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Animals, Eating Meat and Moral Standing

 
 
bigstew
 
Reply Fri 25 Feb, 2011 06:22 pm
Though there are various issues related to animals e.g. animal experimentation, zoos, use in consumer goods etc., I thought honing in on the ethics of meat eating might generate good discussion.

So, do you think meat eating is ethical? If so, why? If not, why not? In addition, does context matter, or do we treat all cases involving animals the same? (yes or no answers should be justified, considering this is a normative argument)

I will start by acknowledging that: (i) I am a vegetarian, and will be (ii) defending the view that animals ought to obtain direct moral standing, and (iii) at the very least certain practices used to produce meat e.g. factory farming are wrong and ought to be stopped. Further, rather than suppose any of the major moral theories e.g. utiltarianism, deontology, virtue ethics, I propose an (iv) incompletely theorized argument in that particular issues may remain unresolved, but at a general level we can agree on some things (animal cruelty is wrong).
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Type: Discussion • Score: 12 • Views: 13,022 • Replies: 318

 
wayne
 
  2  
Reply Fri 25 Feb, 2011 06:46 pm
Suppose you hit a deer with your car, is it better to leave it lie, or see that it is butchered and made into a stew to feed the homeless? Which is the higher moral ground? Are we not as much a part of the environment as the creatures that would make use of the deer if we left it lay?
failures art
 
  1  
Reply Fri 25 Feb, 2011 07:13 pm
@bigstew,
Hello bigstew. Welcome to A2K.

I'm a vegan, and I have been for about a year. Prior to that, I was an omnivore. I have taken a much simpler food ethics philosophy.

(1) The human body does not require animal products. All nutrients can be found in plant life.
(2) Livestock is very resource intensive in practice. I believe the resources could better be used.
(3) I view humans as animals, not separate from the animal kingdom. I don't subscribe to the idea of "owning" or objectifying animals in this way.
(4) Ingestion of animal products comes with it a greater health liability. This is especially true if it is commercial livestock.

So, given the situation where we are living in the comfort and abundance of the the western world, I can't see why I need to eat a product which I do not need, is environmentally poor, and comes with greater health risks.

I am not a fool. I accept that under different circumstances (like survival), I would eat animal products. I do not see this as a violation of my ethics.

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Ceili
 
  1  
Reply Fri 25 Feb, 2011 07:16 pm
While that may be true in most circumstances, I have severe allergies and I cannot eat most of the alternate protein sources. I buy all my meat from local farmers, not factory farms. Happy cows/chicken as it were...
failures art
 
  1  
Reply Fri 25 Feb, 2011 07:27 pm
@Ceili,
It's a bummer about your allergies. I'm glad you find good products from local farmers.

Out of curiosity, is this a gluten allergy?

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Ceili
 
  1  
Reply Fri 25 Feb, 2011 08:48 pm
@failures art,
Nope, I'm allergic to fish, nuts, beans... doesn't leave a lot of room for protein replacements. I don't eat a lot of meat, but I can't not eat it.
ragnel
 
  4  
Reply Fri 25 Feb, 2011 08:54 pm
@bigstew,
Quote:
So, do you think meat eating is ethical?


Yes, I think meat eating is ethical.
To deny that would be to deny what I am.
I have binocular vision, like other predators.
I also have canine and pre-molar teeth along with the incisors and molars. (This of course, makes me an omnivore.)

If you choose not to eat meat that is up to you.
In my mind every ear of wheat has as much right to live as any cow.

I believe that waste of life - any life - is unethical.
Life taken in a cruel manner (engendering unnecessary fear and pain) is unethical.
wayne
 
  1  
Reply Fri 25 Feb, 2011 08:54 pm
@bigstew,
In regards to position (ii) that sound like an awfully slippery slope.
bigstew
 
  1  
Reply Fri 25 Feb, 2011 08:58 pm
@wayne,
I think the common sense answer is if the deer was killed accidentally, using it's remains as food wouldn't be un ethical. That is something I agree with. However, the hard case deals with factory farming, which often subjects animals to cruel and grimacing conditions. How does this example speak to such a case?
bigstew
 
  1  
Reply Fri 25 Feb, 2011 09:04 pm
@failures art,
Hello FA, thanks for responding.

Considering your a vegan, I'm still curious about points- I take it that these are the main criteria for your justification as a vegan?

