Thursday, November 08, 2012

Merton on Factory Farming (1965)

This was a surprise find on my visit to the Thomas Merton Center. (And a neat find, since I'm teaching animal ethics right now.) In a display case that had been put together for a recent conference on Merton and ecology, I found this typed statement by Merton:
A STATEMENT ON FACTORY FARMING                                          April 26, 1965
Since factory farming exerts a violent and unnatural force upon the living organisms of animals and birds, in order to increase production and profits, and since it involves callous and cruel exploitation of life, with implicit contempt for nature and for life, I must join the protest which is being uttered against it. It does not seem that these methods have any really justifiable purpose except to increase the quantity of production at the expense of quality: if that can be called a justifiable purpose. However, this is only one aspect of a more general phenomenon: the increasingly destructive and irrational behaviour of technological man. Our society seems to be more and more oriented to overproduction, to waste, and finally to production for destruction. Its orientation to global war is the culminating absurdity of its inner logic, or lack of logic. The mistreatment of animals in “intensive husbandry” is then part of this larger picture of insensitivity to genuine values and indeed to humanity and to life itself— a picture which more and more seems to display the ugly lineaments of what can only be called by its right name: barbarism.
The statement was included in a pamphlet entitled, Unlived life : a manifesto against factory farming, edited by Roger Moody, (Bristol: Campaigners Against Factory Farming, 1965 (or '66)). The statement is also quoted in full here.

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