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The Ethics Of Eating Animals
I would find it tough to give up eating mammals. I am bothered by eating pork, because pigs seem to be quite intelligent (though not enough to forgo it), but I have trouble working up much sympathy for cattle. I'm also a little off put by baby mammals (so I rarely eat lamb, and almost never veal), though that actually seems a little irrational to me. Just my own version of Leon Kass' "yuck factor" I guess. And I have no problem with eggs, though I wouldn't want to eat deep-fried chicks (even disregarding the inefficiencies of finding much meat amidst the bones and viscera). Anyway, as noted, forgoing all animal protein, as vegans do, is a very tough lifestyle to do healthily.
All these things, as Phil notes, are driven more by culture and innate tastes than any rational or ethical analysis. Many cultures have no problem with eating land-based arthropods (fried locusts, anyone), but I can't stomach them unless they come from the water. And it's not just the size.
I hope that we aren't far from technology that allows a filet mignon to be grown in a vat, which will resolve a lot of these issues once and for all.Posted by Rand Simberg at August 24, 2007 07:18 AM
Can we agree, Rand, to draw the line at eating people? Perhaps, however, we should make an exception for some blog commenters.
I heard that Jonathan....(gnashing teeth)Posted by Mac at August 24, 2007 08:42 AM
If we start eating vat grown fillet mignon, what will happen to all the millions of cattle currently grazing across the country? There will be no use for most of them, so I guess we'll have one last great slaughter. And then the only cattle will be in zoos, kept as pets by some and even a few raised for eating by those who refuse to eat lab grown beef (like me).Posted by Cecil Trotter at August 24, 2007 09:08 AM
An interesting question is whether or not vat-grown "long pork" would be ethical (no actual humans were harmed in the production of this meal). Not that I have a hankerin', understand.Posted by Rand Simberg at August 24, 2007 09:35 AM
And let me forestall the inevitable.
"It's people! Soylent Green is people!"Posted by Rand Simberg at August 24, 2007 09:36 AM
But Rand, technology is Evil! It dehumanizes us and violates the Soul of Gaia, so vat-grown meat actually makes things *worse*!
That said, I look forward to it, if only to see the tree-huggers try to convince any sane person with those arguments:-)Posted by Jason Bontrager at August 24, 2007 10:22 AM
Vegetarians and vegans alike deny their own nature. Whether you believe in evolution. or God, or many Gods, just look in your mouth. We are magically designed for our place in the food chain, regardless of origin. Humans are equipped with grinding teeth for fruits, nuts and veggies. We are also equipped with tearing teeth for meat.
If all these people are so in touch with earth and nature how come they deny their own omnivorous nature? The anti-meat. don't harm animals crowd isn't in touch with nature, they're fighting it.
If nature teaches us anything, it's that you are either predator or prey. You cannot legislate or form by petition a third possible group. Neither evolution or God(s) will allow that.Posted by Steve at August 24, 2007 11:11 AM
They will burp more methane into the air, thereby worsening Global Warming.Posted by Mac at August 24, 2007 12:25 PM
If we start eating vat grown fillet mignon, what will happen to all the millions of cattle currently grazing across the country? There will be no use for most of them, so I guess we'll have one last great slaughter. And then the only cattle will be in zoos, kept as pets by some and even a few raised for eating by those who refuse to eat lab grown beef (like me).
A few breeds like longhorns can probably survive in the wild. But there really isn't much hope for most such animals. I think a good faith attempt should be made to introduce domesticated animals back into the wild. If small populations can survive in a limited region for a period of time (say at least a few generations), then permit the survivors to spread just like any native species.
Letting them run wild sounds good to me Karl, so long as there is a hunting season. A 1500 lb Angus will fill my freezer quicker than a 200 lb deer!Posted by Cecil Trotter at August 24, 2007 01:14 PM
I've seen feral hogs, feral chickens and even feral cattle. Short of feral fish sticks that's my freezer's load out of meat. All those animals were loose in the woods or on the plains after escaping from farms. The smarter ones survive, the slow dumb ones don't. I doubt it would take long for them to re-establish themselves in the wild. Or at the edge of towns.
But brother, will the neighbors be pissed if Cecil's angus eats the shrubs!! Deer pellets are bad enough on the lawn, but those angus make big pies.Posted by Steve at August 24, 2007 03:13 PM
I combine two green approaches: Vegetarianism and Recycling. That is, I eat only animals that eat plants.
