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

 
 
joefromchicago
 
  1  
Reply Fri 15 Jan, 2010 09:56 am
@Thomas,
Thomas wrote:
Okay -- but in this scenario, the case turns on the facts around the cannibalism, not on the person evaluating the facts being a utilitarian.

I don't understand your point. What I have posited is a rule utilitarian who judges a blanket rule against all cannibalism to be more utile than a rule that permits exceptions for eating willing victims. You may disagree with this particular utilitarian analysis, but it's certainly utilitarian.

Thomas wrote:
Ditto.

See above.
georgeob1
 
  1  
Reply Fri 15 Jan, 2010 11:06 am
@joefromchicago,
You know, you might well have made it as a Medieval theologian.
0 Replies
 
Thomas
 
  1  
Reply Fri 15 Jan, 2010 11:32 am
@joefromchicago,
joefromchicago wrote:
I don't understand your point.

In the scenario you describe, the utilitarian wouldn't oppose voluntary cannibalism because he is against voluntary cannibalism per se. Rather, he would oppose it because he is against involuntary cannibalism, and in favor of rules preventing it. If effective rules to prevent it have the side effect of also preventing voluntary cannibalism, that isn't a further argument for the rules. It's an argument against them, a cost if you will, and he would be willing to pay it for the benefit of having the rules. Many non-utilitarians would agree with the utilitarian in this reasoning, given the facts. That's why I said the case doesn't turn on the person evaluating the facts being a utilitarian.

Same for the Kantian. There is nothing specifically Kantian about the conviction that people who want to die and be eaten are, ipso facto, mentally incompetent. You might well persuade Non-Kantians of this conviction. And if you did, they would oppose cannibalism, too. Conversely, you might well persuade a Kantian that this particular conviction of his is wrong. And if you did, he would be content with cannibalism, or at least oppose it for some other reason.
joefromchicago
 
  1  
Reply Fri 15 Jan, 2010 12:36 pm
@Thomas,
I'm still not following you. If a utilitarian and a non-utilitarian end up at the same place, that doesn't mean that the utilitarian was employing some sort of non-utilitarian analysis. After all, as I set forth, the utilitarian and the Kantian end up with the same "no cannibalism" rule, even though they come about it using different approaches.

A utilitarian wouldn't oppose voluntary cannibalism per se, but then he wouldn't oppose cannibalism per se either. In each case, he would evaluate what would produce more utility: a rule allowing cannibalism (voluntary or not) or a rule prohibiting it. True to his philosophy, though, the utilitarian wouldn't be in favor or opposed to any practice per se, he'd just be in favor of producing more utility.

As for the Kantian, the categorical imperative requires us to adopt only universalizable rules. I can't adopt a rule saying "anyone wanting to eat another human being should be allowed, provided that the victim is willing" if it is presumed that all "willing" victims of cannibalism are actually suffering from a mental disorder. That would lead to a universal rule that we can do anything we want with mentally disturbed people so long as we get their "consent," even though they're not capable of consent. I don't know of a way for a Kantian to square those inconsistencies.
Thomas
 
  1  
Reply Fri 15 Jan, 2010 01:02 pm
@joefromchicago,
joefromchicago wrote:
I'm still not following you. If a utilitarian and a non-utilitarian end up at the same place, that doesn't mean that the utilitarian was employing some sort of non-utilitarian analysis.

No, and I'm not claiming that he did. I'm only claiming that their utilitarian analysis is not the factor deciding why they in end up where they do because:

(1) Utilitarians and non-utilitarians end up in the same place if they implicitly assume the same facts.

(2) Two utilitarians will end up in different places if they implicitly assume different facts.

Rather, when these two conditions are met, the case is turning on the implied facts, not the ethical philosophy. Likewise for Kantians.
Robert Gentel
 
  1  
Reply Fri 15 Jan, 2010 01:02 pm
@Thomas,
Thomas wrote:
From a moral point of view, I think there is much to be said for becoming vegetarian, or even Vegan. Have you read Peter Singer: The Ethics of What We Eat? I find it hard to refute his arguments for giving up animal products entirely.


