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Food Ethics 2 (or is it 3?).... Trying yet again

 
 
chai2
 
  1  
Reply Mon 25 Jul, 2011 04:51 pm
@tsarstepan,
Both you and fil mentioned vegans

of course you know that's different than vegetarian.

A vegetarian would be kosher as well as a pescatarian, which I would consider myself.

Getting back to the ethics, for myself I have to draw my own line, and I do eat fish that grew in the wild. The fish was free until his end.

My brother in law is an avid hunter. I have respect for him, because almost ever bit of meat he and his family consumed was killed with his cross bow. The man is in his late 70's and can easily climb a straight truck tree using some sort of device (don't know what it's called) to get to his platform.

For me, the idea of raising animals with the intent to kill, with no chance of them getting away, is less and less appealing to me.

That said, I suppose if this hyper intelligent race was going to hunt us, and not what I consider cheat by using technical means to kill us, where we have a chance, I'd be more ok with that.
To raise and breed us in a pen, not ok with that.
0 Replies
 
wayne
 
  4  
Reply Mon 25 Jul, 2011 05:38 pm
Leaving aside the likelyhood, that any argument I could make would sound remarkably similar to the squawking of a chicken, from their perspective.

I think my best chance lies in convincing them of my usefulness as other than a food source. Perhaps I might shine their shoes, carry water, perform a few tricks. Perhaps they might be enthralled by the sound of my voice, merely caging me while providing for my needs. Maybe that they are small creatures, and I might carry them about on my shoulders. Fetch the newspaper, wash their space ships...................................
tsarstepan
 
  1  
Reply Mon 25 Jul, 2011 05:44 pm
@wayne,
I second your proposal Wayne. The best so far. Try to convince the intelligent alien race that at least, make me a pet. Might end up living a long and well-rounded life traveling from star system to star system.
0 Replies
 
Setanta
 
  2  
Reply Mon 25 Jul, 2011 05:44 pm
@Robert Gentel,
Robert Gentel wrote:
"You are brought before a race of hyperintelligent extraterrestrials and charged with the task of presenting a single argument of why they do not have the right to eat us. What do you say?"


I don't know that there is a plausible argument against such a right. I also don't see any reason why that is germane to the issue of what people eat. The scenario is not equivalent to the situation of human carnivores who, by and large, rely on livestock raised to be eaten. Your "hyperintelligent estraterrestrials" didn't raise the human race in a feed lot.

Human carnivores have eaten meat for at least hundreds of thousands of years, and probably millions of years (when they could get it--they might have been carrion eaters at first). They have kept livestock for the express purpose of eating them sooner or later for at least ten thousand years. Making this a moral issue is restricting debate to the climate of very recent history, when people have objected to meat-eating on alleged nutritional bases and on the basis of moraltiy.

Other than whales, i don't know of any species we kill for food which can be likened to humans on the basis of self-aware sentience. I do have a problem with killing whales for food, but that is at least as much conditioned by the hunting of species to extinction as it is a "moral" objection--more so, really. I'd feel the same way about white tail deer, if they were threatened, which, of course they are not, far from it.
0 Replies
 
Setanta
 
  2  
Reply Mon 25 Jul, 2011 05:54 pm
By the way, that argument is at least inferentially a loaded question, a "have you stopped beating your wife" question. Answering it entails inferentially agreeing that eating animals is a matter of a right, which has been--falsely or not--justified by superior intelligence. I'd say we eat meat on a "because we can" basis, especially with regard to livestock.
chai2
 
  1  
Reply Mon 25 Jul, 2011 06:06 pm
@Setanta,
Setanta wrote:

By the way, that argument is at least inferentially a loaded question, a "have you stopped beating your wife" question. Answering it entails inferentially agreeing that eating animals is a matter of a right, which has been--falsely or not--justified by superior intelligence. I'd say we eat meat on a "because we can" basis, especially with regard to livestock.


Absolutely agree.

I hear people say things like we have the right to be dominent over animals, to use them.
The worst are those who say God ordained in because of what written in a silly book.

No, you're right set, it's because we can.
chai2
 
  1  
Reply Mon 25 Jul, 2011 06:07 pm
@chai2,
so...how do you feel about the ethics/morality of "because we can"?
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Setanta
 
  2  
Reply Mon 25 Jul, 2011 06:11 pm
Well, essentially, we are exercising a right, but not one based on an allegation of superior intelligence, although that may be used to account for why we can. We are exercising a right of property. This is my steer, i bought the heifer, i paid to have her serviced by a bull, i paid for her feed and i've bought the feed or provided the grazing land for the steer. So if i want to kill and eat the goddamned thing, that's my right. If i want to sell the carcasse to a meat packing house which will sell it to Chai and Wolf Woman and Mame, and other carnivorous degenerates, that's my right.

