The Immeasurable Tragedy of Factory Farming - Part 2

Managing Editor Adam Abadi ('22) continues his comprehensive look at the factory farming industry with an analogy about puppies.

Adam Abadi
September 8, 2021

There are a lot of ways to think about the ethics of factory farming, but our moral intuition about animal cruelty is a good place to start.

Most people think that it’s wrong to kick puppies. If you don’t think that kicking a puppy is wrong, then sorry, you’re not the target audience for this article. 

Why is it wrong to kick a puppy?

You might say that it’s wrong because you are inflicting unnecessary pain on a thinking, conscious creature for no good reason. 

What if someone claimed they did have a good reason for kicking a puppy?

Maybe Alice the Puppy-Kicker says, “It’s fun to kick puppies. I just like kicking puppies, and it would be too hard to stop.” And let’s say she really does like kicking puppies, so it’s not like she’s wrong. In fact, she likes kicking puppies just as much as most people enjoy eating meat and eggs.

Maybe Bob the Puppy-Kicker says, “Well, humans are bigger and stronger than puppies. So isn’t kicking puppies just the natural order of things?” Bob has observed that, indeed, humans are bigger and stronger than puppies. Just like how humans, through the marvels of capitalism and antibiotics, are more powerful than chickens, pigs, and cows.

Maybe Charlie the Puppy-Kicker says, “Look, my family has ethically raised pet dogs for generations. And I close my eyes while kicking puppies. Puppy-kicking can’t be that different from just keeping puppies as pets, can it?” Charlie genuinely believes this, since he closes his eyes and has never actually seen his foot impact a puppy’s face. But in reality, the difference between keeping puppies as pets and kicking them in the face is about as vast as the chasm between factory farming and raising animals in a genuinely compassionate way.

Maybe Dave the Puppy-Kicker says “Puppies aren’t that smart, so I don’t think there’s anything wrong with kicking them. How do we even know that they care about being kicked?” 

It’s not like you can carry on a conversation with a puppy, and you can’t really teach a puppy to read or write, so Dave is correct that puppies aren’t very smart according to some standard of intelligence.

I wouldn’t really accept any of these justifications. Would you?

The story continues in Part 3.

Adam Abadi

Adam (’22) is an economics major from Brooklyn, NY with interests in public policy, electoral politics, and data science. He has worked as an intern for an environmental nonprofit and an economic consulting firm. Adam enjoys playing Scrabble, reading surreal fiction, and playing D&D in his spare time.