I haven't read that particular book, but I'm familiar with his arguments yes. Part of what I'm interested in seeing in this thread is the logic used to determine which animals are acceptable food precisely because so many of the arguments make such a good case for giving up all animals consumption.
Robert Gentel
 
  3  
Reply Fri 15 Jan, 2010 01:12 pm
@dadpad,
I have strong objections to humans declaring that an animal population they are responsible for are pests and should be killed.

If cats are a pest humans are the superlative pest. I'm sick of us breeding dogs and cats because they are cute and then killing them because they are a nuisance or because they eat meat like they are wont to.

I'm all for cat owners being required to keep their cats indoors and I wish breeding were much more regulated, but I really hate how acceptable it is to kill a cat or dog simply because nobody wants it anymore.

I don't like that people kill whales that they want to eat, but people killing cats and dogs just because nobody wants them anymore is so much more ugly to me given that we bred them into being dependent on our care and protection.
fresco
 
  1  
Reply Fri 15 Jan, 2010 01:15 pm
I gather from Muslim associates that the prohibition of eating pork can be lifted in extreme circumstances of hunger. This raises the general issue of the relativity of "food ethics". (Cannabalism within survival scenarios comes to mind.)
0 Replies
 
Thomas
 
  2  
Reply Fri 15 Jan, 2010 01:33 pm
@Robert Gentel,
For a principled yet not-too-disruptive approach, I would apply some kind of balancing test: Product by product, compare the pleasure we humans get from eating it with the animal suffering we cause by making it. Under this test, I expect that the first thing to go would be all meat in junk food. We don't really care about the taste of that, anyway. Seitan is a pefectly good meat substitute for this class of food. We'd barely notice the difference in Taco Bell's enchiladas, tacos, fahitas and burritos, McDonald's burgers, Kentucky Fried Chicken's whatever-it-is-they're-frying-there, and so forth. If you simply must kill animals, at least make their sacrifice count. Turn them into something delicious.

Speaking of delicious, I'm not sure foie gras would be all that high on that list, actually. It's taste is exquisite and cannot be easily achieved with plant-based alternatives. I think they'd be somewhere in the middle of my things-to-give-up-eating list.

Way down at the bottom of the list would be honey. Although it's definitely an animal product, even I have no scruples about eating it. Judging by what I know about bees, I doubt we cause them any hardship by taking it from them.
Thomas
 
  1  
Reply Fri 15 Jan, 2010 01:48 pm
@Robert Gentel,
Robert Gentel wrote:
given that we bred them into being dependent on our care and protection.

On a tangent -- that's not quite true. One day, when you have time for idle research, you might want to Google-Scholar the term "Cat colony of Rome" or similar. Around the Coliseum in Rome lives a colony of about 250 feral cats. They live autonomously, independent of humans. But as a result of human breeding, they are much more social than wild cats, bobcats, lions, and other wild species in the cat family. As a result, they form a uniquely complex cat society. Fascinating stuff, and quite well researched because of the colony's special place in the cat kingdom. I think you might enjoy reading about it.
Robert Gentel
 
  1  
Reply Fri 15 Jan, 2010 02:34 pm
@Thomas,
Thomas wrote:
Robert Gentel wrote:
given that we bred them into being dependent on our care and protection.

On a tangent -- that's not quite true. One day, when you have time for idle research, you might want to Google-Scholar the term "Cat colony of Rome" or similar.


But that still leaves breeds like the Maltese that really has no place in the food chain other than being fed by a human.
0 Replies
 
Robert Gentel
 
  1  
Reply Fri 15 Jan, 2010 02:44 pm
@Thomas,
That's similar to how I feel about it. I think that describing meat consumption as killing for pure enjoyment goes a bit far. Asking an omnivore to be a herbivore is just not that trivial.

