ANIMAL eating...the Ethics #2



THE   ETHICS   OF   EATING   ANIMALS  #2


by Michael Pollan


The idea is almost impossible to seriously entertain, much less to accept, and in the months after the restaurant face-off between Singer and my steak at the Palm I found myself marshalling whatever mental power I could command to try to refute it. Yet one by one Singer and his colleagues managed to trump nearly every objection I could muster....... 


Animals on factory farms have never known any other life. The rightist rightly points out that "animals feel a need to exercise, stretch their limbs or wings, groom themselves and turn around, whether or not they have ever lived in conditions that permit this." The proper measure of their suffering, in other words, is not their prior experiences but the unremitting daily frustration of their instincts.


Okay, granted the suffering of animals at our hands is a legitimate problem, but the world is full of problems, and surely solving human problems must come first. Sounds high-minded . . . and yet all the animal people are asking me to do is to stop eating meat.There's no reason I can't devote myself to solving humankind's problems as a vegetarian.


But doesn't the very fact that we could choose to forego meat for moral reasons point to a crucial difference between animals and humans, one that justifies our speciesism? The very indeterminacy of our appetites, and the ethical prospects that opens up, marks us as a fundamentally different kind of creature. We alone are (as Kant pointed out) the moral animal, the only one capable of even entertaining a notion of "rights." Hell, we invented the damned things—for us. So what's wrong with reserving moral consideration for those able to understand it?

Well, right here is where you run smack into the AMC: the moral status of the retarded and the insane, the two-day-old infant and the advanced Alzheimer's patient. These people ("marginal cases," in the detestable language of modern moral philosophy) cannot participate in ethical decision making any more than a monkey can, yet we nevertheless grant them rights. Yes, I respond, for the obvious reason: They're one of us. Isn't it natural to give special consideration to one's kind?


Only if you're a speciesist, the animal rightist replies. Not so long ago many white people said the same thing about being white: We look out for our kind. Still, I would argue that there is a nonarbitrary reason we protect the rights of human "marginal" cases: We're willing to make them part of our moral community because we all have been and will probably once again be marginal cases ourselves. What's more, these people have fathers and mothers, daughters and sons, which makes our interest in their welfare deeper than our interest in the welfare of even the most intelligent ape.

A utilitarian like Singer would agree that the feelings of relatives should count for something in our moral calculus, but the principle of equal consideration of interests demands that given the choice between performing a painful medical experiment on a severely retarded orphaned child and a normal ape, we must sacrifice the child. Why? Because the ape has a greater capacity for pain.


Here in a nutshell is the practical problem with the philosopher's argument from marginal cases: It can be used to help the animals, but just as often it ends up hurting the marginal cases. Giving up our speciesism can bring us to an ethical cliff from which we may not be prepared to jump, even when logic is pushing us to the edge.

And yet this isn't the moral choice I'm being asked to make here. (Too bad! It would be so much easier.) In everyday life the choice is not between the baby and the chimp but between the pig and the tofu. Even if we reject the hard utilitarianism of a Peter Singer, there remains the question of whether we owe animals that can feel pain any moral consideration, and this seems impossible to deny. And if we owe them moral consideration, then how do we justify killing and eating them?.......


But if humans no longer need to eat meat to survive, then what exacdy are we putting on the human side of the scale to outweigh the interests of the animal?.....


Which brings us—reluctandy, necessarily—to the American factory farm, the place where all such distinctions promptly turn to dust. It's not easy to draw lines between pain and suffering in a modern egg or hog operation. These are places where the subtleties of moral philosophy and animal cognition mean less than nothing, indeed where everything we've learned about animals at least since Darwin has been simply . . . put aside. To visit a modern Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation (CAFO) is to enter a world that for all its technological sophistication is still designed on seventeenth-century Cartesian principles: Animals are treated as machines— "production units"—incapable of feeling pain. Since no thinking person can possibly believe this anymore, industrial animal agriculture depends on a suspension of disbelief on the part of the people who operate it and a willingness to avert one's eyes on the part of everyone else.


Egg operations are the worst, from everything I've read; I haven't managed to actually get into one of these places since journalists are unwelcome there. Beef cattle in America at least still live outdoors, albeit standing ankle-deep in their own waste eating a diet that makes them sick. And broiler chickens, although they are bred for such swift and breast-heavy growth they can barely walk, at least don't spend their lives in cages too small to ever stretch a wing.


