• BitconnectCarlos
    681
    I'd be interested to hear people's thoughts on this.

    I am familiar with some of the views of people like Peter Singer and others in the more utilitarian tradition who advise against eating meat on the basis of it creating unnecessary suffering and killing. Personally, I do eat meat - and it seems like any defense of eating meat is necessarily speciesist - i.e. it elevates and considers humans as just inherently more important than other animals. It seems funny to me than an accusation of someone being a "speciest" (sp?) is considered a serious accusation.... if the choice was between saving 10 people or 10 cows are we really going remain indifferent about it?

    Personally I certainly do believe we owe certain ethical duties to animals (decent treatment and no cruelty above all else) and if we are to kill them for food or perhaps euthanasia it should be as painless as possible.

    Anyway I'm interested in hearing others thoughts about this matter.
  • DingoJones
    2k


    I think of ethics as a social contract for the most part, so with animals their are obvious limits to what kind of social contract you can make with them. I think most ethics are beyond most animals and so its not going to be an ethical social contract.
    Ive always found it strange when animal rights people talk about the suffering from farms and human consumption of meat. Do they not realise the suffering that exists in the natural world? Its a non-stop horror show of pain, suffering and death. Mothers eat their babies, predators eating prey alive, agonising poisons and neurotoxins that paralyse followed by being eaten alive, females killing mates after copulation...ever see a cat play with its prey? Its torture for fun, whenever they can. Rape, infanticide, homicide, torture...all par for the course. Horrific crimes by human standards and thats the point, by human standards. Ethics. Whatever animals got going on it aint ethics, so what kind of social contract can you make with them? Well they all seem to have a solid grasp on the food chain...
    Having said that, science has shown a pretty wide spectrum of cognition in animals in the last decade or two. I think its pretty clear some animals are capable of an ethical social contract more advanced than us eating them. Although dolphins are an animal noted for it high or human like intelligence and I read rape is very common amongst dolphins so maybe ethics really are a uniquely human thing. Its hard to tell.
  • 180 Proof
    1.8k
    From an old post on the same topic:

    ... thus, how (or whom!), rather than what, we eat is a matter of ethics ...180 Proof
  • River Lantzantz
    6

    Considering we evolved as omnivores, early human diet consisted of things that we didn't have to wait for, this was so we can breed the best possible outcomes for survival. Once we started to develop as a species, so did our plant based diets.

    Once we were able to afford to try certain plants to see if they were edible started a domino effect in my opinion. Ever since then we slowly changed into a species of hunter/gatherer/farmers. While our meat eating habits have become extremely inhumane, we have developed plants into something amazing for humanity.

    We are at the point as a society that the negatives about meat have started to outweigh the benefits. I think as the highest mode of consciousness on this planet, leaves for us a responsibility to correct any errors we may have caused along the way. I believe there is nothing wrong with eating meat, but i do believe it is wrong to eat meat that you don't have a personal connection to / give the appropriate respect to while killing/preparing/eating. maybe in the future there will be reform to where people enjoy meat responsibly without repercussions.
  • Outlander
    608
    Ask yourself this. What would be more ethical for humans? Living in a civilized society or living as animals do? Following the mentioned premise of biologic equality would it not be more ethical to (painlessly) kill and eat an animal then to allow it to continue living in an unethical setting to be either preyed upon and mercilessly devoured alive or succumb to disease that cannot be treated?

    I'm being a tad tongue-in-cheek as far as this next argument but that is not to say it (intentionally) has no philosophic value, if not just for the sake of debate. How do we know plants and the like don't feel pain? Because it cannot be observed by our primitive senses or measured by a field constantly being proved wrong? Because they have no pain receptors or 'brain' that conforms to our feeble understanding of our own? Let's think about it. Plants have been around tremendously longer than the first human. They have quite the headstart so to speak. Studies show plants can not only communicate with eachother but respond differently to music, rock vs. classical for example. The Venus flytrap can somehow keep count of how many times its been touched and therefore when to react and many plants can successfully navigate through a maze in pitch black darkness. 'The Happening' proposes the concept. Or take 'Life After Humans'. Scientists say plants would inevitably overtake cities if not kept at bay and with enough time, and of course other natural processes, would be like they never existed. If all humans disappeared right now. Plants would not only be fine but dominate. If all plants disappeared right now, animals would die, the food chain would collapse, and one could assume so would humanity.

