These pigs are sentient. They experience emotion and feel pleasure and pain. That’s been well documented by scientists, and is intuitively true for almost anyone who has had a pet. Yet around the globe we are locking up millions of pigs, and chickens, and cows in industrial factory farms, to make excessive amounts of meat, eggs, and milk.
I hold the belief that human beings have the moral right to use non-human animals for some purposes. I may be wrong on this, and God’s not talking. But I also believe we have a responsibility to treat animals as well as possible and not to inflict suffering. This is hardly a radical idea. Yet most of us continue to support factory farming by buying cheap chicken and conventional milk and eggs, bacon from mass producers, and beef from cattle feedlots.
This touches on the fourth of the Five Key Challenges for Food Systems that I outlined previously:
- To feed a large and growing world population
- To produce food ecologically
- To consume food for human health
- To act compassionately toward all living beings
- To support community well-being.
We can make food choices that are kind and compassionate toward livestock. We can do this by refusing to support factory farming. We can do it by buying animal products that were made in small-scale, natural environments where the animals lived decent lives stewarded by people who recognized their physical, emotional, and social needs.
Having written extensively on the scientific evidence for animal sentience, based on my background in neuroscience, psychology, and food policy, I feel strongly on this topic. You can read one of my articles on it, commissioned by Compassion in World Farming, at: http://www.ciwf.org.uk/animal_sentience/science/guest_articles/default.aspx. I welcome your comments.