Animal abuse: a meat market externality

The Daily Mail covered a story on the sale of cat and dog meat in Indonesia. The trade has officially been banned but the ban has not been succesfully enforced on the market covered in the article. Cats and dogs are killed in plain view of the public, including children, and the methods used are devastating, especially to the animal rights activists present at the scene. I have a dog myself, and seeing footage of dogs in cages being hauled out with a loop around their neck, is heartbreaking, but at the same time I ask myself: who am I to judge this? There is enough footage going round on Youtube and animal rights websites to testify of the way we treat our livestock 1, and recently I have watched the documentary Big Bird 2 that showed how disrespectful the food industry in the US treats not only animals, but humans too. I do not think I am to judge the consumption of dog or cat meat, when we eat animals like cows, pigs, sheep, and chicken.3 But I do condemn the maltreatment of animals in the process.

Questions:

  1. Animal abuse is an externality4 of the meat industry. Explain.
  2. Do you think a ban on dog and cat meat will root out animal abuse related to meat consumption?
  3. Can you think of other options to deal with animal abuse in the meat industry, besides a ban?

Answers:

  1. It seems the slaughtering of animals for human consumption does not bring about the best in some people. I am sure there are people in the meat industry who do their utmost best to limit animal suffering to a minimum, but it is sad to have to establish that some people in this line of work are affected in a negative way. So, since this is a reality, and it is in some cases brought about, and in some cases facilitated by the meat industry, I am inclined to look upon this as an externatlity of the meat market.
  2. I personally do not think this is the most effective way to prevent animal abuse, or, for that matter, the abolition of the dog and cat meat industry. The abolition of alcohol caused the production of liquors to go underground, and I fear this might happen to any industry that is in demand, but prohibited. Breeding and slaughtering of animals underground might lead to even more animal abuse.
  3. Although the animals we consume in the West are often breeded factory-wise, there is EU-legislation slaughterhouses, or anyone killing farmed animals, have to adhere to. This legislation “aims to minimise the pain and suffering of animals through the use of properly approved stunning methods”.5 Since legislation does not force the industry underground, it might be more effective then a ban. But please do watch Paul McCartney’s Glass Walls1 to get a more thoughtful view on the meat industry.

  1. For example Paul McCartney’s Glass Walls video.
  2. Part of the documentary series Rotten, which can be watched on Netflix
  3. I could think of reasons to judge animal consumption in general, but that is a different discussion.
  4. The meat industry has many more externalities, but that is besides the topic of this case.
  5. European Commission > Food > Animals > Welfare > Practice > Slaughter
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