06 February 2008

Michael Fox on Vegetarianism

The strongest part of [Peter] Singer's case against meat eating is his brief discussion of the world food crisis. It is a patent truth that by any conceivable health standards most North Americans are overfed. More specifically, they eat far more meat than is necessary to maintain adequate nutrition. Surely some of the excess food they consume should be distributed, in some form, to the starving millions of the world. One can only agree. Modern livestock farming on a grand scale also wastes a colossal amount of feed grains on animals which, in times past, would simply have fed off the land. Even if, contrary to fact, none of this feed grain could be used to nourish humans elsewhere in the world, at least the land which yields the grain could be sown with high-protein-yielding crops, such as soybeans, according to Singer. There is no doubt a good deal of truth in this last point as well, and we are here presented with a serious moral problem concerning the world food supply. But even this fails to establish a case for vegetarianism. All it establishes is that we should eat far less meat so that factory farms become obsolete and that, in conjunction with this, arable land should be turned over to the production of high-protein crops, where possible, so that world hunger can be alleviated somewhat.

(Michael Fox, "'Animal Liberation': A Critique," Ethics 88 [January 1978]: 106-18, at 116-7)

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