45
   

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

 
 
dlowan
 
  1  
Reply Fri 15 Jan, 2010 04:14 pm
@Robert Gentel,
Quote:
at the very least I'd consider that a necessary evil.



Oh hell yes. If I believed in purgatory, I'd want a special place for those abandoning their animals.

I'd consider neutering programs infinitely superior for stray populations.

But that's not an option over hundreds of thousands of square miles of bush or desert.
Thomas
 
  1  
Reply Fri 15 Jan, 2010 04:40 pm
@sozobe,
sozobe wrote:
The article: Sorry, Vegans: Brussels Sprouts Like to Live, Too

I read that article when it came out, and immediately knew it was destined to be misunderstood. When you closely read the middle of the article, you find that this talk about plants defending themselves, howling, calling for help, and spying, is really biologist shorthand to describe unconscious biochemical responses. Biologists do this a lot. Richard Dawkins writes about genes this way to dramatize evolutionary biology. He never meant to suggest that genes really are selfish, rational agents.

Of course, there's nothing wrong with such rhetorical devices. They're a great way for science journalists to capture their readers' attention as they describe abstract scientific ideas. But you need to keep in mind that they're just rhetorical devices. When you start taking them at face value and presenting them as the real thing, you're shirking your responsibility as a science writer.

That's where Natalie Angier dropped the ball. First she deliberately forgot that rhetorical devices are one thing and reality is another. Moreover, having forgotten it, she then went one step further, slapped on the "sorry vegans" bits, and essentially sacrificed the sacrificed the substance of her article to a clever hook.

Mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and fishes have nervous systems. They can literally feel excruciating pain. Plants, by contrast, cannot feel pain except in the rhetorical, figurative sense that biologists use as a shorthand. I'm not happy at all with the way Natalie Angier framed this article of hers.
Thomas
 
  1  
Reply Fri 15 Jan, 2010 04:41 pm
@High Seas,
High Seas wrote:
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?

Yes it is. But we're talking about ethical modes of analysis, independent of what the law says.
0 Replies
 
Thomas
 
  2  
Reply Fri 15 Jan, 2010 04:44 pm
@dlowan,
I'm curious how you define "damage to the ecology". How do you decide that one ecosystem is "better" than another, and that transforming one into the other constitutes "damage"?
sozobe
 
  1  
Reply Fri 15 Jan, 2010 04:47 pm
@Thomas,
Yeah, it was purposely provocative. "Sorry, Vegans" was unnecessary -- I think it's clear that there is a difference between killing a pig and killing a lettuce leaf.

Still, the point I was making with it is that at some level this is all killing and destruction. You can't truly do no harm at all.

So you have to decide what harm is acceptable and what harm is unacceptable. That's what I mean about locating the line.
Thomas
 
  1  
Reply Fri 15 Jan, 2010 04:53 pm
@sozobe,
Sozobe wrote:
Still, the point I was making with it is that at some level this is all killing and destruction. You can't truly do no harm at all.

Until a clever jobless biophysicist invents photosynthetic skin. Hmmmm .....

Got your point though.
0 Replies
 
Cycloptichorn
 
  1  
Reply Fri 15 Jan, 2010 04:57 pm
@sozobe,
Quote:
I think it's clear that there is a difference between killing a pig and killing a lettuce leaf.


Wow, I don't understand what the difference is at all. Most of the distinctions are arbitrary, really.

Quote:

Still, the point I was making with it is that at some level this is all killing and destruction. You can't truly do no harm at all.


I don't see killing as 'harm;' it's a part of nature, live and die, predator and prey.

Cycloptichorn
ossobuco
 
  1  
Reply Fri 15 Jan, 2010 04:58 pm
@Thomas,
Thomas wrote:

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

I read that article when it came out, and immediately knew it was destined to be misunderstood. When you closely read the middle of the article, you find that this talk about plants defending themselves, howling, calling for help, and spying, is really biologist shorthand to describe unconscious biochemical responses. Biologists do this a lot. Richard Dawkins writes about genes this way to dramatize evolutionary biology. He never meant to suggest that genes really are selfish, rational agents.

Of course, there's nothing wrong with such rhetorical devices. They're a great way for science journalists to capture their readers' attention as they describe abstract scientific ideas. But you need to keep in mind that they're just rhetorical devices. When you start taking them at face value and presenting them as the real thing, you're shirking your responsibility as a science writer.

That's where Natalie Angier dropped the ball. First she deliberately forgot that rhetorical devices are one thing and reality is another. Moreover, having forgotten it, she then went one step further, slapped on the "sorry vegans" bits, and essentially sacrificed the sacrificed the substance of her article to a clever hook.

Mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and fishes have nervous systems. They can literally feel excruciating pain. Plants, by contrast, cannot feel pain except in the rhetorical, figurative sense that biologists use as a shorthand. I'm not happy at all with the way Natalie Angier framed this article of hers.


Sorry to quote a whole post, but I remember similar qualms when I read it, while I am usually nodding along with Angier.
I am thinking I'm looking at what I remember back in school of teleology working its way into science.
ossobuco
 
  1  
Reply Fri 15 Jan, 2010 05:01 pm
@ossobuco,
But wait, I have to go back and look. Teleology as I understood it then was not how it is used now, or seems not to be when I see the word, and I need to see if I'm not confusing it with anthropomorphism (which I doubt). Anyway, I'm always chary of ascribing motive to processes.
Robert Gentel
 
  1  
Reply Fri 15 Jan, 2010 05:04 pm
@Thomas,
Thomas wrote:
I'm curious how you define "damage to the ecology". How do you decide that one ecosystem is "better" than another, and that transforming one into the other constitutes "damage"?


