Philosophy Society 2013-2014
Jeff McMahan (Rutgers)
The Comparative Badness for Animals of Death and Suffering
Many people believe that although factory farming is morally objectionable because of the great suffering it inflicts on animals, there is no moral objection to eating the meat of animals that are reared humanely and killed painlessly. This belief seems to reflect the view that while the suffering of animals matters sufficiently to outweigh the benefits people get from eating them, their continued lives matter much less, and can be outweighed by human pleasures. I will discuss a variety of issues raised by these common beliefs. For example: does the suffering of animals matter less morally than the equivalent suffering of persons? And how bad is death for animals? Is their interest in continuing to live generally outweighed by the interest people have in eating them? Is the practice of eating humanely reared animals actually good for animals, and therefore Pareto optimal, because the animals it causes to exist and to have lives worth living would not otherwise exist at all?