What's wrong with death and suffering?

I’ve asked this in two hunting related threads and have yet to get an answer from the anti-hunting crowd.

Why is suffering and death a bad thing?

Everything that ever lived or lives now will do both.

Why is it wrong that animals suffer and die for the benefit of humans?

If you have empathy, then needless pain (as opposed to the necessary kind, such as surgery) is bad, because you can put yourself in the other critter’s place.

If you don’t have empathy…

Well, 'nuff said.


In my experience, suffering really sucks. In fact, I’m pretty sure that’s why it’s called suffering. Having not died, I would imagine most forms of dying are like suffering, only suckier.

As such, not only would I rather not go through with them, I’d rather not inflict them on others.


So gratuitous suffering is bad, then. I agree.


Yet your continuing existance is predicated upon the suffering and death of animals of all kinds. By continuing to exist you are inflicting suffering and death on animals.

If you would choose not to do so, your only alternative would be to ummm, return yourself to the foodchain (to coin a euphemism.)

Hmmm… I think you’ve phrased the question poorly. Perhaps that’s why you didn’t get an answer before.

There’s nothing wrong with death per se, because as you say, everyone does it eventually. And, I don’t have a particular problem with animals dying to feed humans for example. I make no bones (so to speak) about being an omnivore, and I’m fully aware of where my food comes from. I’ve helped slaughter chickens and milk and care for cows. So, nothing intrinsically “wrong” there in my book.

Now, whether a death is necessary is a question worth answering. Animals killed for food or other necessities are all right in my book, but killing for pure “sport” isn’t justified. I meant to post this in the “sport hunting” thread, but it’s just as good here. My father used to hunt jackrabbits in Arizona with no intention of eating them. He would kill them and basically leave them to rot in the desert. Similarly, he would fish and more often than not, anything he caught went into the garbage rather than on our table. In both cases, I always felt it was an unjustified action to do what he did, and I still feel that way.

Suffering – that’s another kettle of fish entirely. What justifies making another creature, animal or human, suffer for you? Do you need them to suffer for you? I can’t think of a single case in which you do. If you have some examples, please suggest them. However, in discussion like this in the past I’ve heard examples such as chemical testing for products and drugs. I can see the appeal of it, but honestly, the appeal doesn’t equal justification to me.

Making another creature suffer for your benefit upsets the balance, in my book.

Animals can be killed without suffering. Causing death can sometimes be justified, but causing suffering simply isn’t, in my book. That may or may not be a vaild reason to you, but it’s how I live my life. shrugs

That’s silly, Scylla.

Or at least a deliberately limited interpretation. I am capable of reducing the burden on animals and I do so. What you’re saying suggests “your existence is predicated on the suffering of animals, therefore you should make no effort to reduce that suffering.” That’s like saying “Your house is made of wood, therefore your existence is predicated on the suffering of trees. So you might as well go and burn down all the forests you can find.”

Furthermore, I am part of the foodchain.

… and I should add that you’ve failed to distinguish between the kind of animal death that is necessary and unavoidable and the kind that is unnecessary and avoidable. Most humans are not vegetarians, therefore it is necessary and unavoidable that animals die for them to eat. However, it is NOT necessary that animals die so you can mount something nice on your wall. (I’m deliberately being general here.) Even if some animals must die for your continued existence, killing unnecessarily isn’t justified.

I’m all in favor of death and suffering, especially when they happen to other people.


Again, I agree. That killing seems both gratuitous and wasteful.


Which brings me back to my original question. Why is the suffering of animals for human benefit bad? Why should it be reduced?

I meant going back to the bottom.

Is there anything wrong with hunting if one eats what they hunt, or otherwise uses what they kill.

And, I guess there’s a degree of suffering in most any death, don’t you?

Which I already answered. The suffering of others should be reduced whenever and wherever we have the capability to reduce it. Something about humans being ‘humane.’ You’re continuing to ask the same question over and over and ignoring the answer: ‘suffering is bad’ is a circular statement. I don’t think we need to prove that unnecessary suffering is bad.

