## Is purchasing factory farmed animal products ethical?

• 900
Is it ethical to drive a car?

Cars pollute the atmosphere and by driving one we contribute to the suffering of countless living beings in the same death-by-a-thousand-cuts manner as buying animal products.

I'm willing to consider the ethics of things like this, but I can almost guarantee you that the logical conclusions of these ideas are irreconcilable with modern life, and perhaps any kind of life.

So lets have this discussion, but without any attitudes of moral superiority.
• 13
You don't have to drive a car to survive, you don't have to eat animal products to survive. These are choices that facilitate a more comfortable/easier life.

It's not about being morally superior, it's about facing up to the truth of one's actions. If you wish to continue to eat animal products or drive a car or buy products made by sweat shop workers yet believe these things are wrong then you are doing something unethical. None of these things are necessary for humans to live. (Although even something that may be essential to survival could still be considered unethical).

If however you believe these actions are not in any way egregious/bad, then you are not being unethical if you perpetuate them.

Leading an ethical life is not a simple endeavour. The more intelligent and thoughtful you are the more complex living an ethical life will become. But I think it is important to constantly examine one's own actions and be as happy as possible about them if you intend to do so.
• 528
Philosophim

It is not ethical for the workers to add more suffering to the animals than necessary. But that should be managed by the business. Incidents of particular employees acting unethically does not paint all people in the organization as wrong or unethical. Typically bringing these things to light puts pressure on business owners to fix their image.
— Philosophim

The aforesaid beatings and torture would not happen if people didn't pay for the animals products.

Surely one should stop purchasing it, thus eliminating any suffering that was resulting from you doing so.

Sorry for the delay on the reply. Saying the purchase of animal products is the cause of animal abuse, is not a logical conclusion. People choose to purchase animal products, and workers can choose to do so humanely, or inhumanely.

Its like saying money causes wars, so lets give up money. Its not money. Its how we choose to obtain it and use it that determines whether it is good or evil. Life is about the breakdown and consumption of other life. This is something we cannot avoid. People need/want meat and other animal products. We can advocate that this is done ethically. But because some choose to do so unethically, we should not purchase any products, even from those who do so humanely? That is not a proper conclusion.
• 13
"...need/want meat and other animal products." Quite a crucial difference. Need or want? If you think humans 'need' to eat animal products to live then you a have much easier time of believing you can eat animal products ethically. But if you just 'want' them and still think animals deserve to be treated with respect rather than just as a commodity to be consumed then not so much.
• 38

I am sorry, but I like to eat meat. And I can't afford expensive meat.

I figure the meat I buy is factory raised.

I am an asshole if you ask any chicken, cow, or pig.

So are you for making me feel bad.

:naughty:

The problem with this is that it’s hard to quantify qualities such as suffering, even among ourselves, much less other animals. How can you be sure that factory farmed animals are indeed suffering at all?

I don't know for sure, but it's extremely likely considering that they have nerves and a brain, and they scream and cry, and show signs of trauma.

If you can stomach some of the footage, check it out. It's pretty convincing.

Thus, there’s no reason to think that factory farm animals are necessarily suffering more than the average human due to their discomfort.

No way. If you can stomach it, check out some of the footage.

It’s a luxury of the west to sit around discussing the ethics of rearing animals to eat and meanwhile thousands of animals are killed so we can buy a Big Mac.

I wonder how many Big Macs would be sold if people had to watch the process before buying it. As I say, it didn't even occur to me that I was contributing to cruelty.

If however you think being cruel to animals is wrong then eating factory farmed animal products is ethically wrong. Any other answer is merely self deception so as to allay feelings of guilt so animal products can continue to be consumed.

I thought I would be getting some tougher arguments to deal with, but I am becoming more convinced that the cruelty involved in the process cannot be justified.

Is it ethical to drive a car?

Cars pollute the atmosphere and by driving one we contribute to the suffering of countless living beings in the same death-by-a-thousand-cuts manner as buying animal products.

As a lot of things would be different if people didn't use cars, I don't feel confident giving an answer either way. As @infin8fish indicates, although counter-intuitive, it may be that driving is wrong.

