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So you agree with premise (1), that causing harm to sentient animals is prima facie morally wrong? Or are you saying that killing animals for their meat is morally permissible, provided that they are kept in "good" living conditions (i.e., happy meat) ?
I'll go further than you, since I do not rely on defining words to fit my argument, and say that causing harm is prima facie morally wrong, be it to humans, animals, plant life or animal-made structures such as birds nests, sand castles and snowmen.
But it is not ultima facie morally wrong (assuming I've inferred the correct meaning of ultima facie here - not a phrase I'm familiar with).
But then is this a surprise, since this is premise (1) and I refuted premise (6). I think you could have inferred safely from my very first post that I agreed with premise (1).
Yes, you've certainly presented a claim far more ambitious than premise (1), since I limit the infliction of harm (i.e., the violation of basic welfare interests) to sentient beings, which naturally excludes plants, sand-castles, and snowmen. Conferring moral interests to snowmen would be one peculiar consequence that results when important terms are either (i), left undefined, or (ii), defined too broadly or ambiguously.
Correct. Claiming that causing harm is ultima facie morally wrong is the same as claiming that the wrongness of causing harm cannot be overidden under any conditions whatsoever. Causing harm is prima facie morally wrong, however, since, according to the OP, its wrongness can be overidden in certain cases, e.g., self-defense.
I have recently abandoned premises (4-8), and I am going to modify the OP to reflect that change soon. At this point, I am interested in defending premises (1-3). Sorry for the confusion.
Your failure to see how causing harm to objects is morally wrong is unsurprising, since objects, properly understood as insentient matter, lack interests. In other words, since you cannot harm something that lacks interests, damaging an object, like a rock or a cell phone, is not a morally significant event.
However, sentient beings, such as humans, cats, and dogs, who by their very nature possess the basic welfare interest in not being harmed, consequently do not fall into the category of "objects." Granted, as human slavery and animal-farming demonstrate, many people mistreat sentient beings as though they were objects, resources, or property, but this fact has no bearing on the moral permissiveness of harming sentient beings, human or nonhuman.
I don't think that animals are rational. So what if they "feel" pain? They can't apprehend it. So what if their instinct is to do what ought to be done to survive? They don't understand it. It's entirely stimulus response.
I'd like to the defend the following two positions:
1. Killing animals is prima facie morally wrong (can be overidden in certain cases)
2. Eating animals is ultima facie morally wrong (cannot be overriden)
My argument makes no appeal to utility, rights, pain or suffering, but to interests:
1. Causing harm is prima facie morally wrong (assumed).
Note: premise (1) is an assumed moral principle: harming is wrong, not because it violates some right, or because it fails to maximize utility, or because it breaks some social contract, or because it is absolute, but simply because it is wrong; the moral basis for premise (1) is grounded in compassion and the recognition of the interests of all sentient beings, period. Secondly, by "prima facie" is meant that the principle can be overriden in certain cases (e.g., self-defense). This argument is aimed at persuading people who already accept premise (1), since the argument itself hinges on its acceptability. Of course, those who deny premise (1) but wish to accept it for the sake of argument are encouraged to do so. At any rate, I am not interested in defending premise (1) apart from further clarifying its meaning and inferential relationship with other premises. Thank you.
2. Killing animals causes them harm.
3. Therefore, killing animals is prima facie morally wrong.
4. Animal-eating requires the killing of animals.
5. Therefore, animal-eating is prima facie morally wrong.
6. The wrongness of animal-eating is not overriden.
7. Therefore, animal-eating is ultima facie morally wrong.
8. Vegetarianism is morally obligatory (see note).
Note: premise (4) allows for eating animals who died due to accidents, natural causes, or other sources which do not involve the deliberate actions of moral agents.
Some quick definitions:
Harm: to harm a being is to do something which adversely affects its interests; in particular, harming amounts to the thwarting, setting back, or defeating of another beings' interests.
Interests: Interests in this context refer to basic welfare interests shared by all sentient beings: physical health and vigor, normal bodily integrity and functioning, absence of pain and suffering, emotional stability and well-being, tolerable social and physical environment, a certain amount of freedom from interference and coercion.
Animal: sentient vertebrate species.
Sentience: requisite mental capacities to form desires that reflect basic welfare interests; e.g., the desire for physical health and well-being, etc.
