Eradication vs. Moderation of Meat Intake
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Animal farming, as a form of agriculture, has been present ever since the beginning of man’s civilization. It has been mankind’s way of securing food for the entire populace, without being influenced by seasonal and climactic factors, unlike agricultural crops are subject to. This man’s decision to domesticate animals for food consumption, from being nomadic in culture, is perhaps the main reason why societies in the past have flourished and whose benefits are being exploited by following generations henceforth. However, with man’s consciousness being opened to human rights; be it racial, socio-economic, or gender-based, a more humane method of slaughtering animals are being sought for. The fight for animal rights has begun.
One staunch advocate for animal rights is Peter Singer, author of Animal Liberation. His advocacy has led to improvements in the way Americans slaughter its animals by making some forms of animal cruelty a crime by law. His premise is that equality, as a moral idea, should not be confined to humans alone, and that by being superior in intelligence or in other fields, does not justify exploitation of the weaker one. Speciesist is the term often used by Singer to describe people who discriminate against animals simply because they are inferior beings than humans. His fight brings him to slaughter houses where animals are being treated cruelly, with cages so small they could hardly move, and whose ways of killing the animals seemed barbaric. Singer hopes for everyone to abandon eating meats and be vegetarians instead.
Michael Pollan, on the other hand, observes that some of Singer’s viewpoints are unrealistic. Take as an example A.M.C., or Argument for Marginal Cases. This method is used by philosophers as a moral guide. Its principles basically say that: some humans; the infants, those with severe mental illness, and the demented, possess intellectual/mental capacity inferior to that of the chimpanzee. Although these people are below the average human, we still embrace them into our moral considerations. Now the question is, so what is our basis in excluding the chimpanzee? Pollan reiterates that because these marginal cases are one of us, we grant them rights and are considered as equals in morality, unlike the monkey. The most inferior human, in mental aspect, is still much more important than even the most intelligent ape.
Pollan does not consent factories that employ barbaric living and death conditions to animals. He cites a farm which he had inspected, the Polyface Farm in Virginia. In here, livestock are allowed to go about freely in their natural environs, and their way of slaughtering is quickest, thus greatly lessening the suffering of the animal.
However, maintaining such farms as this would increase the prices of meat in the market, mainly because of the expensive way of maintaining the livestock and of slaughtering, which Pollen completely agrees with. He believes that humans must lessen its consumption of meat, due to ecological, environmental, and health reasons. He is not for totally hard utilitarianism. He argues that animal species have more to gain in being domesticated by humans than by being left to fend for themselves. A very striking example he had cited is the fact that in North America, there are over 10,000 wolves, while dogs are estimated at over fifty million, an epitome of an animal species escaping extinction.
Based on the conflicting arguments expressed in these two ideas, perhaps most of us will choose to side with Michael Pollan. Moderation and not eradication would be most beneficial to the society, ecology, including the health of us humans.