Peter Singer – The Way We Eat

February 09, 2007

Peter Singer has been called “the world’s most influential living philosopher,” by The New Yorker and Time Magazine listed him in “The Time 100,” their annual listing of the world’s 100 most influential people. One of the most controversial philosophers alive today, he is DeCamp Professor of Bioethics at Princeton University, and laureate professor at the Centre for Applied Philosophy and Public Ethics, University of Melbourne. He has been recognized as the Australian Humanist of the Year by the Council of Australian Humanist Societies, and is a Humanist Laureate of the International Academy of Humanism.

He writes a regular column for Free Inquiry magazine, and is the author of dozens of books, including Practical Ethics, Rethinking Life and Death, and Animal Liberation, which has sold more than a half million copies, Writings on an Ethical Life, One World: Ethics and Globalization, The President of Good and Evil, about George Bush, and In Defense of Animals. His most recent book, which is written with Jim Mason, is The Way We Eat: Why Our Food Choices Matter.

In this wide-ranging conversation with D.J. Grothe, Peter Singer discusses The Way We Eat and the ethics of vegetarianism, topics in bioethics such as abortion and euthanasia, and what world poverty may demand from citizens in developed nations. He addresses common challenges to his robust system of secular ethics, and explores other implications of utilitarianism. He also considers reasons why people should be moral even if there is no God.

This is point of inquiry for Friday, February 9th, 2007. 

Welcome to Point of inquiry, I’m DJ Grothe a point of inquiries, the radio show and podcast of the Center for Inquiry, a think tank collaborating with the State University of New York at Buffalo on the new science and the public master’s degree. CFI also has branches in Manhattan, Tampa, Hollywood, Washington, DC and Toronto, Ontario, Canada, in addition to 14 other cities around the world. Each week on this show, we look at the fundamental assumptions of our culture through the lens of scientific naturalism, focusing mostly on three research areas. First, pseudoscience and the paranormal. Second, alternative medicine. Third, secularism and religion. We do this by drawing on CFI as relationship with the leading minds of the day, including Nobel Prize winning scientists, public intellectuals, social critics and thinkers and renowned entertainers. Before we get to this week’s guest, Peter Singer, I want to welcome some of our new CFI campus groups. These are groups of college skeptics and humanists who work with us to promote science and reason at their schools. So a big welcome to the new groups at the University of Texas at Austin. Concordia University. Carleton University. Laramie Community College. The U.S. Naval Academy, Stanford. And there are a few others. So welcome. And if you’d like to work with us to start a group up at your school, you can do so by going to our Web site. Campus Inquirer dot org. And now a brief word from our sponsor. Before we get to my discussion with Peter Singer. 

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I am pleased to have our next guest on Point of Inquiry. He’s considered the founder of the field of modern bioethics. The New Yorker calls him the world’s most influential living philosopher. And Time magazine listed him in the Time 100, which is their annual listing of the world’s 100 most influential people. So he’s had a lot of impact at the very least. He is the most controversial philosopher alive today. Many of his critics consider him the most dangerous man alive. Social justice review called him the architect of the culture of death. And many think his moral reasonings to be very similar to Nazi justifications, that some life is not worthy of life. He’s reviled by the disabled community, by religionists, anti-abortion activists, by corporate heads. His arguments go right up against many of society’s most widely held beliefs. For instance, he says that animals kind of have the same moral status as humans, that fetuses aren’t persons and therefore don’t deserve special moral status, and that religion can make you evil. Peter Singer is Decamp, professor of bioethics at Princeton University and laureate professor at the Center for Applied Philosophy and Public Ethics. University of Melbourne. He’s been recognized as the Australian Humanist of the Year by the Council of Australian Humanist Societies and is a humanist laureate of CFD International Academy of Humanism. He’s also a founding member of the Great Ape Project, which is trying to get the United Nations to adopt a declaration on Great Apes that would award them the legal status of personhood. Peter Singer writes a regular column for Free Inquiry magazine and is the author of dozens of books, including Practical Ethics, Rethinking Life and Death and Animal Liberation, which has sold more than a half million copies. 

He’s written Writings on an Ethical Life One World about ethics and globalization. The president of Good and Evil about George W. Bush and in Defense of Animals, his most recent book, which is written with Jim Mason, is The Way We Eat Why Our Food Choices Matter. He’s joining me on the phone from Melbourne, Australia. Welcome to Point of Inquiry, Peter Singer. 

