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Author Topic: Is it morally acceptable for companion animals to eat a meat based diet?  (Read 7355 times)

Offline glovesforfoxes

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Quote from: Don_1
I could easily buy manufactured pellets for my tortoises or buy green leaves from a supermarket, but I would not dream of doing so. Instead I take 2 or 3 back breaking trips a week to pick dandelions, hawk bits, plantains, sow thistle and so on, because that is what they have evolved to eat. Who am I to question 300 million years of evolution?

Man has interfered with nature quit enough as it is, dogs/cats are carnivores, we should not try to change that.

I will respond with a logical argument using well established moral principles.

All farm animals & your companion animal, are capable of pleasure.
Pleasure is an objectively good thing.
It is a good thing that these animals are alive.
Killing them is wrong for these reasons.

Meat requires the killing of farm animals in order to be financially viable.
Meat will no longer become financially viable if demand is reduced significantly.
Therefore we should reduce demand for meat.
A healthy, nutritonally adequate alternative to meat-based diets for companion animals is available.
Not using a meat-based diet for your companion animal will reduce demand for meat.
Therefore, using a plant-based diet is morally better.

An argument anticipating "but my dog likes meat!"

Your dog's pleasure is objectively the same as a farm animal's pleasure.
Farm animals will be prevented from feeling pleasure since they need to be killed.
Therefore, killing one animal to feed another when it is unnecessary is wrong.

This is not the entirety of my argument (I am not a pure utilitarian) but it is an important one. If you take issue with any of the above points I made, please quote it & explain why it is wrong, & we will discuss it.

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Man has interfered with nature quit enough as it is, dogs/cats are carnivores, we should not try to change that.

Yes, I'm becoming more & more sure that mass breeding of animals so that they can be used like machines for meat fits perfectly in your view of what is natural & therefore right.


 

Offline rosy

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Please don't drag quotes from other people's comments in other threads across into new threads without providing references back to their origins. It's just rude.

In answer to your question.. it's exactly as morally acceptable as eating meat ourselves. If you are a vegetarian and keep a dog/cat/badger that you feed on meat you haven't a leg to stand on.
Infact, keeping a cat, at any rate, is probably morally very dubious because you can't stop cats going out and killing birds/rodents/frogs, and this is therefore a predictable effect of keeping a cat and is equivalent to going out and killing these animals yourself.

If you are a meat eater, then the notion that you would then not feed your pet on meat because it's not morally acceptable is laughably hypocritical.

I'm not sure, given that you're already engaged in a threat about the acceptability or otherwise of humans eating meat, what your point is. Perhaps you could elaborate?
 

Offline glovesforfoxes

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Please don't drag quotes from other people's comments in other threads across into new threads without providing references back to their origins. It's just rude.

Sorry! Wasn't aware of that netiquette. I posted a link from there to here.. here you go:

http://www.thenakedscientists.com/forum/index.php?topic=27517.0;topicseen

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In answer to your question.. it's exactly as morally acceptable as eating meat ourselves. If you are a vegetarian and keep a dog/cat/badger that you feed on meat you haven't a leg to stand on.
Infact, keeping a cat, at any rate, is probably morally very dubious because you can't stop cats going out and killing birds/rodents/frogs, and this is therefore a predictable effect of keeping a cat and is equivalent to going out and killing these animals yourself.

If you are a meat eater, then the notion that you would then not feed your pet on meat because it's not morally acceptable is laughably hypocritical.

I agree.

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I'm not sure, given that you're already engaged in a threat about the acceptability or otherwise of humans eating meat, what your point is. Perhaps you could elaborate?

It was in response to Don_1. If you have a quick scan of that thread you'll see. The two arguments I use are similar, but the difference is that we consider dogs/companion animals completely carnivorous, whereas humans obviously can live on a plant-based diet free of health issues, it is less obvious whether or not companion animals can. The discussion of the evidence, & then reasoning behind why you would choose either option, will be discussed here rather than in a thread about the toxicity of chocolate in dogs. If people want to reply, they can. It will go as far as they want it to - if they feel they have nothing to say, I'll let it die.
 

Offline rosy

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Eh. Sorry. I jumped down your throat a bit there. Thanks for the prompt response.

Splitting threads is often an excellent thing to do, but it does also run the risk of having the same arguments going on in several places and no-one knowing quite who's said what where, which raises tempers in (often already heated) debates unnecessarily. Also, of course, there's the risk of quoting people out of context without their necessarily following the thread-jump to reply to comments.

I'd assumed the jump was from the people-eating-meat thread, not from the dogs-eating-chocolate thread, so I guess the need to flag both ways is probably emphasised... and the thread-split makes much more sense to me now I know that!
 

Offline glovesforfoxes

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Yes, I gave it some thought afterwards & you're right - it is the same as quoting out of context, I should've realised. Thanks :)
 

Offline LeeE

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glovesforfoxes: It seems to me that essentially, you are arguing against the reality that has resulted from the evolution of life on Earth, based upon boundaries between different levels of life that are purely arbitrary.