    As far as the things I've mentioned plants can 'do' they can, and admittedly probably are, just basic cellular functions and reactions to stimuli. Suppose I was just looking to plug an episode of a show I like that proposes the concept. For entertainment/humor (or perhaps even some deeper thought on the subject, though unlikely) of the community. "Tales from the Darkside - Love Hungry". Sometimes I take the devil's advocate thing a little too far. I'll stop. :)
  • Graeme M
    52
    I think that veganism (which is the more ethically based "flavour" of non-meat eating) is concerned primarily with pain and suffering. The argument isn't that pain and suffering only exist within farming but rather turns more on our involvement. It is the natural order for some animals to be eaten and some to do the eating. And of course, for many to suffer. Humans could, depending on circumstance, be the eaten and the eater. But we, more than any other animal, can determine our own circumstances. In that light, we have the choice, and this is where the ethical domain emerges - in the space where choice and natural order intersect. THAT is why we can choose not to eat other animals when possible.

    To my mind, this means that there isn't some moral duty on us never to use or eat other animals, but there IS a moral duty to consider the circumstances. For someone such as myself, it is not particularly difficult to choose not to eat meat and hopefully that choice results in less pain and suffering. So that is my choice.
  • zookeeper
    72
    Ive always found it strange when animal rights people talk about the suffering from farms and human consumption of meat. Do they not realise the suffering that exists in the natural world? Its a non-stop horror show of pain, suffering and death.DingoJones

    Why do you find that strange? There is no actual contradiction there, after all. In my experience, most animal rights people tend to agree that nature is a horror show of pain and suffering.
  • Tzeentch
    798
    Life needs to eat other life to sustain itself. Whether it be plants, trees, animals, fungi, etc. Whether it be in the form of actually consuming them, or by claiming their habitats.

    Taking a moral position based on valuing one type of life above another seems shaky to me. With that said, there's a point to be made that in the practice of sustaining ourselves, we should seek to minimize the suffering we impose on other lifeforms.
  • DingoJones
    2k


    Well it seems strange to save an animal from suffering by ensuring it will suffer. Frying pan or fire? And thats besides the fact that most animals cannot make an ethical social contract. Its protecting an animal from suffering and death by sending it off to..suffering and death. (Presumably the alternative to being a farm animal is living in the wild). That doesnt seem odd to you?
    Take vegans and vegetarians. In order to grow the food they eat, animals still have to be slaughtered en masse. Those fields of fruits or veggies result in countless deaths and plenty of suffering from displacement and starvation. If you want to say rodents and insects dont count or count less, then you are making the exact same calculus a meat eater is making. The moral high ground held by vegans or vegetarians is an illusion.
  • zookeeper
    72
    Well it seems strange to save an animal from suffering by ensuring it will suffer. Frying pan or fire? And thats besides the fact that most animals cannot make an ethical social contract. Its protecting an animal from suffering and death by sending it off to..suffering and death. (Presumably the alternative to being a farm animal is living in the wild). That doesnt seem odd to you?DingoJones

    But practically no one ever suggests such a thing. The alternative to suffering of farmed animals is obviously not freeing them to starve in the wild, but not breeding them in the first place. That's a basic false dichotomy.

