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Vegetarianism and an Argument Against Factory Farming

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Vegetarianism has been a lifestyle adopted by many people who want to take a stand against the exploitation of animals for the pleasures of the human appetite. However, vegetarianism is not the only option available to those who oppose cruelty to animals. A humanely conscious omnivore has the same ability as the vegetarian to stop such exploitation. Humans can follow the principle of eating animals without worrying about staining their moral consciousness if the practice of factory farming is abolished. However, even after factory farming is terminated, we must draw a line between the animals we can justifiably eat and those whose consciousness is so similar to ours that it would be immoral to eat them.

The main argument for vegetarianism is that the human and animal species share a common consciousness which then makes it unethical to eat animals. However, this is not entirely accurate. Yes, there are some species that we must not eat due to their possession of self-reflective consciousness. To give an example of this type of species, in both David Quammen’s “Beast in the Mirror” and Ann Gibbon’s “Bonobos Join Chimps as Closest Human Relatives”, the fact that we share 98.6% of our DNA with Great Apes is affirmed. The fact mentioned above is significant because it emphasizes, even though not directly stated, that our connection with the Great Apes deepens as the range[1] between our DNA’s diminishes. The point of knowing how close to our consciousness [2] another species’s consciousness is is so we can draw a line that separates who we can morally eat and who we cannot. The line described above will separate who we eat and who we do not, base [3] on the answer to the following question: Does the animal understand the concept of death?

When answering the question highlighted in the previous paragraph, one must take a look beyond the standard expectations of what species have the ability to comprehend the concept of death. The Great Apes, Bonobos, and Chimps are some common species that meet the requirements necessary to be excluded from the dinner menu, but animals such as elephants and dolphins also fulfill these requirements. If the animal understands what death signifies, then we must not eat them. If however, the only suffering that the animal endures is physical pain; then [4] we can act upon our animalistic nature and eat that animal. We must keep in mind, however, that we have a moral obligation as a species that can rationalize and choose our course of action, to[5] make sure that the only real pain an animal endures is a quick shutdown of their brain in the moment of slaughter.

Contributor to “Animals, Men, and Morals,” and animal rights advocate, Richard Ryder terms the word “speciesism” to describe the belief that humans are entitled to treat members of other species in a way in which it would be wrong to treat members of our own. If that is the accepted term, then so be it; this is a paper written by someone that believes in speciesism, but there is more to the term than the definition given above. Speciesism describes the belief that we, the species which understands the concept of death and thus suffers emotionally from it, are entitled to treat members of other species, those which do not have the concept of death and thus do not suffers [6] emotionally from it, in a way in which it would be wrong to treat members of our own. In the definition above, I redefined who “we” are; “we” in my definition of speciesism i[7] s not restricted to the human species, but in a broader sense includes any species with a conscious mind that understands the terminality of death and therefore suffers from the traumatic emotional aspect of it. From now in this paper whenever I refer to “we”, I will be referring to the “we” described above.

The belief that I am defending is very different from the anthropocentric one. I am not descartian, thus I do not believe that “humans have little responsibility to other animals or the natural world”, nor do I support Descartes’s argument that “the observed behaviors of all nonhuman creatures can be explained without ascribing minds and consciousness to them” (Animals are Machines), but rather I believe that an invisible line is drawn between them and us, separating those animals with self-reflective consciousness and those without. Simply said, not all animals have consciousness, and not all animals are unconscious creatures of evolution. Although I grant that certain animals can entertain the concept of death, I still believe that our natures differ. As explained by Michael Pollan, “The very indeterminacy of our appetites, and the ethical prospects that opens up, marks us as a fundamentally different kind of creature.” As Immanuel Kant pointed out, “we alone are the moral animal, the only capable of even entertaining a notion of “rights”. Humans have the unique ability to communicate our expressions of good and evil, cultivate questions of what is beyond death and what it is to be alive in a world of complicated debates, like the one we are arguing now. The reason I distinguish between humans and other species is that just as humans have the responsibility to acknowledge our similarities in consciousness with other species, we must also accept what makes us different.

The problem with eating animals is the manner in which we are fulfilling the increasing demand for meat. Factory far[8] ming has led us to a total disconnection from the animals we eat. I concede that, as Simon Baron-Cohen puts it in “The Science of Evil,” when you treat someone as an object, your empathy has been turned off.” By facilitating disconnection between us and the animals we eat, factory farming is turning off human empathy towards animals and thus making it easier for us to see animals as objects instead of as our fellow creatures. My point is however [9] that we can eat meat without being morally stained, but not by the evil and inhumane practices of factory farming.

