Let’s face it — life depends on death. We can’t live without killing. We kill animals, plants and jillions of little tiny organisms every day, no matter how conscientious we are.
In my opinion, killing animals for food is not evil. The domestication of animals was very important in the development of civilization. Taking wild game and raising animals for slaughter is natural and necessary. (I know there are some who argue with the “necessary” part of that statement.)
But something has changed recently in human history and it has moral implications. This is the factory farm. Until recently, animals were raised by family farms and the care of the animals was something near and dear to the hearts of the farmers. Even with large herds, there was a direct and personal involvement in the well-being of the animals by those who tended them.
Animals do feel pain and they can be made to suffer in many ways. They can express this suffering so they are obviously self-aware enough to know they are suffering. As a moral society I believe we absolutely have a duty to treat animals humanely. I vote with my dollars when I can on this issue. I, as a consumer, will pay more for products that treat animals better, such as free-range chicken. But the market doesn’t always reward moral imperatives. It’s the role of government to get things done, especially in those instances where the market fails.
I’m not a vegetarian but I sympathize with many of their ideals. We should demand the benign treatment of animals both as consumers and as citizens. We should not let our food production descend into a nightmare of billions of tortured creatures so we can pay a few cents less per pound. This should be self-evident.