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Food ethics: How do you choose what species are morally wrong to eat?

 
 
littlek
 
  1  
Reply Mon 11 Jan, 2010 06:30 pm
Well.... I pretty much feel like it's immoral to eat any animals. As a kid I couldn't rationalize the difference between eating a chicken or a cat. Therefore I was a vegetarian for more than a dozen years. I ate aggs, but I felt that they weren't the same thing and sometimes I gave up on them too. Then I realized that my life was at least as valuable (theoretically) as other animals. So, I decided to add back in some fish and some meat. I now choose to eat fish and turkey sparingly. It's about finding a balance, eating other animals in moderation. At least it is for me. (same goes for leather goods).
Robert Gentel
 
  1  
Reply Mon 11 Jan, 2010 06:33 pm
@Cycloptichorn,
Cycloptichorn wrote:
That's a different question - a question of practicality and the ethics of following practical solutions, not an inherently morally wrong act.


It is less abstracted yes but it's the question I'd intended. Here are some real-world examples of how I'd like to apply these morals:

1) German man volunteers to be eaten, cannibal eats him.
2) Immigrant to New Zealand eats his pet dog (instead of putting him down at the pound) after deciding he's a pest. New Zealand freaks out but has no law to punish him.
3) Many people in Western society think whales should not be eaten (for a variety of reasons, including practical ones such as species conservation).
4) Some people believe cows are sacred and should not be eaten.
5) Some people believe no animals should be eaten.

So yes, in theory there can be nothing inherently wrong with eating a species but in practice this involves other concerns such as shared resources, ownership and more. So in practice most people agree on some restrictions on what you can eat. And if you were responsible for making laws to govern what people can eat how would you codify them and what criteria would you use?
0 Replies
 
Robert Gentel
 
  1  
Reply Mon 11 Jan, 2010 06:36 pm
@littlek,
littlek wrote:
Well.... I pretty much feel like it's immoral to eat any animals.


Do you feel it's immoral enough that you think there should be restrictions against it? Or just immoral enough in the sense that choosing not to eat meat is more noble but others should be allowed to make that decision?
farmerman
 
  2  
Reply Mon 11 Jan, 2010 06:40 pm
@Robert Gentel,
Quote:
But look, I let you guys run me off another thread by claiming my arguments are "diversions".
Cmonnnnnn. Nobody "ran you off" you had some good arguments an youve helped me substantiate my own position and because Ive been hearing all the other POVs, I feel that weve all benefitted. (Except for my poor spellink sgills)

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Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Mon 11 Jan, 2010 06:41 pm
"Dietary" cannibalism is not unheard of. It is actually quite common (or at least was until very recently--but i doubt if it has been extirpated, and know of no effort being made to end it) in central Africa. So much so, that living potential victims have been observed by Europeans being auctioned off in markets by parts (how much for this thigh, how much for the buttocks, etc.)

I found this excerpted passage readily enough. Among the Caribes, cannibalism was a dietary custom that was very common. The Arawak first encountered by the Spaniards eagerly lead them on to the greater Antilles in the belief that the Spaniard could protect them from the Caribes. Caribes would commonly descend on an Arawak community, slaughter and eat the males, adult and child, and take the females hostage. Modern scholars who have doubted this were able to confirm in the 19th century that the women of Caribe tribes did not speak the same language as the men (they were able to, but did not among themselves), and that the language they spoke among themselves was Arawak. The Caribes looked upon the Arawak as an inferior group, fit only to provide meat and breeding stock.

It is usually dangerous in historical terms to suggest that any human activity has always been uncommon.
Robert Gentel
 
  1  
Reply Mon 11 Jan, 2010 06:42 pm
@farmerman,
farmerman wrote:

NO, you misunderstand me. My reluctant Backup position is that I may have to accept some degree of whaling as a cultural imperative (even though those sneaky Japanese arent fooling me with their bullshit argument Wink ).


But that is how I understood it. You first think whales should not be killed at all, but your backup is a conservation position with cultural heritage exceptions right?

I happen to agree with the conservation argument, so there's not much to discuss there, but I'm curious how you'd establish a criteria that can result in your primary position the one we've been calling the planetary mascot one in shorthand.
Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Mon 11 Jan, 2010 06:48 pm
The main problem with this thread is what is meant by moral. I happen not to believe that there is any such thing as a universal, objective and independent moral standard on any subject, so, from that point of view, no dietary habits would be "immoral." For me, the more relevant question would be ethical, but only in the limited sense of what is good, and what is bad. Those, of course, are pre-eminently subjective judgments.
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littlek
 
  2  
Reply Mon 11 Jan, 2010 07:00 pm
@Robert Gentel,
Neither, really. I agree with Set. What is moral. How is it defined?

Basically, I am an animal. Animals eat animals. But we are the only animals that glut on animals. I eat animals sparingly because I am one. Probably doesn't make much sense. But, no time - House is on.
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Robert Gentel
 
  1  
Reply Mon 11 Jan, 2010 07:11 pm
@Setanta,
Setanta wrote:
"Dietary" cannibalism is not unheard of.


That's true, it's certainly heard of. The debate has largely centered on how much is an "urban legend" as anthropologist William Arens argued (while overstating his case) and how much of it really occurred.

