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The S-Word

I’m really enjoying this alphabet stuff. First the C-Word, then the F-Word, and now The S-Word: suffering. There are only two aspects of suffering I’d like to address, as they seem to be at the root of the welfare vs. abolition debate as it pertains to the ultimate goal (if we all agree that goal is abolition. If not, we’re not even pretending to be on the same team.).

Short-term/long-term suffering, and quality/quantity of suffering.

No one will say that, for instance, banning gestation crates will decrease short-term suffering (if in fact the alternative is better).  That decrease will be of quality (the kind of suffering). That’s a no-brainer.

However, let’s deconstruct the part that appears cloudy, to some:

  • More people will be more comfortable with eating animals, and indeed some will switch back from vegetarianism (and I’ve personally seen a lot of this) because they feel their conscience is clear.
  • That results in a direct INCREASE (remember supply and demand?) in the QUANTITY of suffering.
  • In other words, more pigs will suffer, although they will be suffering less than if they were in crates.
  • BUT the increase in consumption–the increase in demand for slaughtered pigs–might not have occurred without the banning of the crates.

Therefore, in the long term, there is more (quantity) suffering, and the root of it is the happy meat. Besides, do you really think Smithfield (and others) would alter their practices if they didn’t see the direct economic benefit from doing so? This is America, and meat producing is a for-profit business with the mission of maximizing profits and stakeholder investments.

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