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[Mod's note: merged with a previous thread. - sN]

 

Hello

Among the various claims of vegetarians, the only one that I find viable is one of cruelty.

If, as the vegetarians say, there is no 'need' of eating meat today - in that healthy vegetarian alternatives are available - then killing animals would constitute 'unnecessary cruelty'.

An argument is made that animals being amoral, the concept of rights does not apply to them. Thats true. But the point is about 'unnecessarily' infliciting pain and suffering on these creatures. Is that not bad ?

I wonder if any of you have read this:

http://www.uta.edu/philosophy/faculty/burg...ckson/engel.pdf

Its called "Immorality of eating meat". How would you answer the author ? The document is approx. 3Mb, 36 pages (best read if printed)

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Regards & Thanks

Edited by softwareNerd
Merged

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While I have not read the paper you linked, I think the fallacy in that argument is the context-switching of the word “necessary.” It is true that we should not “unnecessarily” harm animals, and that eating meat is not strictly “necessary.” But the first usage of the word means “having no legitimate reason (or productive purpose) whatsoever, while the second usage means “necessary for our bare survival.” The two meanings are clearly different and incompatible. Eating meat is not necessary for my survival, but it is necessary for me to maximize my health and pleasure. Going out into a field and randomly shooting cows for fun on the other hand, would not be ethical -- not because the cows have any rights, but because it would be an unproductive and malevolent action on my part. (Not to mention a property rights violation if I didn’t own the cows!)

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It would also be a property-rights violation if you didn't own the field or the gun. Also, what do you think of the sport of hunting?

The only defense of vegetarianism I find palatable is: every defense there is excluding the one about cruelty. Meaning, if you think it's healthier, more energizing, tastier, or any of those 'ers that make your life better - great reason for one to be a vegetarian. However, trying to make the lives of cows better by sacrificing one's own pleasure - horrible reason and unethical besides.

Vegetarianism is ethical unless it's practiced out of altruism - for cows.

Additional: another immoral defense is "we could grow more food in less space if we only ate vegetables" - or any such defense that requires a "group effort". But this defense is, of course, altruism (just not for cows).

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Additional: another immoral defense is "we could grow more food in less space if we only ate vegetables" - or any such defense that requires a "group effort". But this defense is, of course, altruism (just not for cows).

The argument from space saving is also at times inaccurate. Crops can not grow very well on pastures if they are too steep because of erosion problems and the difficulty of accurately pesticiding etc.

One interesting argument for limiting oneself to organic meat is the increasing vulnerability to antibiotics resistant bacteria

Factory farm animals are frequently given anti-biotics originally developed for man pre-emptively (i.e. as part of regularly scheduled nutrution) to help speed their growth by the time they go to market.

Through evolution, the bacteria adapt to the antibiotics, and when you eat meat if you get sick, you will be less able to fight the disease with antibiotics.

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While I have not read the paper you linked, I think the fallacy in that argument is the context-switching of the word “necessary.”  It is true that we should not “unnecessarily” harm animals, and that eating meat is not strictly “necessary.”  But the first usage of the word means “having no legitimate reason (or productive purpose) whatsoever, while the second usage means “necessary for our bare survival.”  The two meanings are clearly different and incompatible.  Eating meat is not necessary for my survival, but it is necessary for me to maximize my health and pleasure.  Going out into a field and randomly shooting cows for fun on the other hand, would not be ethical -- not because the cows have any rights, but because it would be an unproductive and malevolent action on my part.  (Not to mention a property rights violation if I didn’t own the cows!)

The aporia that I see is this:

The standard of good/bad is man's life, then if one protests against cruelty to animals, it has to be from man's life as the standard. That means that life as such is not a value ? I know this sounds smacks of intincism, but shouldn't life be a value in itself ? I need a formulation to ground this value within the objectivist hierarchy of values.

As for the other reply regarding cruelty being the only unpalatable reason, the context in which I put the question was different. What i wanted was an answer to the following 'syllogism':

p1. A world with less suffering is better than a world with more suffering.

p2. Animals suffer while being butchered for meat.

p3. A 'rational' man takes reasonable steps to make the world better.

p1 ^ p2 ^ p3 -> A rational man should not eat meat.

I know there is something wrong somewhere, i just can't put my finger on it.

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Thanks & Regards

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"p1. A world with less suffering is better than a world with more suffering."

Consequentialism in a nut shell ;) There's nothing inherently wrong with suffering its a natural part of life and is often necessarry to keep people alive. If I put my hand on a hot red stove and it burns me, I suffer, but my life is enhanced because I learn not to touch hot stoves any more.

It is unjust suffering that causes a problem.

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It must be from one's own life qua man as the standard.

Life as such is a value - to the one that values it. Live as such is the good, to the one that lives. Eg, one can value his wife's [or husband's] life, a friend's life, his pet's life, etc. - since they all enhance his own life. I assume meat enhances your life more than a warm fuzzy feeling.

Premises 1 and 3 are false.

Premise 1 - "Better" by what standard? for whom? and in what way? It is intrinsicism. Premise 3 - a rational man takes reasonable steps to make his own life better.