Thank you. It’s good to be with you. 

Let’s begin by talking about ethics in general. Here you are, an influential ethicist and one of the world’s top universities, Princeton. And you’re going around arguing that people should basically rethink every moral assumption they have, that you don’t need God to be good, that abortion is Lycett embryos shouldn’t have the right to exist. And even that using them, not just their stem cells for scientific research could be a good thing to do. But on the other hand, that eating meat is something like committing murder, that sometimes it’s better to euthanize a disabled baby rather than helping it live a long life with medical technology and even things like that. It’s morally wrong for us in the West to go out to dinner and live on more than about forty thousand dollars a year rather than spending our extra money to help starving people in remote parts of the world. 

So the broad question I have. Why you? I mean, why did you get into this field where you are the one overturning the basic beliefs of nearly everybody in our society? 

Well, firstly, let me say, I think, you know, some of those statements you made probably are not completely accurate. 

Obviously, it’s difficult to summarize more complicated positions in a sentence or two. But I wouldn’t want your listeners to assume that everything that you’ve just said is something that I would completely endorse. On the other hand, it is true, I guess, that my views challenge a lot of people’s beliefs. You have to realize, I think, that some of the things that you said that almost everybody assumes probably you’d only make that statement in the United States. I mean, the idea, for example, that ethics comes from God necessarily has a connection with God. Growing up in Australia and spending most of my adult life in Australia and some of it in England, these are much more secular societies in the United States. And generally, people don’t believe that or they don’t think that ethics has to come from God. It was really it’s really much more common in the United States to find people holding that view. So some of these things are not as radical in other countries as they might seem in the United States. That’s another difference. But I suppose the short answer to what you’ve been asking is I just started thinking through a lot of the questions about our ethical beliefs. And I found all kinds of inconsistencies and lack of coherence, contradictions in it. I tried to sort that out a little and say, well, what are the positions that really seem well-founded that it seems that any reasonable person would want to accept? And one of the things that are more questionable, perhaps things that have come down to us because of specific religious beliefs that people have held for centuries or even a couple of thousand years. And one of the things that if we don’t hold those religious beliefs, we might want to change one of the things that perhaps we believe only because they serve our interests and we don’t want to be challenged on things that might make us uncomfortable. Questions about the way we treat animals, for example, would be in that category. Of course, animals can’t really challenges and say, well, isn’t your ethic biased in favor of human interests rather than the interests of other beings? So there are a lot of things like that where I think we don’t really have a defensible ethic, or at least the conventional ethic is not defensible. And that’s what I see my role as a philosopher, as doing as basically challenging people to think a little bit more deeply about these things. Maybe they’ll end up coming to the same conclusions they held before. But at least they’ll have thought them through a little bit more fully and they will then be in a better position to defend the beliefs that they hold. 

Your latest book is The Way We Eat. So I want to turn to that the topic of vegetarianism. I don’t suppose I should admit this to you, but I am a strict vegetarian for only a few weeks, a couple times a year, and always right after I read one of your books. You always persuade me. Convince me. But it just never sticks except on my spouse’s insisting. So tell me why you think people should be vegetarians. And also how you think they can make their vegetarianism stick. 

Okay. Essentially, I think people and let me say, I’m talking about people who live in developed societies who can walk into a supermarket and buy a lot of healthy alternatives to eating meat and animal products. I’m not necessarily talking about indigenous Australians trying to hunt in the bush or something like that. But for ordinary people who have a wide choice, considering the fact that most of the animal products that you would buy in the supermarkets, virtually all of them would come from factory farmed animals who would be crowded together into sheds or feedlots in conditions that really are pretty miserable for them for most of their lives. I mean, they don’t get to walk around freely in paddocks or on the grass and enjoy the sunshine or anything like that. They’re not in a natural social group. They are essentially treated as as things without much concern for their well-being. So and add to that the fact that this factory farming is also environmentally a disaster on a whole variety of different ways, including the emission of greenhouse gases cause climate change. So for both environmental and animal welfare grounds, I think the case is very strong to say that we should not be purchasing these products. We can and should have a healthy, enjoyable cuisine based on avoiding animal products as far as possible. 

