Is it wrong to torture animals?

Simon the sadist gets a lot of pleasure out of torturing dogs. He cuts open their scotums and pulls out their testicles by hand. He cuts out their teeth with pliers and docs their tails without using anaesthetics, then locks them in cages so small that they can’t move in any direction for the whole of their adult lives. They are crowded into windowless sheds with thousands of other animals where the ammonia is so strong that it burns their eyes and skin, they suffer from acute exhaustion and many of them die from stress related illnesses. Some of them suffer from rectal prolapses because they are crammed in so tight and unable to move. When he is finished, sometimes after seveal years on end, he transports them for hundreds of miles without access to food or water, and then kills them intensively. A significant number of them are skinned alive or drowned in scalding tanks while still conscious. Is Simon the sadist immoral? Also, are his actions morally different from torturing young infants or mentally disabled people with the same degree of sentience and capacity for suffering? If you think that this behaviour is wrong, then you should stop eating meat.

The American Dietic Association did a meta-analysis of hudreds of scientific papers and found that a plant-based diet is extremely good for your health and meets all of your dietry requirements. These findings have been replicated in research institutions around the world and there are whole continents of people who survive healthily on vegan diets, so the argument from health necessity is unfounded. It’s also wrong to appeal to nature to tell you how you ought to live because nature is indifferent to animal and human suffering. If you think that nature is an appropriate moral guide, then we should rape adolescents and eat human children, because you can find creatures in the animal kingdom that do these things.

Finally I’d like to preemt the assertion that organic farming is the humane alternative to factory farming. The animals are still violently exploited and they will still be transported long distances and killed in centralized slaughterhouses when they are old enough. Calves are taken from their mothers and sold to white veal farmers, and male chicks are gassed, crushed or get their heads pulled off soon after they are born. In an economic sense, this type of traditional animal husbandry couldn’t meet consumer demand unless it was greatly intensified, which would defeat the supposed welfare benefits of organic farming. ‘Ethical’ consumers will almost certainly continue to purchace factory farmed meat even if they are very selective in the products that they buy because it constitutes an overwhelming majority of the industry (96% of chickens, ducks and turkeys are factory farmed in the United States). On top of all this, there’s no guarantee that ‘free-range’ or organic animals are free from insitutional abuse such as mutilations without pain relief and interminable pregnancies. If you think that animal torture is wrong, then the only effective solution is to stop buying animal derived products.

Okay on the vegetarianism bit, I’m damn near a veggie anyway.

On the medical research bit, sorry, but Denzil the Daschund has to take one for the team.

The problem is in factory farming and the inhumane treatment of animals because they’re thought of as a means to an end; to just be products and nothing more. This is a psychological problem of the whole culture we live in, and it’s not just animals. It’s people who work long hours to produce more and more and then to be replaced when applicable. Until massive consumerism is undone, we will be left with these problems and only useless temporary solutions like becoming a vegetarian. You don’t have to eat Tyson chicken, but they will still produce more than meets demand, and grocery stores all over the globe will still throw away old meat that you didn’t buy.

Meat eating can be a very intimate experience if it’s done out of need and respect and not selfish gluttony like we do.

Er… “I respect you Mr. Cow, but, I’m hungry. How about an intimate dinner for two…?”

You must be very unfamiliar with indigenous, tribal customs. You’ve grown up in a direct money to mouth quick fix world. How often have you ever eaten an animal that you’ve prepared yourself for you and your family or neighborhood? Do you know what it’s like? Have you ever experienced the true value of such an experience? To feel grateful for such a treat, and to know the labor and pain involved so up close and personal. Don’t you think it would be very different, and that it would entail a great deal of respect for the giver, and for process it had endured?


There is a huge difference between the deliberate torture and enjoyment thereof of an animal – as a sadistic psychopath would do - and destroying animal life for the sake of food consumption.

I also realize that there is a lot of inhumanity when it comes to the slaughtering of these poor animals at times and their rights need to be addressed and very strong laws enacted against these actions.

The American Indian had a great respect for all life. They honored the animal. When it was killed, they used the entire animal, both for food and clothing/coverings. I believe they also gave thanks to the animal for nourishing the people. I am not a vegetarian and I love animals – as paradoxical as that statement may seem. At the same time, perhaps certain animals are meant to be for our survival, and we honor these animals, or ought to at least, when we consume them and they become a part of us. Many of them would simply starve to death if they were not consumed for our survival.

I also realize the terrible ways in which many of them are bred into captivity and dishonored.

