An Analysis on the Ethical Implications of Animal Exploitation

Description of Issue

Most people nowadays are eating and exploiting animals when it is not necessary as a vegan lifestyle is sustainable for most. Animal exploitation means using animals as resources to supply us with food, clothing, products, pets, and animal testing. Not systemically adopting vegan practices has been a detriment to society, culture, science, the environment, and many individuals as well. The supposition is that, on this basis, using animals as resources is immoral and ultimately unethical. There are many reasons to support this which will be outlined in this report. The strongest case for why most people go vegan is because they are concerned about animal welfare. The issue is certainly a complex one as animal rights are regarded differently throughout the world but all angles will be addressed.

The reason this topic was chosen was because as a vegan myself I am very knowledgeable on this as an issue and have explored many perspectives on the argument so I believe I can offer a fresh perspective. The issue of animal rights permeates all communities across the world. This topic is also very controversial since a lot of people aren’t vegan and aren’t willing to have an open-minded conversation or consider stepping outside their comfort-zone. The reason this issue connects to Professor Vaughn’s PHL2410 class is because there are two sides to this issue, examining both will give me a better chance to write my analysis. Animal exploitation means across the world it is more expensive to feed people, land gets polluted, and societies condemn other cultures animal exploitation practices—this is something that effects my city, state, country, and the world. Alternate views are that some people view animal exploitation as a necessary evil—this is a perspective that is largely accepted throughout many different countries and cultures (however, it is known, just because something is widely accepted does not make it ethical).

Background Description

Animal exploitation is as old as time. From the prehistoric era humans lived a simple baseline existence of hunting animals and gathering fruits and vegetables. As humans evolved so did their lives and society while some animals became pets and some others were hunted for sport. Another advent in human evolution was philosophy, ethics, and morality. Many people today do not question the ethics of exploiting animals because everyone does it, they accept it; while it is most popular to agree that exploiting humans is unjust.

            Ethics has been defined as “well founded standards of right and wrong regardless of laws, feelings, religion, and society that prescribe what humans ought to do”. Lots of these standards seem to align with religious principles of morality; killing is often revered as a damning act. Yet, still many people propose that killing animals does not deserve moral consideration under a religious context. Many religions support or encourage the killing of animals for tradition or just as a commonplace action; the issue with that is that ethics, as explained earlier, does not have to do with what religion dictates. The call to question the ethics of killing animals is not one that will be answered by religion because there is no universal religion and not all people are religious.

            Industrialized agriculture disrupted the industry and therefore the ethical implications of eating animals. With the advent of slaughterhouses some animals spend their final moments viscerally aware they are about to be on a chopping block, watching others get slaughtered. Some animals (and generations of their offspring) spend their lives in cages. These practices are far from behaviors our primitive and ape ancestors exhibited. Despite the fact humans evolved to have the capacity to industrialize animal agriculture doesn’t mean it’s something humans should do. Humans evolved to be moral and ethical creatures, animal agriculture evolved from a need to supply the increasing demand of animal products to consumers. However, this assumes that there is, or was a need to meet the demand. 

As the demand grew for meat and dairy, the market evolved to make the food more accessible and cheap without concern for how this effects the environment and society. It takes exponentially much more grain and farm crops to feed animals farms than those crops could be used to feed humans. Such disparity can certainly be criticized as contributing to the problem of world hunger. Also, slaughterhouses produce much waste; it’s a struggle to contain and properly dispose of things like excrement, especially during natural disasters, hurricanes have traversed fecal matter from slaughterhouses into water supplies poisoning them.

Plant based diets are healthy and decrease many diseases. The subsidization that occurs for animal agriculture in tandem with sponsorship by nutritional association and governmental institutions which propagate the supposed need for meat directly correlates to many people having high cholesterol, diabetes, and heart attacks. Organizations who advocate animal rights have published a valid wealth of research, arguments, and scientific facts to expose that this is the truth, yet it is still not accepted as common knowledge. In countries like America, companies within the animal agriculture industry have deep pockets to employ lobbyists bent on securing their government subsidies, sponsorships, and dissenting opinions on animal rights.

