It’s hard to know exactly how many factory farmed animals there are, since the last survey on broiler chicken populations is like 15 years old, and they make up just over half of all farmed animals. A good enough approximation is that there are 2 factory farmed animals alive at any moment for every human.
(There are actually 5 factory farmed animals alive in any given year for every human alive in that year, but that’s just because most of said animals are broilers, and broilers live a sixth of a year, so the number of factory farmed alive at any given moment is more like two).
Even when you run the lower-bound case… well, there’s still more than one factory farmed animal for every human, and when you look at the average conditions, it’s easy to see that’s where the majority of the misery & disutility on this earth is.
I’d bet the average factory farmed animal suffers more than the average human is happy. But even though there’s way more suffering than happiness on earth, I’m not a negative utilitarian, because I looked into myself and figured out that negative utilitarianism just didn’t resonate with me. Doing what you want is a fully general defense like that.
Again, factory farming is where the most suffering is, and therefore it’s (one of) the most important things to work on.
One idea for how to reduce the suffering caused by factory farming: we don’t seem to have a particularly well-developed or optimized understanding of how to run a factory farm that satisfices for “these animals would not be better off dead”, while maximizing for profit within that constraint. So, you could prototype that.
Except that that seems massively unsatisfying. So, I think my position for now will just be, “I still don’t have a great idea of how to eliminate or at least reduce the suffering caused by factory farming”.
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