You are arguing about what should have happened, instead of what actually happened as a consequence of evolution, using arbitrary delimiters to make the argument sound reasonable.

Furthermore, you only seem to be thinking about companion dogs, which are omnivores and not carnivores, when you refer to companion animals, and completely ignore other companion animals that may be carnivores, such as companion domestic cats.

The fact is that we have evolved to desire meat in our diets, and as we have become more civilised, we have tried to satisfy that desire in the best overall way; farming meat means that extra animals are bred to meet our needs, instead of hunting from the natural pool of animals, and so don't risk hunting them to extinction as nearly happened with the North American Bison.

You also seem to base your argument upon the basis of an organism's capability to experience what you have defined as pleasure and it seems to me that you're using an arbitrary point on a scale of sentience to define pleasure.  Are the smallest mammals, or fish, capable of feeling 'pleasure'?  Would it be ok to farm voles and shrews for meat then?  Is fish farming ok?  Who is to say that plants don't experience some analogue of pleasure when it's just rained and then sun comes out?

Are you just arguing that only humans and dogs should not eat meat because it is now an option?  Is it still going to be ok for domesticated cats to eat meat?  Is it still going to be ok for carnivores in nature to still eat meat?  And if it's ok to eat meat in nature, why is it not ok for us and our dogs to eat meat?

Ultimately though, the argument will become null relatively soon anyway; meat for consumption will be vat-grown - doh!
 

Offline glovesforfoxes

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The other half of this reply, which concerns humans eating animal produce, is in this topic:

http://www.thenakedscientists.com/forum/index.php?topic=27071.new#new

I believe it is appropriate to split the topics & suggest keeping the topics of non-human animals & human animals seperate.

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Furthermore, you only seem to be thinking about companion dogs, which are omnivores and not carnivores, when you refer to companion animals, and completely ignore other companion animals that may be carnivores, such as companion domestic cats.

Dogs were an example since most people consider them to be primarily carnivorous, predatory animals.

Cats are also capable of thriving on completely vegan diets. Are they still carnivores, or do they become omnivores?

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Who is to say that plants don't experience some analogue of pleasure when it's just rained and then sun comes out?

I've already considered that plants may feel pain & pleasure, or analogues to them. I am currently actively looking for evidence for it. If you can point me in the direction of research that shows they do, please do so.

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Are you just arguing that only humans and dogs should not eat meat because it is now an option?  Is it still going to be ok for domesticated cats to eat meat?  Is it still going to be ok for carnivores in nature to still eat meat?  And if it's ok to eat meat in nature, why is it not ok for us and our dogs to eat meat?

I have already answered these questions; you will get a fuller appreciation of my views if you read from halfway down the 2nd page of this topic onwards:

http://www.thenakedscientists.com/forum/index.php?topic=27071.25;topicseen

as well as the thread this question title came from:

http://www.thenakedscientists.com/forum/index.php?topic=27517.0;topicseen

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Ultimately though, the argument will become null relatively soon anyway; meat for consumption will be vat-grown - doh!

Indeed, though I doubt that all animals will be replaced by lab grown meat, & I doubt it will happen soon (I think the estimate is ~5 years 'til it's grown commercially). & then has to be public acceptance of the idea of eating synthesised muscle, then there's the obvious problem of the market of "real meat" vs "fake meat". So the argument for animal rights will not be null, or even less important. Murder of exactly & only one animal is still wrong - whether for vivisection, meat, or simply because it is not financially viable to keep the animal any more.
 

Offline EatsRainbows

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Man has interfered with nature quit enough as it is, dogs/cats are carnivores, we should not try to change that.

I think the argument that interference with a domestic animals biology is wrong is somewhat void. I think this because they have their current traits due to us anyway and many are very different from their natural relatives. If humans were to become extinct, would most of them survive as they are? given that many traits they already posses are disadvantageous I think not. If they would not, then becoming vegan is not a problem.

I agree however with the point regarding either domestic or farm animal being deprived of pleasure no matter which option one takes. Its just the interference with biology idea that i disagree with.



I've already considered that plants may feel pain & pleasure, or analogues to them. I am currently actively looking for evidence for it. If you can point me in the direction of research that shows they do, please do so.


If you really think that plants feel pleasure then why do you think that killing animals is wrong? Because if plants do, and killing them is therefore wrong too, you would be arguing against all of existence of life above plants on the planet!

But anyway, my understanding is that pain is not felt if there is no nervous system. If i make a slide with cells extracted from my mouth, am i hurting them? There has to be somewhere to draw the line.

« Last Edit: 19/12/2009 04:37:13 by EatsRainbows »
 

Offline graham.d

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I get the impression that all discussions on this subject are trying to rationalise and reconcile human behaviour with modern, western world conciences. It is a luxury we can now afford to indulge in. As a paid-up member of the comfortable parts of this world I feel a similar conflict over these issues but also feel guilty that I am in a position to have such thoughts... I hope I'm not rambling too much here :-) Life was easier when it was believed that God put animals on the earth for our benefit.