That fate is reserved for the American laying hen, who spends her brief span of days piled together with a half-dozen other hens in a wire cage the floor of which four pages of this book could carpet wall to wall. Every natural instinct of this hen is thwarted, leading to a range of behavioral "vices" that can include cannibalizing her cage mates and rubbing her breast against the wire mesh until it is completely bald and bleeding. (This is the chief reason broilers get a pass on caged life; to scar so much high-value breast meat would be bad business.) Pain? Suffering? Madness? The operative suspension of disbelief depends on the acceptance of more neutral descriptors, such as "vices" and "stereotypes" and "stress." But whatever you want to call what goes on in those cages, the 10 percent or so of hens that can't endure it and simply die is built into the cost of production. And when the output of the survivors begins to ebb, the hens will be "force-molted"—starved of food and water and light for several days in order to stimulate a final bout of egg laying before their life's work is done.


I know, simply reciting these facts, most of which are drawn from poultry trade magazines, makes me sound like one of the animal people, doesn't it? I don't mean to (remember, I got into this vegetarian deal assuming I could go on eating eggs), but this is what can happen to you when . . . you look. And what you see when you look is the cruelty—and the blindness to cruelty—required to produce eggs that can be sold for seventy-nine cents a dozen.


A tension has always existed between the capitalist imperative to maximize efficiency at any cost and the moral imperatives of culture, which historically have served as a counterweight to the moral blindness of the market. This is another example of the cultural contradictions of capitalism—the tendency over time for the economic impulse to erode the moral underpinnings of society. Mercy toward the animals in our care is one such casualty.


The industrial animal factory offers a nightmarish glimpse of what capitalism is capable of in the absence of any moral or regulatory constraint whatsoever. (It is no accident that the nonunion workers in these factories receive little more consideration than the animals in their care.) Here in these wretched places life itself is redefined—as "protein production"—and with it "suffering." That venerable word becomes "stress," an economic problem in search of a cost-effective solution such as clipping the beaks of chickens or docking the tails of pigs or, in the industry's latest initiative, simply engineering the "stress gene" out of pigs and chickens. It all sounds very much like our worst nightmares of confinement and torture, and it is that, but it is also real life for the billions of animals unlucky enough to have been born beneath those grim sheet-metal roofs into the brief, pitiless life of a production unit in the days before the suffering gene was found.


....................


THERE  IS  A  LARGE  SUPER-MARKET CHAIN ACROSS CANADA,  THAT  HAS  NOW  DECIDED,  IT  WILL  NOT  BUY  EGGS  FROM  ANY  EGG  PRODUCING  COMPANY  THAT  HOUSES  ITS  CHICKENS  AS  JUST  CITED  BY  POLLAN. 


THE  UN-NATURAL  HOUSING  AND  FEEDING  OF  ANIMALS  AND  CHICKENS  FOR  OUR  HUMAN  DIET  EGO,  IS  INDEED  UN-NATURAL  AND  HENCE  NOT  AS  THE  ETERNAL  GOD  EVER  WANTED  IT  TO  BE.


IN  THE  AGE  TO  COME,  WHEN  THERE  WILL  BE  A  RESTITUTION  OF  ALL  THINGS;  SUCH  MODERN  PRACTICES  AS  IN  THE  FOOD  INDUSTRY  OF  TODAY,  WILL  BE  OBLITERATED  FROM  THE  EARTH.


WE  SHALL  RETURN  TO  THE  SMALL  FAMILY  FARMS,  WHERE  ANIMALS  WILL  BE  TREATED  WITH  DIGNITY;  WHERE  THEY  WILL  LIVE  THE  NORMAL  LIFE  THAT  WAS  BUILT  INTO  THEM  FROM  THEIR  CREATOR.  THERE  WILL  BE  NO  UN-NATURAL  "FISH  FARMS."  FISH  WILL  LIVE  AS  THEY  WERE  MEANT  TO  LIVE,  IN  THE  SEAS,  THE  LAKES,  THE  RIVERS.  WE  WILL  CATCH  THEM  AS  WAS  THE  NATURAL  WAY  FOR  THOUSANDS  OF  YEARS.  


WE  AS  A  WORLD  IN  THE  MAIN,  HAVE  DEPARTED  FROM  BOTH  THE  PHYSICAL  AND  SPIRITUAL  LAWS  OF  GOD.  THE  AGE  TO  COME  WILL  RESTORE  THE  WAY  OF  THE  LORD  AS  IT  WAS  FROM  THE  BEGINNING.


Keith Hunt