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Veganism under Objectivism

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To be fair, and VO can correct if I'm wrong, but he's not arguing for animal rights as equivalent to human rights. He's arguing for animal rights on some sort of level as child rights, as in humans have some sort of guardianship or caretaker role over them, but we can't kill or maim them. That is enough to undercut a few of these counter arguments at least.

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14 minutes ago, KevinD said:

There is no such thing as a species that possesses rights, that has no means of exercising or implementing its rights.

My response to those who argue in favor of "animal rights" is always: If animals possess rights, then why is it only humans who are able to violate an animal's rights?

If you're going to argue that animals have rights, with all that the concept means and entails, then you'd better be prepared to hold them accountable whenever they initiate force against another animal (or a human being).

And if we're to hold them morally accountable, must we not also hold them legally accountable? Are animals properly subject to arrest and prosecution? Do they have the "right" to a fair trial, by a jury of their peers?

How would an animal be made to pay restitution to someone who has been damaged as a result of its actions?

Naturally, all of this is absurd. Animals have no abstract understanding of the rightness or wrongness of their behavior. As far as they're concerned, the entire subject of morality is nonexistent — and rights, a moral concept, is likewise entirely inapplicable to them.

Quote

so yes an animal can reason because of the fact of it being sentient. From species to species it varies how sentient they are which is heavily linked to how intelligent they are. But objectivism wouldn't be objective if it only applied to one species now would it? 

So based on this since an animal can reason you shouldn't kill that animal for the same reason you shouldn't kill a human, it is illogical. But this brings up a very complex issue, that being what about animals that must kill to live? Veganism can be easily applied to humans because we do not need animal products to live. But for example lions do. I have been pondering this issue for a long time and have come to the conclusion that it is neither moral nor immoral. See when we are attacking this question we can't apply a lot of the same reasoning we use on humans because humans unlike some animals have no need to kill. As explained by Ayn Rand: 

  Quote

...every code of ethics must be based on a metaphysics -- on a view of the world in which man lives. But man does not live in a lifeboaat -- in a world in which he must kill innocent men to survive.

So we have a situation where it is in the lions self interest to kill and the zebras self interest not to be killed. You might say since the lion is initiating the force it's immoral but then is nature itself immoral? Well unlike a murderer who dosent need to kill to live a lion must kill. Also the lion didn't have any role or control over being in that situation. So surely the lion shouldn't have to die because it was born a carnivore. So I would say this is a lose-lose situation and thus there is no good option. And finally because of this I would say the lion killing isn't moral or immoral but the zebra protecting itself is moral. This is because the zebra didn't put the lion in that situation so it is thus not responsible for the lion having to kill and should act in its own self interest. 

But with the animal property rights arguement I think it is similar to children. Things like this are contractual but to engage in contracts like owning land and being able to purchase anything you want requires more developed reason. This is why children can be made to do certain things like eat vegetables by their parents. That is that their ability to give informed consent has not matured. I think of animals as always in this state for example, a child can't own property but a child also can't be murdered. I feel these are the same rights that should be applied to animals

a baby can't understand the rights it has or where they come from. Does that mean they have no rights? The same is to animals we are somewhat of a caretaker we should leave them alone and not kill them but we also don't need to give them property rights or right to purchase as they can't grasp contracts.

Edited by ⓋObjectivist

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2 minutes ago, 2046 said:

To be fair, and VO can correct if I'm wrong, but he's not arguing for animal rights as equivalent to human rights. He's arguing for animal rights on some sort of level as child rights, as in humans have some sort of guardianship or caretaker role over them, but we can't kill or maim them. That is enough to undercut a few of these counter arguments at least.

Yes! Thank you

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1 hour ago, ⓋObjectivist said:

I think if you are doing something objectively wrong then it follows that you should feel guilty.

and if you say that it's not objectively wrong then the argument goes back to does sentience lead to rights which I've already given evidence for. So no whether you should feel guilty can be said objectively.