Quote:
It is actually quite common (or at least was until very recently--but i doubt if it has been extirpated, and know of no effort being made to end it) in central Africa.


I am not aware of any compelling evidence for current dietary cannibalism.

Quote:
Caribes would commonly descend on an Arawak community, slaughter and eat the males, adult and child, and take the females hostage.


As far as I know that is still a highly disputed historical narrative, largely started by Christopher Columbus, and suspect because of the motivations that colonialists had to brand tribes as sub-human cannibals (due to a rules that allowed for slaves to be taken from cannibal tribes).

Wikipedia wrote:
Instances of cannibalism were noted as a feature of war rituals: the limbs of victims may have been taken home as trophies. The Kalinago would chew and spit out one mouthful of flesh of a very brave warrior, so that he could take on his bravery; but there was no evidence that they ate humans to satisfy hunger.

[...]

Historians have described the cannibalism as related to war rituals. But, Columbus and his people did not understand what they were seeing, and they were shocked at what they understood to be cannibalism. In 1503, Queen Isabella ruled that only people who were better off under slavery (a definition which explicitly included cannibals) could legally be taken as slaves. This provided Spaniards an incentive and legalistic pretext for identifying various Amerindian groups as cannibals to enslave them and take their lands away.


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carib#Cannibalism
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Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Mon 11 Jan, 2010 07:17 pm
Well, i disagree that the instance of the Caribes, for example, is purely the product of convenient self-justification on the part of the Spaniards. The linguistic studies are not a fabrication, and they established that the females in Caribe tribes were native speakers of Arawak. One can dispute whether or not Caribes looked upon Arawak males as a food source, but not that they slaughtered Arawak males and took their females. As i also pointed out, it is relatively easy to find testimony that dietary cannibalism remains common in central Africa.

**********************************

I think there is a flaw in your comments, Miss Kay, in that there are many carnivorous species who rely exclusively on meat for their diet, beggaring the claim that only humans gorge on meat.

I have no "moral" qualms about being a carnivore. As it happens, i prefer pork to any other meat.
edgarblythe
 
  1  
Reply Mon 11 Jan, 2010 08:09 pm
I will try to go through this thread tomorrow. Without having read more than cursorily, I will try to state my position.

In time of necessity, I will eat many animals I normally would not. If I could get nothing else, cats and dogs included. In dire need, I might eat human flesh. How could most of us know before the situation exists?

I hate hunting. Consequently, am not good at it. But I did kill a deer, some armadillos and tried to kill wild turkeys, at a time when food was scarce. I would do it again, if so called upon.

I eat meat from the supermarket, mostly chicken, beef, fish, pork. Have eaten rabbits, armadillos, squirrels, raccoon. I consider eating an animal that is a friend almost on par with eating humans. That includes chickens, dogs, pigs and so on. I once raised a pig. I named her Dinner to keep our thoughts focused on our purpose for raising her. She had such a sweet disposition and was very intelligent. When we were forced to move, and give her up, it was have her butchered or let someone else take her. In either case, she would be eaten. We ate her, but I did not enjoy a bite of it.

To me, necessity is the defining reason to kill animals. Tempered with concern for nature. I don't believe any species ought to go extinct, although I hate flies and mosquitoes. I think animals are sentient enough that we ought not kill a single one for sport or pleasure.

Sglass
 
  1  
Reply Mon 11 Jan, 2010 08:10 pm
@Robert Gentel,
The last queen of Hawaii adored black dog.

When she went to England the Queen of England made this delicacy available to her.

When I first moved to Hawaii my Filipino neighbors used to tease me that they were going to steal my black dog and cook it. I believed them.
0 Replies
 
dadpad
 
  1  
Reply Mon 11 Jan, 2010 08:17 pm
To answer your question robert i think there are a whole range of social and psycological influences that we all come under that shape the way we think about food.
Here are some influences that i can think of:

The availability of food. (Effort vs expenditure.) I suspect this is the major influence.
The taste, texture, and aesthetic appeal. (how it looks feels and tastes).
The difficulty or ease of getting it. (why kill and butcher a cow when you can go to maccas?)
Nutritional benefit.
Danger and the ease of which that danger can be overcome. (some foods are poisoness but rendered edible by processing of some kind)

Some things to think about.

It is hard for us to imagine times when food was not so abundant and a roasted cricket would be heaven.

Maggots and coackraoches were routinely eaten as a source of protien by some Australian prisoners of war. I'm sure that if this were to continue for several generations it becomes socially normal.
During conflict in east timor people ate grass and leaves, but dont any more because they taste like crap and are hard to digest and other foods are more easily obtained.

If I was born into a headhunting tribe of cannibals. I would not have any qualms about tucking into a leg of human.
If the same tribe were heavily dependant on hunting dogs to aquire their food supply they would (possibly) find it socially unacceptable to eat those dogs.
I can absoluty guarentee I would change my stance on whale hunting if this was the only source of food i had. Possibly i would do the same to human flesh if dying of starvation was the alternative. If those conditions continued for a generation or more it may become socially acceptable.