I am sort of conflicted when it comes to animal experimentation. I do understand the need for experiments in order to find/discover cures for diseases and learn more about the human brain, etc… At the same time, these animals have rights like any living entity and at the VERY LEAST, ought to be treated with respect and compassion, and their lives and living facilities made as comfortable and harmonious as possible…and even nurtured with affection if that doesn’t sound contradictory also.

There are human beings themselves who volunteer to be experimented on in the name of medicine and science and of course these do volunteer. I know and do see a great ethical question as far as using animals for experimentation since animals do not have any say insofar as their rights are concerned. Many people would say that this is only an animal and so has no right. But every living entity has rights.

Not necessarily in a case of willful ignorance. As in the farmers and manufacturers that either don’t care about the animals, or have become desensitized to the process. There are people who kill, gut, skin, and eat animals for the sheer fun of it, when they could be sitting back at home enjoying a nice PB&J. I imagine one might feel grateful if the choice is between starvation and killing an animal – Any opportunity to find & kill would be a treat. However, in the case of redneck hunters, and trashy farmers that kill, mutilate, and process/cook these animals for fun or money, I would say no such reverence for the “process” likely exists.

People do exactly as you said every day and probably couldn’t care less. Now, in the case of killing out of necessity - that is another argument in itself.

Plus, the testing on human beings can only go so far. Long term physical or mental harm for a human subject makes a company much more liable than an equivalent amount of harm done to, say, a monkey. I saw a documentary on the founder of PETA, out of my own morbid curiosity about her beliefs. They showed clips of monkeys that were shackled in an apparatus by both feet, both hands, and the neck; then the ‘scientist’ was making incisions, that varied in depth, all over the monkey’s body to test its reaction to pain while on some medication or something. The crap was disturbing. People tested like that on each other in the past and the result was WWII.

Do you know what this is like?

I’ve been eating venison killed by people I knew my entire life. I have seen a deer alive one second, dead the next, then strung up on a post, skinned, cut up, and served on the dinner table the next evening. I can’t say I’ve experienced anything more valuable from this than the enjoyment of a good piece of meat. Perhaps I’m just a savage.

Assumptions, assumptions. What do you know…? You might remember I live in Turkey, yes…? Well, every year, for the past 15 years, I’ve visited my wife’s village for the annual Sacrifice festival - commemorating the whole “Abraham/Issacc/god/kinfe-thing” in the muslim religious calender. The mornings go like this:

Drive up into the hills and purchase a sheep from the friend of a friend’s uncle.
Pick up sheep, who’s not overly happy about relocating, and weighs a ton, and chuck him into the back of your father in law’s truck.
Drive home.
Dig a small pit about the circumference of a dinner-plate and about as deep as your knee.
Unload rather cross sheep.
Tie sheep’s legs together.
Lie sheep down with the head near the pit.
Calm sheep.
Read verses from Koran over sheep.
Hold sheep down firmly, arching the neck backwards slightly.
Cut sheep’s throat right back down to the bone.
Direct blood into hole.
Wait for sheep to die. This takes a lot longer than you would think.
Remove head entirely.
Cut off hooves, and tie ligatures around the stumps.
Wait for the compressed-air truck to come by.
Make a small cut on the inner thigh of one leg. Insert high-pressure air-hose.
Inflate carcass to comedic proportions to separate the skin from the fat-layer.
Hang up the carcass from handy tree.
Carefully remove skin with the sharpest knives you have.
This takes bloody ages, and you will cut yourself.
Give fleece to the government collectors who will use it to clothe army conscripts fighting in the East.
Gut the carcass, squeeze out all the crap into the hole, and lay the intestines out for cleaning.
Divide up carcass for (a) family members and (b) poor bastards.
Fire up the barbie. No, not the doll.
Eat liver first, followed by testicles, followed by whatever else you fancy. I really hate lungs.

Okay…? I have either helped do this, or just done it, 15 times. Except the Koran part. I have my principles to uphold afterall. Can’t say I find it fun, but hey, those family traditions are real buggers.

“Intimate” enough for you…?

About as intimate as a train-wreck. On the whole, I’d rather pay that little bit more, have some other rube do the knife work, and buy frozen burgers from the supermarket thankyou.

