When it comes to eating animals, an argument to justify it often comes up: “They are made to be eaten anyway, so I don’t see any problem eating them“.
The formula seems logical: since these animals were designed to be eaten, then it is in the order of things to eat them. That makes sense, doesn’t it?
The argument is generally based on an implicit moral distinction between “killing an animal” and “killing an animal that has been raised to be eaten”. The first proposal creates discomfort, while the second relieves it. But why such a difference? After all, the second proposal is included in the first: the discomfort of reading it should not be less than that of reading the first.
The fact is that the justification “the animal was raised to be eaten” reduces the discomfort that can arise from the idea of killing it. It is said that it would not have existed anyway if it had not been raised to be eaten.
But by digging into the argument, one realizes that it is circular: its validity rests on itself.
They are raised to be eaten, and we eat them because they are raised to be eaten.
Proposal A ‘they are raised to be eaten’ uses for its justification proposal B ‘we eat them because they are raised to be eaten’, whereas the justification of proposal B requires the truth of proposal A.
This circular reasoning is a petition of principle, that is, it posits as true at the outset a proposition that it is supposed to demonstrate: the fact that animals are made to be eaten.
On this point, it cannot be denied that farmers actually give birth to ‘farm’ animals with the intention of taking them to the slaughterhouse. We must therefore admit that these animals have undergone extensive genetic selection in order to produce ever more meat.
But that does not mean that their fate is necessarily to go to the pan. No fate inevitably leads them there: at a time when it is no longer necessary to eat animals to live, their killing is only the consequence of a perpetually renewed human choice. Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for this causal relationship to be rejected in favour of a belief that the sole “raison d’être” of these farm animals is to feed us.
From this point of view, the relationships we maintain with other animals are explained by a pre-established harmony, resulting from the will of a transcendent god or an ordered nature that would have assigned a goal to beings (“I decree that they, they will end up in the pan, because it is my project“).
Thus, the proponents of this finalist conception may marvel at such harmony: “it’s crazy that animals were made of so much meat“; or take offence when it is questioned: “but what use would animals be if we didn’t eat them ?“.
We are right in the middle of reverse (or panglossian) reasoning: a historical contingent mechanism in which man has been an actor is now seen as the result of a preconceived scenario, designed by a force that escapes us. Besides, as I write this, I realize that my fingers were created to type on my keyboard.
Joking aside, the problem is that by evacuating any other possible scenario in favour of the “preconceived” one, we perpetually condemn farm animals to live a fate to which nothing but our morals and our economic system predestines them. Once they are born, another future can be reserved for them. It is up to us: it is a fact and we must get used to it.