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February 25, 2015: Suffering vs. death in regards to animal welfare

A friend of mine and I recently discussed animals used in various food industries, and whether or not suffering is, in fact, even worse than death for these animals. At least, my friend would say, the moment of death comes quickly, and the bigger problem, in fact, is the suffering they endure while they are still alive.

From an Effaist point of view, the short answer is pretty simple. Killing another sentient being is the worst thing you can do. This is why we do not support so-called, "ethical meat", where animals are supposed to have "happy lives" before they are killed; Relatively happy lives, sure, though their final chapter is still a crime. That said, making another innocent being suffer, as animals are made to suffer in many food industries, including the dairy industry, is almost as bad. To expand on the answer, I’d say that whether you’re talking about humans or other animals, both of the above-mentioned things are horrible. Like I said, all sentient life is precious, and while we should keep in mind that killing tops the list for unethical acts, we should, at the same time, do what we can to help diminish the suffering of the animals in question. It’s not an either-or situation.

My friend and I are basically on the same page. The only difference is that he would prefer to kill an animal than to see him/her suffer. Of course in some situations this may be necessary, though the concept becomes problematic when, for example, the animal that is killed is simply replaced by another suffering animal. This is the case with many animal shelters in the US. They use killing as a method of population control of dogs and cats, while no-kill methods can work just as well if one does them right. Another good reason to respect other animals’ right to live is that often awakens us to the idea that this life should be dignified and suffering-free. Many people start off with a simple “we should not kill animals”, and then move on to an even more empathetic awakening of their consciousness regarding the unfair way that we currently treat other animals. This is exactly why many vegetarians who stop eating meat for ethical reasons, later become vegans.

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