    Take vegans and vegetarians. In order to grow the food they eat, animals still have to be slaughtered en masse. Those fields of fruits or veggies result in countless deaths and plenty of suffering from displacement and starvation. If you want to say rodents and insects dont count or count less, then you are making the exact same calculus a meat eater is making. The moral high ground held by vegans or vegetarians is an illusion.DingoJones

    Sure, production of plants results in animals dying en masse. No one seriously thinks that's not the case. How or why would that eliminate the moral high ground?
  • DingoJones
    2k
    But practically no one ever suggests such a thing. The alternative to suffering of farmed animals is obviously not freeing them to starve in the wild, but not breeding them in the first place. That's a basic false dichotomy.zookeeper

    I was comparing the suffering experienced by farm animals to the suffering of animals in the wild. Thats not a dichotomy, its a comparison. Not breeding them in the first place is a fair point but doesnt address what to do with the ones that have been bred already.
    Also, regardless of what we do with the current stock of farm animals doesnt change the fact that animals, anywhere, live harsh and short lives that end in various horrific deaths. Thats the point I was making. There is no significant ethical difference between the suffering of farm animals and the suffering of animals in general. It IS strange, as under your paradigm one should be out rescuing animals from the wild as well.

    Sure, production of plants results in animals dying en masse. No one seriously thinks that's not the case. How or why would that eliminate the moral high ground?zookeeper

    Well isnt preventing suffering what grants the moral highground? Suffering isnt being prevented by not eating meat, in fact id say that it causes more suffering just by the sheer numbers of individual suffering (unless you want to claim those lives are less significant somehow, but again that is the exact same calculus a meat eater is making).

    Also, you said “practically no one ever”...aren’t there organisations like PETA that rescue animals and release them back to the wild? Maybe Im assuming “rescue” to mean release to the wild, but Im sure i e heard of animals being rescued from factory farms and such.
  • Nils Loc
    743
    It is likely a mistake to project the unique human capacity for suffering onto animals. We have a rather sophisticated sense of self having a past and a future. The worrying about these imaginary selves is not a irrelevant aspect of human suffering and should be taken into account.
  • zookeeper
    72
    I was comparing the suffering experienced by farm animals to the suffering of animals in the wild. Thats not a dichotomy, its a comparison.DingoJones

    You specifically said that the alternative to animals suffering on farms is the animals suffering in the wild. And it's obviously not, since those animals wouldn't exist in the wild in the first place. This is what you said:

    Well it seems strange to save an animal from suffering by ensuring it will suffer. Frying pan or fire? And thats besides the fact that most animals cannot make an ethical social contract. Its protecting an animal from suffering and death by sending it off to..suffering and death. (Presumably the alternative to being a farm animal is living in the wild).DingoJones

    That's clearly saying that you think animal rights people want to take animals from farms and send them into the wild (where they would then suffer considerably). And that's an absurd claim. I'm sure you can find a teenage activist or few who genuinely want to free all the chickens into the wild, but everyone knows that's not representative at all.

    Not breeding them in the first place is a fair point but doesnt address what to do with the ones that have been bred already.DingoJones

    I don't know, have you ever asked someone that directly? What did they answer?

    Also, regardless of what we do with the current stock of farm animals doesnt change the fact that animals, anywhere, live harsh and short lives that end in various horrific deaths. Thats the point I was making. There is no significant ethical difference between the suffering of farm animals and the suffering of animals in general.DingoJones

    Of course there is no difference, suffering is suffering. Does someone disagree with your point? I'm aware that perhaps even most people consider it somehow worse if a human intentionally inflicts suffering than it is for that same amount of suffering to occur "naturally", but they still don't think that suffering in nature isn't bad.

    It IS strange, as under your paradigm one should be out rescuing animals from the wild as well.DingoJones

    Sure, anyone who says we should only do something about human-inflicted suffering but not wild animal suffering is wrong. On that I'll happily agree. Anyway, my personal paradigm is very different than what you probably think; I'm just pointing out how you seem to have misconceptions about people advocating plant-eating.