Animals can feel pain. Most animals have emotional ties to their offspring. The killing or exploitation of an animal cannot be disregarded no matter what conditions it is under. Many people do not need to have animals killed or exploited to live, knowing that animals can feel and that farming them causes unnecessary pain, it cannot be ethical. There are some places in the world which do not have accessible vegan nutritional resources and clothing, however, understanding and accepting this does not excuse humans or groups of people who do have such access the right to skimp on their ethical duties. In times of tragedy and extreme duress, many people will violate their moral or ethical standards but as this paper explains this does not negate those ethical truths.

Critical Analysis

Animal exploitation, while having many negative qualities comes with many global challenges that deserve to be analyzed in depth. Global challenges in a general sense apply to how regional challenges add up overall. From a global perspective, most humans all throughout the world practice animal exploitation. There is a lot that can be said as to why these practices exist in modern times. Analyzing components that lead to global challenges is not the same as focusing on top level concerns. The challenges are based upon certain aspects or categories of ethics that each have their layers unto themselves. Categories would consist of natural resources, environmental or sustainability, and education. Each category has factors of political, economic, social, and environmental. To keep this critical analysis paper academic, animal exploitation will be fully questioned and scrutinized objectively.

A pervasive theory on the acceptance of animal exploitation is that it is necessary to sustain life in areas which do not natively produce a wealth of plant based resources. Places like Siberia, Egypt, and deserts (Such as Atacama in Chile) all lack the ability to nourish certain natural resources needed for plant based living. However, many places in the world, local populations do not always consume food or products that are naturally bountiful in their area. With this understanding, is it fair to say natural resources are a factor that indicates whether people native to areas low on plant based resources need to exploit animals to sustain their own life? The answer to this varies depending upon many other factors. However, for the most part, no. People often use this as an excuse to continue animal exploitation because they figure if there are people in the world that act with this behavior (based upon a specific reason, even if it doesn’t apply to them) then they can too. This does not make sense for those who use it in that way. For others who reside in areas where resources for plant based living are truly not able to be produced naturally they are permitted to do whatever they need to do for survival. Necessity may not always equate virtue and ethics but no one will judge those harshly to do what is needed to survive.

Like natural resources, there has been speculation that animal exploitation is not unethical because it is needed for sustainability and our environment. Many people across the world live in remote and desolate places or villages that may not have an accessible food distribution network or clothing stores for plant based living--even if they live in areas that are able to naturally grow and sustain vegetation. To say that people should accept industrialized animal agriculture or ‘humane’ animal agriculture based upon this premise is fallacious. Since ethics are well founded standards on what humans ought to do, it is not fair to base the ethical standards for humanity around the minority of people who inhabit desolate places or remote villages. With the understanding that most of what people accept is not always true to ethics the values based upon what humans ought to do is one that comes from the fact that most people that do not live in these areas can sustain themselves living free from animal exploitation. Those who are less fortunate to remove themselves from exploitative behavior towards animals based upon where they live can perform the exploitative acts in the most honorable of ways they can and at a minimum. Native American and Eskimo’s were a great example of honoring and reducing unnecessary harm to animals. Religion and cultures such as Jewish and Muslim ones care about honoring the killing of the animals but in fact the way these animals are killed is painful and in excess. Native American and Eskimo’s used all parts of the animal when it was killed and did not kill more than they would be able to consume. The factor that keeps these ideas in perpetuity is social pressure. Many people are attached to the sentiment of traditions when it comes to raising, eating, and other ways of exploiting animals. Most traditions are based around the idea of gathering people together based around food and gifts, traditions can be kept alive without exploiting animals. From Tofurkey on thanksgiving to vegan taxidermy, there is always a cruelty free option.