The subject of whether companion animals should be vegetarian opens up other questions: Should people have them (animals) at all? Should there be breeding or other genetic manipulations of species to satisfy our nefarious desires? If "no" to these questions, what happens to the breeds humans have developed?

Similar questions apply to other animals bred for humans to exploit - cattle, sheep etc. Is it better for these animals to be allowed to die out gracefully? We can't ask them as in the Douglas Adams idea at the "Restaurant at the End of the Universe".

Personally, I like meat and have not found an adequate substitute. If there was one I would be attracted to transfer to it for the sake of the planet, and possibly to ease the conciences of future generations who would not have this particular moral contradiction to deal with. If the synthetic meat was good enough then I expect carnivore pets would eat it too.

As for man interfering too much in "natural" developments in the world; we have and will continue to do so. Maybe we should have a lighter touch and do so for less selfish reasons but, when sharing a planet with many other species, I doubt we can ever not "interfere" at all, either accidentally or deliberately.
 

Offline glovesforfoxes

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Quote from: EatsRainbows
If you really think that plants feel pleasure then why do you think that killing animals is wrong? Because if plants do, and killing them is therefore wrong too, you would be arguing against all of existence of life above plants on the planet!

But anyway, my understanding is that pain is not felt if there is no nervous system. If i make a slide with cells extracted from my mouth, am i hurting them? There has to be somewhere to draw the line.

That's my understanding too. I am open to the idea that there may be other ways of feeling displeasure or pleasure, however, & am looking for evidence for them. If I find it, I will become a forager rather than vegan in order to ensure I'm doing the least damage/causing the least pain that I can as a result of simply existing, similar to what Jains believe they should do.

Not against them, but against the killing of plants, sure. When you consider trampling over flowers because you'll get somewhere faster, what stops you? Is it that you think the plant might feel pain? No, it probably isn't. It's the recongition, at least in part, that the plant staying alive is more important than you getting somewhere faster.

Some plants actually compete to be eaten by animals; look at fruit. So the evolution of pain there would be.. well.. so ridiculously disadvantageous & therefore unlikely.

Plants do respond to stimuli, so the idea that they might suffer & feel pain is not as ridiculous as it might sound at first.

Quote from: graham.d
Life was easier when it was believed that God put animals on the earth for our benefit.

Indeed.. now, the evidence suggests they are not. In fact, the only evidence that suggested that they are is religious scripture; not necessarily always a good place to get your morality from.

As an interesting aside, the Biblical idea of "dominion over animals" does not necessarily imply cruel domination & never really has; there are Christians that take it to mean responsible stewardship over animals rather than exploitation of them; http://www.all-creatures.org/cva/honoring.htm

Quote from: graham.d
The subject of whether companion animals should be vegetarian opens up other questions: Should people have them (animals) at all? Should there be breeding or other genetic manipulations of species to satisfy our nefarious desires? If "no" to these questions, what happens to the breeds humans have developed?

Similar questions apply to other animals bred for humans to exploit - cattle, sheep etc. Is it better for these animals to be allowed to die out gracefully?

I have already considered these questions - in line with my belief that we should do the littlest harm to sentient life as possible & respect their right to non-interference.

I think companion animals are acceptable. This is because it is a similar situation to a baby; arguing that a dog cannot be adopted by a human mother is the same thing as saying you cannot adopt another human baby; excepting the issue of consent on the part of the mother, who would not be able to take care of all the pups anyway since the human owners would not. The main reason is that it is a reciprocal relationship free of exploitation; the animal gets food, shelter, warmth, access to mates & a loving family in exchange for the warmth & comfort you have from having a companion animal.

I do not think we should genetically modify them any more than I think we should genetically modify humans. If we do it to one species, we should be able to do it to the other. I do not know whether my answer to this is yes or no.. this is too big a topic for me to give an immediate answer to. I have been thinking about GM for years & still not really resolved anything in my head!

The animals humans exploit should be responsibly cared for until their natural death, & they should not be bred for our purposes any longer. That is a long time away I believe, but the time is coming closer every day.

Quote from: graham.d
Personally, I like meat and have not found an adequate substitute. If there was one I would be attracted to transfer to it for the sake of the planet, and possibly to ease the conciences of future generations who would not have this particular moral contradiction to deal with. If the synthetic meat was good enough then I expect carnivore pets would eat it too.

But you see, it's not really about your pleasure.. while it is important, your duty to enacting the golden rule of life in all areas of your life is much higher. You would not continue financially supporting some sort of skin cream that got rid of your illness if it meant black people were enslaved; racism & speciesism (& sexism!) are siblings.

Quote from: graham.d
As for man interfering too much in "natural" developments in the world; we have and will continue to do so. Maybe we should have a lighter touch and do so for less selfish reasons but, when sharing a planet with many other species, I doubt we can ever not "interfere" at all, either accidentally or deliberately.