Aren’t you making animals worth the same as people? I mean, aren’t we the top of the food chain evolutionarily? What’s what’s ethically wrong with eating animals? 

Well, firstly, I’m not saying that animals are necessarily on the same level as as normal human beings. I think it’s reasonable to say that there are differences that relate to the different intellectual abilities of normal humans as compared to non-human animals, and that therefore, perhaps the killing of a normal human being is something that’s more serious than the killing of a non-human animal. But I am saying that animals and stuff over there are capable of feeling pain and distress and of having miserable lives for a whole variety of reasons, including confinement and overcrowding and being unable to move around freely. And I do think of our suffering counts. I don’t think we can just say, well, you know, like human suffering matters. But the suffering of a pig or a cow or a chicken doesn’t matter. If we admit that they can suffer, then we should say, well, you know, that does count. It’s it’s not right to discriminate against them just because they’re not members of our species and say we won’t take their suffering into account, although we would take the suffering of any human being into account. So that’s essentially the ethical basis on which I would fund my views. As for the idea that humans are the top of the evolutionary chain. Well, I don’t think you can find any ethical argument on that. I mean, evolution is just the way things have happened. It has no moral direction or moral purpose. Even the whole idea of there being a top is a kind of a strange one. It’s a it’s a human centric kind of idea that we’re at the top. We’re just different. We keep evolving. They keep evolving. We’ve evolved with different kinds of capacity. Certainly we have power over them because of our particular high capacities and the technology we’ve invented. But that doesn’t give us any kind of moral rights anymore than the fact that a developed nation that has sophisticated modern weapons has a moral right to rule over simpler people who don’t have those kinds of developed weapons. 

You were mentioning factory farming. That seems to be the major thrust of your argument against eating meat, at least in this book. Something like 10 billion animals, 10000 million animals every year are processed for people to eat. So you’re basically aiming to put the American meat industry out of business. That’s your beef, no pun intended. 


I would like to put the American meat industry out of business. I think that that’s true. And I think that would be a better thing for the planet, would slow a major contribution to global warming, and that would also reduce vast amount of animal suffering. Now, having said that, you know, I wouldn’t really object too much if some more traditional farms continue to raise animals, if as long as they were able to go out on pasture and live reasonable lives in a normal social group for them, I wouldn’t I might not eat their meat myself, but I wouldn’t really particularly object to people doing it. It’s essentially the giant corporate factory farming kind of American meat industry that I really think urgently should be put out of business because it’s such a disaster for the environment and for animals. And for that matter, it’s contribute a lot to rural bee population as well. It’s replacing small independent farms with giant mega corporate farms, which I don’t think are good for rural areas themselves either. 

I want to stick with the topic of vegetarianism for a couple minutes before we move on to some other subjects. You also in this book give health reasons to not eat factory farmed meat. 

Well, I think there are a lot of a lot of health reasons, they don’t primarily argue my case on health grounds because I don’t consider myself an expert on nutrition and health. 

But certainly there are a lot of reasons for believing that the amount of meat and animal products in general that Americans eat is unhealthy, that it’s a major contributing factor to obesity and to a lot of diseases, cancers of the digestive system and that heart disease and so on. So I think, yes, there are good reasons for shifting to a more plant based diet, which is likely to be healthier, higher in fiber and so on. Jim Underdown. 

There are also steroids in in factory farm meat, things like that. 

Sure. Certainly. If we’re talking about beef, for example, beef cattle are fed steroids to make them grow more. These things are very similar to what athletes take to to build muscle that has a negative environmental effect because they get into the rivers and streams and seem to actually alter fish in those streams. 

So that masculine fish, my office can tend to develop feminine characteristics and vice versa. Feminine fish, female fish can develop masculine characteristics. So that’s a bit scary. Now the industry says, well, you know, these things are no longer in the meat. By the time you eat it. Can we trust them on it? I honestly don’t know. So, you know, I think there’s a there’s a potential risk. And again, as I said, I’m not really sufficiently expert on this to take a strong stand on it. 

Professor Singer, we don’t have time to get into every one of your controversial views today, like what you say about euthanasia or infanticide. But you just said that we should have all this consideration for cows and chickens. But you are in print pro abortion. You don’t mind killing fetuses. Sometimes in print, not even newborn infants. But you do mind killing cows, pigs and chickens. Tell me briefly why you think abortion is okay, but eating meat isn’t even many secularists. Atheists might disagree with you on on this point about abortion. 

