The Power of Man & the Suffering of Animals

The Suffering of Animals

Suffering in our world goes all the way down to the bottom. When sin infected the world even the animals suffer unto death and cruelty. So what do we as Christians think an do about animals? There is great animal cruelty and farming is often cruel and inhumane. How do we separate our plates from our ethics?

"This book wants to bridge the distance separating our plates (and stomachs) from our ethics. We have some idea of what animals look like on farms and are used to seeing their meat cooked in our meals. But what happens in between is a gray area for many consumers (Christians among them). There is a gap that disconnects us from the process by which animal meat gets on our tables. How are these animals treated and eventually slaughtered? More radically, is it ethical to use them as a consistent part of our food? Should we all be vegetarian? What is the moral ground for us humans to eat or exploit animals? Is there a justice issue as we deal with animals? These questions are widespread today.Although selective and faulty in its biblical treatment and moral conclusions, the book deserves a hearing especially when it denounces the evils of our consumerist society that, paradoxically, implement brutality in the name of human civilization. Camosy is at his best in the pars destruens of the book than in the pars construens. In other words, he gives food for thought to all serious Christians who wish to live responsibly in relationship with the animal world." from the article: For the Love of Animals

A review of the book: For Love of Animals: Christian Ethics, Consistent Action by Charles Camosy (link)

"A Summary

Matthew Scully’s Dominion is a 400 page appeal to our reason and conscience in behalf of the millions of animals who suffer unnecessarily at human hands. Scully describes what few of us will ever see – the pain and misery of animals in factory farms, slaughterhouses, and laboratories; in oceans where whales are hunted, in forests and jungles where sport hunting takes place, and more. Dominion is an argument for the application of morality to our use of the power we have over these defenseless beings.

My summary is laid out this way. First, I will describe a few of Scully’s many examples of unnecessary animal suffering. Second, I will review his responses to some arguments that minimize the significance of animal suffering. Third and last, I will recount the place of reason and conscience in Scully’s thought, and his proposals for the humane treatment of animals.

Based on this bare outline, you may be surprised to learn that Scully is politically conservative, a former speech writer for George W. Bush. Like conservatives generally, Scully emphasizes personal responsibility. But, unlike most conservatives, he sees the mistreatment of animals as “a test of our character, of mankind’s capacity for empathy and for decent, honorable conduct and faithful stewardship.” (xi)

Human capacity for empathy is a major theme of Dominion. Scully uses it to address our conscience. When we see animals being mistreated, “a part of us hurts with them, recoiling at their cries and attempts to escape.” (31) We experience this in the course of everyday life, for example when our pet is in pain or we hear about an incident of animal cruelty on the news. He hopes to translate that empathy into to an ongoing moral response toward the suffering we cannot see.

Part 1 – Factory Farms, Slaughterhouses, and Laboratories

According to the American Meat Institute, Inc. an industry trade group, in2011, the meat industry processed 2.2 million sheep and lambs, 34.1 million cattle, 110.9 million pigs, 246 million turkeys, and 8.7 billion chickens.[1]

You cannot easily raise all these animals free-range and cage-free. It is much more feasible to herd them into feed lots or squeeze a large number under one roof, farm after farm. Consequently, we have the factory farm, where animals are packed as tightly as possible to be raised and fattened for the slaughter. The less space given to each animal, the lower the cost of labor and overhead, and the greater the profit. When the time comes, they are shipped to a regional slaughterhouse where they are slaughtered and processed on a “production line.” The faster the line moves, the more animals can be processed, and the greater the profit. So, upping the profit comes down to minimizing an animal’s space while it lives, and maximizing the speed with which it is killed and butchered. This is called “efficiency.”

Few of us know just what goes on in these places and the industry does not want us to know, so they have worked very successfully to put laws in place across the country that penalize anyone (employees and non-employees) who photograph or videotape what goes on. In some states, this is a felony. There is also a federal law, “The Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act” that criminalizes conduct undertaken “for the purpose of damaging or interfering with the operations of an animal enterprise.” Several individuals have been convicted under this statute merely for picketing, which has somehow become a “terrorist” act.[2] In a document revealed by a Freedom of Information lawsuit, an FBI agent concludes there “is a reasonable indication” to believe that individuals who trespass in order to photograph or videotape abuses on factory farms “have violated the “Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act” and are therefore liable for criminal prosecution.[3] It has not happened yet, but the mere existence of such a law shows the power of the “animal enterprise” lobby.

Factory farmers and their apologists claim that these photographs and videos of animal suffering record very rare events. But Scully points out the contradiction between that claim and their unceasing efforts to keep the public from seeing how animals are treated. If they are treated well, why hide it? (271) Scully wants us to see exactly what the industry wants to hide, so he writes, giving visibility and voice to those he calls “the least visible and the least audible” (174)."

From the article: Matthew Scully, Dominion: The Power of Man, the Suffering of Animals, and the Call to Mercy

Dominion: The Power of Man, the Suffering of Animals, and the Call to Mercy by Matthew Scully (link)

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