Defending killing and eating animals is morally wrong

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Bones-O
 
Reply Wed 13 May, 2009 04:40 am
@New Mysterianism,
New Mysterianism wrote:
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).
 
New Mysterianism
 
Reply Tue 19 May, 2009 01:19 pm
@Bones-O,
Quote:
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.


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.

Quote:
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).


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.

Quote:
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).


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.
 
Bones-O
 
Reply Thu 21 May, 2009 01:09 pm
@New Mysterianism,
New Mysterianism wrote:
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.


Ah, but you read into my post what is not there. I do not bestow snowmen or sand castles with moral interests since the object of harm is consequential. We do not make moral judgements about those harmed; we make them about those harming. Thus the big kid who destroys the little kid's snowman is behaving immorally. The little kid need not know, and so suffer harm, for us to make the moral judgement of the big kid.

New Mysterianism wrote:
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.


Cool. Cheers.

New Mysterianism wrote:
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.

No need to apologise. On my part, I absolutely endorse premises 1-3.
 
New Mysterianism
 
Reply Fri 22 May, 2009 05:21 pm
@Bones-O,
The forum won't allow me to edit my OP, so here's my revised argument for future discussion:

P1. Causing harm is prima facie morally wrong.
P2. Killing animals causes them harm.
C. Therefore, killing animals is prima facie morally wrong.

Some Definitions:

Prima facie: the wrongness of causing harm can be overidden in certain cases, e.g., self-defense.

Animals: all sentient species.

Sentience: having the requisite mental capacities to form desires or exhibit behaviors that indicate the possession of basic welfare interests.

Harm: to harm a sentient being is to do something which violates or adversely affects its interests; in particular, causing harm amounts to the thwarting, setting back, or defeating of another sentient beings' interests.

Interests: Interests in this context refer to the basic welfare interests possessed by 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.

I'm looking forward to more spirited debates!
 
Bonaventurian
 
Reply Wed 3 Jun, 2009 01:57 pm
@New Mysterianism,
I fail to see why causing harm is wrong with respect to a non-human object.
 
New Mysterianism
 
Reply Wed 3 Jun, 2009 05:29 pm
@Bonaventurian,
Your failure to see how causing harm to objects is morally wrong is unsurprising, since objects, when 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 question of whether it is permissible to harm sentient beings, both human and nonhuman.
 
Bonaventurian
 
Reply Wed 3 Jun, 2009 05:32 pm
@New Mysterianism,
New Mysterianism;66454 wrote:
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 "object" in the most general sense possible such that it includes sentient things also. I don't mean it in the sense of "tool" or anything like that. By "object" I mean "receiver of an action."

In any case, why should I care about animals? I don't see why it's wrong to cause harm to non-humans.

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.
 
New Mysterianism
 
Reply Wed 3 Jun, 2009 05:46 pm
@Bonaventurian,
Quote:

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.


Ignoring for the moment the fact that behavioral ethologists specializing in animal cognition have made fascinating empirical discoveries with respect to the rich, mental lives possessed by some sentient species, many of whom seem to perceive pain subjectively, let's focus on your rationality criterion.

Assuming that rationality is a morally relevant characteristic when deciding whether it is permissible to harm a sentient being, understand that this criterion poses serious problems for both human fetuses and mentally impaired adults alike. In particular, fetuses have not yet developed their rational faculties, and in the early stages of pregnancy, they lack the nervous system response to perceive pain subjectively (it's all stimulus-response). Furthermore, some mentally impaired adults are unable to use their rational faculties. So, is it morally permissible to either abort human fetuses or harm mentally impaired adults?
 
New Mysterianism
 
Reply Tue 9 Jun, 2009 06:46 pm
@New Mysterianism,
@Bonaventurian:

No response? Failure to acknowledge personal error, concede a point, or otherwise ignoring a sustained conversation when backed into a philosophical corner is indicative of typical troll behavior.
 
Dunkler Schatten
 
Reply Sat 1 Aug, 2009 07:59 pm
@New Mysterianism,
New Mysterianism;60919 wrote:
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...