Well, it’s pretty straightforward, really. You know, the fetus, at least the fetus at the age when most fetuses are aborted is not a conscious being. The fetus cannot feel pain or suffering or anything like that because the brain is not sufficiently developed. We’re talking about the fetus for eight, 10, 12 weeks of gestation, whereas the animals that I’ve been talking about are capable of suffering. They’re obviously much more aware and alert to their environment than a fetus is. So that’s what I judge by a judge by what they’re actually like at the time. I’m not so concerned about potential because I don’t think it’s important that there be more human beings. I think the world already has something of a population problem. So the fact that the fetus has the potential to become a being like you or me doesn’t strike me as relevant to the question of whether it’s defensible to end its life before it ever gets to that point. 

You said in your book, Practical Ethics, that the life of a newborn is of less value than the life of a pig or a dog or a chimpanzee. So it’s not just a fetus, an unaware kind of unconscious fetus, but a newborn baby that’s less valuable than an animal. This seems so backward to most everybody on the planet. 


I don’t think that the terms that I use it to save the life is most valuable, and I do say that the arguments, the reasons against ending that life are weaker. In the case of the newborn, where we’re talking about a newborn whose parents don’t wish to live right over really had in mind. Newborns with severe disabilities where there are medical decisions made about whether to keep them alive or not. But in on and the reason here is that I think that, again, a newborn in four doesn’t have that kind of awareness of itself. Of course, it can feel pain. It doesn’t have that awareness of its future, which I think makes it more seriously wrong to kill an older human being. Where you’re frustrating the hopes and wishes and desires for the future. That that being may have you cutting them off at a newborn doesn’t have it. So I think that there’s a difference in the wrongness of killing. But, of course, I, I, I don’t actually put animals above the newborn, except perhaps animals like chimpanzees, which do have more awareness of themselves and their future than newborns. Rather, I would say, and in both cases we should be very concerned about the capacity for suffering and about the fact that they can suffer. And to prevent that suffering, Sondos was severely disabled. Newborns ending their lives may be the best way to ensure that they don’t suffer if their life prospects are miserable for non-human animals, too. We should also be concerned about their suffering. So it’s it’s wrong to say that I put the value of the lives of animals above that of newborns, of newborn human infants. What is true, I suppose, is that I think the wrongness of killing either a newborn infant or a non-human animal like a chicken or a pig or something like that, perhaps is not as great as the wrongness of killing a normal, more mature human being who wants to go on living and who has those additional reasons why you you’re wrong. Such a being if you kill them because you act against their desires for wanting to go on living. 

I’d like to turn to your reviews about Darwin’s someone who comes up quite a bit on point of inquiry. You argued in your book, a Darwinian Left, that the left should get rid of marks since his ideas are outmoded and replace them with Darwin, whose ideas seem to have stood the test of time. But you said earlier in our discussion that evolution has no moral direction. Doesn’t Darwin give us a world that is the opposite of the world you’re trying to bring about? The world Darwin gives us is a world where it’s a war of all against all, and that the only altruism there is is this kind of reciprocal altruism, a tit for tat where people are only giving to get. 

Well, firstly, you know, Darwin doesn’t give us a world that has any moral direction at all, and Darwin himself was totally clear about that. He said at the time, because people had said, well, doesn’t this mean that might makes right. And so he said, no, there are no moral implications in my theory of evolution. And he was absolutely correct about that. What he’s doing is describing the world we live in. You can’t draw ethical conclusions from descriptions of that kind. What he does do is, is tell us about how we got to be where we are now. And it’s early. He doesn’t say that nature is red in tooth and claw or anything like that. It’s also a struggle of all against all. It’s perfectly possible to think that Darwin is right about the way evolution works and that cooperation, for example, cooperation, reciprocity, helping those in need who will perhaps then in turn help you with some of the stage that all of that is actually a very effective way of ensuring that you survive and ensuring that your descendants survive. So it’s a bit of a myth to think that Darwinism says that it’s all sort of a bloody struggle in which we kill or be killed or anything of that sort. But the more important point, as I say in that book, I was simply talking about the different theories of human nature. I was not talking about questions of value. I was saying if we really want to build a better society, it helps to know what human beings are like, what they are likely to do under certain circumstances. Mark’s got that wrong. Mark’s thought that if he changed the economic conditions of society, you changed what humans are like in a very radical way. Darwin gives us the view that, in fact, our nature has evolved. That there was a biological basis for what we’re like. That certain things will keep going even if you change the social conditions or the economic structure of society. And I think the evidence is clear that Darwin was right about that. Not Marx. 