    Well isnt preventing suffering what grants the moral highground? Suffering isnt being prevented by not eating meat, in fact id say that it causes more suffering just by the sheer numbers of individual suffering (unless you want to claim those lives are less significant somehow, but again that is the exact same calculus a meat eater is making).DingoJones

    That doesn't make any sense. How does plant-eating cause more suffering than meat-eating? It causes some, obviously, but if you make an esoteric claim such that it causes more suffering or suffering to more individual creatures, then surely you have some kind of rationale for that. What is it?
  • Graeme M
    52
    DingoJones, the point of veganism is that we have a choice. The suffering in nature is part of the natural order; we could perhaps take a stance about that, but the ethical issue is the suffering we cause. So as Zookeeper says, the goal is to not produce animals in the first place if their lot is to suffer. There's an extension to that which is that even if suffering is not their lot, it isn't right to create them in order to take their life before their natural life span. Something similar exists in relation to use/exploitation/enslavement, however you want to frame it, but I feel that is really just the same concern about suffering. So no, no-one seriously suggests turning all the farmed animals loose. The concern about what to do with those that exist is misplaced - if you eat meat, then you clearly don't worry about that to begin with. For animal advocates, they know that even though say the animals on one farm will be killed if no-one is buying the meat any longer, it means that this will not continue into the future, so the aim is to eliminate future suffering.

    The concern about crop-related deaths is a good point, but ultimately fails I think for several reasons. The first is that a lot of crops are grown to feed animals, so eliminating animal farming would also reduce the number of animals suffering, both directly and indirectly. Second, we don't really know how many animals ARE being killed in crops. It probably is far fewer than you think (as long as we ignore insects, that is). And lastly, consider that pretty much all of us eat plants. In fact, for a healthy diet, something like about 60-80% of our calories should come from plants. That is a shared cost - in other words, vegans and non-vegans are eating those, so it follows that the vast majority of all animals killed in cropping are killed by non-vegan consumption.

    Now, we could look to fix that, and if the world had a vegan agricultural system then we would aim to do that. In the meantime, there is no avoiding the shared cost. What's left then is the cost we CAN avoid - the animals farmed/caught for food. On average, a non-vegan will cause the death of somewhere between 50 and 100 animals per year. As meat is mostly consumed for protein, we could replace that meat with protein crops such as peas/beans/lentils etc. To replace the proportion of protein from animals in the diet would require about one tenth of a hectare per year. If wild animal deaths are say 50 per hectare per year (almost certainly an exaggeration), the the vegan will cause the death of an additional 5 animals (over and above the shared cost baseline). Compared to the 50-100 of the non-vegan.

    Of course, the non-vegan can get around this by only eating range grazed beef, and thereby causing the death of perhaps one or two animal each year directly. But that is a bit of an uncertain claim because we don't know the true quantum of crop-related deaths (what if it is just five per hectare per year) and we are ignoring the deaths related to beef production (eg predator control).
  • DingoJones
    2k
    That doesn't make any sense. How does plant-eating cause more suffering than meat-eating? It causes some, obviously, but if you make an esoteric claim such that it causes more suffering or suffering to more individual creatures, then surely you have some kind of rationale for that. What is it?zookeeper

    I was referring to the amount of lives lost/suffering. Insects and rodents are more enumerate than farm animals. Insects and rodents can co-exist with animal farm fields. Thats not the case with crops, the insects and rodents are wiped out or displaced (and most die). So many many times more individual lives and suffering result from a crop field. Ergo, if we are measuring the suffering of individuals we see there are more individuals suffering from the footprint of the crops than the animal farming. By a landslide really.
    Just because you don’t understand something doesnt mean it doesnt make sense. I dont mind clarifying, I simply thought you understood the huge numbers difference in individual lives. My mistake, hopefully its clear what I meant now.
  • Graeme M
    52
    I was referring to the amount of lives lost/suffering. Insects and rodents are more enumerate than farm animals. Insects and rodents can co-exist with animal farm fields. Thats not the case with crops, the insects and rodents are wiped out or displaced (and most die). So many many times more individual lives and suffering result from a crop field. Ergo, if we are measuring the suffering of individuals we see there are more individuals suffering from the footprint of the crops than the animal farming. By a landslide really.
    Just because you don’t understand something doesnt mean it doesnt make sense. I dont mind clarifying, I simply thought you understood the huge numbers difference in individual lives. My mistake, hopefully its clear what I meant now.
    DingoJones

