How can you love your dog, but not concerned about a cow killed in a slaughterhouse in a factory farm? This is what Tom Regan calls the “paradox” in American society. I will try to explain the paradox using a type of reasoning which may not be familiar to Westerners (I am from Sri_Lanka btw).
Here we, have to make an assumption. i.e. It is unethical to kill animals unnecessarily, in this case for food. This assumption we have to make. Otherwise there is nothing to discuss. i.e. If you believe that killing animals for food is not unethical (e.g. Muslims will say like this), then there is no debate. You have to agree to disagree and go away. No debate or discussion is possible.
What shocks me in this issue, is that animal rights activists or ethical vegans NEVER talk about the “killing” of the animals, and only talks about the “eating” part.
The “unethical” person is the one who goes to the supermarket and buys the meat. It is HE (according to animals-rights activists and ethical vegans), who has no conscience nor compassion. The people in the meat industry, and the people who actually kill the animals (in the slaughterhouses) are without a mind, without a conscience, without any free will. They are like robots or zombies. Ethics and morality does not apply to them.
It’s like this: When we buy meat from the supermarket, somebody has already made the “unethical decision” to kill an animal and put the meat to the market. Therefore when I (as the consumer) go to the market, I have no “ethical” decision to make, since I don’t have a “DIRECT” connection to the “producer”.
Contrast this to a situation where you go to a market where chickens are killed on-the-spot.
Now, if you go to such a market and buy meat, you are “directly” responsible for the death of the animal, because the animal killed is “specifically” for you. Your name is attached to that animal.
But, in the case of the supermarket, the animals are not killed “specifically” for you. The animals are in fact killed for the “market”. Now, when I buy meat from the market, I am not DIRECTLY responsible for the death of the animal. I think this is obvious. But the question is, am I “indirectly” responsible? Am I, by buying the meat, “giving” an indication to the people in the meat industry that I will buy if you kill? In short, am I “promoting” (indirectly) the killing of animals??
The answer to this question is NO. I will explain why.
Remember that, if ethical vegans say that buying meat from the market is wrong, because the consumer has to have a “conscience” and exercise it, then that exact “conscience” should be present in the “producer” as well, since the producer is also part of the same society the consumer lives in. You cannot say that the people in the meat industry are without a “conscience” and “free-will”. If a person in the meat industry harms his dog at home, and somebody sees it, he will report to the police and the police will arrest him and prosecute him for animal cruelty. Just because he goes to the slaughterhouse, nothing can change. Same rules should apply.
Now, I think I have shown that the “producer” (of the meat) also have to have the same conscience. So, can a person "get "encouraged" (to do something unethical,i.e. killing of animals), by some action of some humans (buying meat from the market), to whom he has no direct contact with, which will make him rich (i.e. the promoting or incentive. i.e. the more you kill the more people will buy meat and hence make you richer), but which involves having to make an “ethical” decision (in this case killing of a animal)???
Contrast this to the case where somebody manufactures pencils. You manufacture pencils and puts to the supermarket. More people start buying pencils and that increases the demand and you get more money (which is the INCENTIVE to do anything) by making more pencils. So, the “consumer” is “promoting” (the producer) to make MORE pencils. But, you have to remember that in the process of manufacturing pencils, the producer does not have to make any “ethical” decisions. He does not have to kill animals or illegal logging (or something similar). But, in the case of the meat industry, the producer HAS TO make an “ethical decision” (i.e. kill or not to kill an animal) in the process of putting meat the supermarket. So, since he has the same “conscience” and “free-will” of the consumer, he SHOULD make the ethical decision of not killing animals. Please remember that the produce has absolutely no DIRECT contact with the consumer. Also it is the producer who has the INTENTION to kill animals to put to the market. He has a conscience which tells him it is bad, but he uses his free-will and does it anyway. So, in this instance, the producer is to blame for making the unethical decision.
The consumer is free of even indirect guilt because the producer has already made the ethical decision to kill the animal.
Remember, it is the “producer” of the meat who has the “intention” of killing animals. As Immanuel Kant said, an act is ethical or unethical depending on the “intention” of the person doing it. When you buy meat from the supermarket, there is no “intention” of killing animals in the mind of the “consumer”. So, because of these reasons, the consumer is not even indirectly responsible for the killing of the animal. So, it is the people in the meat industry that has to take ALL the “blame” for the killing and suffering of animals in factory farms. The consumer of free of any guilt. Remember that just like a lack of demand will kill the supply, if the supply stops, then too there wont be any market. It can work both ways.
