Re: Extropians and animal rights

Robin Hanson (
Mon, 11 Jan 1999 13:14:55 -0800

Natasha Vita-More wrote:
>We now can afford to be vegetarian, and the foods produced these days for
>vegetarians are substantial and contain the necessary nutrients, we no
>longer need to hunt and kill animals for food. Regardless of meat eaters
>excuses that there are farms that breed animals for food and that is their
>purpose and justify this as necessary for human nutrition, I have
>difficulty in understanding the defense. The cow has nerve endings and
>feels pain. The cow also reproduces and cares for its young. The look of
>horror on the cows face when it is sent to the slaughter house is a vision
>I try not to draw up from my memory bank.

Here is a consequentialist argument for eating animals: cows lives are overall worth living, even if they are slaughtered at the end. What happens if you convince the world that you from now on you will no longer eat cows, and instead spend the same amount on fancy vegetable foods? The demand for cows goes down and the demand for veggies goes up. Farmers will choose to grow fewer cows to meet that demand, and will choose to plant more fancy veggie crops. People who used to have jobs processing cow meat will switch to jobs processing veggies. And so on.

So unless you do something else in switching from meat to veggies, like donating money to charities that raise cows which are never killed, the direct effect of switching is to reduce the number of cows who ever live. In order to eliminate that bad end-of-cow-life experience, you elimate the entire cow life experience. If that whole cow life is "worth living" in some sense, this wasn't necessarily a kind thing to do. (Unless you think those veggie lives are more worth living, even though they get killed in the end.)

Robin Hanson   
RWJF Health Policy Scholar             FAX: 510-643-8614 
140 Warren Hall, UC Berkeley, CA 94720-7360 510-643-1884