    You will need to offer some actual numbers to back up your claim that the loss of animals from the proportion of crops to replace meat is astronomical when compared to the number of animals we kill/catch each year. I agree that generally speaking, cattle grazing on open range is relatively harm free and can be ecologically preferable, but we aren't talking about the impact of ALL crops grown for food versus just range grazed cattle. See my comment above.
  • DingoJones
    2k


    I understand, Im familiar with vegan arguments.
  • DingoJones
    2k

    You will need to offer some actual numbers to back up your claim that the loss of animals from the proportion of crops to replace meat is astronomical when compared to the number of animals we kill/catch each year. I agree that generally speaking, cattle grazing on open range is relatively harm free and can be ecologically preferable, but we aren't talking about the impact of ALL crops grown for food versus just range grazed cattle. See my comment above.Graeme M

    Well in your first post you excluded insects. I was including them in my measure of individual lives.
  • Graeme M
    52
    DingoJones, if our concern is to reduce suffering, then it isnt clear that insects suffer in morally relevant ways. Probably most insects do not experience pain, but I understand the science is as yet somewhat equivocal. Still, few people afford an insect such as a grasshopper as much moral weight as a calf. We cant fix everything so insect suffering may have to wait on the fringes along with wild animal suffering. We can however fix farmed/caught animal suffering to a degree.
  • zookeeper
    72


    So just to clarify: you personally value the lives and suffering of, say, a beetle and a cow equally (or, alternatively, that you believe a beetle and cow are equally capable of suffering)? That your ethical judgement if you see someone squash a cat with a bat is more or less the same as when you see someone squash a mosquito?

    Pardon my non-philosophical response, but I don't think you can seriously expect anyone to believe that that is your actual position. Yet your whole argument seems to hinge on that.
  • Graeme M
    52
    [ deleted ]
  • DingoJones
    2k


    My concern isnt to reduce suffering, thats the concern of vegans/animal rights folk. Im talking about in what way operating from that stance leads to inconsistency.
    Anyway, once you decide insects arent to be included as suffering creatures you are making the same calculus as a meat eater, arbitrarily drawing the line at insects the way a meat eater might draw the line at dogs, or monkeys. Thats problematic for what I hope are obvious reasons.
  • Graeme M
    52
    Oops sorry zookeeper I thought your comment was Dingo's! Dingo, no its not an arbitrary line. I suggested it is empirically motivated. Personally I doubt insects feel pain, certainly not the kind of pain that counts.
  • DingoJones
    2k
    So just to clarify: you personally value the lives and suffering of, say, a beetle and a cow equally (or, alternatively, that you believe a beetle and cow are equally capable of suffering)? That your ethical judgement if you see someone squash a cat with a bat is more or less the same as when you see someone squash a mosquito?zookeeper

    I was pointing out an inconsistency that arises from the vegan/animal rights premiss of reducing suffering. Reducing suffering is not my own basis of morality, nor a metric I would use to defend/attack animal rights.
  • zookeeper
    72
    I was pointing out an inconsistency that arises from the vegan/animal rights premiss of reducing suffering.DingoJones

    It's not an inconsistency unless one believes that beetles and cows are capable of equal amounts of suffering, or that their lives somehow matter equally much. You don't believe it, animal rights people don't believe it, so no one's being inconsistent.
  • Graeme M
    52
    Reducing suffering is not my own basis of morality, nor a metric I would use to defend/attack animal rights.DingoJones

