Peter Singer: Think humans’ treatment of animals has improved in 50 years? Think again
Because of the growth and further intensification of animal production, humans inflict more suffering on animals today than they did in 1975. Mahatma Gandhi said that 'the greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.' By that standard, there are no truly great or morally progressive nations.
PETER SINGER: Fifty years ago, my first article arguing that it is wrong to treat animals as we do appeared in the New York Review of Books. Two years later my book “Animal Liberation” was published, subsequently to be credited with triggering the modern animal rights movement.
Similar ethical perspectives are now supported by many philosophers. But the factual descriptions in that book of what we do to animals have long ceased to capture current conditions accurately. In updating the book, I could not avoid the question: Have we made progress in our attitudes toward animals and our treatment of them since 1975?
Many people are concerned about cruelty to animals, but focus on how we treat our companion animals, especially cats and dogs, who number about 840 million worldwide. That number is dwarfed by the approximately 200 billion vertebrate animals raised for food in appalling conditions in factory farms. In any objective assessment of the lives, and deaths, of animals under human control, the welfare of intensively farmed animals far outweighs the significance of how we treat our companion animals.
Of these vertebrate animals raised for food in close confinement, about 124 billion are fish. There is now strong evidence that fish can feel pain, and there is no justification for ignoring that pain. Beyond that, an estimated 460 billion to 1.1 trillion fish are hauled out of the ocean every year, ground up into fishmeal, and the bulk fed to carnivorous fish. A typical farmed salmon has eaten 147 fish before it is itself killed. After fish, chickens are the most consumed vertebrate: About 70 billion are raised and killed each year…
Because of the growth and further intensification of animal production, humans inflict more suffering on animals today than they did in 1975… Mahatma Gandhi said that “the greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.” By that standard, there are no truly great or morally progressive nations yet. SOURCE…