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The ethics of eating animals

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Picture: Supplied – The Joburg Metro Police Department (JMPD) in South Africa impounds several cow heads, skins, cooked cow head meat and pots in a blitz aimed at enforcing informal trading by-laws.

By Dominic Naidoo

Over the last few months, I’ve found myself pondering whether my vegan lifestyle is actually making a difference in the larger scheme of things.

I have reported on numerous government failures in halting and reversing climate change, not only in South Africa but the world over. I have researched and reported on the absurd amounts of carbon released when the ultra-rich take 15-minute private jet trips to grab coffee with their dogs.

I have reported on the massive increase in meat and dairy consumption in developing countries like China and India, the widespread deforestation happening in central Africa, South American and central Asia.

I began doubting whether my sometimes restrictive lifestyle is actually worth the inconvenience.

After all, I only have this one life to live, should I be suffering through poorly made “vegan” dishes at restaurants or declining invitations entirely for fear of being the “difficult” one at the table?

Long story short, a few weeks ago, I made the transition back to vegetarianism and I’ve been much happier for it. Still, I pondered.

The ethics of eating animals is a complex and controversial topic that has been debated for centuries. At its core, the question is whether it is morally justifiable to use animals as a source of food.

There are a variety of different perspectives on this issue, each with its own set of arguments and counterarguments.

One common argument in favour of eating animals is that it is a natural and necessary part of human existence. From this perspective, humans have always relied on animals as a source of

food, and it is a fundamental aspect of our biology and evolution.

Furthermore, it is argued that animals are not capable of experiencing the same level of consciousness and suffering as humans, and therefore it is not morally wrong to use them for food.

Another argument in favour of eating animals is that it is necessary for human survival. This is particularly true in developing countries where food security is a major issue, and people do not have access to a wide variety of plant-based protein sources. In these cases, it is argued that it is morally justifiable to eat animals in order to meet basic nutritional needs.

Opponents of eating animals, however, argue that it is morally wrong to use animals as a food source. They argue that animals have their own inherent value and deserve to be treated with respect and compassion.

This perspective is often based on the belief that animals are sentient beings that are capable of experiencing pain and suffering.

I ask people who sometimes attack me for not wanting to partake in pleasures of the flesh, what if a superior life form emerged on Earth and saw as a viable source of nutrition? Would we, as humans, understand that we are lesser and therefore should be farmed as a food source? The question is often met with silence.

For example, scientists established, in 2018, that fish are in fact able to feel pain. Fish have nociceptors, which are specialised nerve endings that respond to harmful stimuli by transmitting pain signals to the brain.

Studies have shown that fish display behaviours indicative of pain when subjected to noxious stimuli, such as struggling or rubbing against objects in their environment, similar to the way that other animals respond to pain.

Additionally, certain pain-relieving drugs have been found to be effective in reducing these pain responses in fish. This suggests that fish do experience pain in a similar manner to other vertebrates.

One of the main arguments against eating animals is that it is cruel and inhumane. This is because the conditions in which animals are raised, transported and slaughtered can be inhumane and cruel.

Many people believe that it is morally wrong to cause unnecessary suffering to animals, and that the current system of animal agriculture is inherently cruel.

Another argument against eating animals is that it is environmentally damaging. The production of animal-based products is a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions, deforestation, and water pollution.

This is particularly true of factory farming, where animals are raised in crowded, unsanitary conditions and fed a diet of genetically modified grains.

A third argument against eating animals is that it is not necessary for human health. Many people believe that it is now possible to meet all of our nutritional needs with a plant-based diet.

Additionally, studies have shown that a diet that is high in animal-based products is associated with a higher risk of heart disease, cancer, and other chronic health conditions.

Finally, as far as ethics and morals are concerned, some people argue that eating animals is morally wrong because it perpetuates systems of oppression and injustice.

This is because the current system of animal agriculture is characterised by exploitative labour practices, environmental racism, and economic injustice.

The ethics of eating animals is a complex issue that is shaped by a variety of different factors.

While some people argue that it is morally justifiable to eat animals because it is a natural and necessary part of human existence, others believe that it is morally wrong because it is cruel, environmentally damaging, and unnecessary for human health.

However, it is important to consider the moral implications of our food choices and to be mindful of the impact that our choices have on animals, the environment, and human communities.

It is not sustainable for humans to continue eating meat at current levels. The global demand for meat is increasing rapidly, which is leading to the overuse of natural resources, deforestation, greenhouse gas emissions, and other environmental problems.

Additionally, current industrial animal agriculture practices often involve inhumane treatment of animals and widespread use of antibiotics, which can lead to antibiotic resistance.

To ensure a sustainable future, it is important to shift towards more sustainable and ethical food systems, such as plant-based diets and regenerative agriculture practices.Ultimately, the

decision about whether to eat animals is a personal one that is shaped by individual values and beliefs.