I’m not taking issue with people like the Inuit for whom hunting is a part of life. Some degree of population control is necessary for animals, I’m aware. But even if you eat the food (much less make a decoration or a coat out of it), hunting is still a sport. The fact that you’re eating it doesn’t mean it’s necessary because you could easily survive without it.

I know exactly what you meant. Also, the idea of a food chain where some animals are on top of others is apparently falling out of favor.


That is not an answer to my question. That is answer to another question. My question isn’t if it should be reduced where not necessary. My question is what is wrong with it.

Than why are you asserting circular logic?

I am not asking you to. I am asking you to tell me why suffering is bad.

As far as I can figure it there is nothing whatsoever wrong with suffering and death. Unnecessary or gratuitous death is wrong because it is wasteful. That’s how I figure it.

If you figure it differently, let me know.

Granting for the moment that modern hunting is a sport. What is wrong with sports? What do you have against sports?

Without what? Food? You’re kidding, right?

But you’re right. I don’t have to kill any particular deer any more than you need to eat any particular hamburger.

If I spare the deer something else will have to take its place, or I have to starve.

Why should I not a particular deer? Why would it be morally better to eat a cow killed by somebody else rather than a deer killed by my own hand?

Why is it wrong to do it myself? Is it than also wrong to cook my own live crabs?

Your objections make no sense to me. They don’t seem rational.

2 part question.
Suffering is not necessarily related to death. Suffering may or may not precede death. For more information go visit the burn ward at a local hospital. There you will find suffering without death. There also, you may find that death is not all that bad a thing given some of the suffering that exists there.

Death isn’t the bad thing, instead, dying is the bad thing. Death is whatever your faith tells you it is. What is bad about dying is that we can not choose when, or how we will find it. It can be a pretty scary thing under certain circumstances.
What’s bad about death, if anything, is that the things we left undone, will remain undone. Death is not a fear of mine, whereas dying is.
Hopefully, it comes in a simple way, like going to sleep, and not waking up.

I believe that too. (although, I’m still looking for that fountain)

Do animals have to die for humans to live. I have heard, but offer only as a comment, not to prove the truth of the matter, that the earth is not capable of producing enough vegetable matter to feet the population should the population become vegetarian overnight. It isn’t fair to the animals, but if I have to choose between them and my family, well nuff said. I hope that animals do not suffer when they become food products, and there is no reason that they must, but, that doesn’t make me want to only devour carcasses from animals that died of natural cause either.

If your point is that animals are needlessly suffering, I think you should show where and how, and I’ll bet you find an army behind you.
Thanks for listening

Just my opinion, I’m all for hunting if the carcass is used for eating or somesuch, because even though, like Marley says, its not necessary, you still put it to some good use.


I was the victim of severe third degree burns on both hands when I was fourteen. So, I think I’m in posession of the information you referred me to.

I also have not said that suffering and death occur only together.

Nothing you’ve said answers my question.

That’s not necessarily true. We have a large degree of choice in the matter

It’s a moot point. Vegetarian agriculture destroys the environment and kills animals very efficiently.

To grow a field of corn you chop down a forest and kill everything in it, and destroy that whole ecosystem. Then you plow the ground, killing all the moles, groundhogs, snakes, turtles and what have you, that happen to be there as the plow goes by. Then you plant your corn, fertilize and spray, probably contaminating the watershed (my well is contaminated with both nitrates and bacteria due to the adjacent cornfield)
Then you harvest the field and again kill everything in that corn field pretty efficiently in the process.

Agriculture is pretty costly in animal lives, so I don’t see that a vegan lifestyle avoids or reduces any animal suffering.


[quote I hope that animals do not suffer when they become food products, and there is no reason that they must, but, that doesn’t make me want to only devour carcasses from animals that died of natural cause either. [/quote]

Well nothing’s perfect, so I imagine some suffering is inevitable. Again, I don’t understand why suffering is such an evil that it needs to be eliminated.

