Being a vegetarian, and for at least this month a vegan, the key reasons motivating me to go meat free are not motivated by health or the environment, these for me are consequential positive impacts of cutting meat out of my diet. The prime motivating factor for me going and staying meat free is the ethical aspect.
After all I have lived the majority of my life enjoying cheeseburgers, milkshakes and KFC. It wasn’t going to be easy to cut all of these out of my diet unless there were highly compelling reasons for me to do so.
It wasn’t until I really started to think about the ethics that my mindset transformed and now I no longer crave cheeseburgers because now the image of the juicy burger has been replaced…
So here are my ethical arguments for going meat free…
1. The limited lifespan of the animals in the meat and dairy industries:
Let’s look at the facts:
Disclaimer: These figures are largely based on EU/UK figures which have some of the highest animal welfare protection in the world. In many countries animals are given much less protection and the lifespans may be even shorter.
Whereas a chicken has a natural lifespan of around twenty years of age, a farmed chicken will be slaughtered around the age of five to seven weeks of age, or eight weeks in the case of free range chickens.
In the hen and egg industry male chicks live to no longer than one day. They have no use as a hen and are killed. Don’t believe me? Read this
Beef cattle is typically slaughtered between 12 months to three years, in comparison to its natural lifespan of twenty years.
Veal (a by product of the dairy industry) is slaughtered at six months in comparison to its natural lifespan of twenty years.
Pigs are usually slaughtered between four and six months old, in comparison to their natural lifespan of ten years.
The ethical argument:
Just think about that for a second, these chickens, yep the plump, juicy ones you buy in the supermarkets, have had no more than eight weeks of a life. (Hmm wonder how they get to such a large juicy size at such a young age.)
Cows have had their life cut by seventeen years or more, and in the case of veal or calves they are killed at a mere six months. What you don’t eat veal? But if you consume dairy veal is a by product of the dairy industry- the male calves the dairy cow gives birth to has no other purpose other than to be slaughtered for veal.
What have the pigs done to deserve 95% of their life being taken away?
Does your desire for meat override the life of another living being?
How can you justify taking the life of a living being away? Particularly when the reasons for doing so are mainly so that farmers can maximise their profits.
Do you think animals have a right to live to their natural age?
Who are you to take away the life of a living being so prematurely?
2. Lack of quality of life.
Animals for meat and dairy, are treated as nothing more than a commodity. They are viewed in terms of how to maximise profit. This doesn’t translate to keeping the animal in spacious, comfortable living conditions. Even the label ‘free range’ doesn’t mean much.
The vast majority of animals for slaughter are kept indoors. For example, hens are commonly kept in ‘battery cages’ in many countries. The EU have banned battery cages and instead enforce “enriched cages with space to nest and roost.” However, the majority of chickens will still not see the outdoors.
The RSPCA in the UK argue that hens are inquisitive animals which require space to roost, groom, scratch at soil, perch, dust bathe and nest. A small confined cage does not provide these conditions for the hens and will cause frustration and suffering.
They do not have freedom. From birth they are held captive.
The ethical argument:
Surely all animals have the right to a good quality of life and one which enables them to indulge in their natural behaviours? Surely all animals deserve to be content and happy? Surely they deserve to be free from stress and tension?
So what about free range? Free range practices can differ wildly. See here. Unless you personally visit the farm and speak to those who work with the animals you have no real idea of what practice is taking place.
What gives us the right to hold another being captive? These are animals with thoughts, feelings and senses.
3. Animals are living beings NOT a commodity:
Pigs have been proven to be incredibly intelligent animals. They can be loving and much like dogs reported by people who have kept them as pets. Tests have suggested they are more intelligent than dogs, see here and here. Even Jeremy Corbyn cites his time spent on a pig farm as the reason he went vegetarian. They have four legs, cheeky personalities, two eyes and a brain.
Chickens can also be quirky pets. They are intelligent and capable of emotion and thought see here.
Cows can be incredibly gentle and loving and much more intelligent than we give them credit for, see here.
The ethical argument:
An animal, whether it be a cat, chicken, dog, horse, cow or pig is a living being with thoughts, emotions, senses and feelings.
