|By: Colin Ruloff | Reading time: 15 minutes|
|I used to eat animals but I no longer do. I gave up the practice about six years ago. When confronted by my meat-eating friends about why I’ve given up eating animals, it’s tacitly assumed that I’m expected to provide an argument or present reasons for why eating animals is wrong. But why, I ask myself, do I have to present reasons for why eating animals is eating wrong? Surely the burden of proof is with my meat-eating friends to show that eating animals is somehow OK. After all, they’re the ones that are choosing to eat a once-sentient being. So, let’s ask: Are there any good reasons for eating animals?|
|Before we try to answer that question, it’s worth briefly describing where our meat comes from. |
The vast majority of meat, dairy, and eggs produced in the United States and Canada come from animals raised on factory farms. A “factory farm” is a large-scale, high-intensity, industrial complex that breeds and raises large numbers of animals so that we can harvest their meat, milk, and eggs for consumption.
|EXPLORING ANIMAL SENTIENCE|
Billions of animals are raised and killed for food around the world each year. Although the majority of people consider them food, research shows that farmed animals are intelligent and emotionally complex, like dogs, cats, and other animals that so many of us see as companions.Animals Are More Sentient Than You Think: Ethologist Jordi Casamitjana says we can see animals are sentient because “they can feel, experience, and judge, and once they have judged, they can behave accordingly.”
Why, then, is it hard for us to see all animals as sentient beings? “In a world where animal exploitation is heavily entrenched in most aspects of all human societies, commercial and cultural forces constantly work to deny the quality of sentience to non-human animals. Even when today’s science clearly shows most animals are sentient, this denial is mainstream,” writes Casamitjana, who is the author of “Ethical Vegan: A Personal and Political Journey to Change the World.”
Chickens Are Smart (and Yes, They Can Suffer): Chickens are widely considered to be unintelligent, possibly because we view these birds as food animals. In fact, chickens account for 95 percent of the animals farmed for food globally. But research shows these birds are smart, can show empathy, and are capable of feeling pain.
Jennifer Mishler explores what we know about the minds of chickens, considering information from experts such as Dr. Lori Marino, to answer the questions: “How smart are these birds, and what might they be thinking and feeling?”
Sentience: What It Means and Why It’s Important: As our name suggests, sentience is at the heart of what we do at Sentient Media. Dr. Jane Kotzmann weighs in on what it means.
“‘Sentient’ is an adjective that describes a capacity for feeling. The word sentient derives from the Latin verb sentire, which means ‘to feel,’” writes Kotzmann. “Sentient beings experience wanted emotions like happiness, joy, and gratitude, and unwanted emotions in the form of pain, suffering, and grief.
Kotzmann believes animal sentience is being increasingly recognized, which makes it a worthy topic of discussion in any circle. If we can simply agree “that sentient beings are capable of experiencing pain and suffering,” she writes, “most humans would further agree that it is morally wrong to inflict unnecessary pain or suffering.”
Study: Emotional Well-Being of Cows Is Harmed by Denying Outdoor Access: A new study conducted by researchers at Queen’s University Belfast and published in the journal Scientific Reports found that cows are less happy if kept indoors. Furthermore, the researchers found that being outside allowed the cows to engage in behaviors natural to them—concerning, given the confinement they experience on factory farms.
“Pasture access can promote natural behavior [and] improve cows’ health, and cows, given the choice, spend most of their time outside. However, the effects of pasture access on dairy cows’ psychological well-being have been poorly understood—that is what our judgment bias study intended to measure,” said Dr. Gareth Arnott.
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|Animals in factory farms are typically packed into confinement facilities. Broiler chickens, for instance, are crammed into massive windowless warehouses, and are denied fresh air, sunshine, and pasture. These sheds contain anywhere from 10,000 to 50,000 birds. Sows are confined to small metal crates on concrete slatted floors with no straw or bedding to lie on and without fresh air or sunlight.|
When the animals are ready to be harvested they are then crammed onto eighteen-wheelers and shipped on multiday journeys to the slaughterhouse without food or water. Once they arrive, they are in a weakened physical and psychological state. The animals are hungry and exhausted, confused and frightened. Once inside the slaughterhouse, the animals are jammed into metal shackles, strung upside down (which often causes the breaking of limbs), and brought to the slaughterer.
OK, enough of the gruesome details. Let’s return to the question I posed at the outset: are there any good reasons for eating animals? More exactly, the question I want to ask is this: is it OK to inflict intense suffering on factory-farmed animals so that we might eat them?
I’ve encountered quite a few arguments that try to show that it’s OK to inflict suffering on factory-farmed animals; but instead of examining all of them, I’ll just focus on the four or five arguments that most people find persuasive.
Read the full story here.