I really don't. He blurbed the book Killing Happy Animals: Explorations in Utilitarian Ethics by Tatjana Visak, and he also read and shared my own essay on the notion of “happy meat”, Why “Happy Meat” Is Always Wrong, in which I argued that the “happy meat” notion is not only misguided and indefensible, it’s the core foundation — the supreme rationalization — of our exploitation of non-human animals, and the main notion to criticize and push back against if any change is to come about. As far as I could tell, Singer expressed agreement with the argument, yet given the following statement from a recent interview, it’s clear that Singer does not at all agree with my argument:
Obviously I think it would be far better if people were only eating products from free-ranging animals. As far as the animals are concerned, they would have much better lives. If you could really stick to that, and if you could get some real standards that show they did have good lives, and there wasn't constant commercial pressure for people to cut corners and do things that are harmful to the animals, because that way they can compete better on the marketplace — then that would be a reasonable strategy, I would say, as far as animal welfare is concerned.
In my view, one could not possibly say anything more harmful than this. In spite of Singer’s ambition to do the best thing possible, he here manages to say what has got to be the worst thing possible, because this statement is all we need to hear in order to change absolutely nothing at all. If he only said: "it's fine to buy the products of horrific torture", then people would at least sense that something is wrong. If he says this, however, people will continue buying those "products" anyway, and absolutely nothing changes. It is an ethically misguided view dressed up as a well-considered moral position. And it’s exactly what we, the lazy homo rationalizers, want to hear.
By analogy, how is it not obvious that making the following statement about children, no matter what their cognitive abilities may be, is not ethically optimal, but positively harmful:
Obviously I think it would be far better if people were only eating products from free-ranging children. As far as the children are concerned, they would have much better lives. If you could really stick to that, and if you could get some real standards that show they did have good lives, and there wasn't constant commercial pressure for people to cut corners and do things that are harmful to the children, because that way they can compete better on the marketplace — then that would be a reasonable strategy, I would say, as far as child welfare is concerned.
This is an insane statement, of course, but if we reject speciesism, as we should, the statement made by Singer above is no less insane. The reason we reject this idea when it comes to children is, quite simply, that we are not ethically retarded when it comes to human children. We realize that this attitude is a recipe for suffering and horror. When it comes to non-human younglings, however — which is what the beings we exploit almost always are when we kill them: not beyond the age of a toddler — we are indeed ethically retarded, and profoundly so, as the following devastating question from Tatjana Visak perfectly exposes: "How can it be justified that we are not allowed to kick them, while we are allowed to kill them?"
Thinking that it is okay to kill a being “as long as that being has lived a good life” is simply not what we do when we take that being seriously in ethical terms, as most of us also realize when it comes to human beings and certain kinds of non-human beings, such as dogs and cats. And for good reasons. The simple, inescapable truth is that as long as we find it okay to exploit and kill other beings, whether they are human or non-human, we will bring immense harm and suffering upon them. This is the ironic, but inevitable effect of the “happy meat” position, and it is extremely disappointing that someone so intelligent (and infinitely likeable) as Peter Singer does not see this.