Sunday, October 28, 2007

Animal Ethics

I had an assortment of curries for lunch, and this was followed by a discussion about the ethics of eating animals. So the predicted tangential point.

In common with most other chimps, humans tend to be omnivores. I enjoyed my lamb, and I have already stated that I hope that it was killed with its pain minimised according to scientific knowledge rather than religious barbarism.

Generally, given equal price, convenience and availability, we tend to prefer to eat "wild" animals rather than factory farmed ones. There are good health reasons for this.

But farming has made our ethical choice easier in one respect. What three thousand years of selective breeding has done is to gradually remove much of the "life" out of farm animals. I don't mean life in its strict biological sense of replicating DNA, in that sense farming is the best thing that ever happened to the genes for chickens, cows and goats. I do mean the "zest for life", the spirit, the aggressiveness, the unpredictability and the fight to survive that characterises wild animals.

Perhaps one day, as DNA suggested, we will end up with a pig that wants to be eaten. If that happens, it would be a pleasure to oblige.


Faisal said...

I don't think farming has bred the "will to live, the willingness to fight for survival" out of animals at all. They go to extraordinary lengths to try and live, from standing on the bodies of other dead animals to get more air to cannibalism to shutting down non-vital bodily functions.

Definitely disagree with this one, unless there's an amoeba farm somewhere.

RNB said...

Fair point. We are not there yet.

But I think it's going that way (very slowly). Look at wild oxen vs farm cows or sheep. On the whole farmers tend to choose to breed those who are easiest to herd. The unpredictable crazy ones don't make good farm animals.

Maybe one day we could grow slabs of meat without nerves in them?