Oppression and the Oppressed

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Sandy Doyle
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Oppression and the Oppressed

Every animal, regardless of carnivore, omnivore or herbivore status, requires nourishment to exist. If humans could only eat meat, the issue of raising and slaughtering animals for food would not be a moral dilemma. But because we have options and because the consequences of our food choices affect not only humanity but other species and ecosystems, the issue of what we eat and how we get it deserves thoughtful moral consideration. Whether we eat meat or not, most humans agree that we are slightly different than other animals in that we are the top of the food chain and have the ability to kill and eat any other species on the planet. Alistair Norcross agrees with this and claims that this standing comes with a higher moral responsibility than that of a cow or a dog. As humans, Norcross assigns us the role of “moral agents”. Since we have the ability to understand moral rights and we can be held accountable for our actions. He suggests that non-human animals do not possess these same abilities, assigns them the role of “moral patients” and says that we have a responsibility to apply moral rights to them and, in a sense, protect them from exploitation. The same patient designation applies to humans who are not able to display rationality, such as babies and comatose persons. Norcross uses a thought experiment which demonstrates the moral flaw with supporting factory farming using puppies as an example. We would never torture puppies for gustatory pleasure but we do it with other species of animals when we raise and slaughter animals for food. Even if we are not directly torturing the puppies (or slaughtering the cows) contributing through consumption is contributing to their suffering (Norcross, 2004). Peter Singer has a more egalitarian view of all sentient beings and maintains that no species deserves higher moral regard than another. For Singer, the same...
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