I'm willing to consider the ethics of things like this, but I can almost guarantee you that the logical conclusions of these ideas are irreconcilable with modern life, and perhaps any kind of life.

So lets have this discussion, but without any attitudes of moral superiority.

As I sympathize with your views on antinatalism, you, @schopenhauer1 etc probably have the best chance of convincing me.

Sorry for the delay on the reply. Saying the purchase of animal products is the cause of animal abuse, is not a logical conclusion. People choose to purchase animal products, and workers can choose to do so humanely, or inhumanely.

I appreciate you commenting.

I can't remember saying that the purchase of animal products is the cause of the animal abuse. As you have quoted, I did say:

The aforesaid beatings and torture would not happen if people didn't pay for the animals products.

Surely one should stop purchasing it, thus eliminating any suffering that was resulting from you doing so.

I would go further and say, although not the sole cause of the animal abuse in question, it is a necessary part of what causes it.

People need/want meat and other animal products. We can advocate that this is done ethically. But because some choose to do so unethically, we should not purchase any products, even from those who do so humanely? That is not a proper conclusion.

As @infin8fish indicates, we don't need animal products. And as @Bitter Crank and @TheMadFool have alluded to, "humanely farmed animals" suffer cruelty and abuse too.
• 9k
"humanely farmed animals" suffer cruelty and abuse

Your argument resembles those of antinatalists: "being born means forced suffering". No matter how you start, you end up with livestock suffering. There's no nuance in your argument.

Animals suffer--period. Wild or farmed, cow or human being, there is no escaping suffering. Abuse can be avoided but suffering can not.

There are solid arguments for vegetarian diets--the strongest one is the ecological argument. Farming animals produces more CO2 than farming crops only. You'd be on solid ground with that approach.

(within limits) suffering is compatible with a good life--for any animal, human or other. Suffering isn't compatible with some rose-tinted "perfect life", which is OK, because there is no such thing as a "perfect life" for any creature, anywhere.
• 13
If viewed on a practical rather than theoretical level it still means that mass production of animal products would probably be considered unethical by a large section of the population. (If they took the time to look into what happens in factory farming).

If animal products were farmed in what most would consider an ethical way: large areas to roam, no cruelty etcetera then animal products on an "I can eat them every day of the week scale" no longer becomes economically viable. I was looking into this a little and it seems that if enough people were to turn to a plant based diet then the whole factory farming industry would collapse seeing as it is purely an economy of scale. The numbers that have to change aren't even that large. So at this moment in history eating animal products is, in practical terms, synonymous with factory farming and all the cruelty that process entails.

Whichever route you want to take be it animal cruelty, climate change or health, there is, in my opinion, a strong ethical argument for rejecting factory farming of animal products.
• 38

Your argument resembles those of antinatalists: "being born means forced suffering". No matter how you start, you end up with livestock suffering. There's no nuance in your argument.

Animals suffer--period. Wild or farmed, cow or human being, there is no escaping suffering. Abuse can be avoided but suffering can not.

There are solid arguments for vegetarian diets--the strongest one is the ecological argument. Farming animals produces more CO2 than farming crops only. You'd be on solid ground with that approach.

(within limits) suffering is compatible with a good life--for any animal, human or other. Suffering isn't compatible with some rose-tinted "perfect life", which is OK, because there is no such thing as a "perfect life" for any creature, anywhere.

I think to be consistent in their principles an antinatalist would have to be in favour of veganism.

My view is that it is not always wrong to procreate, and that suffering can be justified if the life is overall good. Many if not most of the animals in question have an abominable life, full of unbearable suffering - and that's what I am seeking justification for.
• 530
I don't know for sure, but it's extremely likely considering that they have nerves and a brain, and they scream and cry, and show signs of trauma.

