Environment, Ethics, & the Factory Farm

David Cassuto

PigletBitingCagelgOnce again, the Shameless Self-Promotion Desk whirs into action.  This new piece, forthcoming in the South Texas Law Review, is a transcription of a lecture I gave there last spring.  Here is the abstract:

What are the ethics behind factory farming? What are the ethical implications? This essay (transcribed from a lecture given at the South Texas College of Law) focuses on the environmental implications while defining those environmental implications through the lens of animal law and ethics.

Farms have become factories, and the animals raised in those factories are simply commodities. That is why we cannot have a discussion about environmental ethics without having a discussion of what we do when we eat. It’s not just a discussion about the law. It’s a discussion about how we live in the world. Where factory-farmed animals spend their entire lives is an environmental issue. They are the environment. Not only are they the environment, they are also living, sentient, feeling beings who are experiencing what it’s like to be in those cages.

This essay argues that environmental law and environmental ethics are interwoven and animals are part of the environment. Thus environmentalism and environmental law must do more than react to the pollution that animal mistreatment generates; it must address the mistreatment itself. No ethical system could do otherwise.

Get it, read it; tell all your friends… And post some comments here telling me what you think.

4 Responses

  1. Thank you.

  2. Excellent! I’m especially pleased with your response given to the gathering in Norway. But whether it’s overseas or in Texas the question always is: Will they listen? Seeing how we’ve gotten here in this mess seems like that question is rhetorical. Still, you’ve given it a great effort. Thanks for doing so.

  3. Having almost finished Will Anderson’s new book, THIS IS HOPE: GREEN VEGANS AND THE NEW HUMAN ECOLOGY: HOW WE FIND OUR WAY TO A HUMANE AND ENVIRONMENTALLY SANE FUTURE, I would submit, respectfully, that it’s more than just factory farms that are unethical — that ruin the “integrity, stability, and beauty of the biotic community,” to echo your excerpt from Aldo Leopold’s essay “Land Ethic.”

    Anderson repeatedly makes the point that ANY and ALL exploitation of animals harms the biosphere, no matter how small or pastoral or non-industrialized or “humane” the agricultural enterprise (or how skillful the hunter). He insists that if we do not turn from carnists to vegans on a global scale, and soon, earth’s ecology is doomed. Yet he has hope that we will wake up in time, and he offers seven results we will achieve in doing so!

    One of Anderson’s sentences (p. 211) reads, “A vegan human ecology transforms the world profoundly. It ends many and mitigates the rest of nearly every environmental problem we are creating with the current human ecology. We have been eating our way into the Earth’s biological and physical reserves for a long time. The vegan human ecology releases the prairies, steppes, mountain meadows, savannahs, rainforests, alpine meadows, and river valleys from our multi-tongued predation. As veganists, we eat plant crops directly from the land instead of funneling it through ducks, goats, cattle, pigs, camels, rabbits, chickens, and sheep. Imagine how we will regain nature orders of value and recalibrate how the economic order weighs the value of life. We have within us the compassion and common sense that will protect the beauty of our existence.”

    David, I value this transcript of your speech, which I recall listening to online, shortly after you presented it in Houston. You add important insights to the conversation about our ethical treatment of animals and of the earth, and hopefully you contribution will impact the principles, policies, and practices of human society. Perhaps a future speech or essay of yours will wrestle with: “Environment, Ethics, and the End of Carnism” or “Environment, Ethics, and the Value of Veganism.” 🙂

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