Kind of a stream of conscious thing on the ethics of eating meat...
Why is it acceptable to kill and eat animals but taboo to have sex with them?
Let's see, behavior is formally regulated by two major institutions: government and religion. Also, rights are regulated/granted/defined by these as well. Both animal and human.
At the begging of civilization, before there was a concept of animal rights, humans were thought to have dominion over animals. They could use them for food and labor... and sexual pleasure? Maybe. Maybe not. That is where religion stepped in and regulated sexual behavior. In all sorts of ways. Many things were off limits... sex before marriage, sex outside of marriage, sex with a person of the same sex, oral sex, anal sex, and sex with animals. The church/temple/tribal heads regulated this stuff and doled out sanctions to violators. Stoning anyone?
Ah, then came the Age of Enlightenment, thank god! No, no god; god is dead. Modernism... religion began to lose its power... Mill, Bentham... human rights... the end of slavery... women's suffrage... child labor laws... animal welfare... The Jungle... church replaced by government... regulation of sexuality under the banner, crimes against nature.
Postmodernism... Peter Singer, Peta... animal rights/liberation... secularism... gay rights... veganism.
Today, we are more relaxed in our regulation of sexuality. The church has taken a backseat to government. Separation of church and state. And the people have spoken... they want to do as they please. It is all about privacy now. Laws have been created to protect the individual's privacy. It's nobody's business. Many acts are no longer considered crimes against nature. But it is still a taboo to have sex with animals because it has been decided that animals cannot offer consent. Just like rape is not acceptable for the same reason... lack of consent. But what if an animal could give consent? What if a great ape showed measurable ability to offer such consent... be it through initiation and/or enthusiasm? Would that be considered consent? If not, why? What if Peter Singer gets his way and great apes are granted... not animal protection... but rights? Wouldn't they then have the right to privacy... and the right to have sex with whomever they wish, just like humans? Would we have to pass laws forbidding them to have sex with humans? Slippery slope, eh? Someone, or many, are thinking about these things... and sitting around discussing them in some think tank somewhere in the world, right now, as I am typing this. Btw, I am in my own think tank of one, at the moment.
At the same time, laws have been created to protect animals from cruelty, mistreatment, and exploitation. Dominion over animals is replaced with duty to protect.
Anyhow, so why can we eat animals and not have sex with them? Well, we can have sex with them in 17 of the 50 states in the US. Want to have a go with poochie, live in one of these states... Guam, American Samoa, Alabama, Connecticut, Hawaii, Kentucky, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Texas, Vermont, West Virginia, Wyoming, and the District of Columbia. Ohio? Interesting.
Until recently, there were no laws against it in Washington state. But this all changed in 2005 after a man died after having anal sex--and videotaping it--with a horse. Not sure if you heard about this. A documentary titled, Zoo, was made about it. Worth watching if you get a chance. Prior to this incident, zoophilia had been legal in Washington state for 117 years. Then a bill was passed to outlaw it. The bill states it is illegal on the grounds that it is cruel. Could be cruel. I bet some animal would beg to differ. It all depends on what was being done and by whom, where, and how. It may in fact be quite pleasurable for the animal. Manual stimulation of a dog's genitals by a human hand wouldn't seem to cause emotional or physical pain to the dog, would it?
This can change in the future in several ways... animals get more protection, and all states and more/all countries outlaw zoophilia. Or, maybe, great apes get rights and can now have sex with humans? Or not. Maybe there will be laws against it... extraspecies regulation... much like the current anti-zoophilia laws on the books. Or will it be a speciesism thing... like racism? Will apes fight for civil rights... the rights and privileges that humans are afforded? And then... comes same sex marriage between apes? Peter Singer, are you reading this?
So, it seems to be a dichotomy here. On one end of the pole, we have sexual liberation. On the other, animal liberation. At the moment, they seem to be at odds with one another. We want more freedom to have sex with whomever and whenever and wherever and however. At the same time, we want animals to be free from suffering and pain and cruelty and exploitation. Does protecting animals from these things mean we must give up some of out own sexual freedoms?
In conclusion, it is acceptable to kill and eat animals and not have sex with them because the government has passed laws against cruelty and the people have decided that eating/killing is not cruel, yet having sexual relations with them is. We are free to eat meat. It is morally and legally acceptable... except by some religions that have instituted dietary restrictions. Why? Because it is still not considered cruel to slaughter animals under the right conditions by the majority of folks. And in a democracy such as ours, the majority get to decide what is right and wrong. Bottom line, it is all about determining what is cruel. We have laws against cruelty. Want meat eating to be illegal? Convince the majority that it is cruel. The majority think it is cruel to have sex with animals, apparently. Really? I think that they just DON'T really need much convincing that it is not OK. Why? Because they don't want to have sex with animals. But people DO want to eat meat. Much harder battle to be won here.