Equal treatment for equal relevance: the unjustifiable exemption of farm animals from animal cruelty laws

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In the past 100 years pet, zoo/aquarium, and research animals have gained unprecedented legal protection from unnecessary human harm via the creation of strict animal cruelty laws. Due to the

In the past 100 years pet, zoo/aquarium, and research animals have gained unprecedented legal protection from unnecessary human harm via the creation of strict animal cruelty laws. Due to the work of moral philosophers and compassionate lawyers/judges animal cruelty laws have been improved to provide harsher punishments for violations, had their scopes widened to include more animals and had their language changed to better match our evolving conception of animals as independent living entities rather than as merely things for human use. However, while the group of pet, zoo/aquarium, and research animals has enjoyed more consideration by the US legal system, another group of animals has inexplicably been ignored. The farm animals that humans raise for use as food are exempted from nearly every state and federal animal cruelty law for no justifiable reason. In this paper I will argue that our best moral and legal theories concede that we should take animal suffering seriously, and that no relevant difference exists between the group of animals protected by animal cruelty laws and farm animals. Given the lack of a relevant distinction between these two groups I will conclude that current animal cruelty laws should be amended to include farm animals.