The Conscience Of Carnivores

by Jessie Roberts

James McWilliams expands on the ethical conundrum raised by Bob Comis, a pig farmer who believes that “[w]hat I do is wrong, in spite of its acceptance by nearly 95 percent of the American population”:

Comis’s call for a more philosophical approach to animal agriculture is neither an arbitrary nor an academic appeal to an abstract notion of animal rights. Instead, it’s grounded in the humble workings of daily life, especially the humble, if complex, workings that bring to our plate animal protein—which has been shown to be not only unnecessary but often harmful to human health. A secular and religious consensus exists that living an ethical life means accepting that my own interests are no more important than another’s simply because they are mine. Basic decency, not to mention social cohesion, requires us to concede that like interests deserve equal consideration. If we have an interest in anything, it is in avoiding unnecessary pain. Thus, even though a farm animal’s experience of suffering might be different from a human’s experience of suffering, that suffering requires that we consider the animal’s interest in not being raised and eaten much as we would consider our own interest in not being raised and eaten. Once we do that, we would have to demonstrate, in order to justifiably eat a farm animal, that some weighty competing moral consideration was at stake. The succulence of pancetta, unfortunately, won’t cut it.

Previous Dish on the processing of livestock here, here, and here.