Speaking of how our nature has evolved, maybe even our morality. 

You’ve collaborated with Mark Couser at Yale who argues that we’ve evolved these kind of moral intuitions which are stable across culture. We have this kind of innate moral grammar. This innate moral grammar that he’s talking about seems to cut against utilitarian ethics or a consequentialist ethics. We haven’t really defined that yet. But, look, most people feel that there’s a morally significant difference between actively causing harm and passively allowing harm to happen. Most people feel that they have special obligations to those who are close to them, whether geographically or socially. You’re saying that we should look to evolution for guidance in understanding our moral grammar, but evolution itself seems to be a. consequentialist. 

Are you arguing that we need to relearned or rewrite our innate moral grammar or kind of evolved morality? 

The innate moral grammar idea is really mark houses. I mean, I think what there are is that there are certainly innate intuitions that we have about morality. I wouldn’t go so far as to talk about it as a moral grammar. 

But, yes, I mean, the fact that we have evolved to have certain moral intuitions doesn’t say anything about whether these moral intuitions tell us the right thing to do. That’s that’s a separate issue. So it may well be that some of our moral intuitions aren’t things that we need to change. For example, you know, we might have moral intuitions that are against sexual behavior that does not lead to reproduction. You know, you could argue that people have moral intuitions against homosexual relationships, for instance, for this reason that that tended generally to lead them to reproduce and to have more offspring. And so those genes tended to be more widespread in the community. But, of course, that doesn’t necessarily mean that we should continue to have those prejudices, especially as we’re in a world where there is a problem of population size, as I mentioned before, and we don’t necessarily want more and more people to have more and more children. 

So let’s address utilitarianism itself. You’re reaching all these counterintuitive conclusions about morality. These conclusions that go up against everyone else’s views from kind of a utilitarian perspective or consequentialist perspective. So, Professor, what the heck is utilitarianism? 

Utilitarianism has a view that we ought to judge actions as right or wrong in accordance with their consequences and the consequences that I’m most concerned about. Put it too crudely. Consequences for happiness or suffering or as I prefer to put it. Consequences for the satisfaction of peoples preferences and desires. And avoiding the fording and frustrating of those preferences and desires. So essentially, he says, trying to work out what’s right or wrong. You know, at the most basic level, not necessarily for every every decision you make every day. But at the most basic level, you think about what will be the overall consequences of what I’m doing for all of those who are affected by it. 

I mentioned my lapsang vegetarianism earlier, when it comes to the moral standards that you’re pronouncing, be it obligations regarding world poverty, care for the elderly. Questions regarding euthanasia or abortion, aren’t these ethical principles that you’re promoting just impossible to live by? Here’s the question. Do you know anyone who lives by the standards that you espouse? 

Well, I certainly know lots of people who are vegetarians or vegans. 

I also know people who give away very substantial amounts of money to help the world’s poor, which is another issue that I’ve argued about. I certainly know lots of people who have similar views to mine about questions about the sanctity of human life, about abortion and euthanasia and so on. I may not know one person who is able to live fully by everything that I say. But I don’t think that that’s a test. Obviously, the utilitarian ethics is quite demanding. And the fact that we don’t always live up to it does not in itself show that it’s wrong anymore than the idea that very few people turn the other cheek to those who hit them on one cheek shows that that ethic is wrong. So I think that it is possible to get a lot closer to doing the right thing by these ethical standards. And that’s essentially what I’m suggesting we should try and do. 

You just mentioned the world’s poor when it comes to planetary ethics, a subject you’ve treated a lot. If people are basically selfish and have as their primary interests their own group, how can you hope to redirect everyone’s attention to the plight of these people they’re never gonna meet on the other side of the planet? You actually liken it to murder, that if someone in the first world isn’t doing anything about the poverty of someone in the Third World, such as not donating to famine relief or something, let’s say the Third World person dies of starvation. You’re saying that not helping is as bad is actively causing that person’s death? 

