Don’t be cruel: the significance of cruelty in the current meat-debate

In Svenja Springer & Herwig Grimm (eds.), Professionals in food chains. Wageningen Academic Publishers. pp. 157-162 (2018)

Authors
Peter M. Kaiser
Universität Bremen
Abstract
The aim of this paper is to investigate the significant role of the concept of cruelty to animals with regard to its application in the current meat-debate. Even those philosophers who do not advocate vegetarianism/veganism are in almost unanimous agreement when it comes to the condemnation of factory farming: its practices cause massive, unnecessary suffering to animals, therefore they are cruel. Prohibition of cruelty to animals has been central to animal protection acts, and is still playing a pivotal role in the debate over determining moral status: If x can be wronged by cruelty, then x has at least some moral status. I will discuss Timothy Hsiao’s (2017) recent attempt to defend factory farming by arguing that it is not cruel to animals since animals have no moral status. By focusing on his misconception of cruelty it will be shown that Hsiao’s anthropocentric definition ‘that an act is cruel if it reveals a corrupt character or if it corrupts one’s character so as to make one more disposed to mistreating humans’ is neither necessary nor sufficient. After a reconsideration of David DeGrazia’s (2009) fundamental objections to indirect duty views I will consider four significant shortcommings of Hsiao’s account: first, the dubious spillover aspect; second, his underdetermined conception of sadism. Third, it will be demonstrated that Hsiao’s definition is too inclusive. Finally, it will be shown that Hsiao disregards different kinds of cruelty. With reference to Julia Tanner’s (2015) distinction of four kinds of cruelty the many practices involved in factory farming ought to be analyzed as prime examples of indifferent cruelty.
Keywords Animal cruelty  Moral status  Factory farming  Meat
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