As for the other “put the nice doggy in the too-small cage and pop it’s eyeballs out with a warmed spoon” side of the equation, well, I’ve done that too, when I was a chubby and fresh-faced biology graduate. Teratology. A scientific pursuit dedicated to stopping this kind of thing happening:

The only scary thing about vivisection, medical trials and the great “oh ain’t it so sad” kit and kaboodle is that it is undertaken by 9-5’ers who are completely and utterly normal, and get so blasé about the whole business that they’ll happily talk about football whilst up to their kneecaps in dead and dying rats.

We did get sad about the doggies when the time came btw. But then, there are many things sadder in the world.

For example, which is sadder…? Which depresses you more…?

This is a picture of a human torso strung up on some kid’s swings after a massacre in a jail. It’s not work friendly. If you’re a minor, don’t click. It isn’t nice, it will haunt you, but it is real.

It is the latter of those two pictures that I get sad about, get angry about. Try to understand the whys and hows of stopping and circumventing.

I mean, I can absolutely guarantee to you that right now, while you are reading this, and tutting, and thinking to yourself “Oh what a horrible person Tab is to not care overmuch about the plight of all these poor widdle animals” that somewhere in the world there are a pair of young kids switching their eyes back and forth from the beheaded corpse of their father, in whom’s blood they are sitting, and their being-raped-and-stabbed-and-shot-simultaneously mother, knowing they are next, but too terrified to even cry. Guaranteed.

But no, you hide from that, and profess to care about the fluffy bunnies and the cute little sheepies.

Well fucking done.

Wow, couldn’t really ask for a more logically precise reply than that. Good info too, I’ve never heard of that sheep …thing.

Just curious what you meant by this. i am a dancer, and “tutting” has a completely different meaning to me…I assume…


While I was reading the Pamuk book, I want you to know that I was thinking of you during the Sacrifice ceremony section.

I was wondering whether you’d say, “ehhh, fuck it” and read from the Koran or not.

Incidentally, German Turks don’t ever read the Koran because they can’t. In Turkey, proper, does the proscription against non-Arabic versions of the Koran persist?

I think it’s wrong to torture animals.

With all our science and technology we should probably invent some spliced vegetables that grow meat or something, lol.

Funny this should get brought up, I honestly just became a vegetarian a few days ago, or am I still becoming?

One or the other.

Anyway, if you have Comcast and subscribe to HBO don’t watch the PETA documentary or you may never eat meat again. All this time I thought our culture was at least somewhat civilized. Don’t get me wrong, if you raise a cow and kill it with a nice clean bullet to the head, I’ll gladly sit down to a burger with you, but I’m not going to contribute any of my money to companies that do to animals what some of these guys do.

The problem is it is impossible to know who these companies are or more importantly are not (I have researched it and animals for organic meat are still grossly mistreated) so I decided the easiest thing to do is just to stop eating meat.

Whether it’s immoral to torture animals depends on if that sort of thing bothers you the same way you would be bothered if it was a person. This in turn depends on what kind of view you have of animals. That’s the basic dealio with this and any other moral question. Any objective take on it is bound to make groundless metaphysical assumptions about the essence of people and animals and events and characters and motives and consequences…

Simon actually enjoys torturing animals. Enjoyment from such a thing seems like it must on some level come from an identification with the feeling of suffering and the desire to cause this feeling. We might consider Simon himself immoral on these grounds. So we must be careful to disntiguish the questions “Is Simon immoral?” from “are simons acts immoral acts”, as we can potentially give different answers.

If the question is “are Simon’s acts immoral?”, I simply answer 'not in my opinion. I don’t really care for animals much. I think that the desire to care for animals is largely due to a misplaced feeling of empathy, and that animal’s lives have no real value.

On the other hand, I still try and keep down the amount of meat I eat - especially beef which I all but gave up a few years ago - for environmental reasons.

There’s been a range of interesting responses to this post but I’ll pick out three that I take issue with:


Firstly, if you think that mentally disabled people or other marginal humans have an interest in not being tortured, and that we should take consideration of those interests, then it is speciesist and arbitrary to discount the like suffering of non-humans with the same capacity for suffering. Female circumcision can be performed on girls as young as two years old. These infants are visibly in distress and hate being mutilated without pain relief - imagine if their ordeal went on for years on end by locking them hot, noisy and restrictive cages. If you think that child abuse is wrong, then you should have a similar moral aversion to animal abuse because subjectively the experience will be the same.

The second quote goes into meta-ethics, and why we should care at all in the first place. This line of enquiry is rarely bought up when discussing human rape, child abuse or torture, but I’ll just quickly outline why I think we should care about animal suffering. I think that the vertebrates that we farm are capable of suffering and from their perspective their suffering is just as real for them as it would be for me. I try to imagine what their basic interests are and then treat them in a way that I myself would like to be treated, and although this is difficult, one basic need that they certainly have is to not be subjected to torture. This applies equally to young infants, and so in the same way that I think child abuse is wrong because it violates their basic interests, I think that animal abuse is also wrong.

