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Ethical Aspects Of Factory Farming

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“There is no morally relevant difference between torturing puppies as described in the “Fred” thought experiment and buying factory farmed meat.” Is this a plausible claim? In answering this question, begin by (1) clearly explaining what Norcross means by claiming there is no morally relevant difference between torturing puppies (as laid out in his thought experiment) and supporting factory farming by purchasing factory- farmed meat. Then, (2) explain how one might object to Norcross’s claim on the basis that “agribusiness is much too large to respond to the behavior of one consumer”. Lastly, (3) evaluate whether this objection succeeds.

Factory Farming

Factory farming seems to be a misunderstood concept to most people, not truly knowing the consequences that comes with it. It is disregarded as a form of torture and mistreatment to animals because the individuals taking part in purchasing these products do not see this abuse being done. Furthering this point, the factory farming companies do not state how or show this form of abuse to the public either. Since people don’t think about or understand the torture being done to these animals, they think there is a moral difference between factory farmed meat and the torturing of domesticated animals. But Norcross goes into a thought experiment about how the torturing of domesticated animals has no morally relevant difference than factory farming. The paper is going to delve into whether or not this is a plausible claim and how an individual might object to this claim.

Norcross conducted a philosophical thought experiment, called the “Fred” thought experiment. Within Norcross’ experiment there is a man named Fred who loves chocolate but gets into a car accident and damages his godiva gland, which produces the cocoamone hormone (the hormone that allows people to taste chocolate). When Fred discovers this, he is distraught but soon finds out puppies produces this hormone when they endure severe suffering and if he eats them, he too will be able to taste chocolate again. But soon his neighbors call the police because of strange noises coming from his house and when they see what is going on, they are disgusted, arresting him on the spot. However, at his trial Fred states that what he was doing is the exact same thing that society does with factory farming, and if factory farming is acceptable then so should his actions. From this “Fred” thought experiment, Norcross is emphasizing that the animals in both situations are experiencing immense amounts of suffering. Norcross blatantly states that Fred is torturing the puppies to enhance the cocoamone hormone. Whereas factory farmed animals are forced to live in overcrowded slaughterhouses and pumped with hormones before their deaths, which both are forms of torture although they are not physically stated. Therefore, it does not matter the type of animal or how they are tortured but that it is morally the same, if people believe factory farming is morally permissible then Fred’s actions are too.

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An objection someone may have to Norcross’ claim is on the basis of “agribusiness is much too large to respond to the behavior of one consumer,” (Norcross, 231). This objection is based upon the idea that Fred is torturing the puppies solely for his own ability to enjoy chocolate, but the agribusiness is responding to a want of a mass amount of people within society. Therefore, individuals find these two instances to be different because Fred could stop and save the puppies, whereas the agribusiness is not going to stop for one individual. This can be seen with Norcross’ statement in an example case, “Therefore I cannot prevent the suffering of any animals... since the animals will suffer no matter what I do, I may as well enjoy the taste of their flesh,” (Norcross, 231). Finally, Fred is torturing puppies for his pure enjoyment of tasting chocolate again, but the agribusiness is a money hungry conglomerate focused on sales and not the enjoyment of one individual customer. This can also be seen with the first response that is given to defend the objection. It’s similar to the “Fred” thought experiment, in that a restaurant uses the hormones from tortured puppies to enhance the taste of chocolate in their desserts. A person then takes his friend to this restaurant to try out the dessert and afterwards tells him why it tastes so amazing. With this disgust the friend refuses to eat it again but the individual who brought him states that since this is the new commodity, him stopping won’t stop puppies from suffering. This is one “case” experiment used to justify the continued consumption of factory farmed meat. Another response to back this notion is about factory farmed chicken. That even if 10,000 people were to stop eating factory farmed meat it wouldn’t stop the production; it would only lessen it. Which leads to the belief that majority of the people possess, that since it is such a massive franchise it would be meaningless to even try to stop eating factory farmed meat.

However, like Norcross, I do not believe that this objection succeeds in proving his claim to be invalid. For instance, even if one person stops eating meat may seem ineffective, a huge impact would be made if everyone stops. This statement emphasizes on the fact that people cannot use the excuse that the agribusiness will not stop for one person, as a justification for their actions to continue to buy factory farmed meat. This is also a dominant point that Norcross makes in the reading, “So, even if it is true that your giving up factory raised chicken has only a tiny chance of preventing suffering… your continued consumption is not thereby excused,” (233). Norcross explicitly states that even though the agribusiness will not stop for one individual, it can eventually be brought to an end if a mass amount of the population gradually stops eating factory farmed meat. I agree with Norcross that this is not a sufficient or viable reason because one person can create a domino effect with others who share the same beliefs. Furthering this point, Norcross also states that it is not morally different to stop the torture of puppies to the torture that factory farmed animals endure. That a person with a moral conscience who believes torturing puppies for the production of the cocoamone hormone to be unjust, then they too have to be aware that production of factory farmed meat is bad. Norcross then explains this notion by stating, “If the attempted excuse of causal impotence is compelling in the latter case, it should be compelling in the former case. But it isn’t,” (232). That the individuals claim to be unaware is a form of self-deception to justify their objection that there is a difference between the torturing of domesticated animals and factory farmed animals. Therefore, the above objection does not validate the actions of factory farmed meat consumption because all monumental change movements began with one person or one idea, followed by a chain reaction.

In conclusion, Norcross’ claim that there is no moral difference between torturing puppies and buying factory farmed meat is valid. This can be seen with the points Norcross makes invalidating the objection that the agribusiness is too large to make a difference in. The stance that the objection takes, that one person couldn’t invoke change in the agribusiness, making it pointless to try is an unjustified excuse from “morally sensitive” (Norcross, 233) meat eaters. Therefore, I do not believe that the objection is valid, and that Norcross’ claim is plausible.

Work Cited

  1. Norcross, Alastair. Puppies, Pigs, and People: Eating Meat and Marginal Cases.Philosophical Perspectives, 2004,
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Ethical Aspects Of Factory Farming. (2021, October 04). Edubirdie. Retrieved February 23, 2024, from
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