- Campus copes with holiday grief
- New water plan saves big money
- Campus police offer holiday safety tips
- Alys Stephen Center Screens Walking the Camino: Six Ways to Santiago
- Hospital feeds underprivileged new moms
- UAB’s Alys Stephens Center presents Yo-Yo Ma Dec. 6
- Southern Miss tops Blazers, 62-27, in season ending game
- Henry Panion selected for 2014 Alabama African-American History Calendar
- Enjoy Christmas at the Alys Dec. 2, “The Season’s First Jingle”
- Engineering’s Ning wins ASTM International award
- Collat School of Business unveils sign at celebration
- Heudebert elected master by American College of Physicians
- Anti-aging strategies can improve more than looks
- On campus ‘blackout’ taken in stride
- Bariatric Surgery Services to present annual fashion show Nov. 25
Eat what you will: On the treatment of animals
“What should people eat?” This issue, though simple in nature and far less controversial than many others, is actually very difficult to address. Like other grey-area topics, it only finds absolutes in the most extreme of circumstances. Personal taste may play a critical role in what is acceptable to eat, but it is broadly accepted that the use of unnecessarily cruel treatment toward living creatures are deplorable and unacceptable practices.
The wording of “unnecessarily cruel treatment toward living creatures” leaves an open field for interpretation, and freedom of that scope guarantees an array of divergent viewpoints. However, I believe that a large enough consensus on the definition of “unnecessarily cruel” can be found. “Factory farming” is the enterprise of large-scale, industrialized, intensive rearing of livestock, poultry, and fish. The process is lucrative, and extremely brutal. As long as the product meets its market demands, every other aspect of the individual animal’s life is taken as a superficiality and met with no concern. Gene Baur elaborates on the horrid nature of factory farming in his book, Farm Sanctuary: Changing Hearts and Minds About Animals and Food.
Cows, pigs, sheep, chickens, ducks and turkeys are confined by the hundreds and thousands in cages, crates or crowded pens. They are fattened with antibiotic laced feed and bred to grow big and fast or to pump out milk or their young until they are killed and sent to slaughter, too. The most marketable parts of their bodies are now so outsized that many of the animals have trouble standing, let alone walking. Millions are starved, mutilated or even discarded. The vast majority do not reach adulthood.
The terminology of “unnecessarily cruel treatment toward living creatures” may still lean towards a slightly interpretational side, but I believe a large enough majority of people would agree that industrial tactics such as factory farming are immoral in every regard. Unreasonable ruthlessness and blatant disrespect for cognizant life are depreciable to a far more prominent degree than simply eating a food that is “bizarre.”
The notion of cognizance brings up another point in the discussion of dietary acceptance. Another force that drives our moral dining regulations is an often unnoticed judgement of the consciousness behind what we may consider food. For example, domesticated canines, primates and marine mammals (whales, dolphins) are almost always considered taboo to eat. Why are they held to a higher standard, set apart from the regulations and policies governing other types of creatures? These animals, through one device or another, are closer to human beings than others. Primates are our nearest biological relatives; dolphins are extremely intelligent and can interact and even play with humans; dogs, while not on the same level intellectually as most primates or marine mammals, have for centuries been loyal and loving companions to humans. Through their ability to relate to us, we find an emotional attachment to them and consequently find the thought of eating them unethical.
In contrast, creatures like cockroaches, locusts and rats, all just as equally “animal” as any other, are met with near universal disgust. Cows, pigs and chickens are often seen as a source of food rather than a living creature. Does this bias mean that eating dog is always bad, or having a pet cockroach is always horrifying or that thinking a cow has feelings is over-sentimental? Despite the driving opinions of the majority, I believe that this unfair judgement of animals, as worth eating and others as totally off limits, is hypocritical. To vouch for the acceptance of eating one type of meat while condemning the consumption of another is as faulty as claiming the ideals of a vegetarian while still enjoying an occasional burger. This does not mean that if you eat any meat then you are also required to eat veal or dolphin, but it does require a sense of understanding toward the dietary customs of others and a recognition of the fact that eating one type of cognizant animal is just the same as eating another.
People should be allowed freedom when given the opportunity to eat, but they should also be limited by a few rules. Brutal treatment of the animals that sustain our lives is disrespectful and embarrassing. There may be very few, if any, true absolutes in the arguments regarding what humans should and should not eat, but I believe that these two postulates are as close as anyone will ever get.