I am doing nothing objectively wrong when I eat. You are attempting to prove otherwise, by suggesting that fish, deer, and all of the four-legged characters of Orwell's Animal Farm qualify as sentient, therefore reasoning beings. Your doing a rather weak job of it. I maintain that moderate consumption of meat is healthy, and only causes guilt among neurotic and cognitive beings.

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2 minutes ago, Repairman said:

I am doing nothing objectively wrong when I eat. You are attempting to prove otherwise, by suggesting that fish, deer, and all of the four-legged characters of Orwell's Animal Farm qualify as sentient, therefore reasoning beings. Your doing a rather weak job of it. I maintain that moderate consumption of meat is healthy, and only causes guilt among neurotic and cognitive beings.

With all these assertions, leaps, and fallacies you could create your own moral structure. You should call it subjectivism.

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39 minutes ago, ⓋObjectivist said:

For example Cameron Buckner.

The quote says they have some abstract thinking ability. This does not mean that they have a conceptual ability. Having knowledge is not the same as having concepts. Animals are still far below the complexity of conceptual thought, in such a way that no one has observed conceptual thought in them (except for a few animals). Abstraction in the sense of a dog understanding that it can be sneaky if the owner isn't looking is real, and perhaps some associating of memories. But inducing language, or that there is purpose for them to understand, or think ahead a year... All sorts definite indications of reason are missing. All of it can be tested, too.

39 minutes ago, ⓋObjectivist said:

It haven't been proven with every animal on earth but seems to at the very least highly correlate with sentience.

I'm not arguing about sentience. Most animals are sentient. The point is that animals don't reason, therefore rights don't apply. Sentience is a broader category. Ravens are perhaps the smartest birds of all, perhaps you could make a case to not eat them. No one really eats them anyway. Chickens and turkeys though, there is no sign of them using reason. Same goes for dogs, or fish.

 

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"Objectivist", I think you might misinterpret both reason and (individual) rights. Men don't have rights simply because they can reason, but because they ~must~ reason. Without the least automatic or instinctual capability to live, continue living and to make and find a worthwhile life, the conceptual mind is all they have. Mankind shares sentience, autonomy and the ability to automatically form perceptions with animals (and yes, a limited emotional capacity in some) but no further - it is the capacity to individually gather and arrange his knowledge, code of morality and values, conceptually, which elevates and distinguishes a man from an animal.

From the rational and volitional nature of man, arises his inalienable right to freedom of action, using his mind to choose his values and seek his goals without interference from others. 

Surely you see how absurd it would be to grant individual rights to animals? In the wild, it would mean protecting the zebra from the lion--which would be an infringement of the lion's 'rights' to eat (and end up in its death).

And I can't see you proposing that all mankind must stop eating meat, by edict, as consequence of granting animal rights. I.e., taking away choice and one's own rights. Or, is that what you're saying? I've not read all above.

When animals become private property, domestic, working or livestock, there is a strong ethical case for the humane treatment of animals by men. I think all life is owed respect, at least, acknowledgment (Brook raises this too) and any lives one owns, especially so. If a man made a choice to take on (breed, purchase, farm etc.) an animal as a selfish value, and since they have no volitional control over their lives and so are absolutely subordinate - without rights - to the whims of their owner, it is only rationally moral to continue valuing them, responsibly, and ensuring they have a good life, or don't suffer arbitrarily, or at least, the briefest minimum possible.

If this last was the limits of your cause, I'd be in full agreement as would others. As it stands, you are shooting for the impossible. 

Edited by whYNOT

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8 minutes ago, ⓋObjectivist said:

a child can't own property but a child also can't be murdered. I feel these are the same rights that should be applied to animals

To add one last thing. Babies are human and have a capacity to use reason that will fully develop. Animals can't and don't fully develop it at any point or ever.

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11 minutes ago, whYNOT said:

 

"Objectivist", I think you might misinterpret both reason and (individual) rights. Men don't have rights simply because they can reason, but because they ~must~ reason. Without the least automatic or instinctual capability to live, continue living and to make and find a worthwhile life, the conceptual mind is all they have. Mankind shares sentience, autonomy and the ability to automatically form perceptions with animals (and yes, a limited emotional capacity in some) but no further - it is the capacity to individually gather and arrange his knowledge, code of morality and values, conceptually, which elevates and distinguishes a man from an animal.

