AR-FAQ - #57

#57 Don't crop harvest techniques and transportation, etc., lead to the death of animals?

The questioner's probable follow-up is to assert that since we perform actions that result in the death of animals for producing crops, a form of food, we should therefore not condemn actions (i.e., raising and slaughter) that result in the death of animals for producing meat, another form of food. How do we confront this argument? It is clear that incidental (or accidental, unintended) deaths of animals result from crop agriculture. It is equally clear that intentional deaths of animals result from animal agriculture. Our acceptance of acts that lead to incidental deaths does not require the acceptance of acts that lead to intentional deaths. (A possible measure of intentionality is to ask if the success of the enterprise is measured by the extent of the result. In our case, the success of crop agriculture is not measured by the number of accidental deaths; in animal agriculture, conversely, the success of the enterprise is directly measured by the number of animals produced for slaughter and consumption.) Having shown that the movement from incidental to intentional is not justified, we can still ask what justifies even incidental deaths. We must realize that the question does not bear on Animal Rights specifically, but applies to morality generally. The answer, stripped to its essentials, is that the rights of innocents can be overridden in certain circumstances. If rights are genuinely in conflict, a reasonable principle is to violate the rights of the fewest. Nevertheless, when such an overriding of the rights of innocents is done, there is a responsibility to ensure that the harm is minimized. Certainly, crop agriculture is preferable to animal agriculture in this regard. In the latter case, we have the added incidental harm due to the much greater amount of crops needed to produce animals (versus feeding the crops directly to people), AND the intentional deaths of the produced animals themselves. Finally, many argue for organic and more labor-intensive methods of crop agriculture that reduce incidental deaths. As one wag puts it, we have a responsibility to survive, but we can also survive responsibly! DG

SEE ALSO: #58-#59