We may be talking about two different things. Intentionally abusing animals is wrong, and is very often what is shown in documentaries, but I don’t think abuse is necessarily entailed by factory farming. In no way is it necessary for farmers to beat, starve, or otherwise harm animals. So, I’m not trying to argue that cattle don’t feel pain, or experience suffering when they are abused. I was thinking more along the lines of things like animals being kept in cramped spaces. But determining whether or not this affects their overall happiness seems like a grey area. We often keep pets in much smaller spaces than their natural habitats (I.e. goldfish, hamsters, rabbits, etc.), but there doesn’t seem to be much of a negative effect on their quality of life, at least as far as we can tell. The same would apply to zoos. If you could expand on what conditions specifically you’re against, then I could probably give you a better reply.
• 8.3k
Let's face it. We're predators. Some even go so far as to say we're apex predators. If that's true do we have a choice in the matter? Methinks we're more opportunists rather than full-fledged predators and despite the negative connotations of being so it's been sort of a blessing going by how successful our species is. It pays and pays well to be not finicky about what we eat. There's hardly a time when we run out of food and being able to tap into every available energy source has huge upsides; for instance starvation is no longer as big a threat as it would be had we not been opportunists.

Coming to "...the negative connotations..." I mentioned, being opportunists we're basically lowlifes - nothing is beneath us - and that makes us as dangerous, as friend or foe. Frankly speaking, the ethical colloquy we, some at least, engage in might be just a smokescreen to conceal our true nature as opportunists behind a facade of affected goodness. Or, if one's a true blue optimist, we maybe onto something - could this be a case of an authentic change of heart?

At any rate, humans seem to be at the helm of the ship of destiny for our world. What we do has the power to make or break, what appears to be, the fragile earth. Funnily, it reminds me of Noah's ark. In that Bibilcal story, humans, Noah and his family, save the animals from the flood and, in my view, something doesn't add up if that herculean task was undertaken only to ensure a dependable food supply.
• 38

We may be talking about two different things. Intentionally abusing animals is wrong, and is very often what is shown in documentaries, but I don’t think abuse is necessarily entailed by factory farming. In no way is it necessary for farmers to beat, starve, or otherwise harm animals. So, I’m not trying to argue that cattle don’t feel pain, or experience suffering when they are abused. I was thinking more along the lines of things like animals being kept in cramped spaces. But determining whether or not this affects their overall happiness seems like a grey area. We often keep pets in much smaller spaces than their natural habitats (I.e. goldfish, hamsters, rabbits, etc.), but there doesn’t seem to be much of a negative effect on their quality of life, at least as far as we can tell. The same would apply to zoos. If you could expand on what conditions specifically you’re against, then I could probably give you a better reply.

Yes, I am talking about the abuse.

My point is that the animals are only suffering the abuse because people are paying for them to be factory farmed. Shouldn't we stop doing this?
• 530
My point is that the animals are only suffering the abuse because people are paying for them to be factory farmed. Shouldn't we stop doing this?

I don’t really see the connection. When I buy meat, that’s the only thing I’m paying for; food. My desire to eat meat in no way necessitates animal abuse. That occurs because some people are abusive, or controlling, or whatever particular issue the abuser has. That has nothing to do with me. I’m not asking farmers to abuse animals, or preferring meat from abused animals, so how am I culpable in any way? Why should I give up my craving for cheap meat because some farmer is sadistic?
• 38

I don’t really see the connection. When I buy meat, that’s the only thing I’m paying for; food. My desire to eat meat in no way necessitates animal abuse. That occurs because some people are abusive, or controlling, or whatever particular issue the abuser has. That has nothing to do with me. I’m not asking farmers to abuse animals, or preferring meat from abused animals, so how am I culpable in any way? Why should I give up my craving for cheap meat because some farmer is sadistic?

The abuse is a consequence of us buying the products.
• 530

So you’re saying that people who enjoy, or feel compelled, or whatever, abusing animals would not do so if we didn’t buy meat? My inclination is that even if these factory farms were shut down, the abusers would simply find other animals, or perhaps even people, to abuse. Unless you’re proposing that somehow abusing animals is economically advantageous, I don’t see how owning a factory farm would cause someone to do so. If that’s the case, explain how that works and we can talk about it, because I have no idea whether that’s accurate or not.
• 31
The OP brings up several semi-unrelated issues. Namely, abuse of factory farmed animals is by definition not the intention of the business. Thus it is rightly condemned but it is reasonable to purchase products from the business since it is not the intent of the business owner. Separately, it is also reasonable to boycott factory farm products because small farm animals experience a better life, though one could forgo the boycott if the plight of factory raised animals was not of importance to you. Lastly while it is completely reasonable (on many fronts) to be a vegetarian, it is illogical to prohibit the culling of domesticated animals, since that is the purpose of animal domestication.
• 17

It entirely depends on what one believes to be ethical. Therefore, I don't think there is any objective answer to this.

