Utilitarianism and The Ethics of Eating Meat

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Eating animals and the moral issue

Eating animals has always been an everyday part of human living as many people fail to create the connection between production of meat and animal wellbeing. Meat diet is embedded in the society and is observed as a part of culture. According to FAO (2015), every year more than 56 billion animals are killed for consumption including aquatic and land species. In the past 30 years, the production of meat has tripled and is expected to double in the next 30 years. Although many individuals fail to consider the morality of consuming animals, it is a significant social and moral issue that has raised debate over the years. Just like, humans, utilitarianism argues that animals suffer particularly as a result of the ruthless manner in which they are raised and killed thereby making their consumption immoral. However, if more decent ways of rearing meat and protecting the safety and rights of animals are adopted, there would be a moral ground of their consumption.

The utilitarianism theory and consuming animals

The idea of whether eating animals is moral or not can be based on utilitarianism theory. Proposed by John Stuart Mill, Utilitarianism posits that human behavior is based on the principle of utility which suggests that an action can be judged based on its consequence. The theory considers an act can be wrong or right based on the tendency of its promotion of pleasure and happiness. If an act causes more happiness that it causes sadness, then it is considered moral. However, if the same act causes more pain than pleasure, then it is considered immoral or a bad act (Mill 338). Based on the argument, consuming meat is acceptable as it remains one of the greatest meals that create happiness in man while also remaining important in improving health. However, consuming meat may also be considered wrong as a result of the harm done to the animals through harmful agricultural practices and factory farming activities. It is, therefore, the moral duty of humans to adopt safer methods of breeding and killing the animals to promote happiness to both people and animals.

The nutritional value of meat

Meat is an important part of human diet as a result of its nutritional value. There is a lot of nutrients value that meat offers which are critical for healthy living. Apart from being a source of protein, meat contains amino acids which are essential for the body. Similarly, meat provides vitamin B which is critical to mental health as well as immunity against diseases such as impaired senses, insomnia, confusion, dementia, aggression, weakness, and peripheral peripheral neuropathy. Meat diet is also considered a source of energy. Unlike the usual carbs which is easily broken down into simple sugars that are used up quickly, meat provides proteins which are utilized by the body to generate long-lasting energy. The meat diet is greatly support by the utilitarian theory as it allows for individuals to engage in actions that can aid in the maximization of happiness. Since meat provides humans with personal satisfaction as well as health benefits, the diet is, in itself, a positive means towards achieving a happy ending. A key concern, however, is the fact that the promoted good is only witnessed by humans; the animals have been exempted from good care and instead subjected to rough living conditions and killing procedures (Mill 341). By adopting humane techniques that would ensure the safety of all animals, utilitarianism would completely support the need for meat diet.

The pain and suffering of animals

Meat consumption can become an absolute moral act if humans alleviate the pain and suffering of animals which has increased drastically over the years. As the variety of meat products become limitless, the methods of raising, killing, transiting, engineering, and preparing meat has also become countless and dangerous. In his account of meat diet, Peter Singer explains in his article, The Ethics of Eating, that different animals including coms, ship, chicken, and veal go through torture in the process of providing meat. In narrating how the chicken suffer, Singer notes, "Slaughtered at only 45 days old, their immature bones can hardly bear the weight of their bodies" (Singer p. 4). This results in the perpetual cruel treatments of the chicken that is associated with immoral human attitude. Johnson had also argued that eating animals subject the creatures to harsh conditions. He claimed that, "It's clear that animals have an aversive response to pain, and careful, well-respected scientists are saying that animals are probably capable of feeling and consciousness. (Johnson Para. 5). This means that all the slaughtered animals are capable of feeling pain, and as a result suffer when they are brutally tortured or injured for the sake of meat.

Rights and equality of animals

There is also a need to respect the fact that animals have similar rights and equality of being just as humans. The debate on whether animals should be eaten has been based on the rights and equality of being. While some scholars argue that human beings are more superior to animals, others believe that all creatures have equal rights. In the article, Why Animals have No Right, Carl Cohen posits that animals have equal rights as humans, and as a result should be treated with respect. The author states, "Animals also reason; animals also communicate with one another; animals also care passionately for their young; animals also exhibit desires and preferences" (Cohen p. 14). This assertion means that animals are equally rational, interdependent, and are able to love and care. As a result, they ought to be treated with dignity and respect to avoid any infliction of pain that may hurt their rationality. Sharing Cohen's argument is Helen McDonald who believes that animals are rational. In her article, What Animals Taught Me about Being Human, McDonald recounts her experience with different types of animals including pets and bush birds. After a long interaction with animals which acted like her companions, she states, "The creatures I met in the fields and woods around my house came to feel like a secret family" (McDonald Para. 3). From the illustration, animals, just like humans, have feelings and rationality, and as a result feel distressed when they face torture and live in poor environments.

In conclusion

In summary, eating meat is not only ethical, but also good for humanity as it benefits the body and the mind. However, human activities involved in raising and killing the animals are immoral as they inflict pain and suffering on the animals. Considering the utilitarianism lens, it is apparent that animals, just like humans, should not face negative consequences as a result of the consumption process. Different scholars in the study, however, argue that animals have continued to suffer from the neglect by humans. Johnson and Singer found that animals are exposed to harsh environment and unhealthy living conditions. Similarly, Cohen and Steiner believe that since animals have rational and emotional feelings, they have been subjected to a lot of pain by humans. As a result, all the authors advocate for the appropriateness in dealing with animals to preserve their rights. Considering the ideology of utilitarianism, it is, therefore, the moral duty of humans to adopt safer methods of breeding and killing the animals to promote happiness to both people and animals.

Works Cited

Cohen, Carl. “Why Animals have no Right: The Case for the Use of Animals in Biomedical Research.” The New England Journal of Medicine (1986). 315(14): 865-69.

Johnson, Nathaniel. “Is there a Moral Case for Meat?” Grist.org. 2015. Accessed 3/28/2018 from https://grist.org/food/is-there-a-moral-case-for-meat/

McDonald, Helen. “What Animals Taught Me About Being Human.” New York Times. Accessed 3/28/2018 from https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/16/magazine/what-animals-taught-me-about-being-human.html

Mill, John Stuart. "Utilitarianism." Seven Masterpieces of Philosophy. Routledge, 2016. 337-383.

Singer, Peter. The ethics of what we eat: Why our food choices matter. Rodale, 2007.

August 21, 2023

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Animal Rights

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