The official blog of University of Missouri Skeptics, Atheists, Secular Humanists, & Agnostics
Please keep in mind that the point of the blog is not to accuse anyone of being a bad or immoral person. Also, please like our page on facebook!
The vast majority of our meat, dairy and eggs come from AFOs and CAFOs (factory farms). These systems cause the confined non-human animals considerable pain, distress and suffering.
This blog will not argue that eating meat is inherently wrong nor that killing non-human animals is inherently wrong. These as not our positions. This blog will debunk some non-religious defenses to eating meat from the factory farming system.
In 1975, Peter Singer wrote Animal Liberation which, in part, explores how and why eating non-human animal products from the factory farming system is morally wrong. We suggest reading this book if you eat meat, eggs or dairy products.
Here is part of Penn and Teller’s Bullshit episode on PETA, full of straw-mans, bias, fallacies and, of course, bullshit. Our position is not the same as PETA’s, but the arguments used to dismiss PETA are often the same arguments used against our position. Also, Penn and Teller’s bias in favor of humans is pathetically obvious. They even think that humans can physically best chimps. Adorable.
1) “Vegetarians/vegans kill animals too!” True. Everyone inevitably will be in some way responsible for the death of other animals. The death of non-human animals is not at issue here. Rather it’s the suffering.
2) “Humans are smarter than other animals.” This is true in relation to most humans and most non-human animals. But certainly no one would seriously argue that all humans are smarter than all other animals. Even if that were true, it still wouldn’t be a moral justification for not treating other animals ethically.
3) “We need meat to survive.” Well, not exactly. Humans are omnivores and we are more than capable of eating meat substitutes and non-meat foods that provide essential nutrients. Even if this were true, it doesn’t justify the system, but rather the eating of meat, which is not at issue.
4) “Not eating meat is unhealthy.” False. Plenty of vegetarians are healthy. There are a plethora of options for nutrients to supplement a meat-free diet. Also, the morality of eating meat in general is not at issue.
5) “Humans are at the top of the food chain.” This is the might makes right fallacy. An animal’s position on the food chain should not affect whether it is treated ethically.
6) “Animals are cruel to each other in nature.” This is the naturalistic fallacy. Just because something occurs in nature does not make it morally permissible for humans. Mallards gang rape females, but we don’t conclude it is moral for humans to gang rape female mallards.
7) “Eating meat is natural.” This is the naturalistic fallacy. Again, whether something is natural has no affect on whether or not it’s moral. However, we’re not saying eating meat is wrong or unnatural. The system which produces our meat is immoral (and unnatural!).
8) “Animals cannot act morally, so we cannot be expected to extend our morality to cover them.” This is a form of special pleading. Babies can’t act morally, but certainly we agree that babies should be free from abuse, torture and rape. Just because an agent cannot act morally does not mean it should not be treated morally.
9) “Humans are special.” Certainly, humans are special. But every animal is special in some way. Those birds of paradise are amazing! This is actually the most reminiscent of a religious argument. If you believe in evolution, you know that humans are the product of completely natural processes, just as every other animal is. There’s nothing supernatural about us. We have no souls, we were not created in a god’s image. We are animals.
10) “Our ancestors ate meat.” This is true. They also sacrificed virgins. This is not a basis for a moral claim.
11) “Animals can’t suffer the way humans can.” This is a red herring. The issue isn’t whether other animals suffer the same way as us, but whether they can suffer at all. Not all humans can suffer to the same degree as other humans. Even if non-human animals suffer differently from humans and less than humans, this doesn’t mean that the suffering they do experience can be discounted.
12) “Isn’t the horror of the factory farming industry an aesthetic value rather than a moral one? It looks disgusting, but does that make it morally bad?” How it looks has nothing to do with whether it’s moral or not. It’s immoral because these animals have complex central nervous systems that enable them to experience substantial amounts of pain, and they actually experience great pain. So even if you think it is pretty (as some do with bullfighting) causing this kind of unnecessary suffering is immoral.
We are greatly interested in hearing feedback from the skeptic community and would love to engage in dialogue on this issue. We’re sure there are other (hopefully better) defenses that we’d love to hear and address.