Against Animal Agriculture


Vince Orozco, Managing Editor

The arguments against the animal agriculture industry are based on ethics and environmentalism.

The nature of the ethical argument lies within the understanding of suffering and rights. Animals, contrary to the beliefs of Rene Descartes, are not automata (beings that emulate negative and positive reactions to stimuli without actually experiencing the sensation) — they are, in fact, capable of suffering. Suffering, in this case, covers mental and physical pain. This suffering that animals feel is not contingent on the status of said animals capacity for higher reasoning.

This position is best summarized by Jeremy Bentham’s quote, “The question is not can they reason? nor, can they talk? but, can they suffer?”

It is this capacity for suffering that Peter Singer and other animal rights activists claim gives animals a right to moral consideration.

One of the key components of moral consideration is consent. A being with moral consideration ought to have a right to consent. This right should not be infringed upon even if consent cannot be given in the same way that an unconscious person or a mentally disabled person ought not to be taken advantage of.

Therefore, animals deserve consent before actions are done against them, even if they are incapable of giving consent. From these two points, capacity for suffering and right to consent, one can conclude that the practice of animal agriculture is wholly unethical.

The process of slaughter by the millions each and every day can and ought to be considered unethical.

The process of dairy production, where a female cow is artificially inseminated and then has her calf stolen from her in order to be able to extract the milk, is unethical.

The process of stealing eggs from chickens is unethical.

The slaughtered animals, the abused cows, and the chickens are all beings with the capacity for suffering, and in each case, they are being unjustly denied moral consideration and right to consent, even if they are incapable of giving it.

In addition to ethical objections, animal agriculture has environmental objections as well.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the animal agriculture industry contributes 14.5 percent of the total anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions. This makes the animal agriculture industry the second largest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions, greater than all transportation emissions combined.

In addition to greenhouse gas emissions, the animal agriculture industry is one of the biggest contributors to water crises. To feed each member of a family of four one-third-pound hamburgers, 2,640 gallons of water is required. This is equivalent to running a shower for 21 hours straight. Scale this up to the United States as a whole, and it comes to a range of 36-74 trillion gallons of water annually for animal agriculture.

Yet another charge against animal agriculture is deforestation. According to the FAO, animal agriculture has been linked to 75 percent of historic deforestation in the Amazon Rainforest and is responsible for one-third of the biodiversity loss in the region.

With all of these factors in mind, one can conclude that not only is animal agriculture unethical, but it is simply destructive.