Furthermore, one's ethics are informed by one's upbringing and in my opinion more importantly one's socioeconomic status.

Suppose two people were to equally believe that eating factory farmed animals is unethical yet one is economically disadvantaged and chooses to eat it anyway since alternatively raised animals is too expensive, would we judge the latter for being unethical?
• 38

So you’re saying that people who enjoy, or feel compelled, or whatever, abusing animals would not do so if we didn’t buy meat? My inclination is that even if these factory farms were shut down, the abusers would simply find other animals, or perhaps even people, to abuse.

They are only doing it because the opportunity has provided itself to them. No way would they go out and find that amount of animals to abuse. And they know they would be locked up for doing it to humans.

The OP brings up several semi-unrelated issues. Namely, abuse of factory farmed animals is by definition not the intention of the business. Thus it is rightly condemned but it is reasonable to purchase products from the business since it is not the intent of the business owner. Separately, it is also reasonable to boycott factory farm products because small farm animals experience a better life, though one could forgo the boycott if the plight of factory raised animals was not of importance to you. Lastly while it is completely reasonable (on many fronts) to be a vegetarian, it is illogical to prohibit the culling of domesticated animals, since that is the purpose of animal domestication.

So, you believe it is the intent that matters as opposed to the consequences?

It entirely depends on what one believes to be ethical. Therefore, I don't think there is any objective answer to this.

Furthermore, one's ethics are informed by one's upbringing and in my opinion more importantly one's socioeconomic status.

Suppose two people were to equally believe that eating factory farmed animals is unethical yet one is economically disadvantaged and chooses to eat it anyway since alternatively raised animals is too expensive, would we judge the latter for being unethical?

Yes, either there is no objective answer, or it cannot be proven. The only way to argue against someone's ethics is to show that they're being inconsistent.

The OP was to see people's subjective view on if it is ethical. It is interesting, the amount of people that have ethical positions that allow for them to discount the likely consequences of their actions.

While not eating animal products is the cheapest of all, I understand your point. If eating factory farmed animal products was the cheapest, and it was all they could afford, that could well justify it. @TheHedoMinimalist gave another good justification. However, I cannot find justification for almost all of us in the west doing it.
• 530
They are only doing it because the opportunity has provided itself to them.

That’s a really bad argument. This is like saying rapists only rape because they see attractive victims.
• 1.9k
Suppose two people were to equally believe that eating factory farmed animals is unethical yet one is economically disadvantaged and chooses to eat it anyway since alternatively raised animals is too expensive, would we judge the latter for being unethical?

A good and considerate point. :up: One could go further and ask: should people struggling to survive even care what farmers are doing?

Factory farming ought to be banned imo, as should the import of factory farming produce. This would remove the two-tier system that allows unethical food to be arbitrarily cheap and ethical food arbitrarily expensive. Supermarkets have shown themselves amply adept at driving down prices for consumers (an ethical problem in itself).

In the meantime, if you can, eat ethically sourced food, otherwise you are choosing to give money to animal abusers. If you cannot afford it, there is no ethical decision to be made*.

It is more complicated than that. We eat far more meat than we need to. Many people who can't afford a week's worth of organic meat for their family a week don't need to.

A great way to eat is direct from ethical farms, many of whom deliver great quality food for free at supermarket prices.
• 233
"Is producing factory farmed animal products ethical?" I think is the better question - because the consumer cannot be expected to bear the cognitive burden of knowing how everything they consume is produced.

Producers are in a much better position - to know how things are produced, and effect beneficial change. However, producers cannot do this in a competitive market without lawmakers establishing a regulatory floor, informed by science.