The third statement is what Gary Francione calls ‘moral schizophrenia’. Most decent people are against dog fighting and cat burning for reasons that they can articulate themselves, but when it comes to abuse in the meat and dairy industry they’re prepared to tolerate animal torture which is much more severe and long-lasting. I would have to say that if you genuinely care about animals, then you should stop supporting their violent exploitation by changing to a vegetarian or vegan diet.

Becoming vegan for moral considerations can only happen in our affluence. Where food deprivation occurs, meat is considered the most valuable of foodstuffs. Why? Because concentrated protein and fat “packages” may mean survival, and the “morality” of meat consumption is a high class problem. Much of the world’s population couldn’t care less about the morality of eating meat. They’d just like to survive for another day or two. We’re omniverous for a reason. Evolution guarantees that survival success leans toward efficient use of all available energy sources.

Yes, a vegan diet is just as healthy as any meat eating diet - assuming one has access to the correct fruits and vegetables. But this assumes affluence once again.

Because food intake isn’t exactly an option we look for the most efficient and least expensive ways to obtain our foodstuffs. Raising and preparing foods has a cost, and it makes no difference if I’m raising rutebagas or cattle. I’ve no problem with organic vegetables or “free range” animal production. It removes most objectional “moral” issues. But if you want to closely examine what is immoral, it is demanding that our foods be both inexpensive and treated with the same care we would give a human. A “moral” diet, vegan or meat eating, is expensive and beyond the reach of all but the most affluent of people.

Taking a global perspective, I find that making food procurement into a “moral” issue is the province of those with too much money and too much time on their hands.

I dunno, my brother and sister in law both took courses in reading Arabic, and always read the verses in Arabic (Farsca they call it [phon.trans.]). And from what I’ve heard while walking past the mosque, the littany bits are in Arabic, but the sermons are in Turkish. I think I have seen Turkish translations of the Koran floating about though.


I agree with you when you say that there are communities that depend on hunting, cattle-raising and fishing for their survival, and this isn’t generally what I have a problem with because, as you say, it’s the only option that they have. In many parts of the developing world, however, particularly in Asia and South America, traditional farming techniques are being replaced by Confined Animal Feeding Operations. This is one of the most alarming developments of the 21st Century, because not only are more animals being confined and tortured, but it’s an extremely inefficient and environmentally destructive way of producing food. Most of the world’s soybean crop and about 800 million tons of grain are being fed to animals instead of people, and because of this basic food prices have inflated beyond what the world’s poorest people can afford. To feed animals directly or indirectly is one of the main causes of rainforest destruction and loss of biodiversity, and the cattle and sheep themselves produce huge quantities of methane. Almost a fifth of greenhouse gases come from animal agriculture. So when you say that we should look for the most efficient way of producing food, you can’t be talking about factory farming - and yet this is how predominantly the developing world is producing it’s meat and dairy, backed by investment from Western companies. I also disagree with your point about meat consumption being a good way of preventing malnutrition. In the report released by the ADA, their findings are that meat and dairy consumption is correlated with an increased risk of heat disease, obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, cancers of the digestive system and many other serious health problems, whereas a plant-based diet meets all of your nutritional requirements without any associated health risks. The myth about protien intake is also persistent, but in fact most of our food such as beans, pulses, grains and seeds contain abundant quantities of protien. How do you think cows and sheep get their protien? Also from a human health perspective you should consider the antibiotic resistant diseases that are being cultivated in factory farms and which could cause another global pandemic, thus affecting the poorest people without access to expensive medicine.

You are happy to buy food that is advertised as free range, but these animals aren’t necessarily allowed outside for most of their lives, they only represent a tiny fraction of the industry and they are still violently abused. They might be mutilated without pain relief, given third degree burns or denied medicine so they retain their organic status. Whether organic or not, they will end up in slaughterhouses where there is a chance they’ll be prodded with electric devices until their guts come out of their anuses, dragged across the floor with hooks to get them into position, skinned alive or submerged in scalding acid while still conscious. Is it acceptible to abuse children in this way, and how is child abuse morally different from animal abuse? If you have the choice, then you should stop supporting an industry that is viciously cruel to animals, because their suffering is just as real to them as it would be for you.