This is a surprisingly common argument which appeals to the fact that farmed animals are bred for the express purpose of being eaten. Since this is the purpose of the animals concerned, it is argued, it is perfectly acceptable to consume them. This is often accompanied by questions surrounding what the point of these animals would be if we were to stop eating them.
This argument is deeply flawed at its foundation, as it is based on the unjustified assumption that one group of individuals can, based solely on their own preferences, decide or determine what the purpose of another group is going to be. This undermines the right for self-determination which all humans and animals should have as far as is practicable. The belief that animals exist solely for humans has no more logical basis than the belief that women exist for men, which is also a fairly widely held and misguided belief. Our designation of some animals as “food” and other animals as “pets” does not fundamentally change anything about the animal. Animals are not objects, they have no innate purpose as is the case with a table or a chair, they are autonomous beings with needs, preferences and a will separate to ours. Humans have, at various points throughout history, thought they could decide what the purpose of other humans would be, and attempted to “breed” them specifically for this purpose. That is not to say that slavery is comparable to animals being bred for food, the two forms of oppression are unique and take place in their own context, but it is a telling example of how corrupt this particular line of reasoning can become.
Furthermore, this argument relies on the assumption that just because a purpose has been imposed on a sentient being from outside of themselves, that fulfilling this particular purpose is the only ethical outcome for the individual concerned. If this is indeed the case, it is extremely odd that people who hold to this belief still celebrate beagles who are set free from animal testing labs, or cows who escape slaughterhouses and run through the streets, or pigs who become loved members of a family. In all of these cases, the animal in question is not fulfilling their original “purpose,” and yet, we hear no ethical condemnation. This begs the question of why this could not be the case for all farmed animals, if we celebrate those few who do escape their “purpose,” it would be logical to assume if they escaped from that “purpose”, that this too would be a cause for celebration.
This argument rests on an assumption which is justified by nothing more than blatant and arbitrary speciesism. The notion that it is ethical to decide on another being’s purpose against their own interests is immoral and without any logical basis whatsoever. The prevalence of this kind of thinking throughout history, and the appalling consequences of those occasions when it has been put into practice, should be enough to convince any thinking person against any proposition argued on this basis.