Animal Rights

Peter Singer’s Position on Fish is Fishy

| by Gary L Francione

Dear Colleagues:

In a recent article, Peter Singer argues:

We need to learn how to capture and kill wild fish humanely – or, if that is not possible, to find less cruel and more sustainable alternatives to eating them.

An alternative? How about vegetables, fruits, nuts, legumes, and grains?

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As I have argued here and elsewhere, Singer assumes that the use of fish (or other animals) for food—if the animals are treated “humanely”—is not per se morally objectionable because, according to Singer, fish do not have a sense of the future and, therefore, they do not have an interest in continuing to live but only have an interest in not suffering.

Singer’s position that only those beings with a humanlike sense of self awareness have an interest in living (as distinct from not suffering) is speciesist. A fish values her/his life just as I value mine and you value yours. The fish may think differently about her life than I think about mine. So what? She prefers or wants or desires to keep on living.

Moreover, Singer once again chooses to ignore that because animals are property, welfare standards will, with rare exceptions, rise above that level needed to ensure to ensure that animals are exploited efficiently. We rarely improve welfare standards unless there is an economic benefit involved. The economic realities keep welfare standards very low. Animal welfare simply does not work as a practical matter.

In the article, Singer states:

Regulations for slaughter generally require that animals be rendered instantly unconscious before they are killed, or that death should be brought about instantaneously, or, in the case of ritual slaughter, as close to instantaneously as the religious doctrine allows.

Not for fish. There is no humane slaughter requirement for wild fish caught and killed at sea, nor, in most places, for farmed fish.

It is beyond shocking to me that Singer suggests that regulations that supposedly require “humane” slaughter are anything more than attempts to make humans feel more comfortable about the horrors of animal use. If Singer has ever been to a slaughterhouse—whether a conventional one or one designed by PETA award winner Temple Grandin—and he thinks that the words “humane” and “slaughter” belong together, he was not paying attention to what goes on at the killing floor. Time and time again, we have seen that stunning and exsanguination are often not even performed properly and even if they were properly performed, calling such torture “humane” is deeply disturbing.

Finally, because Singer and other welfarists see veganism only as a way of reducing suffering and not a requirement of justice that prohibits us using animals as human resources, however “humanely,” they cannot propose veganism as anything other than a “flexitarian” standard and they support “happy” exploitation, which they commend as “compassionate. Singer maintains that consistent veganism is “fanatical” and that we can morally afford the “luxury” of eating “humane” animal products.

If you are not vegan, go vegan. It is very easy, better for health and for the planet. And, most important, it’s the morally right and just thing to do.

If you are vegan, then educate others in a creative, nonviolent way.

The World is Vegan! If you want it.

Gary L. Francione
©2010 Gary L. Francione

Related posts:

  1. Peter Singer and the Welfarist Position on the Lesser Value of Nonhuman Life
  2. Important Announcement: No Factory-Farmed Small Fish Friday
  3. Peter Singer Supports Vivisection: Why Are You Surprised?
  4. It’s Time for a Change
  5. Peter Singer, Happy Meat, and Fanatical Vegans