Which is the greater deprivation for an animal: to live a good-quality life abbreviated at less than its natural term by painless slaughter for meat, or to never live at all? How much of an animal’s life has enough value to be worth living?
Recent commentary by John Hadley explores the ethics of eating meat. Hadley argues that avoiding pain and suffering when an animal is killed does not fulfil our moral responsibility to the animal. He proposes that the value of the life forgone outweighs the post-death value to humans, and suggests it is therefore not acceptable to kill animals for meat.
Through this argument Hadley opens the difficult question of the value of animal life. He argues that this value has ethical implications beyond the mere question of pain and suffering.
How can we approach the fraught question of the value of both animal and human life: for instance, is the value absolute or relative? What consequences are there for our relationship with animals?
The “absolute view” that human life is not within the gift of humankind is held, at least in principle, by many societies and religions. The Indian religion, Jainism, extends this view to animals. So do some secular movements.