The issue w[10] ith factory farming is that we have gone from a practice of farming in which the farmer depends as much from [11] his animals as the animals rely on him, to a practice in which the farmer has become a profit making maximizer and the animals have become dispensable objects, means to a capitalist end. We have lost a powerful connection to the animals we eat and have regarded t[12] he animal’s sacrifice as a given instead of a privilege. Essentially, as Pollan very well puts it “what is wrong with eating animals is the practice, not the principle”, for it is the practice of factory farming which puts a stain on our moral consciousness, not the eating of animals itself.

J.M. Coetzee’s cry of “a crime of stupendous proportions” referring to factory farming is essentially the truth behind the practice. Factory farming is, in fact, a crime that has gone under the radar of the human awareness for a variety of reason. [13] One of the many grounds for the continuation of this crime is the fact that factory farming has put a barrier in the form of genetic modification,[14] and literal walls b[15] etween whom we eat and what we eat. For example, what we eat might be a cow, but what we eat is beef. B[16] efore factory farming, when humans had yet to change the nature of our humanity, food chains were there to “link us, through what we eat, to the fertility of the earth and the energy of the sun..”(“The Omnivore’s Dilemma”, Michael Pollan pg.10), but now all that had once constituted a relationship between animal and man, now is replaced by profit/pleasure and man.

When we eat meat produced in factory farms, we eat in ignorance. The truth of the matter is that we have designed factory farms to do exactly that, allow us to be ignorant, to forget about who is it that we are eating, ignorant of what that animal had to endure to get on our plates. Factory farming’s exploitation of animals has been in the dark for too long; most people do not even know what the difference between factory farming and humanely raised farms is. The truth of the manner [17] is that the corporations that have helped hide away what is being done to the animals we eat every day have maintained our ignorance about the inhumane acts that are continuously done to these animals. Even the structures of most factory farms perpetuate this ignorance as their “kill floor” is hidden away and thus the consumer cannot see what is going on with our meat, our animals. The opaque nature of factory farming has led our society to commit atrocious crimes against the very animals that have given their lives for our pleasures in return for a broken promise, the promise of a safe and natural life cycle.

The dissonance so apparent in our way of treating other species will someday haunt our sense of morality. When we look at a chicken, we praise its ability to provide us eggs and protein from its flesh, yet we treat her as a means to an end and condemn it to live in conditions so brutal that genetic adjustments are necessary for her survival, the survival of a short life of misery that factory farming so readily provides. The barbaric methods of animal exploitation in factory farming need to be abolished and a new humanely raised method of farming implemented by the government. Vegetarianism also advocates for the termination of factory farming, but unlike the vegetarian principle of abstaining from eating meat, the principle of eating meat has been part of humanity millions of years before humans were able to define what being human means. Eating meat, killing and eating the flesh of other animals has been vital in the development of most human cultures and traditions throughout history. Michael Pollan has written the most important reasoning in this debate about eating animals, “…[O]ne of the odder ironies of animal rights: It asks us to acknowledge all we share with animals, and then to act toward them in a most un animalistic way.” When we eat animals, we are acting upon the natural instinct that has enabled us to survive and evolve into the rational species we are today. It is not to say, however, that we are at the peak of our development because the irrationality and inhumanity of factory farming is not a practice that a sane society would partake in. Let’s eat animals, but let’s do it humanely and honor the sacrifice of other species.

Bianca, Many well argued points in this paper.

It still divides into two papers to some extent. Transition more clearly and strongly to your arguments against factory farming.

Also, your introduction puts the factory farming argument first, but the order of your points is reversed in the body of the paper. Keep the order consistent.

This might point to the problem I’m seeing with the “two” papers. If you can argue the relationship between your two main topics logically and clearly in the introduction, you will have a guide to how to write the body of the paper. Do you see what I mean? You’ve reversed the order of your argument from the thesis to the body of the paper, and this makes it harder for you to transition when you get to that point in the paper where you need to change your focus. Maybe you need to connect these parts by concentrating on consciousness as you lead in to your discussion of farming. You might make the point that just because animals don’t consciously fear death does not mean they can’t suffer. I know you do make this point in the paper, but it might be good to reiterate it, or emphasize it, as part of your transition to the factory farming part of the paper.

Still, you have worked hard on this. You develop a sophisticated argument about determining which animals it is morally permissible for humans to eat.

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Vegetarianism and an Argument Against Factory Farming. (2018, July 31). GradesFixer. Retrieved March 20, 2023, from
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