The greatest challenge in ending animal exploitation and accepting it as unethical is educating the masses that nourishment within plant based living within our world and economies is as sustainable as it is moral. There are several ways in which this challenge manifests. First many people throughout the world have no idea how to sustain a vegan diet or are taught that veganism is not sustainable. Second, people are taught to view animals as resources and food. Thirdly, people are brainwashed and desensitized that meat is from animals. There is a misconception that veganism is not sustainable as a diet that most likely comes from stereotypes of what vegans look like (skinny and not athletic). While many vegans are in fact quite muscular, veganism is still quite a fringe movement, most vegans may not have caught up—this is something that can easily change. When it comes to viewing animals as resources this may be an inherited trait that comes from generations of using animals in such a way. The point is that it is no longer needed for many and that unnecessary harm to animals could be reduced or eliminated. The final factor and challenge that keeps veganism from being viewed as a sustainable and moral status quo is that many people forget to notice if their food comes from animals and what the exploitative process looks like. Factors that keep these misconceptions to be widely accepted are vast. Animal food conglomerates such as Hood milk and whole foods spend millions on advertising campaigns exclaiming that their farm animals are happy and their food is needed to be healthy. Politicians are easily swayed into advertising and by lobbyists so legislature is made and enforced to keep schools supplying and teaching eating meat and other animal products to be happy—while succumbing to legislature on ag-gags. Finally, because there is business and political factors involved in perpetuating animal exploitation it has become ingrained in our economic system. If everyone stopped exploiting animals then many people would lose their jobs and livelihood. The solution would be to phase gradually into replacing animal agriculture with alternative education—like alternative energy versus big oil and coal.

Future Recommendations

            With the many reasons of avoiding causing unnecessary pain, damage to the environment, and sustainability it has been made clear that animal exploitation is outdated and unethical. With this understanding, it is just as important to understand that there are things everyone can do to contribute to aligning themselves with a higher standard of ethical behavior. Practicing ethics and moral behavior should not about perfection otherwise there would be little motivation for people to learn from their mistakes. It must be understood that quitting the pursuit of any endeavor due to struggles and minor failures is no reason to reverse any successful positive practices and behaviors completely.

            For those interested in making an honest transition to a lifestyle free from animal exploitation the best advice is to be patience and research plenty. Many people who quit being vegan have done so because they lacked the instinct to research solutions to develop skills to overcome any struggles while adapting to the new lifestyle and ultimately lose patience.

            The principles of the ethics of animal exploitation is about causing the least harm in the world possible. Some people try to live a life without exploiting animals, don’t know how to go about it properly, and end up sick, losing discipline, or quitting because they think that they don’t have the resources (financial or physical). The truth is that people all over the world can always try harder to carry the spirit of veganism in small ways to contribute to the overall improvement of their ethical behavior. Many people will say that animal exploitation is inevitable so it is not worth pursuing a plant based life, ignore this. Many things in life are inevitable, such as death, people who criticize this are not arguing this out of consistency but rather convenience.

            Thanksgiving, birthdays, and other traditions will arise with a social pressure to eat animals. Be aware of this beforehand and plan accordingly. There is nothing social about eating animal flesh and secretions, what is social is gathering for a meal and spending time with loved ones. Almost anything human omnivores eat can be made vegan though it may not taste the same. When offered animal products it’s not antisocial to decline and state your dietary restriction as much as it is not antisocial for someone who is lactose intolerant to refuse milk. The best way to navigate these social situations is to avoid discussing gruesome details of animal abuse while people are eating, especially around those who you are not sure welcome such a discussion.

            For any ethical and moral lifestyle, there will critics of it. Some places in the world are less accepting of a vegan lifestyle. Particularly in Texas steaks, cattle farming, and rodeo are a big part of the culture and economy. The more parts and places in the world that embrace veganism these places will warm up to change over time. The best thing to do to contribute to this is to lobby and vote for laws that will end the subsidization of animal agriculture. Defunding the lobbies and conglomerates that advocate for ‘happy’ animal exploitation will help solve the issue of people eating animal products.

            While avoiding animal exploitation is a noble pursuit many people see others making ethics decisions a threat to their own conscience. For every argument, there is for animal rights there will be someone who endlessly wants to counter-argue regardless of what is right. This behavior is easy to identify; when conclusions are made about one aspect of the argument the offending person will pivot to another aspect of veganism rather than conceding, doing their own extensive research, or establishing that they will try to make better choices. It’s important to not get mad or passive aggressive in animal rights debates because the opposition will Pidgeon hole vegans as extreme.

