Chapter 7: Animal Ethics

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. <;.

Fisher, James. “From Moral Issues That Divide Us and Applied Ethics: A Sourcebook.” Animals. 2015. Web. 12 Oct. 2015.


6 thoughts on “Chapter 7: Animal Ethics

  1. sariegel says:

    Anna, in your blogpost I see you getting a feel for the terrain of animal ethics and the current American perspective. I think that’s really important as you gear up to solidify some research questions to pursue for your final paper. That being said, I don’t think I’m clear on what your research question is. That might just be my lack of perception, but perhaps you could specify your research question(s) in your future writing. I know you mentioned some questions, though these seem to be rather black and white in their formulation. Perhaps try to phrase them as how or why questions rather than yes or no questions. This could really help you continue to be explorative in your research.

    The idea of animal ethics is one we discussed briefly in my UHP freshmen seminar. If you haven’t already seen it, you might want to watch Food Inc. It’s a documentary that deals with problems in the American diet and the way in which we grow food and raise livestock. It’s definitely a movie that will make you think, and it might just give you some inspiration for avenues of research.

    I love that you related your research on animal ethics to your previous research on the ethics of solitary confinement. One thing you mention in your post is that to a “reasonable person” a human ranks higher than an animal. At first, I almost thought you were downgrading your research into animal ethics. So is your question then to what degree animal farming practices are ethical? Are you considering trying to answer the question of how we can make these practices more ethical?


  2. annawallace003 says:

    My question isn’t directly stated in the post but it is “Should the farming industry be allowed to use animals the same way that other industries use machines?” In order to give the group a bit of background information, I included two examples of the types of conditions that these types of animals are living in.

    My final paper doesn’t directly involve the topic that I wrote on this week so I chose to explore something a little different. To explain what I was trying to convey when I said “reasonable person” I would compare it to saying the “average citizen” but I can see how that could be interpreted the wrong way. I just wanted to make it clear that humans are given more attention than animals when put in similar harmful environments.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. ballen68 says:

    Great post. I believe that the way we treat animals here in the United States is absolutely ridiculous. Not only that, but we have started a trend in our diet that is unsustainable. We can not continue to eat this way and expect the resources and animals to last and be enough for everyone to eat this way. The U.S. diet is extremely unhealthy as you mentioned on top of all this, so this is a critical that we need to address quickly before it is too late. I did not realize to the extent how many animals we are killing every year just in our country. It amazed me when I saw the numbers you provided, and those numbers explain exactly why we have these problems and mistreatment of farm animals. I think that a great topic for you to consider when moving forward is to look at possible solutions. An obvious one may be to lower the amount of meat we eat, but how exactly do we go about practically doing this? What are some government policies that could be implemented, or is it even ethical for the government to step into that role of making decisions for us? One of the other options we are seeing is a more traditional form of farming where animals are free to roam, not injected with hormones and other chemicals, and fed the correct foods. This option has benefits along with the downside that you cannot efficiently produce as much meat as when producing in massive quantities. I look forward to seeing you continue to research the farming and meat industry in the United States as this topic is extremely interesting to me and research it myself for personal benefits.



  4. Colin Murphy says:

    Hi Anna,

    It certainly is alarming how we as humans do treat animals with such little respect. On the other side, though, we do all need to eat; and since we’re growing so rapidly as a population it (far from ethically) makes sense that we “upgrade” animals as machines. You’ve done a great job of “laying your research out on the table,” so to speak. What I suggest you do next is draw some conclusions, form a hypotheses, and conduct some more research. After all, the process of Slow Research takes time! For example, you might conclude that humans tend to think and behave a certain way so as to better themselves (at the expense of others). You already compiled three different schools of thought (Clear Line Position, Equality Position, and Sliding Scale Position) in your research, so the next step would be to form a hypothesis or ask a question: On average, what percentage of the population sides with each of the three positions? And what does this say about us as humans? Then you could conduct some more research; it’s funny, more research is almost always the answer in this class!

    In your post you make the strong case that animals are being treated as machines, and that this practice is unethical. What about a sentient being designed and made entirely by humans? Development in the field of artificial intelligence has come a long way and it’s a topic we’ll all need to consider in our futures. Would treating a sentient being made from computers (a machine) as a machine be ethical? Perhaps you could relate this thought (or another similar one) to the same idea you discuss here.

    Again, great work Anna! I look forward to hearing what you’ll bring to our discussion next week.

    – Colin


  5. slaudeman says:

    The comments about chicken feed farms you bring up strike home with me – my family keeps chickens, and as such, we are extremely aware of the outside control that is exercised over these birds who are imprisoned in such a way. Many times, they lay eggs onto a conveyor belt. If you have ever gotten an egg at the store and noticed how pale the yolk (or yellow) is, then know that that particular coloration is entirely unnatural. Free-range chickens have the benefit of an outside life, which leads to a much more varied diet, including bugs, grass, assorted plant matter, and even small reptiles. The pre-processed feed that factory chickens are fed lacks a lot of those nutrients. However, as you mention, the lack of control is the same in solitary confinement as it is in feed farms.

    When confined in such a small space, with no outside contact, it may become difficult to maintain any sense of control over your own situation, or any sense of connectivity with the outside world. I think that one of the next directions you could take your research in is the way that lack of control influences humanity psychologically and emotionally, or to abstract it even more, how does isolation evoke the impression of helplessness? How could this be addressed? Some topics you could use to address that issue might be solitary confinement, the sense of self-worth, the level of control that is lost when incarcerated, and the manner in which humans react to a loss of control.

    -Sara Laudeman


  6. bsejdiu942 says:

    Hey Anna,

    I liked how we both focused on animal production but from two different perspectives. Mine in regards to population growth and yours in regard to animal treatment/confinement. This topic alone is very large and has many different facets you can relate it to. For example, the environmental, cultural, health, and societal implications. I believe your research is heading towards the societal implications, such as how we view animals, and how our changing perspective of their level of ‘worth’ is resulting in more and more people wanting to move away from the current models of meat growth. You can definitely expand this to other countries for comparison. Use models of nations that are currently developed/modern, and comparing those to postmodern countries, while also doing so with developing nations. How do these nations deal with meat production? Are they sustainable? Are they ethically responsible? What are our alternatives? You could perhaps focus much more on the idea of what it would take to change our diets. Our society currently reinforces meat products, especially in the fast food industry. What would be the economic implications if everyone just dropped a meaty diet?
    Pertaining to the question of animal sentience, you can focus even deeper by looking up research on the emotional and physical state of these animals in these cruel conditions. What is going on in their brains, what are they feeling while living in these conditions. While reading into my own research on animal sentience, animals do release hormones that affect their mental states; aka emotion. Overall, I like the research you’re currently discovering and urge you to continue along with it.



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