But on too the points you made

1. Survival overrides the moral wrongness of harm.
all other points are over-ridden as the final point depends on the first. And anyways, its incredibly unhealthy to eat animals that have died and just kinda lain there. Human kind isn't equipped to process that, at least from what I've learned, which is a lot. But anyways, I'm open to debate here, and would love to talk about this.
 
New Mysterianism
 
Reply Sat 1 Aug, 2009 11:02 pm
@Dunkler Schatten,
Dunkler_Schattan:

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.

Quote:
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...


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:
http://webarchive.human.cornell.edu/chinaproject/index.html?CFID=43353337&CFTOKEN=64378769&jsessionid=c430413456454f7d5f40

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.
 
richrf
 
Reply Sun 2 Aug, 2009 08:09 am
@New Mysterianism,
Hi there,

Just a brief summary of my views:

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.

Want to live longer? Cut back on red meat - CNN.com

2) In some cultures or geographic areas there are few alternatives to fish and meat such as the Inuits:

Inuit diet - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Where Home Cooking Gets the Cold Shoulder - washingtonpost.com

These cultures evolved around this type of diet, and have completely different lifestyles than other cultures, so using the diet of one culture as proof that it is OK for another culture, ignores cultural diversity within the human population.

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.

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.

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.

Bottom line: I try to minimize the amount of meat I eat because I think it is unhealthy to eat more than just a bit, and I recognize all life forms that keeps me alive.

Rich
 
New Mysterianism
 
Reply Sun 2 Aug, 2009 09:00 am
@richrf,
richrf:

Quote:

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.


The twin epidemics of obesity/heart disease and diabetes in the US certainly lend credence to this first point. No disagreement here.

Quote:
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.


If an individual or culture cannot meet basic nutritional needs on meatless diets, or cannot do so without seriously endangering their health or well-being, or lack adequate alternative food sources, then vegetarianism is not morally obligatory for that individual or culture, pure and simple.

Quote:
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.


The difference between the animal and the plant involves sentience. That is, nonhumans-or at least the ones we routinely exploit-are clearly conscious of sense perceptions. Sentient beings have minds; they have preferences, desires, or wants that correspond with a cognitively experiential welfare. This is not to say that animal minds are like human minds. For example, the minds of humans, who use symbolic language to navigate their world, may be very different from the minds of bats, who use echolocation to navigate theirs. It is difficult to know. But it is irrelevant; the human and the bat are both sentient. They are both the sorts of beings who have interests; they both have preferences, desires, or wants. The human and the bat may think differently about those interests, but there can be no serious doubt that both have interests, including an interest in avoiding pain and suffering and an interest in continued existence.

Plants are qualitatively different from humans and sentient nonhumans in that plants are certainly alive but they are not sentient. Plants do not have interests. There is nothing that a plant desires, or wants, or prefers because there is no mind there to engage in these cognitive activities. When we say that a plant "needs" or "wants" water, we are no more making a statement about the mental status of the plant than we are when we say that a car engine "needs" or "wants" oil. It may be in my interest to put oil in my car. But it is not in my car's interest; my car has no interests.

A plant may respond to sunlight and other stimuli but that does not mean the plant is sentient. If I run an electrical current through a wire attached to a bell, the bell rings. But that does not mean that the bell is sentient. Plants do not have nervous systems, benzodiazepine receptors, or any of the characteristics that we identify with sentience. And this all makes scientific sense. Why would plants evolve the ability to be sentient when they cannot do anything in response to an act that damages them? If you touch a flame to a plant, the plant cannot run away; it stays right where it is and burns. If you touch a flame to a dog, the dog does exactly what you would do-cries in pain and tries to get away from the flame. Sentience is a characteristic that has evolved in certain beings to enable them to survive by escaping from a noxious stimulus. Sentience would serve no purpose for a plant; plants cannot "escape." Besides, the plant-response is a red herring. If I ate your tomato and killed your dog, you would not regard these as morally equivalent acts.

Quote:
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.


