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Meat and Morality: Alternatives to Factory Farming

factory farming (FAK-tuh-ree FAHR-ming) noun: an industrialized system of producing meat, eggs, and milk in large-scale facilities where the animal is treated as a machine

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Scientists have shown that the practice of factory farming is an increasingly urgent danger to human health, the environment, and nonhuman animal welfare. For all these reasons, moral agents must consider alternatives. Vegetarian food production, humane food animal farming, and in-vitro meat production are all explored from a variety of ethical perspectives, especially utilitarian and rights-based viewpoints, all in the light of current U.S. and European initiatives in the public and private sectors. It is concluded that vegetarianism and potentially in-vitro meat production are the best-justified options.

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  1. No statistics are available for the number of aquatic animals slaughtered; however, it is thought that this number is likely equal to the land animals killed (HSUS 2008).

  2. For an example of the latter sort of view see Frey (1989) and Frey and Paton (1989). Frey rejects speciesism but embraces experimentation and meat consumption. He consistently concludes that mentally disadvantaged humans could justifiably be vivisected. For his current thoughts on the justifiability of factory farming, see Frey (2004).

  3. For Tom Regan’s most recent reply to the predation argument, see Regan (2001, p. 19). See also Pluhar (1995, p. 277).

  4. The one case where supplementation or fortification is required for vegans concerns vitamin B-12. Found in dairy products, eggs, and meat, B-12 does not occur naturally in plants. Fortified sources of B-12, such as cereals, are readily available.


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I would like to thank the anonymous reviewers of an earlier version of this paper for their helpful suggestions

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Correspondence to Evelyn B. Pluhar.

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Pluhar, E.B. Meat and Morality: Alternatives to Factory Farming. J Agric Environ Ethics 23, 455–468 (2010).

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  • Factory farming
  • Humane farming
  • In-vitro meat production
  • Rights theory
  • Utilitarianism
  • Vegetarianism