Well put. There is a moral difference between accidentally interfering & deliberate interfering; I believe I've covered this in another topic, but our intent matters. If it didn't a person who accidentally killed someone & who purposefully killed someone would have done the same act. They haven't. The outcome is the same (dead person) but the act is very different.
 

Offline graham.d

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We already have and do genetically modify animals by selective breeding. I was not just meaning by direct gene modification. Most animals that are domesticated would not survive in the wild, though some would.

Pets don't get a choice about whether they are adopted by a human. Even if the relationship may not be a bad one for the individual pet, it is generally not a completely "normal" arrangement. Try adopting a wolf as a pet! Individual dogs seem to find the relationship acceptable (I asked one) because of their instinct to be subservient to a pack leader (I found this out through hypnosis).

For me, eating meat is about my pleasure (as you say) and about my well being. It is the way I was brought up. I also agree that I find it unacceptable to kill a sentient being but that is one of the many contradictions I have to deal with. You can take the view that everyone should be vegetarian, but logically that also leads to the likely extinction of many domesticated animals. It also means that dairy products would not be available, at least not so readily and cheaply. Animals kill other animals in the wild. Should we try to educate these animals about the error of their ways - I don't like to see that either but accept it as part of the natural world. Why do you think that humans are not part of this world?

If we interfere with the natural world, intent is morally important. But I have a problem with deliberate vs accidental. It would be a deliberate act, for example, if humans stopped eating meat. Also nature reacts to circumstance without moral compunction; do you interfere to stop a species being wiped out by a natural disaster or let nature take its course?

I don't disagree with your moral perspective, but I find that it is very hard to take such an absolutist view. I would be interested on where the line is drawn on sentience too.
 

Offline glovesforfoxes

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You have a point about pets. I've still not resolved it in my own head, though I'm fairly confident that I don't believe the current setup is wrong (excepting selling or buying animals - how can you sell or buy something with a will of it's own?)

Then what is normal about drinking the milk from another mammal? No other animal does it on such a scale or amount.. it's a unique trait to humans. We have already discussed using normality or nature as a basis for morality, however.. it is not a good one.

I do think we are part of the natural world, but humans are distinct from other predatory animals in that:

We can think about these things, & make a reasoned choice
We do not need to kill animals to survive & indeed take pleasure in food (I have never loved food more since becoming vegan. I'm about to make a pineapple & nut quinoa stirfry for lunch - yum!)
In others words, we are capable of choosing our own nature (though I do not believe we have free will or really even a particular nature, that obviously does not mean we cannot change)

Whether or not the other animals can or cannot is pretty irrelevant to me. I know that I can, therefore I choose to excercise that. It is better to be Socrates dissatisfied..

I was also brought up to love meat. I recall the texture of it. However, I have trained myself to not love it, & to love acting morally much more. It is not a matter of beating temptation for me, simply because there is now nothing to tempt me - I now see my past misplaced love of meat as essentially childish & selfish if it requires the killing of other beings.

Imagine you are an 18th century slave-owner. You can justify everything you do by appealing to nature, & saying that is just the way it is. That does not make it right. It might feel right, but there is a big difference between something feeling right & being right. As I've said before, you will not change any injustice in the world at all by giving up & saying "oh well, that's just how it is, you know? Accept it." I refuse to accept it. I want things to change for more social justice.

Let me give you an example of the difference between being right & feeling right - bearing in mind these people are fighting for the same end result I am. The violence vivisectionists experienced as part of the animal rights movement at Huntingdon Life Sciences - I believe one was murdered. The justification of the murderers goes along the lines of, "I killed one human, but saved thousands of equally important animals". This is obviously morally dubious, but no doubt it felt right to the person who committed the crime. I try to line my feelings about moral issues up with the evidence & what I believe an impartial judge, who can envisage the entire world, would think is best. I believe if I behave non-violently, with reason as well as passion, maybe I can convince a person to stop eating animals - & I believe there are good, independent reasons why this is a good thing to do.

Well, sentience is a tricky thing. There can be no doubt about it - if I had a gun, & a lion was about to kill a man, I would shoot the lion, & I would try to ensure I did not kill it - just disable. So yes, I consider the interests of human above the interest of the lion. However, I do not consider the interests of the human so far above the interest of the lion that the lion can be sacrificed for the potential of say, animal research or food. This is similar to the morality of wartime killing - it is fine as long as you're defending yourself, whether pre-emptively or not. I'm not sure about killing another animal for food even if I was dying from starvation, but I'm willing to bet my survival instict is greater than my moral considerations. Thankfully I will probably never be put in such a situation.

The line I draw is sentience, absolutely. I will not kill a fly if it is just merely annoying me. I will catch it in a jar & remove it from the house, the same as many people do with spiders. Just because we've been socialised to believe flies are worth less because they're dirty does not mean they are less worthy of protection - I don't believe it's okay to kill a child if it likes to thrive in a dumpster, though I'd find it a little weird.
 

