Leitmotif

Reason as the Leading Motive

Veals Are Not Innocent

Posted by Jerry on October 1, 2007

When I started reading this article by philosopher Joel Marks, I almost felt a delightful sense of surprise. It was like a breath of fresh air after a long time. Ayn Rand has been particularly criticized for her “black and white” view of life; for stating that matters in life–and particularly moral issues–are black or white; that there are no grey areas if you look closely enough and think carefully enough, and while it may be incredibly difficult to arrive at a proper conclusion, know that one exists, it is certain, and the conclusion is attainable through the use of reason.

Therefore, when philosopher Joel Marks made the following comments that are so very similar to Rand’s own insight (although minus her unique flair and incisive precision), I was smiling in delight. Here are the particular comments I am talking about:

Life is so simple. I know somebody who complains about being overweight. She also keeps ice cream in her freezer. I suggested that she might stop stocking the stuff. “Oh, but I don’t eat it every day.” I mean, what more is there to say?

The good life, as I conceive it, consists in perceiving the truth by rational means and then acting accordingly. But is everything really so simple? I don’t mean that the right thing is always easy to do. It can be difficult to give up a habit, resist a temptation, stand up to evil, etc. I am talking in the first instance about knowing what to do to achieve these aims.

But is that simple – to know what to do? Can one just ‘perceive’ the truth of living, as one can see if it is daylight by opening one’s eyes (indeed, even through closed lids)?

I think it often is. But there is a method to it, which must be learned and practiced. Walking is simple too – put one foot in front of the other – but not at first. The rational method involves procuring and assessing reasons for what one believes.

Unfortunately, my optimism was squashed immediately thereafter. Having read the above, it came as a particularly sharp disappointment to see Marks advocating the right method but reaching a terribly false conclusion due to a failure in following his own advice. This is where he goes from the above:

The stakes are raised in reasoning when the issue is a moral one, by which I mean something that significantly affects others. The kind of case that comes most readily to my mind is the human treatment of other animals, who as a group are probably both more innocent and even more abused by us than the members of our own species.

Take the notorious case of veal. The calves are raised in pens so small that they cannot even turn around… for their entire lives! The purpose is to produce a tender meat for human pleasure. I cannot conceive of any good justification for such a practice. It strikes me as wrong pure and simple, indeed criminal (in the moral sense; but I would also make it so in the legal sense). The argument is simple: To inflict tremendous suffering on innocent creatures for a purpose that is ultimately frivolous, is very wrong. The production of veal does this. Ergo Q.E.D.

Note that Marks is not lamenting the wanton mistreatment and slaughter of animals for some pathological delight in bloody animal sports or some such malevolent end. He is railing against the treatment and slaughter of animals–veals in this case–for food, for nourishment, for the delightful satisfaction of human desires (which he calls frivolous), and even argues for making the act of killing veals for food a legal act of crime. This is a case of emotionalism gone haywire, not a case of rationality applied to reality. A concept like “innocence”–which is properly applicable only to humans not animals or even Gods–is used to confound the issue and emotionally appeal to one’s response of justice.

What does it mean to say that a cow is innocent? Does the cow even have the potential capacity to be non-innocent? Or guilty? Or sly? Or subsversive? Would you regard a tiger that killed a doe “guilty” of murder and therefore not innocent?

Marks’ use of this concept is as meaningless as saying God is a morally perfect being: well, if you mean in the way that a dead man is perfect because he can never do anything wrong, then yes, God in that sense is a morally perfect being. But, you see, it’s utterly meaningless!

Further, what about the slippery slope conundrum of the next in line to be criminalized: the slaughter of cows for steak? And then? 

Marks’ argument injects the emotionalist response to animal suffering to muddle the rational fact that there is no legitimate basis for criminalizing–or even morally condemning–the act of killing animals for food, even if it requires what may seem to be extreme measures of treating the animals before killing them. This is not to make the “end justifies the mean” argument, but to point out that there is no moral conflict at all between the end and the means.

Further, I’ve always been perplexed by the view that one can breed and eat animals as food but not breed them in particularly “harsh” conditions, and that one must treat them “humanely” till the moment they are butchered.

Here’s my point: there is no reason to be wantonly cruel toward animals unless you are a deranged psychopath with violent tendencies, which then makes you a threat to human society as well. Animals–as pets or as the object of our study, for example–can provide immense and enriching values to human life, like fostering a sense of responsibility in caring for one’s pets.

However, certain foods require a particular kind of treatment or preparation that some of us might emotionally consider “harsh” or “inhumane”, like Marks outlined in the case of veals and like in the case of foie gras.

Now, if we assume that animals have no rights (which indeed they don’t), and if we assume that the animals we breed for food are indeed going to be eaten anyway, then I fail to see the logic in depriving humanity of delectable dishes of veal and foie gras only to spare the animals (who will end up as food anyway–some stewed, some canned, some deep-fried, some dehydrated, some roasted, and then plucked, chopped, cut, diced, sliced, chewed, swallowed, etc.) of “mistreatment and harsh conditions” in the interim before they are chopped up and sent packing.