From the rational and volitional nature of man, arises his inalienable right to freedom of action, using his mind to choose his values and seek his goals without interference from others. 

Surely you see how absurd it would be to grant individual rights to animals? In the wild, it would mean protecting the zebra from the lion--which would be an infringement of the lion's 'rights' to eat (and end up in its death).

And I can't see you proposing that all mankind must stop eating meat, by edict, as consequence of granting animal rights. I.e., taking away choice and one's own rights. Or, is that what you're saying? I've not read all above.

When animals become private property, domestic, working or livestock, there is a strong ethical case for the humane treatment of animals by men. All life is owed respect (Brook raises this too) and any lives one owns, especially so. If a man chooses to take on (breed, purchase, farm etc.) an animal as a selfish value, and since they have no volitional control over their lives and so are subordinate to the whims of their owner, it is only rationally moral to continue valuing them, responsibly, and ensuring they have a good life, or don't suffer arbitrarily, or at least, the briefest minimum possible.

If this last was the limits of your cause, I'd be in full agreement as would others. As it stands, you are shooting for the impossible. 

I cover a lot of what you're saying about lions in the wild and whether animals can conceptualize above.

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7 minutes ago, ⓋObjectivist said:

I cover a lot of what you're saying about lions in the wild and whether animals can conceptualize above.

Nope, they can't. Otherwise we'd not be having this discussion.

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21 hours ago, ⓋObjectivist said:

This is one issue that has left me puzzled when it comes to the objectivists arguments I've heard. An issue that most likely stems from it not being something people in our sphere question often. I'm sure you know by the title but this issue is veganism. More specifically the belief that animals shouldn't be harmed for food, cloathing, entertainment, etc. by HUMANS(I will get to this later)

I personally am vegan because I think it comes from objective morality. People like Ayn Rand and Yaron Brook do not. However objectivism has no idols and if I can make a more logical argument that's what matters. Yaron Brook unsurprisingly has the same opinion Ayn Rand had on this topic that is: 

I think this is objectively untrue. But to prove that we have to go back to what is reason. Reason is the ability to make logical descisions and not just act on impulse. Unlike plants or rocks or anything else animals have brains and thus we can deductively prove as much as we can prove other humans are sentient animals are also sentient. This is because temperament and damage to the nervous system and brain damages sentience. Therefore plants and other objects don't have sentience. Now sentience is defined as subjective reality meaning that you act not purely on stimuli like how a Venus fly trap does when it closes its mouth but that you can take in information and process it based on many factors such as things previously learned. This itself shows reason because animals don't act purly on instinct like many objectivists say. This is shown with events like elephants revisiting locations other elephants have died, monkeys being taught sign language and with the example of Koko the gorilla who after being taught some sign language independently signed "finger" and "necklace" to describe a ring, or pigs being taught to solve jigsaw puzzles. This shows that these animals can take learned information and apply it in various ways and goes beyond training and instinct. Another argument I frequently hear is that humans don't have instinct. This is untrue for example human babies know to get milk from suckling.

so yes an animal can reason because of the fact of it being sentient. From species to species it varies how sentient they are which is heavily linked to how intelligent they are. But objectivism wouldn't be objective if it only applied to one species now would it? 

So based on this since an animal can reason you shouldn't kill that animal for the same reason you shouldn't kill a human, it is illogical. But this brings up a very complex issue, that being what about animals that must kill to live? Veganism can be easily applied to humans because we do not need animal products to live. But for example lions do. I have been pondering this issue for a long time and have come to the conclusion that it is neither moral nor immoral. See when we are attacking this question we can't apply a lot of the same reasoning we use on humans because humans unlike some animals have no need to kill. As explained by Ayn Rand: 

So we have a situation where it is in the lions self interest to kill and the zebras self interest not to be killed. You might say since the lion is initiating the force it's immoral but then is nature itself immoral? Well unlike a murderer who dosent need to kill to live a lion must kill. Also the lion didn't have any role or control over being in that situation. So surely the lion shouldn't have to die because it was born a carnivore. So I would say this is a lose-lose situation and thus there is no good option. And finally because of this I would say the lion killing isn't moral or immoral but the zebra protecting itself is moral. This is because the zebra didn't put the lion in that situation so it is thus not responsible for the lion having to kill and should act in its own self interest. 