I don't really have a problem with it. As someone else has pointed out, plants are living things, too.
wayne
 
  1  
Reply Mon 25 Jul, 2011 06:24 pm
@Setanta,
We might be able to make the argument that domestic cattle have out competed other species for our attention, thus ensuring the continuation of their species thru mankind.
The animals we choose as pets have also out competed other species for their place on our laps.
I think this shifts the ball to the court of evolutionary development.
sozobe
 
  1  
Reply Mon 25 Jul, 2011 06:46 pm
I'm reminded of the scene in "The Restaurant at the End of the Universe" where the cow-pig thing invites the diners to partake. They're a bit freaked.



Of course, this is the opposite of what we're talking about here: "eat me" rather than "please don't eat me."

It actually introduces an interesting idea I hadn't thought of, that communication is a big element of what makes something wrong to eat (while something else is acceptable).

I don't think the ability to communicate is the only cut-off -- I'd not want to eat a signing gorilla but I'd not want to eat a fumble-footed dog either. Although dogs do communicate quite well nonverbally. In fact perhaps that's part of the divide between pigs and dogs (which are both intelligent, and so there aren't a lot of clear dividing lines).

Dogs are very very attuned to humans' emotions (various studies about this, can get some), and have the whole eye contact/ nonverbal communication thing down pretty well. Some pet pigs have this too and I wouldn't want to eat them either.

Your standard barnyard pig has a thousand-yard beady-eyed stare though, no particular communication going on there.
Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Mon 25 Jul, 2011 06:46 pm
@wayne,
An evolutionary argument is going to be complicated by what we know about conditions when plants and animals were domesticated. In the middle east, for example, after the end of the last ice age, antelope were so plentiful, and forage foods were so plentiful, that humans no longer had to follow a nomadic life style in order to feed themselves. Antelope could not be domesticated because of their social lives--goats, sheep and cattle have a social structure which can be exploited to allow their domestication. The forage foods upon which people in the middle east relied ten thousand years ago, and for thousands of years before that, lent themselves to domestication. Einkorn and emmer and millet were grasses which smothered the vegetal competition in the places in which they thrived. (Millet is not actually a single species, but only a small seed agronomic group--there are a wide variety of such small seed grasses which are called millet, and they were exploited even earlier in east Asia than the middle east. They became important in the middle east because they are drought resistant.) Succulents such as melons and cucumbers, and pulses such as chick peas and a wide variety of beans are also functionally ground cover plants which will choke out the competition. It was relatively easy for early modern man to assure their dominance in the forage areas where they were first exploited, long years, probably thousands of years, before they were actively domesticated by being planted in fields--the same is true of the grasses such as wheat, rice and millet. In a very real sense, the plants and animals which became our domesticates had already developed the evolutionary advantages which made them attractive enough that man eventually assured their asendancy by making domesticates out of them. I'm not sure if swine and chickens are in the same category as goats, sheep and cattle, but i suspect that they are--they were first domesticated in east Asia.

This section of the article on domestication at Wikipedia lists the criteria for the domestication of animals according to Jared Diamond. Mr. Diamond hasn't got a clue when he attempts to do historical interpretation and synthesis, but he knows his evolutionary biology. The entire article, by the way, is worth reading.
CalamityJane
 
  3  
Reply Mon 25 Jul, 2011 07:13 pm
@Robert Gentel,
Robert Gentel wrote:
"You are brought before a race of hyperintelligent extraterrestrials and charged with the task of presenting a single argument of why they do not have the right to eat us. What do you say?"


I'd tell them that we're a) contaminated b) working humans, thus valuable, and c) not bred for extraterrestrial consumption.

We don't really eat "working/valuable" animals either: the goat that delivers milk and cheese won't be slaughtered, neither will be the bull ...well at least not until his castration. A milk farmer won't slaughter his cows either, nor are egg producing chickens. The animals that do get slaughtered are specifically bred for human consumption.
wayne
 
  1  
Reply Mon 25 Jul, 2011 07:13 pm
@Setanta,
I agree, such an argument would be complicated, not to mention difficult to grasp.
However, I don't think it's necessarily farfetched. Considering that many species have in fact evolved by hitching rides on other species.
In fact, I think it is safe to say that every species has evolved to exploit other species in some way.
Sandburrs, cockleburrs and the like exploit mammals on a regular basis, I suppose it's a matter of how much we are willing to accept from evolution.

There was an interesting program on Nova, I think, presenting this concept.
The program highlighted apples, tulips and marijuana, and a few others, as having exploited mankind as a means of evolution.
I searched the PBS site and can't find the program there though.
chai2
 
  1  
Reply Mon 25 Jul, 2011 07:33 pm
@CalamityJane,
CalamityJane wrote:

We don't really eat "working/valuable" animals either: the goat that delivers milk and cheese won't be slaughtered, neither will be the bull ...well at least not until his castration. A milk farmer won't slaughter his cows either, nor are egg producing chickens. The animals that do get slaughtered are specifically bred for human consumption.


This is not true.

