The Ethics of Humane Animal Agriculture

Authored by: James McWilliams

The Routledge Handbook of Food Ethics

Print publication date:  July  2016
Online publication date:  July  2016

Print ISBN: 9781138809130
eBook ISBN: 9781315745503
Adobe ISBN: 9781317595502


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Like many books that have had a lasting influence, the impact of Animal Liberation (1975) was largely unintended. Peter Singer’s utilitarian argument for avoiding animal suffering remains a brilliant if incomplete justification for not eating animals. Specifically, it never effectively addresses the reductio ad absurdum conclusion that, according to Singer’s logic, would make it morally defensible to also kill, say, impaired infants (Leiter 2015). But, if Singer’s philosophy hasn’t been completely convincing, the graphic means through which he captured animal suffering on factory farms certainly has. More than any single source, it has immeasurably influenced the way we think about farm animals, turning a topic that very few consumers once thought about – animal welfare – into a matter of mainstream concern and debate. Today, nearly 95 percent of Americans say they are “very concerned” about the welfare of farm animals (Animal Welfare Institute 2015). Animal Liberation, whether it meant to or not, has had everything to do with that.

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