Offline graham.d

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Wow, that was a long post. I appreciate that you have thought much about this and I can see the logic of your stance. I did not see you give your views on how you would probably be condemning most domesticated animals to extinction by removing their worth in society. You also did not confront the issue of whether you should standby whilst one animal kills another, like a cat and a bird for example. Would you reason that the cat is "wrong" because it is following an instinct rather than needing to kill for food? What would you do regarding, say, plagues of locusts or malarial mosquitoes? Do you not think that you are using logical reasoning to justify a position that you innately believe to be right? There is nothing wrong in this, it's just that the logic just takes you a step further but will probably never completely solve the inherent contradiction. I suppose we do this with most moral judgements although with many I can reason that the morals are part of living with other humans harmoniously.

Anyway, good for you. I will live with my contradictions for the time being but am not averse to changing to another diet if I found it satisfactory. Man's development of agriculture replaced him being primarily a hunter-gatherer and the domestication of animals was a big step forward for human society. Maybe we are ready for another step, though my tastebuds have yet to approve. I would not gratuitously kill anything but I would not be so committed as to worry too much about flies. I actually do try to release them but have a limit to my patience and am even less tolerant of wasps. Would you rescue a flea and release it to the wild? I have to admit to catching and releasing squirrels that were living in my loft. This is actually illegal I believe, so don't tell anyone.
 

Offline glovesforfoxes

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I did not see you give your views on how you would probably be condemning most domesticated animals to extinction by removing their worth in society. You also did not confront the issue of whether you should standby whilst one animal kills another, like a cat and a bird for example.

Hmm.. the domesticated animals currently, should not be left to die - we have a moral duty to protect anything sentient in our care. We can reduce populations of animals by preventing them from breeding, which I'd say is less of a right than the right of an animal to be born into the world safe if in human care.

Once again, there is no clear cut answer to this. However, yes, I would try to stop the cat eating the bird.

You must understand these aren't easy questions - I think you've already acknowledges a part of this - but keep in mind that being vegan means I am simply abstaining from all things produced by animals. I will not buy products tested on animals, though I may use it if it saves my life (& nearly every other vegan would). I will not eat animal or insect produce. Anything else is really my opinion, not really the representitive view of vegans - & some vegans do not push for animal rights, only animal welfare.

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Would you reason that the cat is "wrong" because it is following an instinct rather than needing to kill for food?

It is free of moral judgement, since it has no morals. The act of killing, if I (& by extension an animal in my care) committed it, is repulsive to me.

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What would you do regarding, say, plagues of locusts or malarial mosquitoes?

Another tricky question. I would try to prevent them from happening in the first place, or else anti-malarial medicine. I'm not familiar enough with the techniques of stopping insect infestations to know which one I would specifically use, but I would definitely protect humans & crops from them. I would try every single method available that doesn't kill them before resorting to it.

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Do you not think that you are using logical reasoning to justify a position that you innately believe to be right? There is nothing wrong in this, it's just that the logic just takes you a step further but will probably never completely solve the inherent contradiction. I suppose we do this with most moral judgements although with many I can reason that the morals are part of living with other humans harmoniously.

I am, yes, but I also believe it to be right not just because I feel it to be right but because there are good, independent reasons besides me feeling that it is good. You have reminded me of a point I was going to make - simply being aware of a social justice problem does not necessarily mean you're going to do anything about it - how many people have never helped a person in Africa, directly or indirectly? I know I haven't, yet I know it's a problem. (I will motivate myself to learn about it & act upon it soon, until then I will carry on buying Fairtrade & boycotting companies that behave unethically)

Which is why I've come up with a solution to this problem that the human mind has. Whether a dog is killed in China for food or a cow in England, or a dolphin by the Japanese for scientific research, objectively, these two things are pretty much the same, yet naturally most of us are inclined to have sympathy for the dog & dolphin while justifying the death of the cow. The problem is we feel different about this things because we have been told to; we value dolphins & dogs more than we value cows, but why? I believe it is so that the status quo can be justified, the current situation is justified simply because it is the way it is so people have to come up with arguments about why it's right to kill a cow & not a dolphin or dog, & it's usually something like: intelligence, evolutionary reasons, any reason usually misses the point that killing is killing no matter where it happens or what sentient animal it happens to.

So the solution to this problem of apathy & socialisation is by holding up acting morally as the highest standard; & what I mean by acting morally is to enact the golden rule actively in my life, whether my neighbor means the guy next door or the earthworm beneath me. To do this, I have to fight my natural inclination to selectively care about animals. I must think about these animals in order to feel sorry for them; imagine their pain acutely, put myself in their situation & ask: would I be hurting from this? That is how you develop empathy, & yes, it is the real foundation of veganism.

I really don't see where the contradiction is in my argument. Can you explain it simply for me?

