I have decided to become a vegetarian. It may seem to be a major change but it is something which I have thought about many times over the past few years as I moved to establish a consistent philosophical position. I was finally forced to make a decision after reading Matthew Scully’s Dominion: The Power of Man, the Suffering of Animals, and the Call to Mercy.
The book is interesting and very well-written, the author having worked as a speech writer for the ex-president of the US George W Bush, but was quite a change as he generally writes from a religious point of view. when the majority of what you read is written by atheists having someone seriously quoting the Bible can be quite jarring (although not nearly as bad as when, misled by its title, I read through a book written by, and presumably for, Jehovah’s Witnesses). That said most of the book is presented in a secular manner and appealing more to emotions and the idea of mercy than to either religion or secular philosophy, the latter of which would have greatly benefited it.
Aside from its excellent and highly informative forays into all manner of animal mistreatment, from pig farms and the Safari Club International in the US to an international whaling convention in Australia, the main point, already part of animal ethics, is constantly brought to the fore. That point being that animals are sentient and capable of suffering, regardless of what some philosophers and theologians might assert, and therefore have moral worth. Moving away from the less immediate topics presented that leaves eating meat in a problematic area. To produce meat animals must suffer and that suffering is unnecessary as we are perfectly capable of surviving without eating meat. So the question that is truly posed to everyone is whether or not they believe that the ease and enjoyment of eating meat is of more moral worth than the suffering of animals.
No doubt there are those people who have no feelings for animals but the majority surely are opposed to unnecessary cruelty, easily demonstrated in the uproar following cases of animal abuse, such as microwaving a kitten to death in the UK. This needs to be equally applied to those animals that are currently used for food, especially when current attitudes, such as the anger over Japan’s ‘scientific’ whaling and other Asian countries consumption of cats and dogs, reveal an inconsistent and hypocritical philosophic view. In the end there is no way to maintain an objection to such incidences of cruelty to animals while still partaking in an industry whose very foundation is that of unnecessary suffering.