For me personally it's species conservation. Preservation of a species makes intervention justifiable, IMO.

But I'm still wary about the case in Australia of killing feral cats, given that I'm unsure how much of the problem this can solve and exactly how much of a problem it really is (the science behind their characterization as pests is a bit behind the popular sentiment, IMO). I'd hate for killing at a scale that doesn't solve anything to take place, for example.
ossobuco
 
  1  
Reply Fri 15 Jan, 2010 05:10 pm
@Robert Gentel,
Was it Mussolini who did a cat killing extravaganza in Roma? I think so, but I'd have to go back and check if I'm right. Perhaps via Eleanor Clark, who wrote about an ancient cat colony, told the story. As I remember it, rats came back, with their malefaction less liked than the cats'.
0 Replies
 
Thomas
 
  2  
Reply Fri 15 Jan, 2010 05:17 pm
@Cycloptichorn,
Then I gather that causing pain to sentient beings is not morally relevant to you. Just an arbitrary convention.
Thomas
 
  1  
Reply Fri 15 Jan, 2010 05:18 pm
@Robert Gentel,
Robert Gentel wrote:
For me personally it's species conservation.

I can see that.
0 Replies
 
Cycloptichorn
 
  1  
Reply Fri 15 Jan, 2010 05:18 pm
@Thomas,
Thomas wrote:

Then I gather that causing pain to sentient beings is not morally relevant to you. Just an arbitrary convention.


Pain and death are two different things, I'm surprised you would make such a statement.

Cycloptichorn
dlowan
 
  1  
Reply Fri 15 Jan, 2010 05:19 pm
@Thomas,
Thomas wrote:

I'm curious how you define "damage to the ecology". How do you decide that one ecosystem is "better" than another, and that transforming one into the other constitutes "damage"?



Well, I am not sure that you can make such a decision in absolutist terms, however I'll give you some ideas.

Oz has immensely old and fragile soils.

One of the major effects of the kind of damage feral grazing animals do (human over-grazing and over-cropping has done terrible damage too) is to remove the vegetation that anchors this fragile soil. They are not adapted to Oz plants, and they tend to do stuff like wallow, which destroys the vegetation, eat to the roots, and pull roots out, eat young bushes and trees so that none can grow to replace them in the system. Their hooves also destroy the vegetation, leaving soil bare.

What this means is that Oz just keeps losing what was already an incredibly thin topsoil. This means land gradually becomes unable to support life.

The loss of trees (again, humans were the main culprits) means that the salt table rises.

Without vegetation to slow its progress, when it rains, enormous amounts of soil are lost.

Along with global warming, this is affecting the ability of Oz to produce food, (not taking into account that some folk regard the life of the eco-system as a good in itself, and that destroying countless millions of living creatures is not a great thing)

Also....again this is no absolute....if we take it as a given that driving species to extinction is not a great thing to do:

Cats have decimated the biodiversity where they have spread.

Foxes ditto.

Destroying the capacity of the land to support vegetation obviously destroys plant species...but it also means the loss of many other forms of life.

These impact upon each other...so that the loss of one seemingly unimportant insect, for instance, can mean the loss of a whole group of plants, which then again means that a range of beasties die out, too.



0 Replies
 
Thomas
 
  1  
Reply Fri 15 Jan, 2010 05:22 pm
@Cycloptichorn,
Cycloptichorn wrote:
Pain and death are two different things

Sure, but killing animals usually comes with pain to the animal -- certainly on our factory farms. There is no comparable pain associated with killing a plant -- even on factory farms.
ossobuco
 
  1  
Reply Fri 15 Jan, 2010 05:29 pm
@ossobuco,
I wasn't confusing it, I was speaking re de chardin teleology.
0 Replies
 
Cycloptichorn
 
  1  
Reply Fri 15 Jan, 2010 05:31 pm
@Thomas,
Thomas wrote:

Cycloptichorn wrote:
Pain and death are two different things

Sure, but killing animals usually comes with pain to the animal -- certainly on our factory farms. There is no comparable pain associated with killing a plant -- even on factory farms.


I don't know that this is necessarily true. Have you been to a cattle processing plant? I have. The cows I saw being killed certainly felt no pain. When you have your skull dented in three inches by a steam hammer, you go from living to dead in about a single second. Not much pain there.

Now, if we are talking about the storage and treatment of the animal over the life-cycle, sure - I try to purchase food only from those sources which do not practice animal cruelty. But the moment of death itself is quite quick in most modern settings, and the animal's pain isn't a factor in my decision-making.

Cycloptichorn
dlowan
 
  1  
Reply Fri 15 Jan, 2010 05:38 pm
@Cycloptichorn,
I worry a lot about their distress, though.

Modern abbatoirs ought to be using all the knowledge we have gained about minimising distress, but I have a bad feeling Australian ones aren't too bloody great.
0 Replies
 
ossobuco
 
  1  
Reply Fri 15 Jan, 2010 05:40 pm
@Cycloptichorn,
I was involved with filming at several Armour plants and various stockyards when I was seventeen, and yes, saw the process completely, when my dad did a film for Armour.

The pain with death I saw was fast, but it was pain.
Who are any of us kidding that it is not?


I'm not a vegetarian at this point, but I wouldn't begin to say what I saw was not acute if short time pain.



 

Related Topics

 
Copyright © 2020 MadLab, LLC :: Terms of Service :: Privacy Policy :: Page generated in 0.04 seconds on 12/01/2020 at 10:08:25