I would love to hear everyone's opinion on this.

 

A morality which is defined as self-interest, and as everything in existence, restricted to adhere to the facts of reality, it necessarily will guide humans to:

1.  form societies in which politically, humans are granted rights; and

2.   raise, eat, and use (for research or whatever purpose) animals and plants

This is inescapable from the philosophy of self-interest and the facts of reality.

 

Edited by StrictlyLogical

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If you want to argue that animals are essentially like children, and therefore have the "right" to be protected, I say — protected from what, exactly? From nature? From each other?

If animals can act as predators toward one another, and this is considered perfectly natural, why is it unnatural and wrong for humans to prey on animals?

Animals kill and eat other animals, why can't we? Why do humans not possess the same "rights" that animals do? 

 

 

Edited by KevinD

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5 minutes ago, KevinD said:

Animals kill and eat other animals, why can't we?

The reason VO gave is that as omnivores we don't need to eat meat, but lions as carnivores need to.

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I am skipping over the various implicit or explicit claims about animal cognition, because they are irrelevant unless the claim is that animals are cognitively the same as humans (a sufficiently ludicrous proposition that I doubt the OP intended that). Instead, I will focus on the problem of the concept “animal rights”. I start by summarizing the nature of and justification for the concept of “rights”, plagiarising in presumably obvious ways from The Virtue of Selfishness, but also from Schwartz’s essay “Free minds and free markets”.

A code of morality is a system of concepts guiding man in pursuit of his values. A right is a moral concept that links legal and moral codes – rights are the means of subordinating spciety to moral law. Evasiveness is immoral, but it is not a violation of rights. A “right” is a focused moral principle which defines and sanctions a man's freedom of action in a social context. The fundamental right is a man's right to his own life, being free to act on his own judgment, by his own uncoerced choice. A man’s rights impose no obligations on others, except to abstain from violating his rights. Where rights come from is important: they are the conditions required by man's nature to survive qua man. Violation of rights would require a man to exist contrary to his nature. How does man survive? Not by strength, camouflage or instinct, but by his cognitive nature – free will (the necessity of choosing), aided by his conceptual faculty and his ability to discover and follow logic. When man lives in a social context (in a rational society), his rights are recognized via legal prohibitions against certain actions by others: the initiation of force. Force refers to physical actions taken by a volitional being to neutralize the choice of another volitional being.

Given this, and since no animal’s nature demands the concept of rights for its survival, the concept of rights is inapplicable to animals. The proffered principle “animals shouldn't be harmed by humans” is not a restatement of the concept of rights, it is a different concept. It may be related in some way to the concept of rights, but it is not rights (just as a cat is not a dog, even though they are related in some ways). To avoid confusion, this concept needs to be clearly identified as a different thing: “animal protection” seems appropriate.

If we are to believe in this moral concept, there needs to be a statement of what the concept objectively is. The most prominent question is, whose standard is applied in judging whether an action harms an animal? Does collecting eggs, milk or wool harm the animal? Is it proper to restrain an animal which intends to leap in front of a car? Does owning an animal harm it? Must an animal consent to being petted? Insofar as animals are utterly incapable of articulating their own judgment on these issues, men must decide on the standard – what is ‘in the interest of the interest of the animal’? What things are to be so protected (and what things do not deserve that protection)? Is it only mammals? Mammals and birds? Does it include fish, insects; plants, bacteria, fungi? If not, why not: that is, what is the essential property of these beings that creates this special relationship with man – imposing certain restrictions on moral actions.

There is no conflict of man’s rights, but there is a conflict between man’s rights and the special privilege “animal protection”. Because men are able to grasp moral concepts and can act in a principled manner, man is capable of respecting the rights of others. When a man does not respect the rights of others, he cannot claim rights for himself. Animals cannot grasp moral codes and cannot be expected to respect the rights of men; when may a man morally defend himself against a violation of his rights by an animal?

