NEW JERSEY: Princeton professor talks about ethics of food
Posted: November 17th, 2009 - 10:58am
Source: Daily Collegian
Students and community members were forced to consider the ethical repercussions of their diets Friday afternoon.
"When we think about ethics, we think about money, stealing, cheating and sex," Peter Singer said. "But nothing that we do twice, thrice daily has as big of an ethical impact as our food choices do."
Singer, a professor of bioethics at Princeton University, has been named the world's most influential living philosopher by The New Yorker and has been called the father of the animal liberation movement, Penn State Vegetarian Club President Rusty Zufall said.
Calling Singer his hero, and part of the reason he became a vegetarian, Zufall (senior-computer science) said throughout the night, he kept asking himself if the experience was real.
Singer's lecture, "The Ethics of What We Eat," focused on the importance of moving away from a meat-centered diet supporting the massive factory farm industry.
Singer spoke to a packed auditorium of about 375 people in Sparks Building. This was the largest Penn State Vegetarian Club event to date, Zufall said.
"We think it is important to be kind to animals and avoid being cruel to them, though this is usually overridden by our own interests," Singer said.
Consumers need to consider whether the animal they are eating is a conscious being, capable of feeling pain, Singer said.
"There is no room for doubt that vertebrates all feel pain," he said.
But Singer said he recognized degrees of doubt associated with invertebrates, fish and crustaceans.
"If you have some doubt though, it's always better to give the benefit of the doubt," Singer said.
Emphasizing his points, Singer showed pictures of chickens, cows, pigs and turkeys suffering in factory farms.
But Singer said he also recognized a category of people that he called "conscientious omnivores."
"We can't all go every step of the way," Singer said. "You can't be negative to people who make major steps from factory farming to diet that has the least negative effect on animals and the environment."
Organic foods and fair trade options are preferable, Singer said, although totally avoiding factory-farmed meats would have the most significant impact.
Singer also addressed the often-controversial issue of hunting.
"People get more emotionally upset about hunting than buying chicken at the supermarket," Singer said. "But it should be the other way around."
Although Singer said he would like to see the population of deer controlled by sterilization methods, an accurate hunter using the meat "is better than someone supporting factory farms."