That’s not my point.

My point is that there is nothing intrinsically wrong with suffering and death in general, and in animals specifically, that in fact it is a good thing as long as it is not gratuitous or wasteful.

I agree. I think that waste should be ethically avoided since it denies the possibility of beneficial use.

Let´s turn this around, what is right about suffering?. Do you think is good? If you have ever suffered for anything you already know the answer.

Sports in general are OK, hunting it´s a bit different, hunters may enjoy the chase, the killing, or the BBQ; for the first case its not necessary to kill the animal, like fishers do when releasing their prey; as for the second thats downright sadism, enjoy the killing for the sake of inflict death and suffering is sick; even hunters/gatherers have the highest respect for their preys, for they know their game keeps them alive; that leads to the third point, if you ate what you hunt or you hunt to eat. If you are hungry and cant get anything better or more suitable then theres nothing wrong about killing to feed (sounds gross, doesn`t it? :stuck_out_tongue: )

Of course if you kill a deer to eat a deer hamburger youç´ve gone a bit too far, no? :wink:

The suffering and death of animals for human benefit is not necessarily bad. It doesn’t even have to be human necessity - humans are capable of living on a meat-free diet, although making it truly nutritionally complete requires a bit of effort. I, and many other people, prefer to have meat as part of our diets - and I feel that the sheer scale of the difference in intelligence and self-awareness between people and animals makes the death of animals for foods which are essentially luxiries justifiable. It is my belief that human beings are the masters of Earth - not because of any sort of religious reason, but simply because we are so much more enormously capable than anything else. Questions of “the rights of food animals” don’t enter into it, much.

However - there is a degree of suffering that is necessary to the reasonably efficient conversion of living animals into foodstuffs. Beyond that, inflicting suffering on animals is not acceptable - not because the animal in question has an intrinsic right to avoid that suffering, but because human beings are capable of understanding that other animals are suffering, that they are causing it, and that this is not desireable. To inflict suffering for the sake of suffering, or because one is too lazy to care for food animals properly, indicates a disconnect from normal human standards of conduct that seems psychotic.

A cow living in a small stall or cage before being slaughtered is getting pretty much the best it can ask for when it is, after all, merely food. For that cow to be slaughtered ineptly, in such a way that it’s death is more painful than necessary, or for it to be forced to live in excessively unsanitary conditions, does not show disrespect to the cow - or if it does, that isn’t relevent. It shows contempt for human decency - and that is why unneccesary suffering is wrong, though not the death of food animals, which is rarely necessary.

As someone already mentioned, by this logic sport hunting is appalling. Pain for the sake of pain is wrong.

On second thought, and reading you post about “My point is that there is nothing intrinsically wrong with suffering and death”, I agree, in fact suffering has it´s good side, if you get hurt doing X thing you´ll be more carefull next time.
However, regarding the original question

I can see where the death of animals is benefical for humans, but no how we could benefit for their suffering.

Let´s make a question out of that: in which situations/conditions is indispensable that animals suffer to obtain a benefit?

Yes I do. Physical suffering let’s you know that something is wrong. It calls attention to a problem that needs to be addressed. It makes you guard and protect the damaged part of you so that it can heal. The strongest and most defining and most beautiful parts of my life were accompanied by physical or mental suffering, and the finest things are brought into sharp relief by the contrast of suffering.

Most of what is beautiful and worthwhile seems to come from suffering. My daughter’s birth was not an easy thing for my wife. Running a marathon was an exercise in suffering. Any great or achievement that I can think of produces suffering.

It is almost as if there is a law of thermodynamics relating to suffering. Nothing fine or beautiful can be accomplished without it.

Even that’s kind of silly. Suffering is beyond good or bad. It just is. It’s a ubiquitous fact of life.

Anybody that tells you life is something besides pain is trying to sell you something.