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Anyway, good for you. I will live with my contradictions for the time being but am not averse to changing to another diet if I found it satisfactory. Man's development of agriculture replaced him being primarily a hunter-gatherer and the domestication of animals was a big step forward for human society. Maybe we are ready for another step, though my tastebuds have yet to approve. I would not gratuitously kill anything but I would not be so committed as to worry too much about flies. I actually do try to release them but have a limit to my patience and am even less tolerant of wasps.

Thanks, & fair enough. I do not expect the world to turn vegan from hearing my arguments. It takes time, it takes effort, & above all, it takes feelings. They are not easy to refine. Especially since we see ourselves as a victim of emotions, rather than a creator of them.. a big hurdle in stopping us from doing what we need to do, rather than what we want.

My own pleasure is still important to me, but not nearly as much as another animals right to live.

There is another dimension of a vegan diet (but not necessarily lifestyle), & that's environmental. A vegan diet uses far, far less resources over many different categories than an omnivore one. Of course, just reducing your meat intake is a start.

All of this indicates you're definitely thoughtful towards animals. I see the same thing in Don_1, an admirable trait: a care for animals that runs deep enough to act upon. It is definitely a virtue.

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Seems to me that pleasure is a subjective “good thing” rather than an objective “good thing”.  Just ask any sadist or masochist.  Or ask anyone who enjoys spicy food, or who doesn’t enjoy it.  Or ask anyone who enjoys laying out in the hot sun, or who doesn’t enjoy it.

Yes, pleasure is a subjective good thing, but it's also objectively a good thing; take a read of utilitarian philosophy & you may understand this a little bit better. It is not the only thing worthy of moral consideration, however it is a very important aspect of morality.

I don't want to euthanise or anaesthatise - pain is not an absolutely bad thing for performing it's function (get me the **** away from this fire!) but when it's inflicted intentionally & unnecessarily on animals for whatever human serving reason it is absolutely bad.
Sure, death is a natural part of life, but killing doesn't have to be for humans :)

Looking forward to your replies.
« Last Edit: 19/12/2009 18:28:34 by glovesforfoxes »
 

Offline LeeE

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The other half of this reply, which concerns humans eating animal produce, is in this topic:

You're having a laugh aren't you?

Forget it.
 

Offline EatsRainbows

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Woah, thats a lot of words! im starting to feel like i can no longer identify up from down lol!

i wanted to attempt to make a point. With regards to cattle, we should protect them from extinction and care for them given that due to us they are not likely capable of surviving in the wild, is this correct? BUT, we should also not kill them, not one of them. So what happens if they are given ideal circumstances, able to live and thrive abundantly while being protected from being hunted? Would they not reproduce disproportionately?

Might i point out here that from an ecological point of view, ANY species is considered to be a pest, and thereby detrimental to the natural world if it does not have a predator and therefore reproduces without control. There are countless examples of humans bringing a species into an environment and then needing to also introduce a predator for this species when it starts to become a problem. And thats a problem to the environment, not merely to us and thereby selfish.

Cattle, if abundant produce methane gas that is damaging the environment. In Victoria where i live there is a problem with an excessive fly population due to the cattle farming. I cant say i know what the problems the flies can create are, other than annoyance to us but my understanding of how food chains work is that excess is ALWAYS a problem.The cattle are in excess because we 'need' so many for our diets. Yet, we should not eat them but we should care for them, let them reproduce and thrive and thereby be classified as a 'pest'? that is still interfering!

Therefore, i think it is impossible to argue against the way nature really 'wants' it to be, and that is to hunt and be hunted.

I hope you can see what im getting at lol!
« Last Edit: 19/12/2009 23:11:39 by EatsRainbows »
 

Offline EatsRainbows

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Oh and by the way, myself i am a vegetarian, very much an animal lover. I don't have the stomach to look into an animals eyes and see them as a sentient being and then go home and eat their kind. However, this is because the thought of eating them makes me nauseous, i am not convinced that hunting outright is wrong for reasons outlined in my last post.

I also dissect things in the lab at uni because we only use creatures that are a pest in this country anyway so I'm not sure that i see the problem, if its helping us learn and in turn we can later go out and do positive things for the natural world.
 

Offline Ekkoe

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A little bit of ethics. More my field. I will try to show that intentions overrule results, then that veganism or even vegetarianism is ethically superior to at least facilities where animals are mistreated for production of meat or recourses, then draw a conclusion.

On a side-note, I eat meat. Love it.