            If most of the world were vegan and vegetarian there would be many benefits to the world. Although most of the world may not go vegan within the next 50 years or more it still helps to understand that the world will improve with anyone going vegan. Many species on the verge of going extinct would be able to repopulate both on land and in the sea. Restaurants would serve for quality vegan food as opposed to poor quality vegan options so veganism would be a more exciting concept for people who demand simple convenience of food selection.

            In summary, the action plan to mitigate the ethical implications of animal exploitation consist of going vegan, learning to be a good advocate for animal rights, and have patience during the process. Going vegan means not contributing to animal exploitation and abuse while learning to practice it sustainable. To practice veganism sustainably it is imperative to do research regarding any struggle and keep an open mind. Struggles in going vegan to research is how to get proper nutrition, quick, cheap, and good meals, and keeping active or bodybuilding (there are plenty of plant based body builders). Advocating animal rights is not just about helping other people go vegan but being a shining example of why others should go vegan so stay healthy and fit while practicing veganism. It is advisable to avoid advocating veganism to those who are not interested in going vegan. Instead direct activism can easily be done by lobbying against animal agriculture legislation, particularly “Ag Gag” and fur. Do not mind the criticisms, minor failures, and other obstacles of going vegan. There are also vegan activist groups such as the International Vegan Association which can help vegans practice and understand how to be a better vegan.

Reflections

Veganism, as previously stated, is a controversial topic which I am very experienced in and knowledgeable of. The process of writing this paper did not change much of my stance or thoughts on animal rights. To explore what is ethical it is important to remove one’s own personal biases. I believe this is something I did successfully because all arguments were based on facts and universal moral principles. In my personal experience, many people who argue about animal rights do so from a personal point of view or hang on to far-fetched excuses like supposing animals and plants should be regarded in the same manner (farming animals requires a greater food supply of plant foods than humans would require alone).

            On a global level animal rights are so important. Respecting animal rights teaches humans greater tolerance and compassion for others while veganism has a wealth of immediate socio-economic benefits. The greatest challenge with animal rights is that even with better public education surrounding its many ethical implications it would be hard to adopt and enact better treatment across the world. There would still be people who would not understand or agree. One cause of the trouble with common acceptance of a vegan lifestyle is the stereotype that vegans are weak and therefore thought to be unhealthy.

            I do think everyone in the world who strives to live a moral life has a civic duty recognize and respect animal rights to a higher regard, not just for the animals but the environment and economy. That would consist of educating yourself to sustainably transition to a vegan diet and understanding the impact animal exploitation has on each species and the world. I understand this would seem offensive or too imposing for many people but I do believe if people are gradual and patient with the transition it really wouldn’t be an imposition at all.

References

Roberts, M. (2000). US animal agriculture: Making the case for productivity. AgBioForum3(2&3), 120-126. Available on the World Wide Web: http://www.agbioforum.org

Szűcs, E., Geers, R., Jezierski, T., Sossidou, E. N., & Broom, D. M. (2012). Animal Welfare in Different Human Cultures, Traditions and Religious Faiths. Asian-Australasian Journal of Animal Sciences25(11), 1499–1506. http://doi.org/10.5713/ajas.2012.r.02

National Research Council (US) Committee on Recognition and Alleviation of Pain in Laboratory Animals. Recognition and Alleviation of Pain in Laboratory Animals. Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US); 2009. 1, Pain in Research Animals: General Principles and Considerations. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK32655/

Tuso, P. J., Ismail, M. H., Ha, B. P., & Bartolotto, C. (2013). Nutritional Update for Physicians: Plant-Based Diets. The Permanente Journal, 17(2), 61–66. http://doi.org/10.7812/TPP/12-085

Pimentel, David. 2009. Energy Inputs in Food Crop Production in Developing and Developed Nations. Energies 2, no. 1: 1-24. http://www.mdpi.com/1996-1073/2/1/1

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