By Stephen Kaufman, M.D., Christian Vegetarian Association (CVA)
Some people argue that it is “humane” to kill young, healthy animals, as long
as there is no pain or suffering leading up to and including slaughter. However,
animals have an intense desire to live. Does this desire deserve moral
Those who deny that this desire to live is morally important (hereafter
“deniers”) argue that it is “instinct.” True, there is probably a genetic basis
for this desire, but are not many of our own desires (including a desire to
live) ingrained, with a presumably genetic basis? Whether the desire derives
from genetic factors, early childhood experiences, or other sources does not
seem morally relevant for either humans or nonhumans. We should respect the
needs and desires of others, and discounting desires of others on the grounds of
their presumed sources seems arbitrary and is, often, self-serving.
Deniers sometimes assert that farmed animals have humans to thank for their
very existence, and a premature death is better than no life at all. However, a
nonbeing cannot be wronged, so it is fallacious to claim that an animal who
never existed has been harmed by not being offered the gift of life. In
contrast, once an animal becomes a living, feeling being with needs and desires,
addressing these needs and desires become morally relevant.
Next week, I will discuss how it is difficult to trust producers of “humane meat,” and how those who claim to eat only “humane meat” find it socially difficult to avoid consuming the products of factory farms.