If you try to conceptualize moral actions towards animals in terms of “rights”, all you will do is confuse yourself and degrade the concept of “rights”. Let me repeat a point that I made earlier: you have the right to be evasive – and you should not do exercise that right. Every question that I raised above is free of the taint of legal enforcement – I am asking, should I beat my dog, should I kill a rat, should I swat a fly, should I let my dog kill a rabbit, or dig up the neighbor’s yard? These are simple moral questions.

I propose that, for anyone who wants to live the vegan life, that they develop and justify answers to these kinds of questions. If there is a case to be made for overriding man’s nature (to act free from compulsion), then surely the seeds of that argument will be found in a fuller articulation of the vegan moral credo.

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22 hours ago, ⓋObjectivist said:

You might try it with another person but the same thing will happen tomorrow and it will get to the point where everyone knows you're a thief. Now look what you've done you have destroyed your means to survival by relying fully on being a parasite and not supporting yourself. This is not in your long term interest.

Fair point. Here's an interesting thing though: my parents retired to the countryside and keep a few laying hens. In my experience, every time my mom "steals" the hen's egg (I'm assuming that's the word you would use, if you think the hen has rights), she just comes back the next day and lays another one.

That's an odd attitude towards theft, from a supposedly rational creature, no? More importantly, does your argument above still apply, if the supposed "victim" is never going to deprive me of my means of survival, and will in fact keep me fed much more nutritious and healthy food than what any vegan I've ever come across eats?

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I don't have the time to read this topic through, so perhaps someone else has made this point:  Man does not have rights because he can reason.  He has rights because his fundamental  method of survival is reasoning. The latter is not true of any other organism, so no other organism has rights.

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1 hour ago, Invictus2017 said:

Man does not have rights because he can reason.  He has rights because his fundamental  method of survival is reasoning. The latter is not true of any other organism, so no other organism has rights.

Why?

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31 minutes ago, JASKN said:
1 hour ago, Invictus2017 said:

Man does not have rights because he can reason.  He has rights because his fundamental  method of survival is reasoning. The latter is not true of any other organism, so no other organism has rights.

Why?

"Rights" is not a floating abstraction.  It arises from a consideration of what humans require to live, what this implies about the proper society for humans, and what each individual should do in such a society.  One of the essential facts relied on in the derivation of rights is that humans survive by means of the use of their rational faculty.  Take away that fact and the derivation falls apart.  Thus, unless an organism survives by means of reason, it cannot be said to have rights.

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First off, thank you for posting such an interesting topic. It got me thinking and I'd like to share my thoughts.I disagree with you, animals are not capable of reason and so do not have rights.

Your definition of 'reason' is lacking. There is no doubt that animals are sentient but, sentience is not a synonym for reason. You have butchered the (already somewhat questionable) wiki definition of sentience (I try to use reputable online dictionaries because wikis can warp definitions sometimes). Sentience is not defined as 'subjective reality' it is the capacity to feel or perceive (some aspects of reality). If you did, in fact, use the wiki definition (ill-advised) the very next sentence goes on to say-

Quote

 

Eighteenth-century philosophers used the concept to distinguish the ability to think (reason) from the ability to feel (sentience)

 

Reason is the ability to form abstractions and concepts. Animals have automatic knowledge, hardwired automatic responses to stimuli that they cannot choose to go against. If a lion had reason, some could choose to live as scavengers despite being able to hunt injured, weak or old animals. It could choose to hunt old animals nearing the end of their natural lifespan rather than young inexperienced foals. Lions. like any other animal, have no choice but, to follow their compulsions--this does not mean that they cannot learn but, to equate such rudimental thinking to reasoning is like equating Parrots mimicking to humans learning a language.

As for animals learning to solve puzzles you would have to link the experiments so that I can verify if these actions qualify as abstraction and concept formation.

For the rest of my argument, I'll post D. Moskovitz response to a similar question on Atlas Society
 

Quote

 

Question: Do animals have rights? What is the Objectivist position on animal cruelty? What is the Objectivist position on vegetarianism?