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I didn't read the article, but...

Kill: 1 a : to deprive of life

What is the difference between a plant and an animal? Once we exclude animals from the reality of having to deal with our existence, will we then remove plants? You will not be able to prove that a plant doesn't have consciousness as you can't prove God doesn't have existence. If they don't eat meat, they should not eat plants to be consistent. It would be immoral not to eat.

In addition, I think an assumption on vegetarians part is that humans are only a part of reality by choice. If the cow is eaten by a bear, there is no problem. If a cow is eaten by a man, there is an "unnecessarily cruelty" on mans' part. It is as if they are trying to ignore their identity and existence.

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Two comments on slave's post.

First (completely off topic), you certainly can prove that god doesn't have existence.

Second, I think it's safe to say that you can prove that plants don't have consciousness. Everything we know about consciousness indicates that it requires, if not a brain, at least a rudimentary nervous system. Plants possess no means of consciousness, therefore, they are not conscious.

The question here, then, is whether consciousness as such is relevant to determining whether an organism has rights. The answer is no. Only beings with a conceptual, volitional consciousness have rights. There is absolutely nothing wrong with eating meat.

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...I think it's safe to say that you can prove that plants don't have consciousness...

I agree that plants do not have consciousness, but is it proven? You have demostrated that they do not have a brain and a nervous system.

Are you able to prove a negative?

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Yes, I can prove a negative, if the positive of that claim is something that contradicts prior knowledge (as in the case of god).

In this case, however, you're technically correct that I can't "prove" that plants aren't conscious. However, until you provide some evidence that they are, then the proposition is completely arbitrary and thus irrelevant to cognition. So bringing it up is meaningless and pointless. Anyway, this technical issue, in this context, doesn't change the point of my previous post. But thank you for forcing me to be more precise.

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My point was that once I stop eating meat, I will then be asked not to eat plants. Since one primary difference between an animal and a plant is its consciousness, I have no arguemnt to defend eating plants since I am not able to prove it has no consciousness.

Guess what? They even have a website opposing PETA. The minute someone can make Tang w/o animal or plant, we will be asked to do w/o becasue we are cruel to all non-human life.

PETP

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My point was that once I stop eating meat, I will then be asked not to eat plants. Since one primary difference between an animal and a plant is its consciousness, I have no arguemnt to defend eating plants since I am not able to prove it has no consciousness.

My point is that you need no argument to defend eating plants or to prove that they are not conscious, because that claim is completely arbitrary. If anyone tells you that eating plants is wrong, you should simply ignore them and leave them to their own hypocricy (or self-starvation).

There is a difference between that claim and the claim that you shouldn't eat animals because causing another sentient being pain is wrong. They're both wrong, but the latter is at least not completely arbitrary and could conceivably be the result of an honest error. Thus, it is important to understand why consciousness as such does not give an organism rights and perhaps to be able to argue for that in some way (and then it would not matter whether plants are conscious or not, but even if consciousness as such were an essential difference in this context it is a relatively simple matter to dismiss the arbitrary claims of the anti-plant-eating people).

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There is a difference between that claim and the claim that you shouldn't eat animals because causing another sentient being pain is wrong.  They're both wrong, but the latter is at least not completely arbitrary and could conceivably be the result of an honest error.

How would you answer the latter ?

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By simply pointing out that it is a volitional, conceptual level of consciousness that gives rise to rights, not merely a bare minimum sentience with a pleasure/pain mechanism. Of course, there is much more that can be said on all of that, because this isn't an obvious point (which is why it deserves a response, unlike the plant question).

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It is wrong to attempt to prove the arbitrary to be false. The demand to do comes from the intrinsicist view that regards ideas as being "out there" in reality. In this view, an idea intrinsically is true or false.

But ideas are not "out there", they are in a man's mind. An idea can be true (in accord with reality), false (contradictory to reality), or arbitrary (not say anything whatsoever about reality).

"God" in the general sense is arbitrary. It is not defined, nor definable. It is a catch-all used as an excuse factory, a drug, and as a vehicle by which to hope for the unearned.

The key when someone tries to get away with this vague floating nebulous thing is to demand that he be specific.

What, exactly, do you mean by a "god"? Can you show me one? Define your terms?

If someone says "a being that exists outside of existence", then yes I can prove he's wrong.

It is the same with claiming that plants have consciousness. If someone is specific in describing "consciousness" to be what I experience as I write this essay, then one can point out that none of the causes of this are present, nor any of the effects.

One is no more uncertain of that plants don't have consciousness then one is that a dropped ball may float upwards. That is to say, one is not at all uncertain.

On the other hand, if someone means "consciousness" to refer to some vague pixie-spirit mystical mumbo jumbo, then he is not saying anything about reality.

"There I've said it, and now it stands."

Oh really?

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I take something of a Nietzschean stance on this question.

First of all, if we aren't supposed to eat animals, then why are they made out of meat?