    I'm curious, what metric would you propose? Mind you, the original discussion was in relation to vegetarianism, extended to veganism. Neither is essentially about animal rights as far as I know.
  • DingoJones
    2k


    It's not an inconsistency unless one believes that beetles and cows are capable of equal amounts of suffering, or that their lives somehow matter equally much. You don't believe it, animal rights people don't believe it, so no one's being inconsistent.zookeeper

    I think this is pertinent to both of our discussions. I think that deciding bugs dont count is the same as deciding certain animals dont count. Graeme mentioned that he had empirical reasons, and I would agree there is probably some sort of spectrum to consciousness and levels of suffering. However, I dont think that all the animals vegans/animal rights folk believe shouldnt be eaten are going to be shown by science to have anything like the human ethics or suffering. I think some will, and based on suffering as a metric we shouldn't (ethically speaking) eat those animals. That would be consistent with the premiss of suffering as the metric.
  • DingoJones
    2k
    I'm curious, what metric would you propose? Mind you, the original discussion was in relation to vegetarianism, extended to veganism. Neither is essentially about animal rights as far as I know.Graeme M

    Yes, this would be shifting the discussion. Thats why im arguing from the same basis of using suffering as the metric, I recognise my own views on ethics/morality to be idiosyncratic and unless the discussion is about moral epistemology it probably wouldnt be helpful to insert my own views.
    To answer your question, Im more of social contract theory guy and dint see much merit to principal based ethics or avoiding suffering as the basis for morals/ethics.
  • Lindrosn
    9
    Personally, I do eat meat - and it seems like any defense of eating meat is necessarily speciesist - i.e. it elevates and considers humans as just inherently more important than other animals. It seems funny to me than an accusation of someone being a "speciest" (sp?) is considered a serious accusation....[/

    It is a serious enough accusation, but not from those who claim the categorization of animals is their primary focus of value and emphasis, in other words those who strived to be less discriminatory than humanists, but from those who favor being more discriminatory than humanists, and so are open about their primary focus of value and emphasize being categorizations within the human species.

    An animalist could rightly claim that a meat eating humanist's value system arbitrarily focuses on his own species, but it's not much of a criticism coming from one who also has an arbitrary value system.

    A species is a breeding type, meaning it's the total of all individuals who have genes which are compatible with each others' in terms of breeding. That the human species is composed of groups that have less genetic divergence than many other notable species isn't necessarily and argument in favor of valuing it as a collective entity in a way that discourages divergence through universal ethical standards.
    One could argue that a healthy species is a more diverse species and so advocate uneven ethical standards to achieve that purpose.
  • TheMadFool
    7.3k
    if the choice was between saving 10 people or 10 cows are we really going remain indifferent about it?BitconnectCarlos

    When you word it that way, people's attention will be immediately drawn to the difference - people vs cows - which will most likely bring out our prejudices with predictable results.

    If one tries to find out why we balk at hurting our own kind we reach the conclusion that it all has to do with the ability to feel pain and suffer. Ergo your question, for the issue at hand, should be "if the choice was between saving 10 living things that can feel pain and 10 other living things that can also feel pain are we really going to remain indifferent about it?"

    That said, most people will be more surprised and maybe even offended by what I just said than by what you seem to be implying - that speciesism is somehow justified. I chalk that up to some form of primitive instinct in individuals the purpose of which is the survival of the species as a whole.
  • Lindrosn
    9
    TheMadFool, there are hardly any instincts in a person towards preservation of his species, rather instincts towards preserving some level of genetic grouping within the species that he belongs to. Outside of procreation, one may argue that even that isn't very significant relative to specific instincts towards self-survival, and self-actualization. Also, these instincts aren't primitive, because as humans evolved to various levels of sophistication as social beings capable of an exchange of thoughts, their instincts evolved to accommodate such new sophisticated interactions.
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