Answer: Many believe that animals have the right to be free from harm by people. In particular, they believe that animals should not be harmed in food production, clothing production, or medical research. This belief is the product of a misunderstanding of the nature of rights. Philosophers like Peter Singer argue that rights are derived from the capacity to experience pain, and since animals can experience pain just as people can, animals also have the right to be free from harm. However, rights are derived from the capacity to reason, and thus people have rights and animals do not.

Both people and animals seek values such as food and shelter to sustain their lives. However, they do so by different means. Animals pursue values in their environment automatically. For example, an animal scavenges and finds food around it. People, on the other hand, use their faculties of reason to produce values volitionally. For example, a person can choose to study how plants grow and choose to plant and grow his own food. Moreover, people trade values with each other. For example, if one person grows vegetables and another person weaves clothing, the former can give the latter vegetables in exchange for clothing to their mutual benefit.
People survive by producing for themselves without interference from others and by trading freely with other people. However, if others (either people or animals) use physical force against a person to stop him from producing and trading, his ability to use his reason to survive is impaired. Rights protect this ability. “A right,” according to Ayn Rand , “is a moral principle defining and sanctioning a person's freedom of action in a social context” (“Man's Rights,” Virtue of Selfishness [New York: Penguin, 1964], 130). The rights to life, liberty, and property leave each person free to pursue his own self-interest through production and trade. Moreover, it is in a person's self-interest to respect the rights of other people so that they can freely use their own faculties of reason to produce values for which he can trade.

Rights are derived from the capacity to reason, and thus people have rights and animals do not.


The value a person receives from other people depends on their freedom from physical force. However, the value a person receives from animals depends on their lack of freedom from physical force. While a person receives food, clothing, and medical knowledge from other people by allowing other people to freely produce these things and trade them, a person receives food, clothing, and medical knowledge (through research) from animals only through force. Moreover, disputes with animals cannot be resolved with discussion or the threat of legal sanction, as they can be with other people. So to prevent animals such as lions, rats, and cockroaches from attacking a person or invading a his property, one’s only option is to initiate force against them. This is why a person should refrain from initiating physical force against other people but not against animals, and this is why people have rights and animals don't.


The issues of gratuitous cruelty to animals and of vegetarianism are not fundamental philosophical issues. Nonetheless, Objectivist principles can be extended to provide a framework in which individuals can consider these issues themselves. Legally, since people have rights and animals don't, no form of force initiated against animals should be outlawed, even if it is gratuitously cruel or if it is used to produce food that is not necessary for a person's survival. Morally, however, gratuitous cruelty should be condemned because it reinforces the immoral habit of destroying others’ lives rather than promoting one's own life. Moreover, such cruelty can be the product only of gross irrationality, for it is natural for a person to empathize with another living being to the extent that the two resemble each other. While such cruelty is emotionally offensive to many people and rightly so, this is not grounds for government intervention because the sole purpose of the government is to protect rights, and animals don't have rights.
Legally, vegetarianism should not be enforced by the government for the same reason. Morally, however, vegetarianism is a complex issue. The standard by which a person should decide whether to eat meat is the survival and flourishing of his own life. The first factor to weigh in evaluating whether the eating of meat supports life is, obviously, its physiological effects. Centuries ago, given the state of food processing technology, a person had to eat meat to get adequate nutrition. With modern advances in food processing technology, however, a person can be just as healthy (or even healthier) by eating no meat. Secondary factors to weigh in evaluating whether or not to eat meat are taste and empathy. Pleasurable sensations fuel a person's mind just as healthy foods fuel a person's body, and are thus necessary for a person's survival. It may be pleasurable to taste a choice cut of filet mignon,but it may be unpleasurable to think of the suffering a cow went through to produce that choice cut. How to balance the costs and benefits of health, taste, and empathy is not a philosophical issue, and thus Objectivism has nothing to say about it beyond the fact that people are not morally obligated, in principle, not to eat meat; rather, it is up to each person to balance the costs and benefits of eating meat according to the standard of his own life.
 

 

5

 

 
Edited by Uummon Beeng

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