Consider the following argument:

Premise 1: It is wrong to cause animals to suffer or die unnecessarily.
Premise 2: Consuming meat, dairy and eggs causes animals to suffer and die.
Premise 3: Consuming meat, dairy and eggs is unnecessary.
Conclusion: Therefore, consuming meat, dairy and eggs is wrong.


The above argument is valid, which means that the conclusion necessarily follows from the premises. If the premises are true, then the conclusion is also true, and this means that the argument is sound. Therefore, in order to refute the argument, we must reject at least one of the premises, and make one or more of the following claims:

Claim 1: It is not wrong to cause animals to suffer or die unnecessarily.
Claim 2: Consuming meat, dairy and eggs does not cause animals to suffer and die.
Claim 3: Consuming meat, dairy and eggs is not unnecessary.


Unfortunately, none of the above claims are defensible, and here’s a brief explanation as to why:

Claim 1: It is not wrong to cause animals to suffer or die unnecessarily.

It is not very difficult to explain as to why causing animals to suffer unnecessarily is a bad thing to do. I could spend a lot of time on this point, and talk about sentience, speciesism and the principle of equal consideration of interests, but it would be unnecessary, because most of us are already convinced that imposing needless suffering on an animal is wrong, and this is evidenced by public antipathy towards, among other things, bull fighting, cock fighting, dog fighting, fox hunting, trophy hunting, and so on. However, less people are convinced that it is wrong to kill animals unnecessarily, so long as they are killed humanely, that is, painlessly, instantaneously and without foreknowledge. I am quite sceptical of people who make this claim, and wonder as to what their thoughts would be on me humanely killing their healthy dog. I find it difficult to believe that, if I explained to them that their dog had not suffered in the process, they would let me off the moral hook. I suspect that they would not, and rightly so. Regardless of whether the people who profess this belief sincerely hold it, the belief that killing animals is not morally problematic is false, and we can see this through a brief examination of the wrongness of killing. In short, killing a being is wrong if that being has an interest in not being killed, and the killing is unnecessary. Hence, if a being has an interest in being killed, as is the case with humans who make a free and informed decision to be euthanised, or has no interest either way, as is the case with, say, single-celled organisms, then such an act of killing is not be wrong, because it does not violate anyone’s interest in not being killed. It is, however, sometimes necessary to kill a being that does not want to be killed, as is the case with, say, killing in self-defence, and such an act of killing is also not wrong, but this is irrelevant, because this post is about unnecessarily killing animals. So, given that chickens, pigs, cows, sheep, fish, and so on, do not want to be killed, unnecessarily killing them is wrong, regardless of whether or not it is effected humanely, for the exact same reason that unnecessarily killing a human being is wrong.

Claim 2: Consuming meat, dairy and eggs does not cause animals to suffer and die.

All animals suffer on farms and in slaughterhouses, and are killed in their prime. Chickens, for example, have a natural lifespan of up to 8 years, but are killed after 5-7 weeks. Pigs have a natural lifespan of up to 12 years, but are killed after 6 months. Beef cattle have a natural lifespan of up to 20 years, but are killed after 18 months. However, perhaps you are of the belief that, although what takes place on farms and in slaughterhouses is morally repugnant, there is nothing wrong with consuming meat, dairy and eggs, because, whenever you are standing in the supermarket, the damage has already been done, and there is nothing that you can do about it. This is false. Whenever we buy meat, dairy and eggs, we create additional demand for these products, which causes more animals to be reared and killed. It’s basic supply and demand. The more that we buy, the more of them die. The less that we buy, the less of them die. Recent studies estimate that the average consumer of meat, dairy and eggs is responsible for the suffering and death of anywhere between 50 and a few hundred animals per year.

Claim 3: Consuming meat, dairy and eggs is not unnecessary.

Leading government and public health organisations are unanimous in their recognition that we have no inherent biological or nutritional need for meat, dairy and eggs, and that a vegan diet, to quote the US’ oldest, largest and foremost authority on diet and nutrition, the American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, is “healthful, nutritionally adequate, may provide health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases, [and] appropriate for individuals during all stages of the life cycle.” Hence, consuming meat, dairy and eggs is unnecessary, and the only possible justification that we have for consuming them is because doing so brings us momentary palate pleasure, and this is not, nor will it ever be, a good enough reason for imposing suffering and death on another sentient being. If it was a good enough reason, then the well-established principle that it is wrong to inflict unnecessary suffering and death on animals would become meaningless, because all suffering and death would qualify as necessary, and we would cease to have any moral obligations towards animals. In other words, if we accepted that the most important interests of, say, a pig, such as in not suffering, and not being killed, could be sacrificed in order to promote our most trivial interests, such as in experiencing momentary pleasure, then we could exploit, abuse and kill animals under any circumstances, and with complete moral impunity. We would have no grounds for condemning, among other things, bull fighting, cock fighting, dog fighting, fox hunting, trophy hunting, badger baiting, and so on, because, although these activities cause animals to suffer and die, they bring pleasure to humans, which would mean that their suffering and death is necessary.