I fear the universe runs on TGGP’s “Asskicking Theory of Morality” which states that the moral consideration things get is directly proportional to their ability to kick asses. Which is why animals and children have no moral weight to humans, aside from what allies they can seduce with their cuteness. I don’t WANT that to be the case, for the normal Sci-Fi geek reasons – if we run into a much more powerful species, I’d like for them to respect us not for our ass-kicking ability, but purely because we are also sentient creatures. Especially since I consider it entirely possible that we’ll create a much more powerful form of life within this century.
As such, I feel like a hypocrite if I don’t likewise give moral consideration to weaker species who show signs of sentience. But while sentience is hard to measure, I don’t think most animals qualify. Certainly not chickens and cattle. Unfortunately this isn’t the only problem with eating meat.
Obviously hunting is right out. If you hunt an animal, you’ve just killed a free-acting agent (for very loose definitions of agent) for your own gain without giving it anything in return. You are a parasite of nature. A farmer, on the other hand, has given a lot in return. He’s protect the animal from predators and disease. He’s given it land to live on, and food to eat, and a life much easier than the animals who have to claw and scrabble for life in the wild. And, ultimately, he bred the animal and gave it life – if it wasn’t for the farmer it wouldn’t have existed in the first place. So it’s not nearly so bad, it’s almost a transaction.
Sadly, in practice this isn’t the case. The ideal case is the Disney Family Farm, but in reality most factory farms are torture chambers. An animal is born into torment, tortured their entire lives, and then slaughtered. I’d rather have never existed than to be created solely to be tortured for years and then killed for someone else’s profit. That’s the stuff of Horror Sci Fi.
So for years I’ve kept circling around a conclusion I don’t want to embrace – I should change my eating habits. At the very least buy from better sources. And yet I still haven’t implemented that. I’m still searching for the hack that’ll work on my Elephant. I can see the destination, but not the road.