“So, in my own moral reasoning, […] I try to locate my own particular part in the big picture. I simply imagine what it would be like to see those [animals] every day – the ones, in effect, being prepared just for me. Suppose […] I had literally to live with my own choice to eat meat, seeing my own pig and cow and lamb and chickens every day […] in a miniature factory farm, let us say, right near my house?
“Each morning, as I stepped out to greet the day, I would observe them being readied for me, peering into their crates and cages and pens, seeing their eyes begging me to let them out, out of the darkness and into the sun. It would be hard and I would probably try to convince myself that they’re just animals, for heaven’s sake, they can’t really think or feel or want anything […]
“If I had pets, I would see them lolling and roaming freely about the yard, basking in my care and affection while, inside the factory farm, animals of comparable feeling and intelligence received no comforts, no names, no affection, no nothing, only my silent and irresolute indifference. Day by day I would observe a little stream of waste pooling outside of the factory farm, this refuse the only external evidence that inside there are living creatures never themselves allowed to touch soil and grass. Night after night, as I drifted off to sleep in my warm, comfy bed, I would hear them, hear the shuffling and stirring and yanking of the tethers, the groans and bleats and bellows.
“All of this not to obey some inexorable force of evolution and biology, not by divine decree, not to meet some unstoppable market demand, not for Everyone – no, all of it done just for me. Each creature born and bred just for me. Confined and isolated just for me. And then in lonely terror packed off to die, just for me. And every time I saw and heard them I would have to remind myself just why I was doing this, to ask if my taste for pork loins or ham or steak or veal was really worth this price, to ask if this was really my choice and there was no other way.
“I know that I could not abide the sight of animals being treated so harshly, much less inflict such punishment myself. I know that I would feel mean and selfish and mediocre.
“Therefore, I want no part in any of it. I do not want this product. And I damn sure don’t want someone else doing the confining and beating and killing for me so that I am spared the unpleasantness of it all. The only thing worse that cruelty is delegated cruelty. […] When you eat flesh extracted this way, as Alice Walker puts it, ‘You’re just eating misery. You’re eating a bitter life.’
“That is the reality, exactly the same moral situation in which you and I both stand, involving exactly the same degree of complicity and exactly the same degree of choice. And it is the cheapest kind of sentimentality to ignore it. Far from being and emotional response, this is reason, a direct confrontation with the facts about the animals, about ourselves, and about our own actual needs and legitimate moral claims upon those creatures. The whole sad business, even while defended in terms of reason and realism, is designed to keep information and conscience as far apart as possible, to soothe and satisfy all at once […] I know that factory farming is an economic inevitability, not likely to end anytime soon.
“But I don’t answer to inevitabilities, and neither do you. I don’t answer to the economy. I don’t answer to tradition, and I don’t answer to Everyone. For me, it comes down to a question of whether I am a man or just a consumer. Whether to reason or just to rationalize. Whether to heed my conscience or my every craving, to assert my free will or just my will.
--- Excerpt from Dominion, Matthew Scully