Animals have no rights. They have protections and benefits that we humans grant them, and those protections and benefits are most commonly restrictions we place upon human behavior, not animal behavior.
Why is this so freakin' hard for some people to understand? Can anyone illuminate the "animal rights" mindset for me? Something more than a sound bite.
ThanksPosted by MG at August 24, 2007 06:46 PM
I've always wondered how many of those high-falutin' vegans would throw Fido in the pot if the s**t really hit the fan.
Lewis liked boiled dog,Clark didn't.Posted by Frantic Freddie at August 24, 2007 07:38 PM
Posted by Alan K. Henderson at August 24, 2007 11:01 PM
Can anyone illuminate the "animal rights" mindset for me?
1) I don't know about you, but I make a connection with my pets, to the point of considering them near members of the family. I wouldn't want their eyesight experimented upon in a lab or placed in a factory farm any more than I'd want my children placed in an extermination camp. It's not a big leap of imagination to extend that feeling to some types of animals as a class.
2)The civil rights movement. It's impact still echos. If "other" races should not be regarded as second class citizens, then other sexes, or sexual orientations or (insert massive linear extrapolation here) species should not be as well. The idea here is that the march of progress makes this inevidible and those wishing to define themselves as "progressive" should get in on the ground floor now. The functional problem with this is that animals can't vote and hence there's not an incentive for the left to start recruiting them as a victim class. Yet.
3.)Bambi. And every other cartoon where sapient animals are mixed with a human society. Get the kids while their young.
4.)Urbanization. If have the population still lived on farms where slaughtering animals is routine and necessary, this wouldn't be an issue. So we hide what goes on in the slaughterhouses. For good reason IMO. Some people peak behind the screen and they tend to get upset at that.
I'm not a vegan, but I have no doubt that sooner or later killing animals for food will be considered in the same vein as keeping slaves penned on your property. The question is will it be implemented via judical fiat or just happen because vat grown meat is so much healthier than the kind "on the hoof".Posted by K at August 25, 2007 12:48 AM
...I have no doubt that sooner or later killing animals for food will be considered in the same vein as keeping slaves penned on your property.
That's a bit of an exaggeration, but I think the central idea is right. Keeping and killing animals is not nearly in the same moral class as enslaving people is, but many of us would probably avoid killing animals if we could. If, at some point, it becomes cheaper to grow meat in a vat, demand for slaughtered animals seems likely to decline considerably.
What about animal responsibilities?
Besides, when a lion bites off a hunk of wildebeest steak from a still-struggling wildebeest, "it's just a lion acting like a lion!" When I bite into a piece of cooked Angus steak, I'm just a _homo sapiens_ acting like a _homo sapiens_.
In any case, one thing that really isn't acceptable is unnecessary suffering inflicted on animals either before or during slaughter. This is presumably why many people - including me - are prepared to eat meat but not battery chickens or eggs, and prefer organic when possible.
I believe that most hunters agree with me - sure, go out and shoot deer for food, but if you make a clumsy job of it and the animal goes off to take hours dying, and you don't do something about it, then hunters will hold you in contempt. Or maybe I'm wrong - I don't actually know many hunters.Posted by Fletcher Christian at August 25, 2007 01:21 PM
Fletcher Christian, defends little chickens while calling for the mass incineration of millions of human beings. You are a piece of work.
My ancestors fought hard to get to the top of the food chain, I'm going to honor that effort by staying there.Posted by Cecil Trotter at August 25, 2007 08:45 PM
Those millions of human beings have a choice - the chickens don't. The choice is whether to continue to support an ideology that is based on murder and slavery, or not.
It really doesn't matter what you, or I, or anyone else in the West, think - because what needs to be done to protect the civilised peoples of the world isn't being done. None of it, including sensible profiling to direct the efforts of the TSA towards those most likely to be terrorists. (Clue; 80-year-old retired CMH-holding US generals and septuagenerian Baptist grannies are unlikely terrorist subjects.)
And because of that: Sooner or later, one or more (probably) American cities and a million or so Americans will go up in smoke - and the response will be swift, massive and final - and it will no longer matter what any of us think - and people will be saying "Why wasn't something done?"
It is possible that a surgical strike at the centres of the evil will be enough to prevent all this. There are, after all, only three of them, all quite small cities. That won't get done, either.