I'm not sure what point you're making here. My argument does not require us to police nature or to hold nonhuman predators morally responsible. You have no "duty to aid," say, the antelope being mauled by the lion, nor are you obligated to kill the lion in retribution. Why? Nonhuman animals are not moral agents, pure and simple.

Quote:
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.


Indeed, irresponsible meat-eating causes malnutrition, and irresponsible vegetarianism causes malnutrition as well. We should all be conscientious about meeting basic nutritional requirements, whatever our diets. No disagreement here. At any rate, whether some vegetarians appear unhealthy is largely anecdotal (the same for meat-eaters). In both cases, we need to defer to the scientific facts.
 
richrf
 
Reply Sun 2 Aug, 2009 09:09 am
@New Mysterianism,
Hi,

I think that you are drawing lines where you are comfortable but others may draw lines in other places. Some people love their plants as much as others love their pets. Some love their pets as others may love their children. These people may eat meat, yet they would consider the destruction of their pet much more than just another animal. Ditto for gardeners.

I have no idea what plants feel. They seem to want to live as much as any other life form. They seem to flourish where there in areas that are most conducive to life. Some say that they enjoy being talked to or listening to music.

People can conveniently draw the line that is most suitable for themselves and their lifestyles, but it seems that other people draw it in different places. To place oneself in the position of deciding what is moral and immoral may be more difficult than it seems. Is eating an egg or drinking dairy morally wrong. Some think so? Some do not. I just think it is unhealthy for myself since my body isn't conducive to digesting this type of energy. Excessive amounts of wheat is also unhealthy for me.

Rich
 
New Mysterianism
 
Reply Sun 2 Aug, 2009 09:29 am
@richrf,
Rich:

There's no denying that moral disagreement persists on the issue of where we should draw the line with respect to moral consideration. You seem to be implying that because not everyone is sure where to draw the line, or because they may find drawing the line difficult, they shouldn't draw it at all, or should accept the status quo without debating whether the scope of moral concerns should be extended to the interests of other species. I have drawn the line at sentience, and have provided extensive reasons for why this makes sense. The implication that we should dismiss moral discourse on this subject, or not take it too seriously, simply because there is wide-ranging disagreement on the matter (as is the case with all moral issues) is quite silly. Imagine if abolitionists had given up on liberating slaves, or if suffragettes had given up on women's rights, simply because the prospects for moral progress seemed dim.

Consider this example: there is great deal of moral disagreement about the scope and extent of human rights. Some people argue that health care and education are fundamental rights that a civilized government should provide to everyone; some people argue that these are commodities like any other, not the subject of rights, and that people ought to pay for them. But we would, I suspect, all agree that whatever our disagreements about human rights--however unsure we are of where to draw the line--we most certainly agree, for instance, that genocide is morally wrong. We do not say that it is morally accceptable to kill off entire populations because we may disagree over whether humans are entitled to health care. 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.
 
Jackofalltrades phil
 
Reply Sun 2 Aug, 2009 09:53 am
@New Mysterianism,
problems with my reply

---------- Post added 08-02-2009 at 09:36 PM ----------

New Myst......
(your quotes are in italics. sorry i cud not figure out how to use the multi quote button)

..... my argument expresses a moral condemnation of the very activity which virtually everyone engages in on a routine basis (meat-eating).

I think, your argument stems from the observation that
".....that animal exploitation has a long and regrettable history...."

Morality as a force is very much an active force powered by intellectual ability of the mind. Morality does change or let me be more academically correct - metamorphises from time to time, era to era. Beheading was a natural retributive action of human societies not very long time ago. Today it has very few takers.

If the above is correct, than I think you have a case for saying that we humans indeed exploited animals (exploitation when seen as a negative). But you should also not lose sight of the corollary of the fact, so stated, that it happened and therfore we are humans. So, I can restate the same and elaborate the meaning as: .... that the history of exploitation of animals, although regretable now (arguably ) is the reason why we claim ourselves to be humans."