Second, the cruelty doesn't matter at all. By our evolution and our nature, we are hunters. I take pride in my nature as a predatory ape, and relish in the fact that a genetically engineered bovine died for the juicy hamburger that I'm eating. (If you don't buy the "genetically entineered" bit, ask yourself why cows are different from buffalo, and what "domesticate" really means. It's eugenics, baby, yeah!)

We are the master species of this planet, and have a right - nay, a DUTY - to eat everything and anything tasty that doesn't posess a conceptual consciousness. If you can't do math, you're food. (Sometimes I think that perhaps the world would be a bit better if this principle were applied to homo sapiens as well.... ;) ) Who cares whether or not they can suffer? They can't talk. Eat them.

A proper morality is not based on suffering, but on a rational being's right to pursue happiness. Suffering doesn't enter into the equation. Even if a human were suffering, I may help him out of generousity, but I am not morally bound to do so. And if a pig or a cow suffers? Who cares? They're tasty, they're not people and they're not pets - that makes them food.

Certainly, this is not to say that causing suffering to an animal for no reason is a good thing. That is most often indicative of an obsessive fixation on suffering and death, which is not healthy. It's the same obsessive fixation that leads people to altruistic vegetarianism, and perhaps that is why they always throw the dog-torture argument at us omnivores. They cannot conceive of a benevolence or a morality that is based on life and happiness, rather than death and suffering.

If refraining from eating meat makes you happy and healthy and all that, great, do it. But that's a matter of preference quite outside the scope of philosophy.

Don't try to tell me that eating meat is immoral, or I'll eat you.

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"Second, the cruelty doesn't matter at all. By our evolution and our nature, we are hunters. I take pride in my nature as a predatory ape, and relish in the fact that a genetically engineered bovine died for the juicy hamburger that I'm eating"
Isaac.

Isaac, When I talk to vegetarians who abstain from meat for cruelty reasons, the vast majority do not abstain from meat in general but from the conditions of meat raised in "factory farm conditions". Many will eat when the meat has been approved/certified by an organization they trust.

Having seen videos of what happens to these animals(while they live, far before the slaughtering process), and having seen where veal for instance is raised, a respect for life is not apparent. How might you respond to that argument?

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Certainly, this is not to say that causing suffering to an animal for no reason is a good thing.  That is most often indicative of an obsessive fixation on suffering and death, which is not healthy.  It's the same obsessive fixation that leads people to altruistic vegetarianism, and perhaps that is why they always throw the dog-torture argument at us omnivores.  They cannot conceive of a benevolence or a morality that is based on life and happiness, rather than death and suffering.

Consider the following 2 cases:

1> I enter a room full of crockery and indiscriminately break it.

2> I enter a field full of cows, and kill all of them.

Would you say that in both the cases I am immoral because I am indulging in non-productive actions ? Only that ? Nothing else ?

If your answer is that in the second case, there is a hint of a fixation for suffering and death, then does it not lead to the idea that life itself has a value, on which grounds we can morally condemn the shooter ?

In a nutshell, doesn't a living thing have a higher value than a non-living thing ? Why ?

Just to make it clear, I am playing the devil's advocate here. I would welcome a collosal tearing apart of my arguments ;)

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There isn't really enough information in the crockery/cow slaughter example to answer the question of morality. The context is totally missing. Why would you do that?

Doing anything for no reason is patently irrational. Either you have good reasons for doing something or you have bad reasons and the expression "no reason" indicates that you do it on a lark - not a good reason.

Breaking the wares or slaughtering the farm on a lark both indicate to me in the same way that there's a fixation on destruction, chaos, and death. It's definitely not productive.

When a dish is broken or an animal dies, the dish and the animal, in effect, do not exist any more. Those existents are now named "trash" and "carcass" to indicate the difference.

There is an element of recognition of animals as alive in the same way that I am alive and that recognition does add some small level of value which manifests itself in some small bit of respect when I encounter them. Similarly, when I meet a stranger I grant them some amount of courtesy because although I don't know them, I do know they're human.

But the quality of being alive isn't of the profound value shown on TV. In animals and plants that value is easily superceded by other values. For people, more effort is required, but not much.

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When a dish is broken or an animal dies, the dish and the animal, in effect, do not exist any more. Those existents are now named "trash" and "carcass" to indicate the difference.

LOL :lol:

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The Human Omnivore FAQ

1. Why don't you shoot cows in fields?

Because I have a certain respect for life, especially conscious life.

2. Then why do you permit people to kill cows to make burgers?

Because I respect human life far more than bovine life.

3. Why do you regard dogs as companions rather than food?

Because western dogs were bred for work, hunting, and compansionship. They were not bred for human consumption.

4. If you went to China, would you eat a dog then?

*I* wouldn't, but some omnivores might. Let me ask around...

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Note that the only sigificance of what the dogs were bred for is that they probably wouldn't make very good tasting food.  Not that it is somehow immoral to eat them.

Actually, dogs are eaten as a delicacy in the north-eastern (mostly tribal) parts of India. I met a herpetologist once who had done research in that area and said that dog meat is really tasty. Carnivore meat, it seems, is salty and this adds to its taste.

The point for the vegetarians, however, is that one wouldn't eat one's own pet because one considers it as a companion, not because it has any rights.

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