We have in our society been conditioned into believing that this is normal and acceptable to keep animals, real living beings with feelings in tiny cages and pens. In cutting their lifespan short. In causing pain and distress. In keeping animals in these unnatural conditions…
We are taking away all choices and all quality of life for these animals. It all stems down to humans thinking they are superior to the extent they don’t care about keeping these animals in horrific conditions and vastly shortening their lifespan.
Treating a living thing as a commodity, as something which has no value or worth other than to be sold as meat is such a callous way of thinking.
Why do humans act so arrogant? So superior, that their lives are more worthy than the life of another living being?
Why should take away another animals freedom? What gives us the right?
Why are we supporting an industry that maximises profit by limiting the quality of anothers life?
4. The moment of death:
I personally can’t bring myself to view in too much detail the exact slaughter of the animals and don’t wish to publish it here either, but what I have read, for example in the UK gassing pigs erm…remind you of anything?!
This RSPCA article lists the methods in a factual, non sensationalist way.
The UK does have one of the highest animal welfare records, many countries practices of animal slaughter are much more horrific, cruel and gruesome. The UK does by law enforce stunning the animal prior to slaughter (other than the pigs), other than religious meats such as halal meat.
Some other countries indulge in truly horrific practices. But as mentioned before, these animals are intelligent. They are slaughtered whether by ‘humane’ methods or otherwise alongside their companions. Do you really think an intelligent animal wouldn’t understand what is happening? That they won’t hear or the calls of distress from other animals? That they won’t see what is happening around them? The poor things must be terrified.
5.. Why the prejudice?
Why is it that chickens, pigs and cows are treated so differently to budgies, cats and dogs?
A cow can be gentle and loving. A chicken a quirky and intelligent pet. Pigs have been regularly shown to be at least as intelligent as dogs. So why is it that we don’t think about these animals in any way other than as meat?
These animals also have brains, feelings, senses. Just because they are shaped differently to cats and dogs, and taste nice when cooked and eaten does not negate the fact they are living beings.
It is a form of discrimination- species discrimination, or speciesism.
Gary Yourkovsky controversially called it the biggest ‘holocaust’ of all time.
Pigs are intelligent, loving and friendly. Don’t believe me?
Chickens can make great pets, exhibit a range of personality traits, even according to research Machiavellian characteristics!
The ethical argument:
These creatures are intelligent, capable of thought and decision making. They are capable of love, loyalty and affection. They have senses and emotions. They have understanding. They are not so different to cats, dogs, rabbits and budgies.
Why are they treated with so much disrespect and disregard by the human population?
Why do we treat them so differently to other animals such as cats and dogs?
Why do we think these living, thinking creatures don’t deserve a decent life?
Why aren’t these animals worthy of respect?
Why don’t they deserve to be loved and cared for?
Why don’t they deserve to live a natural lifespan?
Why are humans putting themselves in charge of their destiny?
Why are we murdering them and keeping them in unnatural conditions?
What gives us the right to oppress these beings for no reason other than than we want the meat cheap and quick?
6. The impact on people working in slaughterhouses:
Plus there’s evidence of a link between those that work in such an industry and violence outside of the job. See Here Whether its causal, e.g. becoming desensitized to violence and suffering. Or whether its because those with violent tendencies would gravitate towards such a job, remains to be seen. Either way, it is not a healthy relationship.
Is it right to turn people into murderers (of animals?)
Can we justify affecting these peoples mental health and wellbeing just for our desire to eat meat?
Those are some of the key reasons I chose to take a stance and stop eating meat.
I do believe that the world is slowly but surely opening its eyes to the unnecessary cruelty of this industry. More and more people are going vegetarian and vegan every day.
I truly think that in time, maybe ten, twenty, maybe a hundred years time, future generations will look upon us as evil for allowing the mass slaughtering of living beings on such a huge scale. Not just the fact they are being slaughtered, but in taking away their choices, their freedom and cutting their lifespan so short.
Forks over knives (Netflix)
Psychology today: Pigs are intelligent and sensitive
What are your reasons for going vegan or vegetarian?
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Hi, I live and work in Dubai. I enjoy getting out and about and seeing what Dubai has to offer, travelling in my holidays and spare time – prepare for blog posts about this, and cooking vegetarian recipes. I am passionate about travel and animals.