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Premature Death Is Not Bad for Animals

As Jeff McMahan pointed out in a recent lecture (2013), many people are committed to the view that provided animals are raised humanely and killed painlessly, it does not matter when they are slaughtered for human consumption, use, or expedience; nor does it matter that they do not live out their natural life spans. This view permits animals used for food to be killed at only a fraction of their life span potential,7 and animals abandoned at shelters to be routinely killed, whatever their age, if there are no potential adopters. In other words, the thought is that premature death—prematurity being defined by reference to what is species-typical—is not bad for animals. Those who support this point of view believe that, provided their lives are at least worth living, the mere opportunity to exist—even briefly—is enough for these animals, and animals’ potential life span has no moral relevance. Thus, self-described animal lover Kathy Rudy writes,

Buying meat, eggs, and dairy from local farms where animals have long, happy, and natural lives on pasture is animal centered, I believe, even if we kill them for their meat eventually... . They get to spend days walking in sunshine, eating good food, mating, loving their young, enjoying the beautiful earth. We give them the chance to have this life, we pay for the land and the grass and the water, and eventually we get to eat their eggs, milk, cheese, and meat. It’s not a bad deal for either side. . If I were a Redcap chicken, say, I would rather have a farmer raise me and let me proliferate, even if she is going to kill me to eat in the end. That way, my kind get to stay on this planet; in many ways, that could mean more to me than my own life. (Rudy 2011)

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