First off, we should try to discern whether or not intentionality of an action is important. I mean to say that moral actions tend to have a certain for of intentions, otherwise they aren't called moral actions. For example, me walking downstairs to get me some food has nothing to do with the intentions of killing a murderer.
Very well, intentionality. Does it matter? If we were to kill a murderer, would we have to look at the intentions? Lets say we do not.
A man named X kills a murderer named Y. X has no idea that Y is a murderer, he is just a random man walking across the street alone at night. X happens to have a gun on him and shoots Y, who dies instantly.
Without looking at intentions, what do we make of this act? Y could've NOT been a murderer. In fact, there is a >99% chance Y wasn't a murderer. Yet the results were good (assuming Y was a bad man who murdered innocents for pleasure). Must we morally applaud X's actions? Or must we mathematically applaud his actions and lock X up right after, because he did not know? I think the second, I hope all can agree with me.
Lets not look at the same case where intentions DO matter. X shoots Y. X happens to know that Y is the murderer of his best friend's wife and children. X knows his friend wants Y dead, but he does not want to spend the rest of his life in jail because of his sick mother, who needs attention. X, angered by this injustice, shoots Y with the risk of jail time, to avenge his friend's loved ones.
Here we can clearly see that X's intentions were good. We would morally applaud his action unless we have a very strong disgust for murder, at which point we may say that his actions were at least understandable, more so than when we wouldn't have considered his intentions.
(X's intentions, of course, might have been bad, but that would simply make his act immoral to us.)

Now, lets look at the ethical aspects of eating meat. It is safe to say that eating factory meat, where animals are mistreated for the ends of production, might cause them pain. Should we care that they are in pain? Lets have a look.

Personally, I'm a Kantian, but it's always good to consider other ethical views as well. Peter Singer's version of Utilitarianism introduced the concept of Speciesism. He asked the question: on what do we base that a certain human has pain, be it mental or physical? We base this on his responses of fear or sadness, or his screams of pain, of course. Can we discern these responses in animals? Yes, we can. Kick a dog, he will retreat with what appears to be a feeling of sadness.
Utilitarianism, on the most fundamental level, says that the action that causes the most people the most happiness is the best action. Peter Singer puts the focus on the immoral implications, meaning that inflicting suffering and unhappiness is automatically immoral.
We can accept Utilitarianism as a decent ethical theory. Sure, it proves to have some problems, but it is considerably good at pointing out the more obvious chases at the least.

If a vegan or vegetarian has the intention of reducing suffering of creatures that might have (and are likely to have) a sense of pain, those intentions should be morally applauded. We have no absolute sense of what is ethically good and bad, but if we accept that Utilitarianism and Speciesism at least contain some sense, then the intentions of vegans and veganists are, in fact, morally good.

So yes, the best any scientist or philosopher can do is minimize the results of non-veganism or non-vegetarianism, attack Utilitarianism and Speciesism or just adopt an extreme sense of Hedonistic Utilitarianism which has no place for Speciesism, but let's hope it won't have to come that far.

Feel free to attack any of my points made.

Peter aka Ekkoe
 

Offline graham.d

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Interesting post, Peter. I worry about adopting any "-ist" position (that supports an -ism). And that does not mean I'm a Nihilist, it's just that I find it hard to take a doctrinaire view on anything. I would extend Goedel's ideas to any philosphical view - that the more rigorous it is, the more self-contradictions you find. I think Marx recognised an angle of this when he said that political systems hold the seeds of their own destruction. I think he was referring to just capitalism, but it almost certainly has much wider applicability.

But to get back to your ethical point, do you not think that we are all very privileged to have the time to debate such issues and the luxury of being in the comfort of a society that means we are unlikely to starve - at least not imminently? It is fine for any individual to adopt any ethical standard he likes but these must conform to an acceptable subset for the society in which he lives. In the example you quote you don't explicitly differentiate these cases although imply that it is right that we should have more sympathy for X in the latter case than in the first case on the basis of the rectitude of his motives. Maybe we can feel more empathy in the second case, assuming we believe his story, and maybe his punishment could be less, but society needs to decide on whether the act was a crime or not, whatever the motive. Society has to look at a bigger picture.

I think we have a similar situation with vegan-ism. I have much sympathy with the ethical view about not inflicting pain (and I would extend this to harm) to sentient creatures and completely accept a person's right to take such a position. However, I do not think that humans have reached a point (morally or technologically) whereby this can be an accepted general condition applicable to all. I think Glovesforfoxes makes very good points about enhancing awareness without enforcing strictures on others; -isms tend to drive political movements.

The bigger picture in this case is that pointed out by EatsRainbows regarding control of the environment necessarily leading to conficts in the ethical position. We are way off knowing how to handle this. Ultimately, we would end up separating us humans from all other animals and having some Star-Trek-like non-interference law. But would this stop animals killing each other? Of course not. Would we feel impelled to interfere to prevent an extiction or natural disaster in the animal world that would break that rule? Probably.

The real reason for Veganism is not to help sentient animals but to help more humans to have empathy. This was why I think that the concept is a justification for innate views rather than a wholly reasoned position - although it could also be reasoned from that point of view too. I don't think this is a bad thing - I wish more people had such empathy - but it is probably not a viable, universal standpoint. We can't even stop killing each other so the idea of not killing flies seems quite low on the priority list for me. I also wonder whether this (killing flies) should ever be a concern either given a suitable definition of sentience. There are computers that can emulate a fly's nervous system now and behave exactly like a fly (albeit a software fly). I would not define this as sentience. What about aphids - where is the line to be drawn?

