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Is eating meat moral?  

Sarir Ahmad

Approximately 73 billion land animals were slaughtered in 2020 globally for fulfilling the needs of human beings. This mass killing of animals exacerbates each year because the demand of meat is escalating without even noticing the suffering of animals (Orzechowski 2023).

Amidst the voracious appetite for meat, the reality and negative causes are overlooked aseating meat leads to a decrease in compassion for all living creatures, as it makes a prey-predator relationship and eventually leads to a complete lack of feeling towards the suffering of other sentient beings. This article will delve into the intricate ethical aspects of meat consumption, examining how the commodification of animals, along with factory farming, hunting, and graphic methods of preparation and consumption, erodes human empathy and sustains a cycle of mistreatment with animals.

As demand for meat continues to rise, production rates in factory farms surge to meet the increasing market needs. This escalating demand prompts production facilities to employ advanced technological operations, mechanizing the entire process from raising animals to slaughter and packaging. In the confined and harsh conditions of factory farms, animals are reduced to mere commodities, subjected to a mechanized system that disconnects humans from the reality of their lives. This industrialized approach desensitizes individuals, fostering a perception of animals as factory products rather than sentient beings with intrinsic value.

Philosopher Peter Singer contends that the current treatment of animals is far from humane, as they are treated akin to factory products, disrupting the natural harmony with other creatures. The terminology used further exemplifies this commodification, where the meat of animals is designated by names like ‘pork’ for pig and ‘beef’ for cow, emphasizing the disconnect between the product and the living being it once was. This practice, highlighted by the Farm Transparency Project in 2018, not only commodifies animals but also dampens human compassion towards them. In the pursuit of mass production, individuals become increasingly indifferent to the cries, fear, and suffering of animals, perpetuating a cycle where the demand for meat diminishes the recognition of the inherent value and rights of these sentient beings.

Living beings, endowed with the capacity to feel pain and experience happiness, animals find themselves relegated to the status of mere food sources in the eyes of humans. The harsh treatment they endure, particularly evident in the callous slaughter without regard for their interests, underscores a troubling reality where gustatory pleasures take precedence over ethical considerations. Meat consumption, consequently, transforms animals into objects or commodities, stripping away their status as sentient beings with interests and emotions. This paradigm shift has profound implications, significantly reducing human empathy and moral concern for the suffering of these creatures. The perception of animals as silent entities on dinner tables is perpetuated by the argument that animals lack the ability to communicate like humans.

Philosopher Peter Singer, in his work from 2021, delves into this dichotomy, highlighting how the relegation of animals to mere food items contributes to a detachment that results in cognitive dissonance. Studies by Ali in 2019 further emphasize the chauvinistic utilitarian lens through which animals are viewed, emphasizing their value solely in terms of gustatory and economic utility for humans (Ali, 2019). This myopic perspective diminishes the intrinsic empathy humans possess for animals, fostering an environment where the suffering of animals is either ignored or justified. The consequential lack of feeling towards animal suffering perpetuates a relationship devoid of compassion and care for other sentient beings, exemplifying the ethical concerns embedded in the prevailing practices of meat consumption.

Beyond the surging demand for meat and the cruel operations within factory farms, the consumption of meat has a profound and often overlooked impact on mental health. Continuous exposure to the consumption of meat, particularly in settings where the preparation involves the stark reality of an animal head being served as a meal, acts as a catalyst for a distressing decline in compassion. The graphic nature of the process, including the removal of eyes and brain, serves to desensitize individuals to the intrinsic suffering and lives of the animals involved. Drawing parallels with research by Helfgott (2015), which indicates that exposure to violent media influences real-life behaviors, and Warburton’s findings (2014) on the adverse effects of prolonged exposure to violence and distressing stimuli, a similar pattern emerges regarding meat consumption.

The cruel procedure of slaughtering animals and the subsequent consumption of their organs gradually desensitizes human beings towards the suffering of all living beings. Just as exposure to violence in media can instill aggression, continual exposure to the brutal reality of meat consumption can contribute to decreased emotional health over time. This nuanced perspective underscores the need to consider not only the physical implications of meat consumption but also the profound psychological toll it can take on individuals and, by extension, society.