Let me explain the restatement: The moment we regret, and in a regretful hypothesis, we had the choice/decision to not "exploit" the animals, then would we have claimed ourselves to be humans. Would there be any difference. And if there were no diffrence between us {or us'es! ? } than in today's context would we have taken a moral proposition that you suggest we take.

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.

To deal with the issue here, one needs to deal with your premise 1):
That harming animals is morally wrong.

When you introduce a legal term like Prima Facie, you are assuming and doing two things, namely
1) limiting it to the fact that a harm is done.
2) It depends on the assumption that all harms are wrongs.

'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.
Q1) When did harming animals became an act of wrongness?
Q2) When did it become morally wrong?
Q3) Which authority or on the basis of whose authority (scriptures, legal judgements, traditions, laws) do you state your premise 1?
Q4) Have the observation therein been consensual or agrreed upon.
Q5) Moreover, whether the Premise is assumed to be Factually Correct.

I would like to know, whether a premise at all times should be based on fact or a factor. And conversly, whether a moral observation can be used as a premise. This needs some clarification.

Since, (we are talking about meat eating), my gut feeling is that a moral observation or assertion (from whatever authority or source) cannot be used as a premise while coming to logical inferences/conclusions/propositions.

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.


Can we think of compassionate killings as moral agents. Human dietary habits ( you call it preferences for you convenience) are tradition driven, biologically driven, psychologically driven and perhaps genetically driven. Of course I agree that a moral force can change these habits in one lifetime itself.


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.

This shows that the premise is faulty.

On the issue of what constitutes a proper adequate healthy diet, i think it is relative and dependent on many factors some of which you have rightly stated. Vegetarianism is not at all a wrong philosophy.

I was a vegetarian, I like its philosophy. but does not adhere to it.



Hopefully we can move beyond the erroneous nutritional hysteria to address the philosophical core of the argument for vegetarianism

Yes, we should argue the premise more closely and see whether "ultima facie" it leads to correct conclusions. Thanks
 
New Mysterianism
 
Reply Sun 2 Aug, 2009 10:38 am
@Jackofalltrades phil,
Quote:

New Myst......
(your quotes are in italics. sorry i cud not figure out how to use the multi quote button)


No problem. The quote button is the one that looks like a text bubble, next to the mountain (insert image) icon.

Quote:

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.


The premise "causing harm to sentient beings is prima facie morally wrong" is, like all normative/ethical claims, not completely dependent on objective facts. For example, "Jones tortured the cat" is a purely descriptive statement, based entirely on the objective facts. Conversely, the statement "killing cats is wrong," is a normative/ethical claim, because it goes beyond the facts, as all moral judgments necessarily do. In moral discourse we provide reasons for accepting a particular premise, not empirical support. Of course, when some people observe cats being tortured, they express moral outrage.

Quote:

'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...



I think there's some confusion here. The "prima facie" clause in premise (1) is a provision set aside for conditions under which the wrongness of causing harm to sentient beings may be overidden. That's it. Furthermore, the premise does not assume that all harms are wrong. A mother may subject her child to the painful prick of the innoculation syringe, but the resulting immunization from disease is morally compensatory.

Quote:

Q3) Which authority or on the basis of whose authority (scriptures, legal judgements, traditions, laws) do you state your premise 1?


In other words, why should anyone care about the suffering of sentient beings? Well, the reason is that pain and suffering hurt and violate basic welfare interests; they are "aversive stimuli" or experiences that have a negative impact, are disvalued by us, and that we seek to avoid if at all possible. No other reason can be offered: we care about our own pain and suffering because we don't like it and it adversely affects our well-being. Okay, but then why should we care about other people's pain and suffering, especially if we don't even know them? Again, the answer is: "Because it hurts, they don't like it, and it harms their well-being." To this, the response may be: "So what?" But if someone says, "So what?" then there's nothing else we can offer by way of persuasion. Harming others is bad because it's harmful, and what's harmful is bad. This is a circular statement, to be sure; but the reason is precisely that it is meant to convey a self-evident truth, not an argument. Anyone who does not accept that we should not harm others simply because they don't like to be harmed, is unlikely to be persuaded by a different sort of appeal, or indeed by any appeal at all. By the way, we often call people like this "amoral" or "sociopaths" or "psychopaths."But the point here is not to engage in name-calling or laying on guilt-trips. Rather, it's to realize that nonhuman animals can be hurt, that it matters to them, and therefore, should matter to us.

