Sir, – The fate of industrially farmed animals is one of the most pressing ethical questions of our time, with tens of billions of sentient beings, each with complex sensations and emotions, living and dying on a production line. Yet the media largely ignores the issue.
Why is this? Is it because of pressure from the powerful animal agriculture industry? Could it be explained by the fact that the majority of people who work in the media eat animals and are disinclined to go near the subject? Maybe it’s because what we do to farmed animals is so grotesque, so barbaric, so upsetting, that it crosses some invisible threshold that separates what is deemed acceptable to the general public, and what is not?
The scientific community has used its growing knowledge of animals to manipulate their lives more efficiently in order for humans to exploit them in ever greater numbers. Yet this same knowledge has demonstrated that farmed animals are sentient beings, with intricate social relations and sophisticated psychological patterns.
With the help of vaccinations, medications, hormones, pesticides, central air-conditioning systems and automatic feeders, it is now possible to cram tens of thousands of chickens into sheds and produce meat and eggs with unprecedented efficiency.
Animals may not be as intelligent as us, but that, from an ethical viewpoint, is irrelevant: the fact that they can suffer, that they can experience pain and fear, loneliness and happiness – these are the yardsticks society should be using in order to devise a legislative framework that guarantees them a “life worth living”, as opposed to the horror story that is their lives at present. – Yours, etc,