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Commentary: Why Dog and Cat People Should Care About Farm Animal Welfare

Whether you’re an omnivore, a vegetarian, or a vegan, there’s no better time than now to consider how to improve the miserable lives of the billions of animals who languish in intensive factory farm systems—and whose only significant difference from cats and dogs is that people define them as food

Whether you’re an omnivore, a vegetarian, or a vegan, there’s no better time than now to consider how to improve the miserable lives of the billions of animals who languish in intensive factory farm systems—and whose only significant difference from cats and dogs is that people define them as food

I want to address something more taboo than politics or religion—food. Or more precisely, the animals used to produce food. Today, we in the humane field either dance delicately around this issue or brawl about it; neither approach advances farm animal welfare. Farm animals are as capable of suffering as any other animals, yet we do not typically treat them accordingly. In fact, on most industrial (factory) farms, they are treated like milk-, egg- or meat-producing machines instead of living, feeling beings.

There are no morally significant differences between the animals we define as pets and those we define as food. The differences in their treatment cannot be based on intelligence or capacity for suffering—they are purely cultural preferences. The lines are blurred when shelters care for animals who are seen as food in this country, such as ducks and pigs, or animals who are seen as food by other cultures, such as horses and even dogs and cats. It is our refusal to see the similarities among the species that allows for the differences in their treatment.

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