Far from being grounds for criminal prosecuting, the rearing and breeding of animals according to the necessary requirements of a particular culinary recipe is not even morally condemnable.

In fact, it is wonderful and admirable that man is so inventive, imaginative, and creative in offering this world such new pleasures of the palate to add value to our lives. Fine cuisine is inextricable from an experience of fine dining on expensive china; and this experience can function as an important landmark of your productive success, an evidence of your achievement, a celebration of your self-esteem, and a reward for a life well-lived.

Having said all that, I will whole-heartedly agree with Joel Marks’ final remark in the article, and it should be clear why I do. In typical Objectivist-speak, Marks says:

Thus, there is not only a right way to live, but also a right way to figure out what that is.

[Edit: A commenter raised the issue of “suffering of sentient beings” as the standard for determining the morality of killing animals. To get a full sense of the commenter’s argument, which is essentially Peter Singer’s utilitarian argument against killing animals for food, read the discussion below. My response takes off on two levels: on the basis of the nature of rights and on the basis of the purpose of morality. With regards to the latter, here are my views: 

A reason why suffering of sentient beings cannot be used as a standard by which one decides whether or not it is moral to kill animals (i.e., your standard of morality) is because it reverses the cause and effect of morality.

The purpose of morality is to show you how to live your life on this earth, since this knowledge is not automatic to humans. Thus, the ultimate purpose of morality is to show you how to achieve your happiness rationally, i.e., live this life happily, which includes, as just one aspect, how to avoid suffering in this life.

Thus, happiness and suffering are effects of the kind of morality you practice, the result of your actions–be they virtues or vices, which are the result of your moral premises. They are not the cause of your actions, nor are they the standard by which you determine your actions or the moral nature thereof. Those who use happiness as the standard are hedonists; those who use suffering as the standard are worshippers of death–like Christians who worship the crucifix as their most cherished symbol of virtue.

Thus, suffering is an invalid standard of judging moral actions.]

Advertisements

21 Responses to “Veals Are Not Innocent”

  1. Veal….. mmmmm… You know, I think animals taste a little better when they live a stress free life. I knew someone who went to the supermarket and said, “I only want to eat happy hens!” Veal calves’ lives are freest from any stress… they never have to do a thing!

  2. Eric said

    One need not appeal to qualities such as “innocence” to condemn meat eating in general, or the treatment of calves in the production of veal in particular, as immoral. One need only be willing to concede that:

    P1 Animals are sentient beings, capable of suffering (an uncontroversial fact).

    P2 Human beings should not cause unnecessary suffering to sentient beings (an uncontroversial moral principle).

    P3 Factory farming in particular, and the slaughtering of animals for food in general, causes sentient beings to suffer (an uncontroversial fact).

    P4 Human beings do not require meat to live healthfully (an uncontroversial fact; indeed, people who eat less meat and more fruits and vegetables are far healthier, by every standard, than their counterparts who eat more meat).

    C1 (from P4) Therefore the killing of animals for food is unnecessary.

    C2 (from P1, P3, and C1) Therefore the killing of animals for food causes unnecessary suffering to sentient creatures.

    C3 (from P2 and C2) C2 is a clear instance of a violation of P2, i.e. the simple moral principle that we should not cause unnecessary suffering to sentient creatures. Therefore factory farming in particular, and the slaughter of animals for food in general, is immoral.

  3. Ergo said

    Eric,

    Your argument fails from P2.

    Human beings should not cause unnecessary harm to sentient beings.

    Animals are a type of non-human sentient beings.

    Therefore, humans should not cause unnecessary harm to animals.

    Food is a necessary requirement of survival.

    A variety of foods is a necessary requirement of human flourishing.

    Men are free to flourish in the pursuit of happiness; choices are inherent in goal-directed action and pursuit of happiness.

    Choices in food is an instance of choice in the pursuit of happiness.

    Therefore, men are free to choose the foods they wish to eat so long as other beings with rights are free to do the same. Therefore, men are not permitted to eat other men.

    Plants, rocks, and animals have no rights. Therefore, men are allowed to consider plants, rocks, and animals as food.

    Plants and animals provide a variety in types of food and nutrients. Therefore, plants and animals are a necessary part of variety in food, since they are already permitted to be categorized as food.

    Therefore, chopping and plucking plants and killing animals becomes a *necessary* requirement of obtaining them as food.

    Therefore, chopping plants and killing (which includes harming) animals for food is not immoral.

    P.S. The moral theory of Objectivism is takes its root in individual human rights; not one some subjective experience of suffering. If you choose suffering as your standard, then you’ll have to concede the ethics of Jainism, according to which even plants should not be killed because they are living beings and can experience suffering. This is why Jains do not eat roots of plants but apologetically eat only the parts of plants that grow above ground: which means they avoid potatoes, onions, etc.

