Causing less killing and suffering is always preferable to causing more. But Jacob Maxwell (“Boycotting Factory Farming is Not the Only Solution to Animal Suffering”)  has not faced the deeper ethical question underlying it, which is about causing *needless* killing and suffering at all.

An obligate carnivore like a lion needs to kill and eat its prey to feed itself and its young; and its prey needs to fight back or flee to save themselves or their young.

Humans — facultative omnivores — have been both predators and prey throughout their evolutionary history. In the few remaining human subsistence-culture environments of fishing and hunting it is still not a matter of choice. 

But modern agriculture and laboratory science have made it a matter of choice for the more prosperous majority of the human population. We can choose to hurt and kill, needlessly, or not.

Jacob counsels us to cut back on needless hurting and killing, but to “limit guilt.”

Why? He needs to look much, much more deeply at whether this is any different from counselling to cut back on the beating and killing of our slaves.

The needless harming and killing of feeling beings (human or nonhuman) is surely the wrong of wrongs. It’s what all morality is about. Is it right to counsel limiting our feeling that it is wrong, to leave us feeling free to keep doing it — and leave our victims to keep suffering and dying for it?

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