No, I’m not quite saying that. I do raise the issue of the comparison, but I don’t exactly say that it’s the same. However, I do think that it’s a very serious thing because clearly we could be saving human lives at relatively small cost to ourselves. And to not do anything about that is is quite a serious thing. Now, it’s true that most people are focused much more on themselves and on their on their own families, and they don’t fully live up to this. But, you know, there are differences in how much people do. Some people are doing more than they used to do. Some very wealthy people like Warren Buffet have just pledged to give away almost all his entire fortune and leave his children just a very small fraction of what he could have left to them. I also, you know, I know lots of people who’ve given away sort of half of their assets. And some of these people, I should say, find this very fulfilling and rewarding. They think of it as some of the best things that they’ve done. They realize that just having a lot of money isn’t really the path to personal happiness either. So I think it is possible to get people to see that life is about more than just accumulating a lot of toys and a bigger new car or a bigger house or something of that sort. And this is not really contrary to people’s best interests when we understand best interests in a broad sense rather than a kind of narrow economic sense. 

You seem really optimistic that these rational arguments that you make are actually going to persuade people, many of your books have caused a lot of furor. Here’s the question. Have you seen that they’ve resulted in any lasting impact? They haven’t reorganize society? 

Well, certainly, I think that animal liberation has had a major impact on people’s thinking and has contributed to a dramatic change that I’ve seen in the 30 years since that book has appeared so that we think very differently about animals. Now, there are far more vegetarians and vegans. There’s a strong animal rights movement which simply didn’t exist at all when the book was published. The entire European Union has adopted a series of major reforms, phasing out some of the worst forms of factory farming. This is a community that makes laws for about 450 million people much larger than the United States, and they are going through dramatic changes even in the United States. We just saw last week that the biggest pork producer, Smithfield, has announced that it will phase out at least one element of the cruel treatment of its breeding sours, confining them in crates that they can’t even walk or turn around. So that’s a little bit of progress. And, you know, I’m constantly meeting people who’ve told me that they’ve become vegetarians. As a result of reading Animal Liberation and not just for a few weeks, but I’ve read it in 10 or 20 years ago and they’re still vegetarians and they’re very happy about being vegetarians. So I do think that that book has had a huge influence and I’m very pleased about that in terms of my views about global poverty. In an article I wrote some years back for The New York Times, I included some one 800 numbers for Oxfam America and for UNICEF. At the end of my argument about how we should be doing much more to help relieve global poverty. And I was told by both those organizations that in the weeks after that article appeared, they received hundreds of thousands of dollars of additional donations above the norm that they usually got in those numbers. So I do think it’s possible to have an influence through rational argument. Jim Underdown. 

This was your op ed piece, the singer solution to world poverty. That’s correct. Jim Underdown you’re saying it’s had a real impact. It’s not just a philosopher philosophizing. 

Oh, it’s definitely I mean, I get this from a guy from Oxfam America that I’m in close touch where they give us all the time about our Bastille. You know, just a while ago, they had someone came into the office, wrote them big check and took out of his pocket a public copy of that article, which he’d been carrying around his head for years. Jim Underdown meaning to go in and make them a donation. So, yes, there’s no doubt that it’s it’s had a significant contribution to Jim Underdown before we finish up. 

Professor Jim Underdown, your utilitarian perspective is atheistic. You write articles in free inquiry and elsewhere espousing his point of view. You believe that when you die, you’re dead. That there is no God. That there’s no ultimate meaning to the universe. If this is so, why behave ethically at all? Why not just, you know. Why isn’t it just every man for himself? 

Well, why would it be every person for themselves? I mean, why would you want to think that that’s what you wanted to do with your life? That you just wanted to, I don’t know, get to the top of some corporate ladder or spend more time lying on an expensive beach in a beach resort? I mean, that doesn’t seem to me a very meaningful or fulfilling life. 

Just on from your own perspective. Right. You’re right. I don’t think that there’s kind of an overall meaning to the universe as such. I think it just happened. But nevertheless, we can make our own lives fulfilling or meaningful for ourselves and get to the point where we feel we’ve done something worthwhile with it. And I think, you know, making the world better in the sense of reducing the unnecessary, gratuitous suffering that humans and animals have to go through is a way of finding some meaning in your own life. 