I find this subject of interest because I have the inherent conflict of not wishing to harm sentient creatures but also eating animal products. If left on the proverbial desert island, I expect I would hunt to survive though, even though I prefer my food in sanitised supermarket-prepared plastic boxes. I seriously wonder whether I should have the luxury of being in a position to worry about such issues. As I said before, it is one of the many contradictions I'm prepared to live with as there are many more worthwhile causes to be concerned about.
 

Offline glovesforfoxes

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Thanks graham.d, nice post, you made some great points :)

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worthwhile causes to be concerned about.

This is the problem & root of all of it, which Peter mentioned - it's the speciesism. The idea that certain species are above others for reason X. Darwin himself said something along the lines of "levels of species are false", & I think he is right. If you fully appreciate evolution, you recognise that humans have won in terms of adaptability across a wide range, but that does not make them higher in moral value. I do not really blame people for being speciesist currently since there's a lack of awareness about it as well as very little concern about it - but it definitely is something that should be brought more to light & people should be concerned about it, since it is a matter of justice.

Because of all this, I choose to fight against the industry which causes most suffering to the most amount of animals, since humans aren't the only ones that matter.

As for what happens otherwise, we cannot morally judge those which are incapable of moral judgement. In the purely utilitarian perspective, animals killing other animals is bad, since it results in the same consequence that a human killing an animal does. The difference is intent & ability to decide. I have a duty to excercise that ability, & my intent is to not harm things, whether I do it myself or finance it. The conclusion from all this is veganism.

This is a digression, though. This topic is really meant to discuss animals commonly thought to be carnivores eating plant-based diets, & as such comes with a different set of ethical problems like consent.
« Last Edit: 29/12/2009 19:22:38 by glovesforfoxes »
 

Offline graham.d

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Darwin changed his mind on the issue about "levels of species" but I think he was right in the evolutionary sense in which he intended it. I think we do, and have to, make moral judgements about those incapable of such judgements. On what basis do you think that having knowledge disqualifies us? Unfortunately it gives us power and responsibility which we may not be able to manage clearly, but this does not mean we can ignore it or simply sidestep the issue. In any case you have made a decision, whereas I have decided that I feel it is not the time to be concerned about this. I admire your positivism but would question the zeal you have in acting on your conclusions. I certainly do not object to your personal lifestyle decisions but rather whether this should, at the present time, be a universal ethic. The Jains used to wear masks to avoid inadvertently breathing in a fly but then they knew nothing of the bacteria they could not see and did not really appreciate the subtleties of sentience, but that all creatures had a soul. Are you not really advocating 21st century Jainism?

I see we are discussing this subject in two threads. Oops! I may have got confused as to any particular subject.
 

Offline glovesforfoxes

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I certainly do not object to your personal lifestyle decisions but rather whether this should, at the present time, be a universal ethic.

Why do you think it should not be a universal ethic?

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I think we do, and have to, make moral judgements about those incapable of such judgements. On what basis do you think that having knowledge disqualifies us? Unfortunately it gives us power and responsibility which we may not be able to manage clearly, but this does not mean we can ignore it or simply sidestep the issue.

It doesn't disqualify us of the judgement, it is just nonsensical to. We see humans as capable of morality as good, those who act out their morality every day are good too. Judging something negatively for something it is incapable of doing, like a cat pondering the morality of hunting a mouse, is nonsensical. From an objective observer's point of view, the two acts of a human killing a mouse & a cat killing a mouse result in the same thing (dead mice), but from subjective points of view we can see that the cat would not consider the morality of what it is doing, whereas a human can, so a human can be morally blameworthy, so to speak, whereas a cat is not.

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I admire your positivism but would question the zeal you have in acting on your conclusions

I dunno, can you be too zealous when it comes to true compassion?

Sure, I've given up foods & animal products, but it isn't such a great sacrifice. I am not monkish, I love life, & I have never loved making & eating food since being vegan. It's easier than it first seems ;) Couple of hundred hours educating myself on different vegan matters like nutrition, philosophical positions like welfarism, new welfarism, animal rights, environmental issues, human issues, watching a bunch of different documentaries, that sort of thing.. but I'm attracted to learning about new things, so it was fun in itself.

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The Jains used to wear masks to avoid inadvertently breathing in a fly but then they knew nothing of the bacteria they could not see and did not really appreciate the subtleties of sentience, but that all creatures had a soul. Are you not really advocating 21st century Jainism?

I guess you could see it that way, but I do not believe in the soul, though I think that's more a question of semantics than anything else :) Jainism has merit, but they are not vegans; though vegans are encouraging Jains to become vegan on the grounds that it causes suffering (however small, you noted yourself that they would not even inadvertently kill insects) in line with their shared beliefs with quite a bit of success, I think.

 

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