In order to further investigate last week’s blog post, I have decided to narrow down my topic by taking a closer look at the ethics on the meat and dairy industry. We as humans have been consuming the two for the past two and a half million years however, the only difference now is that industries have incurred a major increase demanded my consumers along with the process in which the demands are satisfied.
Each year, the U.S. alone kills….
9 billion chickens
250 million turkeys
100 million pigs
35 million cows
(McKenna and Light)
These animals are referred to as lives stock or “live inventory” and the majority of them are raised in facilities called factory farms. The official name for these type of farms are Confined Animal Feeding Operations (CAFO’s) and function completely indoors without sunlight or room for animals to exercise.(Behind Bars) In the early to mid 1900’s the United States experienced a dramatic increase of meat eating which allowed for factory farming take off an become as large as it is today.
I want to examine a few of the environments that animals are raised in order to draw a mental picture for the purposes of analyzing the ethics of this practice.
To begin, hens that are used specifically as a source for eggs are not laying eggs as one would suspect. Someone walking around with a woven basket does not collect the eggs that are purchased in grocery stores today; instead a rather different approach is taken. Hens naturally lay eggs when the amount of light during the day increases and stops laying eggs during the fall when the amount of daylight decreases. The commercial industry manipulates this process by creating a change in hormone levels and shortens the time period that hens aren’t producing eggs. In these commercial settings, it has become typical for chickens to live in cages with very minimal space that limit any if not all movement. The cages cause hens to experience continuous suffering that limits almost all of the behaviors that hens would normally perform such as dust bathing, pecking, and scratching. (Behind Bars)
This type of solitary confinement is known to cause a wrath of frustration in both humans but also applies to hens and other animals as well. I previously researched solitary confinement for chapter five’s blog post and there are a lot of people taking a stand to end this cruel and unusual punishment. There are also a lot of people who stand up for animal rights but are often times outnumbered. In the eyes of a reasonable person humans rank higher on the ladder than animals. (McKenna and Light)
Another area I want to discuss is dairy products. Naturally they come from female livestock that must first give birth in order to start the lactation process. However, there are hormones that can prolong the lactation period in order to produce more milk. By causing the animal to continuously lactate, it reduces the life span from 15-20 years down to approximately 6. (McKenna and Light) According to David Coats, “Thirty years ago, the average cow produced 2.5 tons of milk a year; today after many generations of selective breeding and programs of intensive nutrition, she produces nearly 7 tons a year; and still the industry searches for new means of raising her productivity.” Once milk production slows down, the animal is no longer efficient and will be slaughtered shortly after the milk production slows. (Behind Bars)
So the question now is why are these types of practices ethical? We see this same situation in every business when talking about productivity. This concept can be defined as how effectively a firm is when using its resources in attempt to produce at an optimum level. With that being said, the more products being produced results in a lower overhead rate and higher profits. Farming is certainly a major business in the United States but is it morally correct to use animals in the same way that machinery is used? This is a constant question that is being tested and there are a multitude of arguments to support and oppose.
1. Clear Line Position: Humans are dominant compared to other living beings and posses moral personhood
2. Equality Position: Despite obvious distinctions, humans and nonhumans have equal status and cannot be distinguished based on moral worth
3. Sliding Scale Position: There is a hierarchy of moral worth relating to animals and humans
Along with these positions, there are federal laws along with state and international laws that regulate the use of animals. However, animals are still being abused regardless of what the law says.
Behind Bars: An Introduction to Factory Farming. Watkins Glenn, NY: Farm Sanctuary, 2002. Internet resource.
Erin McKenna. and Andrew Light. Animal Pragmatism: Rethinking Human-Nonhuman Relationships. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2004. Project MUSE. Web. 14 Oct. 2015. <https://muse.jhu.edu/>.
Fisher, James. “From Moral Issues That Divide Us and Applied Ethics: A Sourcebook.” Animals. 2015. Web. 12 Oct. 2015.