Robert Gentel wrote:
This is a topic coming from the discussions on whaling
for me, but that is also influenced by other controversies such as the eating of dogs and cats.
If you believe that some animals should not be eaten, can you provide an abstracted criteria that can govern food ethics as it relates to species?
For example, if you don't think dogs should be eaten, try to think of the why
(e.g. they are intelligent, charismatic). Also try to see if this rule can be applied consistently (e.g. if intelligence is your rule and pigs are more intelligent than dogs would you stop eating pigs?).
Many of the examples that you cite actually apply to the killing
of animals, not necessarily to the eating
of animals. For instance, if whalers were out there killing whales for oil and baleen, as in the 1840s, I'm sure we'd see the same protests that we see right now. Anti-whaling groups primarily object to the eating of whales because it leads to the killing of whales. The eating itself is a secondary consideration.
The ethical considerations regarding the killing animals may be very different from those regarding the eating of animals. No doubt there are many vegetarians out there who don't have any objections, per se
, to eating animals, but have strong moral objections to killing animals. Granted, they may not want to eat an animal that has died of natural causes, but then there are a lot of meat-eaters who would have the same reservations.
As for myself, I don't have moral qualms about eating animals (as an abstract act), even domesticated animals such as cats and dogs. Personally, I don't think I'd want to eat Fido or Fluffy, but that's merely a matter of taste. I don't want to eat bugs either, and I have no strong personal feelings toward them. My lack of moral objections to the eating of animals, however, is not the same as my position regarding the killing of animals. Furthermore, if the eating of a particular species encourages the killing of that species, and there are moral reasons for preserving that species, then the eating of the animal becomes immoral by extension. For instance, if killing whales is morally wrong, then eating whales is morally wrong as well, since the commercial trade in whale meat is tied to the killing of whales.
As for eating humans, there are some pretty compelling pragmatic reasons
for avoiding cannibalism. On a more general level, there are, I think, good reasons for considering cannibalism immoral. For a utilitarian, for instance, cannibalism is disutile because it encourages people to kill each other. For the Kantian, cannibalism violates the categorical imperative.