Don't Be Cruel to Critters
by Fred E. Foldvary, Senior Editor
Much of the meat consumed throughout the world is produced using methods that inflict horrible pain and suffering on animals. If we had a truly free market, what would the law prescribe about animal products?
The pure free market adheres to ethical rules. It is morally wrong to coercively and invasively harm others, and such acts are prohibited and penalized in a pure market economy. But who are these "others"? Natural moral law distinguishes between persons who make conscious choices versus living beings whose behavior is largely determined by genetic programming or instinct. Persons are moral agents whose actions have the moral values good, evil, and neutral. These values apply comprehensively to all acts, including acts done onto non-person living beings.
There is more harm when a person is killed or injured than when such is done to a non-person being. Human beings may therefore obtain utility from non-person animals, including confining them and killing them. But it is not "anything goes" for our relationship with animals. Any harm beyond the minimum needed to obtain the benefits is morally wrong, and any benefit derived from harm itself is immoral; for example, sadistic cruelty to animals is evil.
The implementation of humane laws regarding animals is complicated by the fact that cruelty to animals is ubiquitous. Cruelty is unfortunately deep in the culture of people world-wide. To ban all animal abuse immediately would cause such a cultural shock that people would not accept it. Most animals today are raised in inhumane conditions. This makes the food less expensive, but it is the animals who pay the price, along with environmental damage and the moral cost of a less humane society.
The law must adjust on a gradient. I believe the best way to bring about humane treatment of animals is to create a universal symbol of animal cruelty and then require all products that encompass cruel treatment to clearly display that label. There would be a booklet and web site containing the law and the relevant information about the label. Then people with a conscience, who prefer not to inflict pain on animals, would be informed and avoid buying these products. Production would shift to more humane treatment.
Vivisection, the injuring of live animals, is in some places forced on biology students as a requirement to graduate. It should be illegal to require students to inflict suffering on animals as a condition for completing a class or getting a degree.
Some animals should not be killed or injured at all. These include dolphins, whales, and apes, whose level of intelligence and emotion is high enough to endow them with greater rights.
Much cruelty to animals is also involved in product testing and biological research. Many countries have laws prohibiting extreme cruelty, but these laws are often ignored. Sometimes data is falsified to evade the law. Animal suffering not directly related to important human medical purposes should be prohibited. Much animal experimentation does not have any direct human medical applications. Ethical alternatives include preventative medicine, studies with human volunteers, the use of tissues and cell cultures, and computer simulations.
Some animal-rights advocates use violent, forceful, destructive or harassing so-called "direct action" tactics on people who wear fur or against producers and research institutions. In my judgment, such eco-terrorism is itself immoral and can be counter-productive. Education, boycotts, and well-targeted peaceful civil disobedience are both more moral and more effective. If people see animal-rights advocates as violent, the moral message becomes clouded. Peace!
Animal abuse is one issue that we can do something about as individuals. The consumer is partly responsible for the cruel treatment. Animals that are stressed and loaded with chemicals are also not so healthy to eat. Producers would not inflict so much suffering if there were less demand for cruelty-laden products. Those who eat meat could shift their consumption to naturally-raised animals and towards a more vegetarian diet. Less meat consumption would release vast resources, eliminating the middle-animal to produce more grains for direct human consumption.
The most complete way to avoid cruelty is a vegan diet. Vegan is a more complete type of vegetarianism, avoiding all animal products, including milk and eggs. Instead of milk from cows or goats, vegans use substitutes made of soy and rice. There are vegetable products that can replace eggs and meat. Vegans also need to be aware of animal ingredients in products such as mayonnaise and salad dressing. Food supplements can help obtain some vitamins such as B12.
The laws of morality, health, and economics are in harmony. Humane food production with a shift to a more vegetarian diet would be more healthy, better for the natural environment, economically more efficient, and promote a kinder culture for human beings too.
Here are some relevant internet sites. Listing is purely informational and does not imply any endorsement of any organization or agreement with any tactics.
-- Fred Foldvary
Copyright 2002 by Fred E. Foldvary. All rights reserved. No part of this material may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, which includes but is not limited to facsimile transmission, photocopying, recording, rekeying, or using any information storage or retrieval system, without giving full credit to Fred Foldvary and The Progress Report.
Also see Foldvary on Animal Rights and So-Called Scientists Seek to Injure Then Kill Monkeys
Tell your opinion and interact with others in the Discussion Room
What are your views? Share your opinion with your fellow readers at The Progress Report:
Page One Page Two Archive Discussion Room Letters What's Geoism?