Last month, the Intercept, in partnership with Sentient Media, introduced our eight-part video series about factory farms, animal agriculture and animal rights, entitled “Animal Matters.” Our first episode examined the aim of the series and the personal trajectories of myself and my co-host, Grant Lingel, that led to our deep interest in these questions. The second episode, released two weeks ago, examined how this movement is rapidly catapulting from the left-wing fringes into the trans-ideological mainstream, as humanity recognizes that its animal-based means for feeding the planet’s 8 billion people is ethically, morally, economically and environmentally unsustainable.
Today’s third episode examines the underlying philosophical and ethical precepts governing how we think about animals and the value of their lives. What ethical or intellectual justifications exist for treating the lives of animals as inherently inferior to human life and thus justifiably exploited and extinguished for human benefit? Should the animal rights movement devote itself to incremental improvements in the welfare of animals, to reduce their suffering on their way to the slaughterhouse, or insist upon a principled consensus that animal life is inherently valuable and thus cannot be viewed as less worthy?
The use of animals for food and sport is ingrained in tradition and culture, though how it manifests varies radically across cultures: some, for instance, find the killing and eating of dogs to be a cause for celebration, while others find it barbaric and grotesque even as those cultures treat equally intelligent and socially complex animal (such as pigs) in a similar manner or worse. Are there rational and coherent lines that can be drawn to explain these discrepancies? As we learn about the widespread, industrial torture and slaughter of animals that has little to do with the pleasing images of the bucolic family farms we were taught to romanticize (and which are rapidly disappearing as factory farms proliferate), how will we continue to ethically and intellectually justify these industrial practices?
These are not easy questions to answer. Episode 3 of Animal Matters is devoted to their discussion and exploration.