This publication by David Benatar was summarized by Daisy Joo, with edits by Christian Gainsley. The full, original article can be accessed here.
Dr. Benatar’s editorial “The Chickens Come Home to Roost” broadly speaks of the consequences and philosophical fallacies of the manner in which humans treat wet market animals.
Wet market animals are animals slaughtered in live animal markets, seen commonly in many areas around the world. Benatar first outlines the causal relationship between the mistreatment of animals and human suffering, specifically in relation to zoonotic diseases such as avian influenza. He claims, “If humans did not eat wet market animals, there would be fewer of them (because fewer would be bred), the animals would not suffer from being housed in close quarters, and they would not be slaughtered.” And the risk of infection would be diminished.
With these consequences in mind, Benatar does not understand why public health measures, including vaccination, have not first considered the possibility of diminishing a main cause for infection by changing our relationship with wet market animals. As if this point could not be convincing enough, which evidently it has not been, Benatar also reminds the reader of the existing philosophical defenses against the consumption of animals, especially in the age of food and textile technologies.
Benatar’s article makes the argument that although it may be difficult to convince people to decrease meat consumption on philosophical bases, there may be an increased potential for change if public health officials made clearer the connection between food consumption, wet market animals, and zoonotic epidemics.