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I was having a discussion with a friend recently on whether it is beneficial, overall, for us to be vegetarian for farm animals, from a consequentialist viewpoint. Currently, farm animals are bred in extremely large numbers in farms, out of which a large portion is for human consumption. If there is more vegetarianism in the world, then the breeding of farm animals would reduce drastically as the demand falls.

This means, that a lot of lives that could have existed would not exist if vegetarianism becomes substantially more popular.

This brings us to the nonidentity problem. If farm life is worth living for animals, then non-vegetarianism actually improves the overall welfare. If farm life is worse than not existing for animals, then killing all farm animals is an improvement over letting them continue to live.

  1. Is my interpretation of the nonidentity problem in this context correct?
  2. Particularly, is the second part of killing all farm animals covered in the nonidentity problem? If not, is this part still logically sound? If not, how?
  3. What are some other problems with this line of argument, if any?
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  • Do you mean vegan or vegetarian? Vegetarians eat other animals products, they just don't eat meat.
    – NotThatGuy
    Commented Jul 27, 2023 at 22:15
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    "We should keep torturing animals, because the alternative of them not existing is worse" is not a great argument (but I'm not really too inclined to post an answer right now).
    – NotThatGuy
    Commented Jul 27, 2023 at 22:17
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    @NotThatGuy, Most farm animals live more comfortable lives than wild animals, for many of them their average lifespan is longer, and their deaths are quicker, less painful, and less terrifying than they could expect in the wild. Calling that situation "torture" is not philosophy; it is political propaganda. Commented Jul 28, 2023 at 6:22
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    @DavidGudeman Oh boy, you should read up on what animals actually go through on factory farms. Separating mothers from infants, confining animals to a caged lifetime indoors, in extremely crowded conditions, debeaking chickens and cutting off the tails and clipping the teeth of pigs to prevent them from going mad and canabalising one another, genetic manipulation to maximise how their flesh tastes, causing a host of debilitating medical conditions, gassing pigs to kill them, grounding up infant chickens, etc. The wild is not that cruel, but even if it were, it wouldn't justify our cruelty.
    – NotThatGuy
    Commented Jul 28, 2023 at 8:44
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    It's not the fur, it's the scale. On a family farm, David is probably correct. In factory farming, NotThatGuy is. Can humans do things at scale that improve life for humans without worsening it for everything else? Not without things like fusion power and lab grown meat. But consider horses used for transportation (not eating): there are a lot fewer of them now than a century ago. Maybe with more automation, we would have time to keep them as pets again? Perhaps instead of pondering philosophy, we should get going on engineering.
    – Scott Rowe
    Commented Jul 28, 2023 at 12:15

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This probably isn't a good idea, but I'm gonna try my luck by posting what I feel is a relevant quote.

"Not everything that can be counted counts and not everything that counts can be counted." ~ (Attributed to) Albert, the genius, Einstein.

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    Yes, I was thinking something similar, that the overall picture is what matters. But, I don't have any overalls, because I don't work on a farm.
    – Scott Rowe
    Commented Jul 28, 2023 at 18:25
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    I'm not educated enough to understand this I suppose. This seems to me to be a comment on utilitarianism in general than on whether the inferences are correctly based on the premises 😬 Commented Jul 29, 2023 at 19:54

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