It is ironic that I am writing this article on the morning of Thanksgiving, where, soon, I will be feasting on a big-ass meal that will put Morgan Spurlock to shame. Just recently, California's Proposition 2 was passed, which posed standards on farm animal containment and garnered great support from anti-animal-cruelty organizations such as PETA and the Humane Society. Giving standards to farm animal containment promoted the use of free range meat. The passing of this proposition marks the beginning of a shift to more ethical means of farming.
The most commonly heard argument for free-range meat is that the happiness of farm animals is just as important as that of our pets. Ethical philosophers such as Peter Singer and Randy Cohen still hold this powerful point. Behind the scenes, we are unaware of the acts of cruelty that are a part of the process of making meat. Veal cows are cramped into pens so small that they are unable to move, leading their muscle to atrophy and collapse under their own weight. Foie Gras ducks are force-fed to soften their liver. How do we justify such means of farming? Simple. We like how they taste after undergoing these processes. This is not to say that all meat is immoral, but that to place farm animals under these conditions is immoral.
While many of the arguments in favor of Proposition 2 are saturated with pathos, a logical conclusion can still be drawn from those premises. Looking at this argument through a Utilitarian point of view, stating that all sentient things can suffer, placing them in cruel conditions is intensely unethical. To cause something to suffer is immoral, and, since we are causing animals to suffer by confining them, animal confinement is immoral. Thus, allowing animals to roam free on the pasture offers a far more ethical means of farming.