Your points seem to point the idea that meat eating is an unnecessary practice (excluding demanding circumstances), and I can agree with that. However, your points seem to point to reasons (other than maybe [3]) beyond concern for animals themselves. Would you agree?
bigstew
 
  1  
Reply Fri 25 Feb, 2011 09:07 pm
@Ceili,
Hi Ceili,
I'm glad you support your local farmers and (hopefully) they raise and sluaghter their animals in a humane way. However, if you don't mind a little added challenge, do you think in general that such a practice is permissable? I certainly agree that it is better than factory farming, but I still have some doubts (which Ill get back to you have a chance to respond).
wayne
 
  2  
Reply Fri 25 Feb, 2011 09:09 pm
@bigstew,
Ok, I wanted to find out where we stood as far as the ethics involving the use of animal resources.
So are we to begin with the premise that the use of animal products is not an ethical or moral dillema, that the dillema lies in the means/method of obtaining those products?
bigstew
 
  1  
Reply Fri 25 Feb, 2011 09:10 pm
@ragnel,
Interesting.

So, what makes "life" morally relevant? In other words, what is the main criteria for something obtaining the characteristic of "life"? I find the wheat example a bit problematic.

Further, you first say that eating meat is ethical, than later on say any waste of life is unethical. Why is eating meat than not a waste?
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failures art
 
  1  
Reply Fri 25 Feb, 2011 09:10 pm
@Ceili,
Ceili wrote:

Nope, I'm allergic to fish, nuts, beans... doesn't leave a lot of room for protein replacements. I don't eat a lot of meat, but I can't not eat it.

Whoa! Beans? That's wild. So have you had Seitan? It's made from wheat gluten.

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bigstew
 
  1  
Reply Fri 25 Feb, 2011 09:13 pm
@wayne,
Oh yeah? So shouldn't you tell me what the implications of (ii) are that make it so slippery?
0 Replies
 
bigstew
 
  1  
Reply Fri 25 Feb, 2011 09:15 pm
@wayne,
In some sense yes, but I think the means/method you mention (in my opinion) speaks to a more fundamental principle which must be pre supposed in the use of animal products.
edgarblythe
 
  1  
Reply Fri 25 Feb, 2011 09:16 pm
Eating meat lies outside of the field of ethics, I would think. Eating meat, for many animals and men, is an act of survival, not choice. That we inject our own scruples into the act is to afford luxury. I doubt that the majority of persons could afford to be that choosy. So, I don't think vegans are acting on a higher plane of morality. That said, I am an animal lover, who hates to see animals getting mistreated. If I had to personally kill for meat, I would down lots more vegetables. But I don't view my sentiments from a moral viewpoint, because we all are food, in one way or another.
failures art
 
  1  
Reply Fri 25 Feb, 2011 09:21 pm
@ragnel,
ragnel wrote:

Yes, I think meat eating is ethical.
To deny that would be to deny what I am.

What are you?

ragnel wrote:

I have binocular vision, like other predators.
I also have canine and pre-molar teeth along with the incisors and molars. (This of course, makes me an omnivore.)

No so. Case and point: Gorillas. Binocular vision, and our puny canines hardly compare. Gorillas are not omnivores, they are purely vegetarian.

You're talking about omnivore by design, which at first glance I feel is very compelling, but analyzing various biological features and details in out anatomy should also remind us that we carry with us elements of our ancestors. It does not mean that is what we are.

Also, we can eat animals. It does not mean that we must eat them. We also have the ability to digest cardboard. What does that say of our neccesity to eat cardboard?

Compare human's digestive track with that of known carnivores. Theirs is designed to eat the meat raw. Ours has much difficulty doing this. So unless you think our body is designed to eat cooked meat, the argument from design kind of falls apart.

ragnel wrote:

If you choose not to eat meat that is up to you.
In my mind every ear of wheat has as much right to live as any cow.

And humans? Are we somehow divorced from the animal kingdom?

ragnel wrote:

I believe that waste of life - any life - is unethical.
Life taken in a cruel manner (engendering unnecessary fear and pain) is unethical.

This is why I think the ethics of food have to open up their aperture. Eating meat has a negative effect on humans. We pollute the environment, and use lots of resources which could more efficiently be used to grow crops.

People eat meat because they want to, not out of neccesity. I stopped eating meat because there was no steak in the world that was worth the 8 meals of food that could have been produced with the same resources. There is a human element to vegetarianism as well.

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failures art
 
  1  
Reply Fri 25 Feb, 2011 09:24 pm
@bigstew,
bigstew wrote:
Your points seem to point the idea that meat eating is an unnecessary practice (excluding demanding circumstances), and I can agree with that. However, your points seem to point to reasons (other than maybe [3]) beyond concern for animals themselves. Would you agree?

This is correct. I was sympathetic to animal concerns prior to changing my lifestyle, the human and environmental impacts of such practices are what ultimately made the compelling change in me. I do very much care for other animals.

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wayne
 
  1  
Reply Fri 25 Feb, 2011 09:26 pm
@bigstew,
I think I see what you are saying, it's a long and slippery slope though.
You'd end up back at the first hominid to pick up a sliver of bone for use as a tool.
That said, there is no doubt that the demand begets the supply.
This is a tough subject that's been discussed a lot. I'd like to take it slow so we don't lose the focus.

So then, taking your input into account, a discerning and responsible use of animal products is ethical, as a premise?
 

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