Is “Humane” Meat Production Realistic?

I recently received an email from Walter Block, and our debate over the treatment of animals quickly started up again. A snippet (edited slightly for clarity) is posted below. I hope to add more soon.

_____________________________

Dear Walter,


Hello! It’s been a while. Thank you for your kind words.


Walter, you indicated earlier that you agree that it would be morally right to stop a person from “torturing an animal needlessly.” I submit to you that, as I write this email, millions of sentient animals are being tortured needlessly in order that well-to-do Westerners may consume their flesh. Even if you think that such torture should remain legal forever, will you join me in saying that such torture is cruel and that we should therefore promote nonviolent veganism in order to stop it from occurring? As you can see, I am appealing here to Walter-the-ethicist rather than Walter-the-libertarian.

Best,

Tommy

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Dear Tommy:

Yes, I agree. 

Walter the ethicist agrees that such torture is cruel. It should be minimized. Animals should be killed as humanely as possible.

Best regards,

Walter

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Dear Walter,

“Humane slaughter,” conducted en masse, is unrealistic. As I indicated in our last debate, billions of chickens–not to mention hundreds of millions of turkeys, pigs, cows, sheep, and goats–are killed for Americans’ consumption every year. The notion that we can breed, confine, and slaughter all of those animals without resort to the horrific, rough-and-tumble procedures that have come to define the animal exploitation industries is simply fanciful. 

Perhaps your view is that we can and should drastically reduce our consumption of animal products, thereby making it easier to handle animals gently. However, even with less livestock under their control, animal handlers would continue to separate animals from their loved ones in order to prepare them for slaughter. That being the case, a simple reduction in our consumption of processed animals will not be enough to end their psychological suffering. (If you doubt that a being with the cognitive abilities of an animal could ever lament the absence of his loved ones, consider the fact that human babies–to whom certain animals are cognitively comparable–may cry out for their parents when separated from them even temporarily.)

Perhaps, against all the odds, you have some way of demonstrating that millions of animals could be killed without their experiencing physical or psychological suffering. If so, you still have the burden of demonstrating that animals have no interest in continuing to live, and I am not convinced that you have met that burden.

As always, I am interested in getting your thoughts, so please do let me know whether you find this analysis sound. 


Warm regards,

Tommy

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Dear Tommy:

As an ethicist, I salute your concerns. But, I’m not mainly an ethicist. I’m mainly a libertarian. In the latter role, I don’t think cruelty to animals should be a crime.

Best regards,

Walter

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Posted in Animal rights, Peace

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