I will illustrate further that consumers are not responsible even indirectly to the cruelty in the meat industry by using some examples.
Vigilantes: What if a somebody gets raped, and a person who sees this goes and kills the rapist. Is the person being raped responsible, even indirectly for the killing? NO. Think of the vigilante as the producer and the person who got raped as the consumer. The rapist is the animal killed.
The Hunter friend: My friend who is a hunter invites me for dinner. When I go he tells me that he killed a deer for me and made venison stew for dinner. Am I responsible even indirectly for the killing of the deer (i.e. promoting)??? Remember I did not tell him to kill an animal. I did not indicate in any way. The answer is NO. I am in no way responsible for the death of the deer. I had no "intention" of killing any animal nor did I indicate verbally or any other way to my friend. So, you can replace the hunter-friend with the producer, I am the "consumer", the deer is the cow being killed in the slaughterhouse and you can see, that the consumer is not the one promoting the killing of the animals, it is the "producer" who is perpetuating it by killing animals and putting it to the market.
The flimsily dressed girl who was raped: A girl who dressed in a short skirt and flimsy top gets raped. The rapist say that the girl dressing provocatively, "drove" him to rape her. Will you buy this argument? Will you reduce the sentence of the rapist because the girl also "promoted" rape by dressing provocatively??? NO. All the blame has to go to the rapist himself. So here, replace the rapist with he "meat producer", the girl is the consumer", the "girl being raped" is the "producer killing the cow in the slaughterhouse".
The Zoo visit: Suppose you buy a ticket to zoo to see the animals. You know that the zoo has carnivorous animals. So, you know that 1000s of animals have to be killed to feed the animals in the zoo. So, are you promoting killing of animals when you buy a ticket and visit a zoo?? My answer is NO. Because when a person buys a ticket to the zoo, he has no “intention” of killing animals. It is not applicable or irrelevant. He just wants to see the animals in the zoo. Since there is no “intention” to kill, there cannot be any “guilt” as well. Now, you can replace the zoo, with a the supermarket and I think you should see that, consumers are not even indirectly (i.e promoting) the killing of animals in the meat industry. No “intention”, so no "guilt”.
I will give a another example to show how the concepts of “free-will”, “conscience” and “intention”, comes into play when it comes to supply and demand. i.e. Demand and supply are subject to conscience, free-will and intention.
Below are cases which show the reverse. i.e. a supply of something does not justify, unethical action using that supply.
Alcohol Manufacturers: For example, are manufactures of alcoholic drinks responsible for alcoholism?? I have never heard anybody asking to ban manufacturing of alcohol. They blame the people who drink excessively. Because, you have a “conscience” (i.e. knowing that drinking too much can lead to addiction, disruption of your and your loved ones lives, cirrhosis and death) and you have free-will to exercise that conscience.
Smoker: Same applies for smoking. Nobody is asking to stop manufacturing cigarettes because 1000s die of lung cancer because of smoking.
The School shooter: Are gun manufactures “promoting” US school shootings in the US by manufacturing guns? NO. Nobody is saying to stop manufacturing guns. Because, a person who buys a gun has “conscience” and “free-will”. It is HE who is responsible if he kills somebody with the gun. The gun manufactures are not even INDIRECTLY responsible.
If you say that some “activity” which a human (to whom you have no direct connection) does, can “promote” you to do some “unethical” activity, then you will have to find girls being raped “promoting” rape, because she wares flimsy, revealing outfits. i.e. Girls who wear flimsy, revealing clothes are promoting rape.
So, for the case of the meat eater vs the meat producer, they don’t kill because we eat", but "we eat because they kill". That is my view of the meat eating controversy. It is the producer who perpetuates the killing of animals by creating a market.
So, why Americans love their pets but has no qualms about munching down a juicy beefburger is that, they don’t feel any “guilt” because, when they buy food from the supermarket (or Burger King), they have NO “intention” to kill animals. The act is ethically neutral. They are not promoting the killing of animals either, because, the people in the meat industry also has a conscience and free will (in this case kill or not kill animals) and it is they who also have the “intention” to kill animals and put to the market.
This is the Theravada Buddhist view on meat eating. So, according to the Buddha, it is wrong to kill an animal, but there is nothing wrong in eating meat as long as the animal was not killed “specifically” for you.
What do you think??? I would really appreciate your views on this.
PS: I would very much appreciate if you can say which country you are from when replying.