To eat or not to eat animals? That is our question for today. Most people eat at least some meat, and yes, we're including fish, and we're including animal products like eggs and milk. People who claim to be vegetarians or vegans amount to under 10 percent of the population in the United States. There are some people who don't like the taste of meat, so they have no interest in eating it. Most people who consume animals in some form, understand that this entails killing animals. A lot of animals. This introduces a moral problem for a lot of people. Now some people avoid eating meat for health reasons. Maybe they're hoping to minimize their risk of heart disease. For them, the moral problem is irrelevant. For some people, the role of animal agriculture in climate change, leads them to stop eating meat or reduced the amount they eat. For them, it's more the impact of the animals, while they're alive than the actual killing that's the problem. Let's focus on people who claim to care about animals and also like eating meat. Now some people have no moral problem with killing animals for human consumption. They don't go around randomly killing animals, but they don't find eating animals morally problematic. This is a position a lot of people hold. It involves quite a bit of psychological work. For example, people in this position, typically find ways to make distinctions among animals, that allow them that justify killing some but not others. They find ways to set cows, pigs, and chickens apart from dogs, cats, horses, and songbirds. Usually, this involves seeing the former as less intelligent or less able to feel pain and to suffer. This allows people to designate some animals as less deserving of moral concern. These animals and not others, go into the category of food. But for those who enjoy eating meat and also want to avoid causing animals to suffer. There's a real moral problem here. Avoiding me, but still consuming dairy products doesn't solve that problem. Male calves born to dairy cows are useless for beef. They'll never have enough muscle. So they're slaughtered young for veal. The male chicks of egg laying hens are killed in horrific ways, I won't go into here. So how person is opposed to the killing of animals, period? Then the answer to the question is a simple one. Don't eat them. Another way to make meat eating less morally problematic, would be to eat only animals who have been raised in cruelty free conditions and killed humanely. Of course, if you're opposed to the killing of other beings for any reason, then this wouldn't work for you. But suppose you don't object to the killing itself, but you do object to the animal suffering. This is a topic we explore further, when we discuss animal rights. For now, someone who holds that view could obtain meat that's humanely raised and slaughtered. For the record, you could easily find out how an animal was raised, but it's not so easy to find out how the slaughter took place. Supposing you could get your meat from a farmer who did this slaughtering quickly, so that the animal didn't suffer and never knew what was coming. That would answer the question of to eat or not to eat. Assuming of course, that you had access to a farmer, and you have the means to afford purchasing your meat in this way, that's certainly not an option for most people. You could make the purchase more affordable, by going in with other people, who also want to purchase meat from this farmer. You still have to find the farmer, and make sure that the animal will be available when you want it. Someone who has the means to obtain meat in this way solves the moral problem on an individual level. That person can eat meat knowing that little if any suffering was involved. But we can't scale that solution up, so that everyone who wants to eat meat can know that the animals grazed or rooted or pecked in open-space. There isn't enough land and there aren't enough farmers to make this possible. Most of the meat that people eat comes not from animals raised in the sunshine by kind-hearted farmers, but from animals raised on factory farms. These days, it's hard to avoid knowing about the conditions animals face in these settings. Continuing to eat meat, while also knowing about the harm involved in producing it, requires developing a mechanism to reduce that conflict or cognitive dissonance. This could mean changing one's actions by not eating meat or changing one's belief about the moral status of animals. The through line here is ambiguity. Our relationships with animals are based on ambiguous meanings. People who are outraged by the idea of eating dogs, feel no concern about eating pigs. Vegetarian pet owners routinely feed their dogs and cats, the meat of other animals. The meanings we give to animals, are never fully settled. They change as we change, and as social life changes.