You’ve talked about three simple, three easy things that people could do to make a real difference along the lines of what you’re talking about. Let’s end our conversation today by elaborating on. The first was was do something for the world’s poorest people. The second is do something for animals. And the third is do something for our planet’s environment. How can our listeners help the poorest people of the world? 

Well, there are many organizations which are doing a great job to actually know not just feed people, but help them to become self-sustaining and to take care of themselves. I’ve linked on our website to the Oxfam organization, which is an international organization with separate Oxfam is in many different countries. So, you know, here in America, Oxfam America is the one to go for. There are many others, though, so I think that’s something that’s relatively easy to get in touch with them. If you’ve got money, write them a check. If you don’t, maybe contact them and see whether something else you can do for them. 

How does a listener do something for animals? It’s not enough to just feel so sorry for the plight of these factory farms creatures. 

No, it’s not enough just to feel something for them. I think what’s important is to actually cease to support their exploitation. And that will mean not buying factory farmed meat, eggs or dairy products, perhaps going vegetarian or vegan and getting involved with some of the organizations that are working for animals. I think farm animals are probably the ones who need our help most urgently and on the larger scale. So there are lots of lots of things that you can do to get with your favorite animal organization and try to reduce the unnecessary suffering of animals. 

Doing something for our planet’s environment. Is this just a matter of raising awareness or are there concrete things that we could begin doing to begin to think about your own contribution to global warming? 

For example, try to drive less if you must drive, trying to have a fuel efficient vehicle, use public transport or or ride a bike or whatever. And again, if you eat a diet that’s high in factory farm products, that wastes a lot of fossil fuels, American agriculture is very energy intensive. But if you’re eating plant products directly because there’s so much waste in creating factory farm meat, you’re responsible for far fewer emissions than if you’re eating the meat. 

Thank you very much, Peter Singer, for joining me on Point of Inquiry. 

Terrific. Thank you. Pleasure talking to you. Jim Underdown. 

You’ve seen the headlines, Bill seeks to protect students from liberal bias. The right time for an Islamic reformation. Kansas School Board redefined science. These stories sum up the immense challenge facing those of us who defend rational thinking, science and secular values. What one adviser to the Bush administration dismissed as the reality based community. Who could have imagined that reality would need defenders? The educational and advocacy work of the Center for Inquiry is more essential than ever. And your support is more essential than ever. Show your commitment to science, reason and secular values. By becoming a friend of the center today, whether you are interested in the work of psychology and skeptical Inquirer magazine, the Council for Secular Humanism and Free Inquiry Magazine, the Commission for Scientific Medicine or Center for Inquiry on Campus. By becoming a friend of the center, you’ll help strengthen our impact. If you’re just learning about CFI, take a look at our Web site. W w w dot. Center for Inquiry dot net. We hosted regional and international conferences, college courses and nationwide campus outreach. You’ll also find out about our new representation at the United Nations, an important national media appearances. We cannot pursue these projects without your help. Please become a friend of the center today by calling one 800 eight one eight seven zero seven one or visiting w w w that center for inquiry Donnette. We look forward to working with you to enlarge the reality based community. 

Thanks for listening to this episode of Point of Inquiry to get involved with an online conversation about today’s episode with Peter Singer. Go to w w w dot CFI dash forums, dot org. Views expressed on point of inquiry don’t necessarily reflect the views of the Center for Inquiry, nor its affiliated organizations. Questions and comments on today’s show can be sent to feedback at point of inquiry dot org or by visiting our website point of inquiry dot org. 

Point of inquiry is produced by Thomas Donnelly and recorded the Center for Inquiry in AMR’s New York. Executive producer is Paul Kurtz pointing inquiries. Music is composed for this by Emmy Award winning Michael Quailing. Contributors to today’s show included Sarah Jordan and Debbie Goddard. I’m your host DJ Grothe. 

DJ Grothe

D.J. Grothe is on the Board of Directors for the Institute for Science and Human Values, and is a speaker on various topics that touch on the intersection of education, science and belief. He was once the president of the James Randi Educational Foundation and was former Director of Outreach Programs for the Center for Inquiry and associate editor of Free Inquiry magazine. He previously hosted the weekly radio show and podcast Point of Inquiry, exploring the implications of the scientific outlook with leading thinkers.