“In suffering, the animals are our equal,” asserts Peter Singer, emphasizing the shared capacity for pain between humans and animals. However, the act of consuming animals involves cruel operations that perpetuate a prey-predator relationship, reducing animals to mere objects devoid of intrinsic value. Meat consumption establishes a power dynamic where humans assert dominance and control over animals, creating an environment that fosters fear. This dynamic is further exacerbated by the encouragement of hunting, not merely for sustenance but also as a form of entertainment, with competitions and awards glorifying the taking of precious lives.

The recognition and celebration of hunting achievements reinforce the notion of animals as commodities to be used for food, desensitizing individuals to the intrinsic value of their lives. Research by Yu et al. in 2023 highlights the consequences of such activities, indicating that competitive hunting encourages a mindset where animals are treated as mere objects for human use. This subjugation of animals, coupled with the fear instilled in them, not only leads to a spread of hatred but also fosters a relationship devoid of care for each other’s suffering. The cycle perpetuates an environment where the power dynamic leans heavily in favor of humans, diminishing the ethical considerations for the well-being and rights of sentient beings.

Alongside these unethical treatments, humans categorize animals as a source of economy. Animals are labeled as cheap or expensive, just looking at their products, keeping aside their feelings and emotions, which fosters an environment where humans are dealing the worth of animals according to their interests. This practice gradually compels humans to ignore the feelings and emotions of animals. The economic perspective on animals has far-reaching consequences beyond just animal welfare. It leads to indifference toward other forms of suffering, as the same reasoning that prioritizes human interests over the intrinsic value of life can be extended to other vulnerable groups (Carlier, 2020). Gradually, humans become accustomed to prioritizing our own needs above all else, potentially justifying harm to others if it benefits us. Therefore, challenging the economic classification of animals is essential not only for ethical reasons but also for creating a more compassionate and just society. By acknowledging the inherent worth of all sentient beings, regardless of their utility, we can work toward a future where exploitation is deemed unacceptable, and empathy becomes the cornerstone of our interactions with all living creatures.

One might argue that meat consumption is not inherently linked to compassion because there are individuals who care about animals while accepting the natural rights of humans to use them as a food source, but this argument presents a paradox. The flaw lies in the contradiction between professing compassion for animals and simultaneously acknowledging their suffering as an inherent and acceptable part of human practices.

While many people genuinely care about the well-being of animals and express a desire to prevent harm, their dietary choices often involve the unintentional support of industries that result in the suffering of animals (Herzog, 2010; Joy, 2010; Singer, 1975). Justifications such as ‘they don’t feel like we do’ or ‘it is natural for us to eat animals’ are commonly employed, making it easier for individuals to detach from the ethical implications of their choices by considering animals as mere objects. This cognitive dissonance is further underscored by the observations of scientists Camille Daujeard and Sandrine Prat in (2022). While recognizing the historical presence of meat in human diets, they argue that continuous meat consumption might desensitize individuals to the suffering of living beings and erode our overall sense of compassion. Thus, the argument that one can care about animals while accepting their exploitation for food is flawed, as it necessitates reconciling genuine compassion with actions that contribute to the suffering of sentient beings.

In short, the multifaceted debate surrounding meat consumption and its ethical implications highlights a complex interplay between compassion, power dynamics, and cognitive dissonance. Recognizing animals as sentient beings capable of feeling pain and happiness challenges the traditional rationale for using them solely as a food source. The power imbalance within the meat industry, where animals are treated as commodities and subjected to harsh conditions, creates a disconnect between human choices and ethical considerations. Additionally, prolonged exposure to the graphic realities of meat production can lead to desensitization and reduced empathy. The paradox of caring about animals while accepting their exploitation for food reveals an inherent contradiction, questioning the authenticity of compassion. Arguments that animals lack the same level of sentience or that meat consumption is a natural right perpetuate a skewed perspective that undermines our moral responsibility toward all living beings. As society grapples with these ethical dilemmas, it becomes crucial to reconsider our relationship with animals and to ponder the implications of our actions on the surroundings.

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1 Comment
  1. Mohammad Ilyas Ahmad says

    Up to the extent that different non Muslim community people kill animals to eat in a cruel and unconventional manner, its good to care for animal and treat them with modesty
    Then is the question why meat is eaten while an animal is a living thing. One cannot defy the law of nature and the directions denoted by God Amighty. Vegas say animal has life it’s proved by science nowthat plants have also life so not eat vegetables too, means that the procedure planned by God Almighty as natural is not to be questioned.
    Who the champion or modernist agent are you to lead people on apathy.

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