While on our epic SD trip, Wally and I were talking. I said "I wonder what they do with all the excess bulls that are born to milk cows?" Being a man, of course he said "They use them for stud"
I said "You only need a few bulls. If 50% of births are males, that's a lot of excess bulls"
It just so happened that the lifeguard at the pool of our first hotel only did this part time, and the rest of her time was out on her husbands ranch. I asked her that question and she smiled. It just so happens that was her own little sideline. She took all the males born and hand fed them. When they got to a certain size, she sold them in lots to whatever slaughter house wanted them. She told me that, let's say a beef cattle earns you a dollar a pound on the hoof. A milking breed male will get you something like 75-80 cents a pound.
I asked her if the males she sold were used for pet food or similar uses, and she said she had no idea what they were used for, as long as she got her price. Then she told me they ate young bull meat all the time, no difference whatsoever in the quality as compared to beef cattle.
So, I'm sure a lot of the beef we buy are from cattle that were not being bred for their beef.
Hamburger is differentiated by its fat content, but by the breed it came from.

I lived in the middle of a dairy area for a while, and those cows have a sad life. I can't drink cow milk, and even if I could all of a sudden, I wouldn't start now.

I can have small to moderate amounts of goat yogurt and goat milk, and the goats actually have a very nice life. The goats that produce the brand of yogurt I buy are out in the fields all day, come in happily for milking, and when they are no longer producers, are allowed to live out their natural life hanging out.
I don't however, feel optimistic about the fate of all the little billy goats.

ditto chickens. I buy a brand of eggs that comes from a chicken farm about 60 miles from here. I know people who live in that down, and they verify that the chickens have a lot of space to run around in.

The eggs aren't fertilized so I'm not eating a future hen or rooster, they aren't being mistreated, so I'm fine with that.
0 Replies
 
Thomas
 
  1  
Reply Mon 25 Jul, 2011 08:33 pm
@Robert Gentel,
Robert Gentel wrote:
"You are brought before a race of hyperintelligent extraterrestrials and charged with the task of presenting a single argument of why they do not have the right to eat us. What do you say?"

It depends. What do we know about the code of ethics that the aliens subscribe to? Are they consequentialists? Do they subscribe to virtue ethics, and if so what are their virtues? Do they subscribe to deontology, and if so what obligations do they accept?
0 Replies
 
Thomas
 
  1  
Reply Mon 25 Jul, 2011 08:43 pm
@sozobe,
sozobe wrote:
Although dogs do communicate quite well nonverbally. In fact perhaps that's part of the divide between pigs and dogs (which are both intelligent, and so there aren't a lot of clear dividing lines).

Some religions do consider eating both pigs and dogs unethical, though. And just because you aren't as good at communicating with dogs as with pigs, that doesn't mean it's the pig's problem.

That said, I think your distinction makes a good point. On a gut level, I have much fewer scruples eating shrimp and scallops than I have eating mammals. Your distinction would explain why.

sozobe wrote:
Your standard barnyard pig has a thousand-yard beady-eyed stare though, no particular communication going on there.

I hear that similar things were true of ante-bellum field slaves, as contrasted to house slaves. As a result, slave holders treated their house slaves fairly decently, while being extremely cruel to field slaves. By your theory, then, should we reconsider the ethics of slavery?
sozobe
 
  1  
Reply Tue 26 Jul, 2011 06:39 am
@Thomas,
Thomas wrote:

I hear that similar things were true of ante-bellum field slaves, as contrasted to house slaves. As a result, slave holders treated their house slaves fairly decently, while being extremely cruel to field slaves. By your theory, then, should we reconsider the ethics of slavery?


No.

When I am speaking of the thousand-yard-stare, it has to do with communication specifically. All humans are able to communicate with each other in some way, even if they don't share the same language.
Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Tue 26 Jul, 2011 07:20 am
@wayne,
Now apples are an excellent example, as they need humans to further their diversification. By the way, the current archaeological evidence is that the first domesticate is the fig, by a couple of thousand years. It was also domesticated in central Asia, where the populations remained nomadic well into histoical times. Nothing like new data to stand old assumptions on their respective heads.
0 Replies
 
joefromchicago
 
  1  
Reply Tue 26 Jul, 2011 08:47 am
@tsarstepan,
tsarstepan wrote:
You're not taking it literal enough Robert. Most people technically aren't kosher except if they're vegans. Nonvegans and those not suffering from lactose intolerance ingest all kinds of dairy products. Dairy and meat ≠ Kosher qualified. All one has to do is eat some cheese or consume a pint of ice cream before the alien plans on eating you and pray they hold to Kosher law.

Is this some sort of gag? "Kosher" doesn't mean you can't consume dairy products. Where did you get that idea?
Thomas
 
  1  
Reply Tue 26 Jul, 2011 09:35 am
@sozobe,
I see. Good point. Maybe communication is a better test than I previously thought.
0 Replies
 
 

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