Torturing Puppies and Eating Factory-Farmed Meat: What’s the Difference?

Spencer Lo

If you needed to torture puppies in order to enjoy the taste of chocolate, would doing so be wrong? Wouldn’t doing so be obviously wrong? Most who would say ‘yes’ regularly purchase and consume factory-farmed meat, seeing no problem with the latter, and yet, the two may not be morally distinguishable. According to at least one philosopher, they are not. In a highly provocative and creative paper, Alastair Norcross makes the case that purchasing and eating factory-farmed meat is morally comparable to torturing puppies for gustatory pleasure, and meat-eaters who realize this ought to become vegetarians (or at least give up factory farmed-meat). It’s an argument worth thinking about. (Other arguments for vegetarianism can be found here and here).

Norcross begins his paper with the story of Fred, who is on trial for animal abuse (see the lecture version here). The police discovered that in Fred’s basement, 26 puppies had each been confined in small wire cages. For 26 weeks, Fred would perform a series of mutilations on them, without anesthesia, and then brutally end their lives. His defense?  He is a lover of chocolate, and torturing puppies was the only way for him to enjoy it. Continue reading