[QUOTE]Since, (we are talking about meat eating), my gut feeling is that a moral observation or assertion (from whatever authority or source) cannot be used as a premise while coming to logical inferences/conclusions/propositions.[/quote]

I'm not sure what you're talking about. This is the updated argument:

P1: Causing harm is prima facie morally wrong.
P2: Killing sentient nonhuman animals causes them harm.
C.: Therefore, killing sentient nonhuman animals is prima facie morally wrong.

According to elementary logic, this is a valid argument. The conclusion follows logically from the premise:

1. A is B,
2. C is A,
3. Therefore, A is B.

So if the premises are true, the conclusion must be true. The dispute here isn't over the form of the moral argument, but its content.

[QUOTE]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.

This shows that the premise is faulty.[/quote]

Incorrect. You are inserting a condition that premise (1) never made by ignoring the prima facie clause. In other words, (1-4) are conditions under which the wrongness of causing harm to sentient beings can be overidden, precisely because I 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. You may be working under the misconception that all moral principles must be "absolute" and must never admit of exceptions in order to avoid being "faulty."
 
richrf
 
Reply Sun 2 Aug, 2009 10:41 am
@New Mysterianism,
New Mysterianism;80929 wrote:
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.


Hi,

I think there is a big issue whenever one appeals to morality, since morality is all over the place. If one is going to be morally indignant about harming monkeys, how about abortion? Are we going to make some moral judgment of whether a 5 month fetus is more or less sentient than a 1 month monkey?

I prefer to go after it in a different way. To state one's viewpoints without attempting to place oneself on morally higher ground.

In the case of animals, it certainly hurts me to see them suffer. But to expect all others to feel like I do, is probably asking to much. To see a weed pulled out of the ground also hurts, though gardeners do it all the time to make way for, what they consider, more beautiful flowers. The world is full of different viewpoints on all things. I state my viewpoint without attempting to use morality as feature - just how it makes me feel. If enough people feel like me, a new consensus begins to form.

Meat makes me feel unhealthy. To much, makes me feel sick. Maybe a new consensus on this can begin to form. The overall very poor health of the U.S. population would seem to be a good motivating factor.

Rich
 
Dunkler Schatten
 
Reply Sun 2 Aug, 2009 10:48 am
@New Mysterianism,
New Mysterianism;80868 wrote:
Dunkler_Schattan:

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:
http://webarchive.human.cornell.edu/chinaproject/index.html?CFID=43353337&CFTOKEN=64378769&jsessionid=c430413456454f7d5f40

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.

I agree that vegetarianism is not radical or odd, in fact I think it works for some people. It just doesn't work for me. I've tried, and failed miserably. Its not a healthy lifestyle for me. I hold no bias towards vegetarians, only the militant ones, which you don't seem to be, you are actually quite intelligent.

I simply think that its not the fact we are killing the animals for food that is morally wrong, I honestly think its the way we do it. We show no respect to them, respect that would be befitting, respect that ancient societies showed and we have failed to.

For instance, cows more often than not have their throats slit and simply bleed to death. Chickens are horribly mistreated before being butchered. There's no respect there, and its annoying.

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.
 
richrf
 
Reply Sun 2 Aug, 2009 11:02 am
@Dunkler Schatten,
Dunkler_Schatten;80944 wrote:


For instance, cows more often than not have their throats slit and simply bleed to death.


There are health reasons for this since the bleeding process encourages full release of the blood from the animal. Kosher butchering requires this. I know it is terrible to watch. Only certain people are capable of doing this. I am not one of them.

Quote:
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.


Yes. I agree with this, and it is part of many cultures, e.g. American Indian.

Rich
 
 

 
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