The Morality of Meat

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Hogs in a Confined Animal Feeding Operation
Hogs in a Confined Animal Feeding Operation (CAFO)

Jeff McMahan, professor of Philosophy at Rutgers, offers a trenchant examination of the problems inherent in the modern practice of meat eating:

“Our own form of predation is of course more refined than those of other meat-eaters, who must capture their prey and tear it apart as it struggles to escape.  We instead employ professionals to breed our prey in captivity and prepare their bodies for us behind a veil of propriety, so that our sensibilities are spared the recognition that we too are predators, red in tooth if not in claw…The reality behind the veil is, however, far worse than that in the natural world.  Our factory farms, which supply most of the meat and eggs consumed in developed societies, inflict a lifetime of misery and torment on our prey, in contrast to the relatively brief agonies endured by the victims of predators in the wild.  From the moral perspective, there is nothing that can plausibly be said in defense of this practice.  To be entitled to regard ourselves as civilized, we must, like Isaiah’s morally reformed lion, eat straw like the ox, or at least the moral equivalent of straw.”

The focus here is on the immorality of killing and consuming other conscious, feeling creatures. Christian viewpoints are represented (especially Isaiah), presented in historical context.

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