So to me I think it's a reasonable compromise to just try to minimize the suffering you cause, understanding that it's likely an inevitability in nature for species to compete and cause some degree of suffering to each other.
Pemerson
 
  1  
Reply Fri 15 Jan, 2010 02:49 pm
@Robert Gentel,
There are so many reasons why people quit eating animal products - health, moral, ethical. I quit eating beef several years ago, but we still eat chicken, lots of chicken. I'm thinking of giving up the chicken and turkey. So, what to eat is the question. My husband quit eating beef, along with me at first and then because he felt better, then because he now can't digest red meat. We both hate red meat now. The sight of it is disgusting.

Now, I'm having trouble looking at a plucked chicken, ready to be popped in the oven. The kids were here last Thanksgiving and, as I pulled the legs together, tied them, I said to daughter-in-law: "Poor thing" (the turkey, that is). We may have to re-think eating chicken and figure out another diet sans poultry altogether.

Adding to the comments, if my neighbors served up a cat for dinner I would think they were insane. Me, I know, I'd call the Humane Society. Can't imagine anyone eating a dog, like the Chinese. Just thinking of the French eating their horses makes me quake and shiver. Horse lovers fought so hard to prohibit horse meat packing factories here in U.S. only to find they are now shipping them to Mexico where the slaughter is more cruel, that " last ride" horrible. The French must have their horse meat. Maybe my doggies eat horsemeat out of cans.

I agree with your statement: If we must determine which animals are acceptable for food, that alone is good case for giving up all animal consumption. But it is a personal decision.
dlowan
 
  1  
Reply Fri 15 Jan, 2010 03:13 pm
@Robert Gentel,
Robert Gentel wrote:

I have strong objections to humans declaring that an animal population they are responsible for are pests and should be killed.

If cats are a pest humans are the superlative pest. I'm sick of us breeding dogs and cats because they are cute and then killing them because they are a nuisance or because they eat meat like they are wont to.

I'm all for cat owners being required to keep their cats indoors and I wish breeding were much more regulated, but I really hate how acceptable it is to kill a cat or dog simply because nobody wants it anymore.

I don't like that people kill whales that they want to eat, but people killing cats and dogs just because nobody wants them anymore is so much more ugly to me given that we bred them into being dependent on our care and protection.



What about if they are killed not just because nobody wants them, but because they are causing immense damage to the ecology of the country, and causing other species to become extinct?

This is the case with all the animals people stupidly brought here and allowed to form wild colonies....foxes, cats, dogs, rabbits, goats, pigs, buffalo, camels, donkeys, cane toads....

They're not dependent upon the humans who brought them here...they're doing just fine thank you.

Is it ok to kill them if they are destroying the place? ......(think not just killing, but destroying the very soils of the country?)

Of course, humans are destroying the place too.......but I doubt you'd get up a culling proposal, unless you sell it as a war or suchlike, and they don't really seem to work.
sozobe
 
  1  
Reply Fri 15 Jan, 2010 03:14 pm
@Robert Gentel,
Yeah, that's about where I am too. There was an article recently about how plants don't "want" to be eaten and have defense mechanisms... it's virtually impossible to get the nutrients we need while doing absolutely zero harm. So once we're there, it's a matter of where the line goes.

The article: Sorry, Vegans: Brussels Sprouts Like to Live, Too
Excerpt:

Quote:
“Plants are not static or silly,” said Monika Hilker of the Institute of Biology at the Free University of Berlin. “They respond to tactile cues, they recognize different wavelengths of light, they listen to chemical signals, they can even talk” through chemical signals. Touch, sight, hearing, speech. “These are sensory modalities and abilities we normally think of as only being in animals,” Dr. Hilker said.

Plants can’t run away from a threat but they can stand their ground. “They are very good at avoiding getting eaten,” said Linda Walling of the University of California, Riverside. “It’s an unusual situation where insects can overcome those defenses.” At the smallest nip to its leaves, specialized cells on the plant’s surface release chemicals to irritate the predator or sticky goo to entrap it. Genes in the plant’s DNA are activated to wage systemwide chemical warfare, the plant’s version of an immune response. We need terpenes, alkaloids, phenolics " let’s move.