There is much I have not clarified, but I'd rather wait to see whether the OP generates substantial interest before I provide further details. I've therefore intentionally kept it concise. I'll reply to your responses as promptly as possible.
Its a said thing that life has to come from death, but it occurs. Human kind has the ability to consume and process both meat and plants, there in it is logical to consume both so as to maximize nutrition. Did you know that vegetarians are actually less healthy than someone who eats both? Its been proven. I cant recall the exact study that showed this, but it made a great point...
1) People tend to eat way too much meat, particularly red meat, and this can be quite unhealthy. Red meat is very difficult for the human body to process into needed energy.
2) In some cultures or geographic areas there are few alternatives to fish and meat such as the Inuits...4) It is very likely that certain humans, depending upon their culture and how their culture evolved, will be healthiest from bits of energy from all life sources, including plants, fish, animal. As an acknowledgment of this, certain cultures will pay homage and thanks to the harvest or animal that is supporting its own life.
3) In order for life to exist, it must absorb life energy from other forms of life. Plants,for example, are alive and indeed have their own nervous system, albeit not as evolved as other forms of life, e.g. insects, fish, animals, humans. It is very difficult to draw an arbitrary. One can try, but it is very arbitrary and different people draw it at different places.
5) Animals, naturally, will eat other animals in the wild. It is quite horrific for me to watch, but I do not want to subject my morals on them. Should I go out and kill, or ask someone to kill, an animal that has a particularly voracious appetite. I would find it difficult to draw the line.
6) I have noticed that some vegetarians do seem very pale and unhealthy, and are not able to live very active lives, because they are forcing themselves into a lifestyle that may not be the healthiest for themselves. This is OK for a people to decide for themselves, but it is questionable for someone to decide for someone else, just like it would be questionable to put a whale on a vegetarian diet. There are evolutionary consequences.
(your quotes are in italics. sorry i cud not figure out how to use the multi quote button)
Going ahead, the main question should be, logically speaking, whether the basis on which a Premise is written is factually correct or wrong. A premise if based on unverified axioms, untruth or bias or prejudice will lead to wrong conclusion.
'Prima Facie", you have taken us into a legal and moral trap by using the term PF. Let me explain the trap by way of questions contending your premise and asumption in the premise...
Q3) Which authority or on the basis of whose authority (scriptures, legal judgements, traditions, laws) do you state your premise 1?
Similarly, our moral uncertainty or disagreement regarding the possible "sentience" of plants is no license to ignore the interests of chimpanzees, cows, pigs, chickens, and other species whom we do know are sentient (given the case studies of behavioral ethologists specializing in animal cognition). This is an error in reasoning.
Thank you for reviving my thread. If you have the time and inclination, I'd be happy to engage you in some serious ethical reflection on this matter. In reviewing the previous pages, you will have no doubt noticed that the idea that sentient nonhuman animals are worthy of moral consideration has received a relatively cold reception from forum members and even drawn considerable ire from a select few. This is to be expected, since my argument expresses a moral condemnation of the very activity which virtually everyone engages in on a routine basis (meat-eating). Indeed, few people want to seriously entertain the notion that one of their routine actions might be morally odious, especially when that action involves dietary pleasures! In other words, given that animal exploitation has a long and regrettable history of being traditionally viewed as morally innocuous--and this includes the none-too-charitable "humane methods" invented by some cultures--eating a hamburger rarely gives us pause or provokes serious ethical examination. In the West, in particular, we are raised to eat, to wear, and to develop attitudes largely indifferent to animals and their well-being. As such, it is unsurprising when some people misrepresent ethical vegetarianism as some radical, self-punishing asceticism which assumes a condescending moral highground. That isn't to say that no vegetarian has taken such a loathesome attitude, but even so, in philosophy, we call this personal consideration an "ad hominem" because it has no argumentative relevance.
Before continuing, I want to make it clear that I genuinely believe that the routine sacrifice of sentient animals to satisfy human dietary preferences constitutes a serious moral wrong and has the tendency to develop certain traits of character we ought not to promote in compassionate moral agents. My intention is not to raise myself on an ethical pedestal or to designate a particular class of people (meat-eaters) as "evil." Rather, I believe it is prima facie morally wrong to benefit from harms that are inflicted upon innocent, unconsenting, and uninformed sentient recipients, regardless of their race, rank, or species. I understand that none of this exposition directly addresses your post, but in my experience, arguments for vegetarianism need to be prefaced with lengthy disclaimers in order to disarm the would-be ad hominem crowd.
