normal laws of nature.

But in so much of modern society, this is no longer the case. Let’s take Australia as an example. We have elevated eating from a matter of survival – sustenance – to an entertainment. And as an entertainment, many many people profit from the process, from farmers to wholesalers to cafes, restaurants and supermarkets. And those companies and individuals who profit have a vested interest in promoting consumption, reducing costs, finding more efficient processes and making more profit.

This is in no way natural. It is no longer part of nature. It is an entirely artificial system we have created to service our own selfish desires. This would be fine if there were no great harms associated with it, but sadly, harm is simply integral to the process. Our farmed animals are no longer free beings subject to the laws of nature, rather they are resources bred, constrained and processed for our desires.

We eat pigs, yet there is absolutely no need to do so.
We eat lambs, yet there is absolutely no need to do so.
We consume dairy, and yet there is absolutely no need to do so.

And on it goes. And in each case, great harms are done to the animals. It takes just a moment to research each of these. I’ve commented here about the harms to pigs, and here about the harms to dairy cows.

Why are we so happy to consume more and more and harm more and more as a consequence? Why are those who say No, this isn’t OK howled down at every turn? Surely it is easy to see it isn’t right.

As a society we have been developing our ideas of morality and ethics for thousands of years, and in modern Australia at least, I think we all have a fair idea of what moral behaviour entails.

And yet, we seem to limit this behaviour almost exclusively to human beings, not other animals. And definitely not our farmed animals. Think about it – by your own standards of moral and ethical behaviour, how does humanity measure up in its treatment of all other species?

Clearly, we simply refuse to offer our farmed animals any such consideration. They are systematically treated as property, resources, units of production. It seems to me that this treatment is rooted in an abject failure of human thinking to have escaped the natural constraints of a long gone time. That is, the evolution of human thought and ethics has been woefully neglected when it comes to other animals, and in particular, our farmed animals.

Really, were we truly noble beings we’d make finding ways to avoid killing and harming for food and entertainment something of a priority. In other words, over time we’d see less farming of animals, less killing and harming, less exploitation for fun and profit. Yet we see the exact opposite. I find that deeply disappointing…

If we can produce enough of the right sorts of food to feed and sustain human beings using plant based products and prevent the harm of other animals, then why not? I’m not pretending that we can completely prevent harm – after all, the world is what it is. But surely to be noble beings, we should seek to minimise harm when we can. How can it be that so many people seem to think that a great argument for our industrialised cruelty is something as obnoxiously vacuous and self-indulgent as “Mmmm, bacon”?

It’s a simple proposition. We should not harm and kill animals in monstrous proportions just because we like to. We should seek to be moral beings and live our lives more ethically rather than put our heads in the sand to what our food choices really mean. By any standard of modern Australian thinking, choosing not to ignore this industrialised cruelty and making more informed, compassionate choices around our food is a better moral choice.

It really is that simple.

 

In 2014, the following were slaughtered in Australia:

Beef cattle    8,764,000
Calves               708,000
Pigs                 4,778,000
Sheep            10,066,000
Lambs           21,899,000
Chickens   600,000,000

 

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