In his book Altruism, Matthieu Ricard has a chapter on the unhappy life of the animals that end up on our dinner plate.
This is a sanitized and short excerpt of what he describes.
If you eat chicken, you might be disturbed to know that of the fifty billion chickens killed every year in the world, many are allotted the space of a piece of paper throughout their lifetime. This situation leads to abnormal behavior by each chicken, plucking out its own feathers, and even eating its neighbor. To avoid this latter scenario, chickens are kept in semi-darkness and chicken beaks may be clipped, which can produce a painful result.
So should we actually do something about this? After all, there is a big chasm between animals and humans. Humans are being crucified by other humans (Islamic State) and so shouldn’t we prioritize our humanitarian concerns?
Besides love and sympathy animals exhibit other qualities connected with the social instincts, which in us would be called moral.
the basic signals we use to express pain, fear, anger, love, joy, surprise, impatience, boredom, and many other emotional states are not unique to our species.
Since the 1970’s, research has consistently reported childhood cruelty to animals as the first warning sign of later delinquency, violence, and criminal behavior. In fact, nearly all violent crime perpetrators have a history of animal cruelty in their profiles. Albert deSalvo, the Boston Strangler found guilty of killing 13 women, shot arrows through dogs and cats he trapped as a child. Columbine shooters Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold boasted about mutilating animals for fun.
Unfortunately, in order for one organism to live, another has to die. It’s part of nature’s food chain. Vegans and vegetarians don’t have any problem with big cats killing zebras, gazelles, and giraffes. They’ll also kill livestock if they can. Wolves kill deer, caribou, mountain goats and hares. There are no vegetarian snakes. They eat frogs, rabbits, and eggs. Even predatory ladybugs eat aphids and other pest insects. When it comes to humans, however, vegetarians believe that killing animals for food is immoral and harmful to the environment that supports them.
•Cultures who have been known to be primarily plant eaters did so because meat was scarce, but they supplemented their diets with grubs, larvae, cicada nymphs, grasshoppers, and other insects, learning what was edible by observing other animals.
•Currently, more than half the world’s population of 7 billion people still favors and farms these excellent sources of protein from dewinged dragonflies to fire roasted tarantulas.
•Creatine, which creates energy reserves in muscle and brain tissue.
•Carnosine: an antioxidant that protects against degeneration.
•DHA and EPA (the active forms of omega-3) which convert ALA (plant omega 3) to an active form.
•Vitamin B12 which helps make DNA, prevents certain types of anemia, and contributes to the health of nerve cells.
Altruism – Matthieu Ricard – (2013)
(I insert dashes in some of the links to avoid pictures appearing)