Peter Singer’s recent talk at Penn State, “The Ethics of What We Eat,” addressed numerous ethical issues related to food production and consumption.
Singer criticized factory farming practices for the suffering they cause animals. Examples of such suffering include confining pregnant sows in narrow crates that prevent them from turning around, crowding thousands of chickens together in stressful conditions, and slaughtering cattle in ways that are frightening to the animals. Singer argued that purchasing animal products from factory farms is unethical and that adopting vegan, vegetarian, and “conscientious omnivore” diets allows consumers to avoid supporting factory farming.
Singer also noted that intensive factory farming causes significant environmental damage through pesticides and animal waste polluting rivers and streams, greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change, and odor pollution. Singer suggested that humans’ negative environmental impacts can be limited by purchasing organic produce that does not use synthetic pesticides and by eliminating consumption of animal products. He defended the latter claim by noting that animals raised for their meat (particularly cattle) produce significant amounts of methane, a potent greenhouse gas. By relying more on plant-based diets, humans can reduce the number of methane-emitting animals and thus mitigate a leading cause of climate change.
More information on his current research and work is available on Singer’s website.