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On Farm Animals and “Sacrifice”

Nicolette Hahn Niman, a lawyer and cattle rancher, made several fatal linguistic errors in her op-ed, ban on gestation crates, which she, like most animal welfarists (but not abolitionists), think will lead to a significant decrease in animal suffering. Among other things, Niman writes that “we ask the ultimate sacrifice of the animals we eat.” However, we don’t ask any farm animal anything. We have decided that we will raise and slaughter certain animals for food, and they have no say in the matter. They aren’t offering themselves to us, as per the definition of sacrifice. They don’t willingly, joyfully give their lives so that we may . . . nosh on their flesh when we don’t even need to. Furthermore, implicit in the idea of sacrifice is that it’s all worth it in the end, because some higher, grander idea is being honored. What’s the higher idea here? The taste buds of Americans?

A legitimate sacrifice would be: Stop eating pigs, even if you think they taste good, because killing without necessity is unjustifiable. Do you see the sacrifice? You give something up to honor a more important notion.

1 Comment

  1. Comment by


    on #

    Excellent post.

    Directly pertinent, as well, to the mutilation and destruction of millions of “lab animals,” whose deaths are, in the argot of the biomed lab, an act of “sacrifice” (the phrase “sacing the animal” is often used). As with Niman and the happy meat movement, the most galling feature of this unintentionally illuminating linguistic practice is its provision of ‘moral’ comfort to the butchers.