Is Factory or Industrial farming an ethical issue? Should the alleviation of pain and suffering only apply to humans?
Humans understand pain and suffering at a very early age, as evidenced by an infant crying in discontent when they are in need of survival basics or comforting. Very young humans also develop the ability to recognize pain and suffering in other beings as displayed by empathetic actions by children as young as toddlers. Pre-schoolers to primary grades seem to naturally love other living beings, sentient or not. They love and care for kittens and bugs, piglets and frogs, ponies and baby birds fallen from nests, the list goes on. What child doesn’t bring home some creature in need?
Naturally we love but we seem to be taught as a society to “grow up” and love only specific animals. Ethically how do we decide which sentient beings are worthy of love and nurture? Which animals wild and domestic are selected to be treated cruelly or with love and respect?
This question is addressed more below. Read through and share what you think?
Animals are the main victims of history, and the treatment of domesticated animals in industrial farms is perhaps the worst crime in history. The march of human progress is strewn with dead animals.
…., humans appear … and most large animals, along with many smaller ones, have gone. Altogether, sapiens drove to extinction about 50% of all the large terrestrial mammals of the planet before they planted the first wheat field, shaped the first metal tool, wrote the first text or struck the first coin.
… Initially, … humans only managed to domesticate fewer than 20 species of mammals and birds, compared with the countless thousands of species that remained “wild”. … Today, more than 90% of all large animals are domesticated …. the agricultural revolution created completely new kinds of suffering, ones that only worsened with the passing of the generations.
At first sight, domesticated animals may seem much better off than their wild cousins and ancestors. Wild buffaloes spend their days searching for food, water and shelter, and are constantly threatened by lions, parasites, floods and droughts. Domesticated cattle, by contrast, enjoy care and protection from humans. … Is it better to be devoured by a lion than slaughtered by a man? …
What makes the existence of domesticated farm animals particularly cruel is not just the way in which they die but above all how they live. …. The root of the problem is that domesticated animals have inherited from their wild ancestors many physical, emotional and social needs that are redundant in farms. Farmers routinely ignore these needs without paying any economic price. They lock animals in tiny cages, mutilate their horns and tails, separate mothers from offspring, and selectively breed monstrosities. The animals suffer greatly, yet they live on and multiply.
… The theory of evolution maintains that all instincts and drives have evolved in the interest of survival and reproduction. …. however, the instincts and drives they had shaped do not evaporate instantly. Even if they are no longer instrumental for survival and reproduction, they continue to mould the subjective experiences of the animal. The physical, emotional and social needs of present-day cows, dogs and humans don’t reflect their current conditions but rather the evolutionary pressures their ancestors encountered tens of thousands of years ago. Why do modern people love sweets so much? Not because in the early 21st century we must gorge on ice cream and chocolate in order to survive. Rather, it is because if our stone age ancestors came across sweet, ripened fruits, the most sensible thing to do was to eat as many of them as they could as quickly as possible. Why do young men drive recklessly, get involved in violent rows, and hack confidential internet sites? Because they are obeying ancient genetic decrees. Seventy thousand years ago, a young hunter who risked his life chasing a mammoth outshone all his competitors and won the hand of the local beauty – and we are now stuck with his macho genes.
Exactly the same evolutionary logic shapes the life of cows and calves in our industrial farms. Ancient wild cattle were social animals. In order to survive and reproduce, they needed to communicate, cooperate and compete effectively. … Puppies, kittens, calves and children all love to play because evolution implanted this urge in them. … If they didn’t, they would not learn the social skills vital for survival and reproduction. … Similarly, evolution implanted in puppies, kittens, calves and children an overwhelming desire to bond with their mothers. …
What happens when farmers now take a young calf, separate her from her mother, put her in a tiny cage, vaccinate her against various diseases, provide her with food and water, and then, when she is old enough, artificially inseminate her with bull sperm? From an objective perspective, this calf no longer needs either maternal bonding or playmates in order to survive and reproduce. All her needs are being taken care of by her human masters. But from a subjective perspective, the calf still feels a strong urge to bond with her mother and to play with other calves. If these urges are not fulfilled, the calf suffers greatly.
…. Tragically, the agricultural revolution gave humans the power to ensure the survival and reproduction of domesticated animals while ignoring their subjective needs. In consequence, domesticated animals are collectively the most successful animals in the world, and at the same time they are individually the most miserable animals that have ever existed.
The situation has only worsened over the last few centuries, during which time traditional agriculture gave way to industrial farming. In traditional societies … their manipulative powers were limited. In medieval villages, chickens ran free between the houses, pecked seeds and worms from the garbage heap, and built nests in the barn. If an ambitious peasant tried to lock 1,000 chickens inside a crowded coop, a deadly bird-flu epidemic would probably have resulted, wiping out all the chickens, as well as many villagers. … But once modern science had deciphered the secrets of birds, viruses and antibiotics, humans could begin to subject animals to extreme living conditions. …
The fate of animals in such industrial installations has become one of the most pressing ethical issues of our time, …. It concerns the majority of Earth’s large creatures: tens of billions of sentient beings, each with a complex world of sensations and emotions, but which live and die on an industrial production line. …
…The scientific community has used its growing knowledge of animals mainly to manipulate their lives more efficiently in the service of human industry. Yet this same knowledge has demonstrated beyond reasonable doubt that farm animals are sentient beings, with intricate social relations and sophisticated psychological patterns. They may not be as intelligent as us, but they certainly know pain, fear and loneliness. They too can suffer, and they too can be happy.