[...lots more cool stuff about plants, I recommend reading the whole article...]

“Even if you have quite a bit of knowledge about plants,” Dr. De Moraes said, “it’s still surprising to see how sophisticated they can be.”

It’s a small daily tragedy that we animals must kill to stay alive. Plants are the ethical autotrophs here, the ones that wrest their meals from the sun. Don’t expect them to boast: they’re too busy fighting to survive.


Emphasis mine. I don't really think there's any getting away from that.
Francis
 
  1  
Reply Fri 15 Jan, 2010 03:16 pm
Pemerson wrote:
The French must have their horse meat

This has been subsiding for decades and it's almost non-existent now..

Speaking for myself, I never had horse meat..
0 Replies
 
Robert Gentel
 
  1  
Reply Fri 15 Jan, 2010 03:36 pm
@dlowan,
dlowan wrote:
What about if they are killed not just because nobody wants them, but because they are causing immense damage to the ecology of the country, and causing other species to become extinct?


Would you accept that argument for killing humans? Or killing whales (and I'm not being facetious, Japanese argue that whales consume more fish than humans do)?

I personally wouldn't, and while I recognize that they are different from cats (e.g. whales being endangered themselves) many of the arguments against killing them (e.g. intelligence, bond with humans, rights to compete for their own existence) also apply to cats.

Quote:
Is it ok to kill them if they are destroying the place? ......(think not just killing, but destroying the very soils of the country?)

Of course, humans are destroying the place too.......but I doubt you'd get up a culling proposal, unless you sell it as a war or suchlike, and they don't really seem to work.


I think it's not ideal to kill them for that, but I can see how it may be the only viable option to preserve an ecology once all the other opportunities have been wasted.

However, I still like to speak out against how easily we argue for the killing of our best friends who we put in their situation and for nothing more than to fix our mistakes (it's not even for subsistence or the resources, just to fix our mismanagement). They are just competing for resources like we are, and like the animals they are killing are. I like balances in order to preserve resources for future generations and preserving ecological balance is high on my list of justifications (e.g. I think it is a criteria through which we are justified to prohibit eating a certain species) but I dislike the inconsistency with which we apply animal rights and at the very least I'd consider that a necessary evil.
Robert Gentel
 
  1  
Reply Fri 15 Jan, 2010 03:41 pm
@sozobe,
Yup, for me their lack of sentience gives me no moral qualms myself, but it's still going to be consumption of life that wants to live on some level.

But there are some plants that are so expressive (sunflowers, venus fly traps, the ferns that would close when touched) that as a kid I considered them proper animals (I killed my venus fly trap from overfeeding too) and hated to see them die.
0 Replies
 
Walter Hinteler
 
  1  
Reply Fri 15 Jan, 2010 03:46 pm
@Pemerson,
Besides that France actually never was the favourite country for horse meat - Belgium, Switzerland, Poland, Germany, Austria et. al. always had a higher consumption per population - horse meat was THE meat for Europeans until the Middle Ages. (The reason why it was forbidden by a Papal bull was simply that it was connected to "heathen" religion.)

I don't eat horse meat, btw .... besides, if it is "Sauerbraten", perhaps.
0 Replies
 
High Seas
 
  1  
Reply Fri 15 Jan, 2010 03:46 pm
@joefromchicago,
joefromchicago wrote:

Thomas wrote:
Okay -- but in this scenario, the case turns on the facts around the cannibalism, not on the person evaluating the facts being a utilitarian.

I don't understand your point. What I have posited is a rule utilitarian who judges a blanket rule against all cannibalism to be more utile than a rule that permits exceptions for eating willing victims. You may disagree with this particular utilitarian analysis, but it's certainly utilitarian.....

Isn't this a generally accepted legal principle? For example, if you're willing to sign a contract selling yourself into involuntary servitude, isn't the contract ab initio null and void, even if you have already collected the money?
 

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