Are Our Modern Systems for Producing Farm Animal-Based Food Immoral?

Filed in Living by on November 13, 2014 3 Comments

turkeys-in-cages-transported-by-truckI was driving down the freeway the other day and I happened to notice a large flatbed truck carrying dozens of cages filled with live turkeys. The turkeys were stuffed in small cages with barely any room to move. I might be “projecting,” but they didn’t look very happy.

I felt really bad for them. Was this harsh method of transporting them necessary? Worse yet, where were they headed, and to what fate? I figured I probably knew the answer to that.

First, let me back up a bit. As my faithful readers know, I love pets and take extremely good care of my precious dog, Munson. What you may not know is that I am not a hunter, so I’ve never killed a living thing. Knowing myself, I am quite sure I would never kill a deer or bear. I also wouldn’t even kill a chicken or turkey. I suppose I would shoot a flying bird without much regret, although, again, I never have.

I also pride myself in having consistency in my thinking and belief system, as I suspect most of us do. That is probably why I think an innocent deer’s welfare, and needless pain and suffering, is just as important as my little doggie’s. Doesn’t it seem illogical to take such good care of our pets, and then go out on a Saturday and shoot a deer in the head for recreation? I’m sure hunters would disagree, but that is my belief.

But then, of course, we have the need to produce food for society, right? Throughout most of history we obtained our food by hunting free ranging birds and animals by trapping them or shooting them with a bow and arrow, or in more modern times, a gun. These birds and animals met an unfortunate fate, but at least they were able to live a natural existence up until that point.

So what of our modern methods for raising and killing farm animals for food? I am not very educated on this, but I have read and seen on TV reports of how cruelly these animals are treated. Chickens are kept in tiny cages for months for egg production, until it is time for their slaughter. Cows and pigs are corralled in terrible conditions before being inhumanely killed by electric shock or some other barbaric method.

Is this immoral? Should we be outraged?

One might argue that these “factory farms,” as they are called, are actually a benefit to society, in that they result in very efficient food production and cause many fewer people to starve. And aren’t people more important than farm animals?

I’m not so sure I fully agree with this reasoning. Does the end always justify the means?

So what should I do to express and act on my moral outrage? Should I become a vegetarian? Should I protest the inhumane treatment of farm animals? Should I contribute money to the cause of limiting certain methods of factory farming? Should I do all of these things?

And if you share my beliefs, what should you do?

About the Author ()

TIM MCINTYRE retired in 2004 from his position as president of Applied Systems after facilitating a successful sale of the company. At only forty-six years old, he made the unusual decision to fully retire to pursue other interests and simply enjoy free time. As a hard-driving Type A personality, this turned out to be a significant challenge for the Notre Dame and University of Chicago-educated MBA, CPA, and Certified Cash Manager.

Comments (3)

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  1. Tim McIntyre says:

    Thanks for the interesting perspective, Karen. Like you said, we need to harvest eggs, birds, animals, etc. to eat, so some of them are going to have to die in some fashion! It sounds like you treat your farm animals as humanely as possible, and that’s my main point. Can’t we be a bit more humane, and still produce food to eat?

    I also realize that many moral people are hunters, and I have no issue with them, especially if they harvest their catch for food/sustenance. It just doesn’t happen to be my cup of tea.

    I hope to see you sometime soon!

  2. Mary Quinlivan says:

    You may want to read Michael Pollen’s book The Omnivore’s Dilemma. He traces some of the animals that we eat thru their path to our table and addresses the issue of whether we all turn vegetarian or not. Very interesting perspective.

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