Does it matter how food animals are treated?

The treatment of food animals is a subject that elicits much debate, especially considering the fact that our moral systems do not accord them an equal moral space as humans. Indeed, unlike household pets such as dogs and cats, food animals are often considered as “just animals”, implying that they do not qualify for any sort of humane treatment. It is important to consider that, though these animals may not possess the metal capabilities of pets such as dogs, they have the ability to experience physical pain and psychological anguish. Consequently, treatment of food animals has significant ethical implications. At the same time, there remains a need to satisfy the humans need for food using products from animal factory farms. These needs often require us to maximize food output from animal farming. Much of the contention concerning treatment of food animals stems from these competing interests.

The main targets of animal rights activism are factory farms. These are large scale farming operations that breed, rear and slaughter animals on a large scale basis. The profit oriented operation of these institutions often results in widespread animal abuse. Factory farms often hold animals in crowded conditions leading to physical and psychological stress. They also feed the animals on artificial feed, resulting in abnormal growth rates and diseases. This practice is compounded by hormone injections that are designed to increase growth even further. In addition, farm slaughter houses sometimes fail to employ ethical slaughtering methods, resulting in cruel slaughtering techniques. Evidently, there is a need to reexamine the practices associated with factory farming. Animals, though intellectually inferior to man, desire protection from cruelty, it is inherently immoral to subject animals to cruelty and no economic incentive should override the right of an animal to live free of cruelty.

It is possible to remain ethical while satisfying humans’ demand for animal products. In fact, this is the premise of ethical animal rearing practice. Ethical farming methods aim to provide comfortable living conditions for animals. They also inform methods of slaughter to minimize suffering. Though food animals are deserving of ethical treatment, their rights do not override the human need to have access to quality food. In this respect, the treatment of food animals is subject to the quality that we require. The need for humane treatment cannot be allowed to compromise the quality of animal food products. Illusively, slaughter of animals cannot is guided first and foremost, by quality standards on aspects such as hygiene. The need to minimize suffering must be considered, but it remains secondary to human requirements for clean food.

Opponents of animal rearing have out forward several arguments against ethical farming. One of these is the claim that food animals possess equal rights to humans. This argument is flawed on several levels. Firstly, though animals have the ability to experience suffering, they do not exhibit self-consciousness. They are also not rational. It is impossible to extend equal human rights to, say, chicken without preventing the harm that billions of domesticated birds would do to the environment. We cannot reason with food animals. The practical thing to do is to continue our domestication of these animals, but treat them as unequal subjects.  This will require us to care for them, providing the resources required for comfortable living conditions with a goal to recover the investment in the form of food.

 

In determining whether food animals deserve humane treatment, it also important to consider the fact that this is not an all-or-nothing affair. We can meet our needs and treat animals fairly at the same time. There is a need to compromise on our sides. The lack of consideration for food animals has been the main cause of cruelty to food animals. Economic interests are typically upheld over ethical animal farming techniques. In many animal farms, for examples, animals are held in congested environment to maximize profits, neglecting the need to offer them comfortable housing. For this reason, it is important to formulate and enforce laws on ethical farming.

It is also vital to consider the fact that humane treatment of animals also makes economic sense. Animals stocks that are treated humanely exhibit lower mortality rates and higher productivity. By ensuring that food animals housed in comfortable shelter and have access to healthy diets, we also reduce the chance of disease outbreaks among animals. This is also beneficial to human as some animal diseases, such as bird flu, have the ability to infect humans. By treating animals humanely, we not only save treatment and culling cost, but enhance the safety of animal products.

The treatment of food animals is not only apples to rearing techniques, but to breeding programs as well. Food animals require access to humane genetically engineering, research and development programs that favor profit over anima welfare are ultimately a form of animal cruelty. An example of such programs is the development of fast growing broiler chicken that often have trouble walking. The development of these breeds has resulted in millions of premature deaths and millions more of handicapped animals. The production of these chicken breeds continues in spite of the suffering that it causes. Ethical research practice requires the elimination of such practices. It necessitates the production of animal breeds that are both productive and healthy.

Many ethical vegans have argued against slaughter of animals in any form, saying that the use of animals for food amount to speciesism. This argument comes from the notion that all societies are equal, and none deserves subjugation. Treating animals differently from humans is not discrimination. The nature of food animals makes it necessary to rear them and provide shelter for them. At the same time, food animals are vital to ending food problems among humans. It would be unethical to deny pastoral communities the right to extract food products such as milk and meat. Species wrongly assumes that animals to live in the wild. While, this is true for wild nails, it is false for domesticated animals. These animals live comfortable life under domestication form humans. Their right to comfortable life is not compromised by farming parse, but by unethical farming methods. Rather than focus on the entire system for domestication, animal rights activism should aim to promote ethical farming techniques. This approach will ensure fairness to both the human species and their food animals.

Current attitudes towards food animals regard them as inferior species that do not deserve fair treatment. While humans are superior to animals in aspects such as intelligence, many food animals possess superhuman qualities. The notion that humans are inherently superior to animals is therefore not a substantive basis for unfair treatment of food animals. There is also a pervasive notion that animals’ inferior intellect makes them less susceptible to suffering. Psychological experiments have shown this notion to be untrue. Animal subjects have shown human-like reaction to prolonged suffering. Depression, for example, is common among animals that are stared and beaten. Drawing attention to the need for humane treatment of animal will require comprehensive public education. Such awareness will promote sound farming practices. It will ensure that farming remains ethical by promoting compassion among farmers.

Promoting fair treatment of animals will required a multidimensional approach to animal rights. Ethical farming must be promoted, but it should not be allowed to supersede human rights to clean food. Humans have the innate ability to feel compassion for animals. Animal right activists can tap into this compassion by identifying animal farms that use ethical farming methods. Clients are likely to favor ethical animal food over alternatives. This approach will force farmers to adopt ethical farming methods and, in the process, promote animals’ welfare.

As shown, the need for fair treatment of food animals is part of our moral responsibility to our environment. Treating food animals humanely enhance the benefits that we derive from them. At the same time, it can force us to forgo economic gains.as such, food animals mistreated for purposes of increasing profit. These poor attitudes are mostly due to poor attitudes towards non-human subjects. While food animals do not possess the same metal capacity as humans, they can experience cruelty on a similar level to rational beings. It is therefore part of our moral duty to protect food animals from unnecessary pain and suffering.

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