So a million or so Westerners are going to die first. Try Googling "Three Conjectures". Islam, as it is now, is going to die. Soon. Either it and its adherents is going to grow up as Christianity did six hundred years ago, and fast, and it's going to die that way - or it will die along with most of its adherents. Whether anyone here likes it or not.
To get back to the thread subject: You appear to condone the unnecessary suffering of millions of thinking (alright, not thinking as clearly as we do) beings so you can buy cheaper food. Cue sounds of retching.Posted by Fletcher Christian at August 26, 2007 12:52 AM
My ancestors fought hard to get to the top of the food chain, I'm going to honor that effort by staying there.
Duly blogged on my website. The comments filter doesn't like bl0gsp0t, so you'll have to Google for it.Posted by Alan K. Henderson at August 26, 2007 02:39 AM
These creatures exist because we have brought them into existence. Otherwise, they would remain bits of mud. They have the protections and benefits that we humans offer them. They have no rights, because they cannot choose to fulfill reponsibilities.
I hardly think you or I have the ethical standing to forbid the creation of these creatures.
I also doubt your standing to promote your aesthetically-based anthropomorphization of animal perception into ethical norms which you wish to impose upon the rest of us.
If you wish, act on your aesthetic preferences and release these enslaved creatures from their industrial pits of doom. Their "natural" predators will thank you.
Their "un-natural" predators will arrest you, try you, convict you, and sentence you. Then you can write a book, get it hawked on Oprah, and when you are free from prision, you can go on speaking tours. I guarantee you can fleece MILLIONS of the currency of your choice from the people who share the aesthetic preferences you propose.
Cheers, mutineer.Posted by MG at August 26, 2007 10:32 AM
The question is will it be implemented via judical fiat or just happen because vat grown meat is so much healthier than the kind "on the hoof".
It will happen beacuse we will then have the guts to show little kids exactly where the hot dogs used to come from. And most little kids, seeing the horrors, would scream for Rand's Dogs instead. Some nice reality videos to show little Dennis, under psychological supervision of course, what the Pigs used to go through.
Except for a few who can't work up an appetite without the sight or association with lots of blood and gore. Such as Cecil ;-) for example.
Such imagery already exists. If you haven't shown it to your kids, then by all means do so.
Also, show the imagery that already exists to explain what existed prior to industrial food production. Make sure you include the images of starving kids, with flies crawling across their glazed eyeballs. Or the imagery of malnutrition across the US, especially from the 1930s.
Give your kids a solid, historical context about why these institutions came into being. Emphasize that reduced food prices contributed to the prosperity that makes it now fashionable to disparage the institutions that made food inexpensive.
Or, heck, just scare their them out of their wits. Read Charlotte's Web to them, then show them how sausage is made. Or Bambi and venison.
Reduce the distinction in their minds between humans and food animals, so that when they grow up, they justify genocide as being no different than a meat-processing facility.
That way, you can bask in the warmth of knowing you have raised your own "little Eichmanns".Posted by MG at August 27, 2007 12:12 PM
MG: Sure. However, what justifies little economy measures like not bothering to make sure a steer's unconscious before cutting its throat?
And in any case - food is a smaller proportion of most people's budgets than it ever has been. Would it really hurt that much to make food a little more expensive? Sorry, I forgot - that might reduce disposable income a bit and thereby eat into Wal-Mart's profits. It might even make the average American thinner. What a terrible thing!
Malnutrition still exists in America (and in Britain). Now it's in the other direction - people dying earlier through eating too much nutrient-depleted junk.Posted by Fletcher Christian at August 27, 2007 04:56 PM
The average human rights activist kills 10,000,000,000 living organisms a day. Just no cute ones.Posted by Adrasteia at August 27, 2007 08:39 PM
Hi there. I wanted to make you aware of a great book about vegetarianism, "Please Don't Eat the Animals," by Jennifer Horsman and Jaime Flowers. It breaks down the practice of vegetarianism into four categories, or reasonings if you will: health, environment, religion and animal welfare. It is a great read and something to consider when talking or thinking about vegetarianism.Posted by Christine at August 28, 2007 10:02 AM
Hi there. I wanted to make you aware of a great book about vegetarianism, "Please Don't Eat the Animals," by Jennifer Horsman and Jaime Flowers. It breaks down the practice of vegetarianism into four categories, or reasonings if you will: health, environment, religion and animal welfare. It is a great read and something to consider when talking or thinking about vegetarianism.Posted by at August 28, 2007 10:02 AM
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