But as science is seen only as a tool, and not as an authoritative understanding of reality, lawmakers make regulatory decisions based primarily on national and economic interests. Without a common recognition of science, competition implies a race to the bottom - and regulation for ethical production becomes "an unnecessary burden on business."
• 262
Allow me to rephrase it “is the purchase of factory farmed human (An Animal) products ethical?”

It’s well know that human commodities exist in economics. We would have to first establish the “likeness” or level of “kinship” Between humans and animals. Do we both deserve the same rights? Freedom? - From exploitation, from Harm, from objectification. One must ask themselves if they feel all life forms are deserving of certain levels of respect. Considering we barely respect each other I don’t expect that we will soon respect our perhaps lesser informed/ knowledgeable counterparts - the animal kingdom in the same light as each other.
On one side we have the “one must eat” ie. survive in a competitive “eat or be eaten” sense. But on the other hand we have the question “can we do better than that?” Is the human capacity to empathise or relate to others important and should we apply it to what we consume.

We often grapple with a guilt- superiority dynamic. “We can” (we are potently capable of many things) but “should we” (ethics and moral implications of living). In my experience much like a gardener tends to their herbs and botanics or a Shepard to their sheep or livestock... their is an element of reciprocity that is essential to the health of both parties. Eating mistreated food is to the detriment of the consumer. But to not eat is to fail to thrive. It’s a balance. Perhaps one we are losing to material desire.

I would ask oneself “what can I eat and feel good about eating it while preserving my health?” And if animal products currently don’t meet that standard then there is your answer
• 31
So, you believe it is the intent that matters as opposed to the consequences?

Absolutely. Changing to an electric car after the Exxon Valdiz catastrophe is logical, buying gas from Shell and boycotting ExxonMobil is not.
• 38

They are only doing it because the opportunity has provided itself to them.
— Down The Rabbit Hole

That’s a really bad argument. This is like saying rapists only rape because they see attractive victims.

Rapists can only rape when opportunities for doing so arise. When we're talking about factory farming, it is our actions that creates fresh opportunities for the animal abuse.

In the meantime, if you can, eat ethically sourced food, otherwise you are choosing to give money to animal abusers. If you cannot afford it, there is no ethical decision to be made*.

Not eating animal products is the cheapest, but I take your point.

"Is producing factory farmed animal products ethical?" I think is the better question - because the consumer cannot be expected to bear the cognitive burden of knowing how everything they consume is produced.

My question was more whether the action of buying factory farmed animal products was ethical as opposed to the intent of the person purchasing it.

Allow me to rephrase it “is the purchase of factory farmed human (An Animal) products ethical?”

It’s well know that human commodities exist in economics. We would have to first establish the “likeness” or level of “kinship” Between humans and animals. Do we both deserve the same rights? Freedom? - From exploitation, from Harm, from objectification. One must ask themselves if they feel all life forms are deserving of certain levels of respect. Considering we barely respect each other I don’t expect that we will soon respect our perhaps lesser informed/ knowledgeable counterparts - the animal kingdom in the same light as each other.
On one side we have the “one must eat” ie. survive in a competitive “eat or be eaten” sense. But on the other hand we have the question “can we do better than that?” Is the human capacity to empathise or relate to others important and should we apply it to what we consume.

We often grapple with a guilt- superiority dynamic. “We can” (we are potently capable of many things) but “should we” (ethics and moral implications of living). In my experience much like a gardener tends to their herbs and botanics or a Shepard to their sheep or livestock... their is an element of reciprocity that is essential to the health of both parties. Eating mistreated food is to the detriment of the consumer. But to not eat is to fail to thrive. It’s a balance. Perhaps one we are losing to material desire.

I would ask oneself “what can I eat and feel good about eating it while preserving my health?” And if animal products currently don’t meet that standard then there is your answer

Yes, what's the trait that justifies us treating non-human animals this way, but not human beings?

Is it intelligence? If so, would it be okay to slaughter severely mentally handicapped people if we liked the way they taste?

