An Ethical Analysis of the Animal Industry
Throughout time people have been using animals for human benefit in a variety of ways. Their lives have been convenient and useful to us and have been considered more like means than of anything with any type of inherent worth. Now more than ever we use animals for food, clothing, companions, entertainment and science. In nearly every case- we do not take animal interest into the least bit of account for any of these practices. From an ethical standpoint it seems many of these methods need to be done away with- and many of these need extreme reform.
In the case of food- it seems animals are used in an entirely unethical way. From the standpoint of holding life and all conscious sentient awareness as something valuable within nature- it seems corrupt to kill massive amounts of animals for very wasteful consumption. Factory farming in which animals are treated as merely food machines seems entirely unethical as there is no concern for the living conditions, physical well being, and humane treatment towards these creatures. As science has proven there are perfectly healthy alternatives to meat- it seems that using animals for food is entirely in an individual consumers self interest. vegan alternatives would take the place of the norm.
Similarly the fur and leather industry seems equally- if not more frivolous than meat. There are countless other materials for our use- many with practically identical look and feel. In the case of leather and fur- the use is simply superficial and has no direct correlation to even health and nutrition. Just like with food, when we take into account the alternatives, and the lack of any real need for fur or leather- this industry could become obsolete if consumers reacted more positively to pleather and faux fur rather than genuine leather and fur.
In the case of using animals as companions; the ethical analysis is not quite as black and white. In the case of keeping animals as companions- in most cases there is some sort of mutual benefit from such a relationship. Humans benefit from the loyalty, company and simple pleasures of a pet, and the pet is cared for, loved, fed and sheltered. Certain problems do arise from the pet industry such as puppy mills, animal abuse, and abandonment. Because of this there are very overcrowded shelters euthanizing countless animals because they do not hold a convenient place within the human lifestyle. But within this vicious cycle there are still responsible people who do go to the shelters to find companion pets to care for in a loving and nurturing manner. The pet industry needs drastic reform. There should be more of an effort to shut down puppy mills, monitor breeders, and promote shelters. Perhaps the government could step in here in ways such as making breeders get a license to practice this business and have the conditions monitored similar to how we hold our housing and restaurants to certain standards to practice business. This is a case for animal welfare- where we do account for the animal interest but we also give the consideration of our human benefits as well.
Animals used in circuses fairs and places of entertainment seems to be plain and simply wrong. We just do not need to use animals for entertainment when we have so many other choices of entertainment. Often these are exotic animals taken out of their environment to a place where they are they are trained, abused, and put in a situation that is not natural or in any case beneficial to them. The case of zoos is almost identical. Although zoos are educational, and the treatment may be something more comfortable for the animals, their place is not naturally within the confines of an exhibit and unnecessary. Animals in zoos and circuses have been reported to demonstrate signs of psychosis for being so confined. We really don't need zoos to learn about animals, we don't need animals in our circuses. Because these uses seem so pointless and the unethical we can resolve to do away with use of animals as entertainment.
The use of animals for science is a bit more complicated. We can easily say we need scientific reform and the experiments on animals for things like shampoo and deodorant is just pointless; we have enough of these things. The case where it comes down to valuing a human life over an animal life is a different problem. Using an animal to save the life of a human does seem justifiable, such as the case of pig valve transplants- as the human experience does seem to be more worthy of an animal's based on the depth of human relationships, and human capabilities with the gift of life. This viewpoint is more so utilitarian in the sense of maximizing happiness or overall well being for the greater good.