Let's discuss the question of the adequacy of meatless diets for basic human nutrition. Indeed, since humans evolved as omnivores, many have a choice when it comes to their diet. They can be meat-eaters, or they can be vegetarians, pure and simple. Let me state from the outset that I would never insist that someone abstain from a particular food item if doing so would either 1). fail to meet their basic nutritional needs, or 2.) seriously endanger their health. Here are some examples of when the moral wrongness of meat-eating can be overridden:
1. Cannot meet basic nutritional needs on meatless diets.
2. Subsistence hunting societies.
3. Lack of adequate alternative food sources (similiar to 2).
4. Eating animals who died due to accidents, natural causes, or other sources which do not involve the deliberate actions of moral agents.
The list isn't exhaustive, but you get the general point, I hope. At any rate, I agree that basic human nutrition would provide the best reason for overridding the wrongness of killing and eating sentient animals. Let us assume as a fundamental principle that no moral agent can be required to destroy his or her health and basic welfare for the sake of others; therefore, any diet having this consequence is not morally justified. But broadly speaking, does vegetarianism seriously endanger an individual's health and well-being?
While nutritional case studies have in recent years shown that meatless diets are healthy, they have generally failed to dismantle the prevailing cultural myth which views vegetarianism as universally unhealthy, debilitating, and unsustainable, making one appear pale and anorexic, regularly lethargic, etc. I attribute the persistence of this popular misinformation to two major complicating factors:
1. Some very powerful transnational corporations in the meat industry have a vested economic interest in maintaining the status quo with respect to animal exploitation and, as such, have taken measures to marginalize vegetarianism as radical and unhealthy through commerical advertising and political lobbying. These enormously wealthy industries stand to lose vast amounts of revenues if Americans start shifting to plant-based diets. Indeed, consider the tobacco industry. There exist scientific studies funded by dubious sources which "conclude" that smoking is not hazardous to your health! Check out some of the advertising campaigns the tobacco industry ran in the 20th century.
2. One way in which some meat-eaters seek moral justification for their dietary preference is through confirmation bias: by convincing themselves through spurious sources that vegetarianism is radical, sickly, and "unnatural," meat-eating becomes rational, prudential (even obligatory!), if they are to "live the good life." But with the exception of a very few people on planet Earth, people can (and do) live healthy, viable, and fruitful lives as vegetarians. Confirmation bias is notoriously common. For example, religious authority--and perceived differences in intelligence levels--were both employed as moral justification for human slavery and for treating women as second-class citizens. Tobacco smokers continue to smoke by downplaying the surgeon general's warnings or by readily embracing misinformation, etc.
Yet the fact remains that many people, yourself included, are still prepared to deny that vegetarianism can be a healthy lifestyle, in which case meat-eating is morally permissible. But for a definitive answer concerning vegetarian nutrition, we need to defer to the scientific facts. Let's do that now.
The largest study on this subject ever undertaken was conducted by Cornell University scientists in the People's Republic of China and Taiwan, which referenced over 750 additional studies in its research. According to their findings, plant-based diets not only meet basic nutritional needs, but are significantly healthier in numerous respects than meat-based ones. Many other studies have confirmed these results in various sample groups worldwide. Here's the citation for the study:
Campbell, T. Colin (2006), The China Study:The Most Comprehensive Study of Nutrition Ever Conducted and the Startling Implications for Diet, Weight Loss and Long-term Health, Benbella Books.
China-Cornell-Oxford Dietary Project:
Also check out Pluhar, who, supported by numerous nutritional studies, argues that vitamin and mineral supplementation, as well as the utilization of appropriate plant sources found almost anywhere, will alleviate all (if any) deficiencies in the shift to vegetarianism. Furthermore, Pluhar contends that the correlation between consuming animal products and meeting certain health requirements is a dubious one:
Pluhar., Journal of Agriculture and Environmental Ethics Vol. 7 (1994).
Hopefully we can move beyond the erroneous nutritional hysteria to address the philosophical core of the argument for vegetarianism.
For instance, cows more often than not have their throats slit and simply bleed to death.
Killing the animals is not wrong, its the way we do it. At least to me. After all, sentient animals deserve at least some respect.