Absolutely. Changing to an electric car after the Exxon Valdiz catastrophe is logical, buying gas from Shell and boycotting ExxonMobil is not.

We know the factory farming industry causes tremendous pain and suffering. To clarify, your view is that it's not wrong for us to fund this, as long as we or the business owner don't intend for the suffering?
• 233
My question was more whether the action of buying factory farmed animal products was ethical as opposed to the intent of the person purchasing it.

I know, I read it. I think it's the wrong question, because, as I explained, the consumer cannot be expected to bear the cognitive burden of knowing how everything they consume is produced. That's what's wrong with the current approach to sustainability - mainly coming from the left. It assumes consumer sovereignty is the answer to sustainability - and it's really not. It should be about ethical and sustainable production - not expecting the consumer to stand in the supermarket reading between the lines of the fine print on the back of a horsemeat lasagne!
• 66

There is surely some ethical reason to mitigate your impact though, right? For instance, you might eat meat, but not eat it for every meal the way many Americans do. If people just ate meat 2-3 meals a week instead of up to 21, the nation as a whole could be healthier, drastically reduce carbon output, and return millions of acres of land to prarie (which also absorbs way more water and would reduce flooding, while the reduction in pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizer would improve water quality). From a policy perspective, externalities should be priced into the cost of meat. Instead we subsidize meat and dairy over production at a high rate.

Take out subsidies and add in a carbon and water pollution tax and the price of ground beef goes from $4 to$12, and people will eat less beef. You could also use the revenues to support social welfare programs.

Cars are a great example. Yes, America's low population density means many people need cars. Do 69% of people need to drive trucks or SUVs? Most never go off road and rarely ever haul anything. The truck for American males is like a $45,000 handbag. You gotta show you're rugged with your truck and$5,000 SCAR-H and body armor, but you can't run a mile, do a single pull up, or tie the knots to set up a tarp. Gas is also heavily subsidized in that gas taxes are well below the cost to maintain roads, so that people who make a free choice to drive heavier vehicles don't pay for the extra wear and tear. The US military also has to engage in expensive adventurism and distasteful alliances to keep gas cheap, because people can't afford to drive their trucks if gas prices go up (or afford the payments on said truck, because again, for most owners it's a \$40k handbag they can't really afford).

IT is the same way. You can at least recycle your old phones and computers instead of throwing them in the trash.
• 1.9k
Not eating animal products is the cheapest, but I take your point.

Not being able to eat them because of your finances is discriminatory. Not eating them irrespective of your finances, sure, that's your choice. No beef with vegetarians, if you'll pardon the pun.
• 5
With this topic, your ethical principles are personified by your spending. I get grass fed lamb and mutton cheaper than prison raised. (don't think that's even a thing here in NZ). Ill mostly buy free range eggs/chicken but can't always afford it. I believe its unethical to support prison farming industries, but I guess I'm only half concerned.
• 900
There is surely some ethical reason to mitigate your impact though, right?

Perhaps, but what I tried to point out is the following:

To stop eating meat is basically foregoing a luxury or convenience because it came about through what one deems unethical practices.

But what of many other, similar luxuries and conveniences in our lives; superfluous, but in some direct or indirect way harmful to others (like driving cars).

If one allows themselves to cherry pick what luxuries one sacrifices and what luxuries one chooses to keep, it quickly begs the question "Why?"

And if one allows themselves to cherry pick, then shouldn't others be allowed to cherry pick as well?

This is why I noted that this should be discussed without attitudes of moral superiority; if anything it should show how morally imperfect we are.
• 3.6k
If one allows themselves to cherry pick what luxuries one sacrifices and what luxuries one chooses to keep, it quickly begs the question "Why?"

Simple. If you have two harmful luxuries and you 'cherry pick' one of them to eliminate, that's halved the amount of harm you're causing, which is a good thing. You appear to be raising the property of consistency above the property of causing harm. Not sure why you would want to do that. Is a person who consistently violent towards everyone a better person that one who is occasionally violent but restrains themselves in certain circumstances?
• 900
You appear to be raising the property of consistency above the property of causing harm.

I do nothing of the sort.
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