Imagine a bucket full of worms fresh from the garden all slimy and squirming. Want some? I dont (except if nobody loves me.)

Imagine if those worms were cooked, minced and pressed into a square block with 11 different herbs, spices and artificial clouring with a plastic package around them and a tick of aproval from the heart foundation. Imagine the product is named something which conjures up good feelings and has a picture of a nice healthy family eating it on the front.
Want some?

Tomatoes took about a human generation to be accepted in Britian when first introduced from (ithink) Spain because it was considered most (if not all) red friut was poisonouse in Britain. Q: So who ate the first tomatoes and assited them to become acceptable fare? A: Really hungry and desperate people.


Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Mon 11 Jan, 2010 08:20 pm
Allow a brief diversion--you have mentioned Maccas more than once, DP--what is Maccas?
Rockhead
 
  1  
Reply Mon 11 Jan, 2010 08:22 pm
@Setanta,
think golden arches, boss...
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dadpad
 
  1  
Reply Mon 11 Jan, 2010 08:24 pm
Robert Gentel
Quote:
That is, if a quorum of society objects to a species being eaten based on subjective criteria do you accept this as a mandate for the authority needed to prevent the others from eating that species?

I do think social pressure is a valid criteria but is dependant on other factors such as how hungry I am.
ossobuco
 
  1  
Reply Mon 11 Jan, 2010 08:38 pm
@dadpad,
I've off the cuff stuff to say but I want to go look at the whale thread first (dys told me about it a bit earlier today), and farmer's post here is useful for me to agree with or not - have to look closer, was agreeing. Plus RG's questions.
0 Replies
 
farmerman
 
  1  
Reply Mon 11 Jan, 2010 08:40 pm
@Setanta,
Caribe cannibalism over the Naguas was originally ceremonial , in order to acquire the strength and spirit of the conquered. Until the time of Columbus when it was found that several of the tribal groups preferred to engage in "Social" cannibalism. Calling it "dietary" by heritage over- simplifies the whole point.

Even the Susquehannocks engaged in a similar ceremonial-like form of cannibalism . The Susquehannocks were the "Bikers" among the tribes ranging from the Leni clans down to the Pocomokes and Nanticokes. While others were mostly agrarian, the SUsquehannocks were onlylate to the concept of settlement "forts" when the entire practice , as a form of tribute to the conquerors, ceased.

One of the Arguments voiced by Rev SHerman and the "PAxton Boys" was that the Conestog clan of Susquehannocks were "Godless Cannibals" .


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farmerman
 
  1  
Reply Mon 11 Jan, 2010 08:47 pm
@littlek,
Lilk , camowan. All dietary skills are determined by the dentition of animals. T0Rex had NO molars so couldnt do anything but rip and swallow. Veggies didnt make sense to that dentition. Whereas Buffalo have NO top teeth and NO canines so they cant engage in ripping and swallowing. All what we are is defined by our teeth. AT best many hominids and ursids are omnivores. Ya will see bears eat fish, rotten meat, fresh kill, and blueberries. If you look at a great ape, their teeth are vicious mouths full of incisors and canines up front but a huge bank of molars , so they are mostly browsers on tough and nutrient poor stuff like branches, bamboo, and grasses. With an occasional baby ape not of their genetic line. and small mammal.
0 Replies
 
farmerman
 
  1  
Reply Mon 11 Jan, 2010 08:57 pm
@Robert Gentel,
Quote:
You first think whales should not be killed at all, but your backup is a conservation position with cultural heritage exceptions right?
Not quite. I will fight to see that NO whales are killed . If it is learned that sustainable killing can occure and I cannot stem the international pressure with unceasing acts of civil disobedience, then I will step back and try to affect a "harvest" rate that is somewhat less than a purely replacement number.(Remember I reluctnatly agreed that the Innuit must be allowed to continue their hunting)

HOWEWVER, NO argument can be made for the Japanese cynical argument that its a cultural dietary thing. AS we all agreed, the Meiji ate whale and the Japanese fleet was only modernized enough to take on deep ocean whale hunting in the late 1800's SInce post WWII, (under our own leadership) we opened the whale induatry fro the common Japanese pwrson to indulge in whale sushi. THAT I DONT BUY AT ALL. I say , let em learn to farm Minkes if they want this meat or we should really raise the prices of their truly sustainable seafoods that we and many nations provide to JApan, like Sardine Row and Urchin roe, and sea cucumber, and shark fin (dont get me going on shark fin "heritage")


My fallback is a reluctant one that I, at this point, only bring up so that you know my last stand ditch effort. Right now, whaling Verboten!! and Ill keep sending my cash to the 'Shepherds. Theyve already saved over 1500 minkes in the last few years, juast by standing between the harpoon and the target.

SO remember what I said:
Quote:
I may have to accept some degree of whaling
I MAY not that I DO. Right now its a fight for a threatened series of species
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