My Understanding of Factory Farming

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In Alastair Norcross’ paper, “Puppies, Pigs, and People: Eating Meat and Marginal Cases” he describes a situation in which a man, Fred, has lost his ability to enjoy the gustatory pleasure of chocolate due to a car accident. However, it is known that puppies under duress produce cocoamone, the hormone Fred needs in order to enjoy chocolate again. Since no one is in the cocoamone business, Fred sets up twenty six puppy cages, and mutilates them resulting in cocoamone production in the puppy’s brains. Each week he slaughters a dog and consumes the cocoamone. When he is caught, he explains to the judge and jury that his actions are no different from factory farming because he is torturing and killing puppies for gustatory pleasure similar to how factory farms torture and kill cows, chickens, etc. for other people’s gustatory pleasure. You, the reader are meant to think that this is unacceptable, and therefore, denounce factory farming. Although there are many valid objections to this argument, I am in agreement with Norcross and shall be supporting him in this paper. I think the two most practical objections are that (1) most consumers don’t know how the animals are treated whereas Fred clearly does, and (2) if Fred stops enjoying chocolate, no puppies will be tortured, but if a person becomes a vegetarian, no animals will be saved due to the small impact of one consumer. I shall explain the reasoning behind these objections and then present sound responses in line with Norcross’ thinking, thereby refuting the objections.

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One objection Norcross states in his essay is that “perhaps most consumers are unaware of the treatment of animals, before they appear in neatly wrapped packages on supermarket shelves” (Norcross 2004, 231). This is a valid objection because all the meat looks the same and there are no signs of maltreatment, so why should we suspect otherwise? Most of us have grown up with the idea that cows and chickens are raised in an open pasture by farmers and they lead a relatively good life up until they are slaughtered (or perhaps some of us didn’t know where meat came from). In addition, the packaging of meat (pointed out in the movie Food Inc.) has words such as “farm raised” or pictures of a happy farmers or a single cow in a pasture. This leads us to believe that these animals are not being tortured or treated badly. Until a few years ago, I thought all meat was raised relatively the same, until my aunt told me about factory farming. If I was that naïve only a few years ago, shouldn’t most people still feel that way? Although this is a strong objection, Norcross and I would respond by saying that yes, some people might still be naïve, but “that number is rapidly dwindling, thanks to vigorous publicity campaigns waged by animal welfare groups” (Norcross 2004, 231). The largest sources have been movies such as Food Inc. or television commercials, and other more discrete sources are the emergence of certified companies that are allowed to print “organic” or “cage-free” on their packages which tell people that the animals were not tortured. In addition, anyone reading Norcross’ paper now knows about factory farms. The growing publicity of factory farming is making it less likely that people are completely oblivious to the maltreatment of these animals, which thereby refutes this objection.

The second objection to Norcross’ argument states that the cases of Fred and factory farming are different because “if Fred [does] not consume his chocolate, he would not raise and torture puppies”, but “if I did not buy and consume factory-raised meat, no animals would be spared lives of misery” (Norcross 2004, 231). This is a valid objection because Fred is the only person that needs cocoamone from the tortured puppies, so if he were to give up chocolate, all puppy torturing (for this purpose) would cease. However, if I stopped eating meat, no fewer animals would be bread and tortured because the industry is too large to feel the decline in sales due to a single person. Therefore, since the animals will be produced regardless, I might “as well enjoy the taste of their flesh” (Norcross 2004, 231). This may be one of the strongest objections to Norcross’ argument because it is true that one person will not affect the number of animals raised and it is difficult to believe that becoming a vegetarian will help the cause because you won’t directly see the effects of your actions. However, Norcross and I would respond by saying that a single person can make a difference. Norcross stated in his paper that “the industry may not be able to respond to each individual’s behavior, but it must respond to the behavior of fairly large numbers” (Norcross 2004, 233). Therefore, if more and more people become vegetarians, the industry will respond. In addition, “People who become vegetarians influence others to become vegetarian, who in turn influence others” which thereby increases the number of people not eating meat, forcing the factory farming industry to decline (Norcross 2004, 233).Above I have provided evidence for how a single person can make a difference in factory farming which directly refutes the objection.

Throughout this essay I have addressed two objections to Norcross’ argument against factory farming. The first objection stated that most people are naïve and do not know how the animals are treated, whereas Fred is in direct contact and knows exactly what is going on. I responded to this objection by explaining that a huge media campaign by animal welfare groups has been underway for years and includes movies, commercials, and even print text such as Norcross’ paper. Therefore, this objection is not sound because the number of naïve people are rapidly dwindling. The second objection stated that one person has no effect on the factory farming industry, so giving up meat is pointless becausethe industry is too large to feel the effects of someone converting to vegetarianism. I refuted this objection by saying that, yes, one person alone will not make a difference, but when more and more people become vegetarians, the industry will be forced to respond by producing fewer animals, therefore, preventing more animal suffering. Although these two objections were strong and valid, I believe I was able to successfully defend Norcross’ argument that factory farming is wrong and cruel.

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