Bisgould is not convinced there are any laws that can really improve things for animals used in industrial agriculture (although she would like to see a change in privacy laws, which would allow people to see where their food comes from). One can ask for bigger cages or make anaesthesia mandatory before castration, but these improvements are minimal in the grand scheme of the suffering the animals endure, she says. The demand to produce vast amounts of meat for human consumption means there’s no room for animals to live well, she adds.
“When there’s no market, we’ll stop producing them,” says Bisgould, pointing to the cosmetic industry, which began to make massive changes after people found out their products were being tested on animals. “In that sense, all of us have a lot of power, but we have to be willing to re-examine our own behaviours because a lot of us love to eat animal products – and I totally get that, but we have to be open to a little bit of change if we want these harms to go away.”
Scharper favours a “context of consumption” approach, which takes into account quality-of-life issues for animals and humans, and environmental concerns, when choosing what meat to eat. Of factory farming in particular, he adds, “This is a crisis of imagination and of the way we think. And because we’ve allowed ourselves to be colonized by a pragmatic, endsdriven model, rather than to other ways of looking at the world – of integration, of deep empathy, of deep participatory solidarity – we can’t think of other ways to be human. That’s what we are challenged to do now.”

Berkman, a vegetarian himself, references a modern Mennonite poster that reads: A Modest Proposal for Peace: Let the Christians of the World Agree That They Will Not Kill Each Other. “People asked, ‘Why just Christians? Why shouldn’t everybody not kill each other?’ Well, this is a modest proposal for peace. At least people who are supposed to agree, fundamentally, about what life is about, should be able to not kill each other,” he says. He relates this back to animal suffering, arguing for at least eating free-range meat: “Ultimately, I would like to see a much broader vision where we come to an agreement about respecting the goodness and the inherent dignity of animals, and that unless we absolutely need to we should let them live according to their natures and peaceably. The modest proposal for change is let’s not be engaged in institutionalized cruelty, which almost everybody knows is wrong.”
Before ending the conversation, Bisgould makes one important distinction between humans and other animals. “We’ve tried for a long time to distinguish ourselves from other animals to justify hurting them. And all of the distinctions that we’ve drawn over time have been disproven by our own science. They don’t think, they don’t reason, they don’t feel, they don’t form social bonds. So we don’t have the factual premise for this entitlement that we continue to claim,” she says. “If there is perhaps one difference, it might be this second-order thinking that we do, this thought about thought. And since we have that capacity, aren’t we obliged to use it? Instead of saying, we’re better than you, therefore we get to hurt you, let’s use our morality and say, I have a choice between sustaining myself in a way that causes profound pain and suffering, or a way that doesn’t. How do I justify choosing pain and suffering? How do I justify it?”