  4. Eric said

    Ergo,

    It seems to me that your response fails at “a variety of foods is necessary for human flourishing.” I think your argument is based on two equivocations and a vague concept.

    While a variety of foods is necessary for human survival, in the sense that we must obtain a variety of nutrients that no one food source can provide, it is not true that this variety must contain meat. As I mentioned, people not only survive on meat-free diets, they survive longer and enjoy better health (this is the first equivocation, viz. in your use of the term “variety”).

    While such a variety of food (in the sense above) is clearly necessary for human survival, it is unclear what you mean by “human flourishing.” Be that as it may, I’ll take a stab at it. Health must be a factor in human fourishing (however understood), as is longevity, and both are better promoted by vegetarainism. An efficient use of scarce resources is also a factor in any conception (especially a long-range conception) of human flourishing, and vegetarianism is a much more conducive to this sort of economy than a diet that contains meat. The only thing eating meat seems to add to the notion of human flourishing is the satisfaction of a taste for meat that meat eaters possess. But the satisfaction of this taste must be weighed against the interests any sentient being must have in avoiding suffering (a calf may not have rights — I’d tend to agree with you there — it does have an interest in avoiding suffering). Does your enjoyment of veal outweigh the suffering the calf endures? If you don’t like the utilitarian implications of the term “outweigh,” then think of it this way: does your enjoyment of veal alone justify the torture and slaughter of the calf?

    This brings us to your second equivocation. While it is certainly necessary to kill an animal if you are to eat *it*, it is not necessary to kill an animal if you are to eat.

    With respect to plants, since they are not sentient, they cannot experience suffering, and therefore eating fruits and vegetables does not violate the moral principle I stated above. If one wishes to restate the moral principle in terms of killing any living thing, rather than in terms of causing suffering to sentient beings, then your conclusion about plant life would follow. But that is not the principle I stated.

  5. anand said

    What distinguishes hedonistic pleasure from rational self-interest in this case, given that vegetarians lead long, healthy lives?

  6. Ergo said

    Eric,

    I did not use variety of food in the context of survival, I used it in the context of flourishing–or moving beyond mere biological survival to an Aristotelian notion of eudemonia. Therefore, it would be incorrect to start your critique of that premise by re-wording it as “While a variety of foods is necessary for human survival,..”

    While I agree that this “variety” need not *necessarily* contain meat, the point is, man is *free* to choose meat as a contituent of that variety on the basis that, like plants and rocks, animals have no rights. However, man is not free to choose other men as constituent of that variety precisely because other men have rights.

    Now, how are rights formed and why does it not apply to plants, rocks, and animals is a different thread altogether.

    If man is free to choose animals as a contituent of variety of food, then killing it becomes necessary in order for it to be food.

    What you have to prove is a normative restriction on man’s freedom to have a variety of food that most certainly *must not* include animals. In order to do this, you have to appeal to something more robust than suffering, because the subjective experience of suffering even among humans is hardly a standard of morality and reason for not taking certain actions (for example, making a criminal suffer in prison is justified on the basis of rights-violation, not on the basis of suffering of the victim, because the prisoner could conceivably be undergoing more suffering in jail than his victim underwent in losing a stereo-system).

    Of course, just because you assert that vegetarianism promotes good health and longevity (I’m not conceding that it actually does), that does not make it a normative prescription. It’s merely a good suggestion. The fact is, just as men are free to be rational, they are also free to be irrational; thus, they can also choose to not include animals as a constituent variety of food. Or they could choose to not include plants and only survive on a meat diet. Whatever. It’s a matter of choice, based on freedoms, based on rights.

    So, in answer to your question: “does your enjoyment of veal alone justify the torture and slaughter of the calf?”

    Most certainly Yes! How else can I enjoy veal without killing/slaughtering it?

    As an aside, I will say that at one point in my life, I was so certain that eating meat was barbaric and uncivlized and immoral; I was mostly taken in by Peter Singer’s seemingly persuasive arguments. And then, I left my teenage years behind and grew out of Peter Singer. 🙂

  7. Ergo said

    Anand,

    The vegetarians I know in India do not infact lead long and healthy lives. Their diets are so high on carbohydrates that it becomes really harmful for their health: high blood-sugar levels, obesity, etc. It would only be rational–from a survival point of view–to exist exclusively on a vegetarian diet if it can be demonstrated that eating meat even in small quantities is actively injurious and harmful to your health; in such a case, eating meat would be irrational, and also immoral.

  8. anand said

    Incidence of blood-sugar is high in all Indians, not just vegetarians. I haven’t read any study saying vegetarians are particularly pre-disposed to blood-sugar. Vegetarian women I know, who are active in household chores, are very healthy. May be the best way is vegetarianism plus active physical life.

    In any case, I wasn’t trying to figure out morality of vegetarianism per se. I was trying to understand hedonism vs. rational self-interest. Thanks anyway.

  9. Ergo said

    Eric,

    Another reason why suffering of sentient beings cannot be used as your standard by which you decide whether or not it’s moral to kill them (i.e., your standard of morality) is because it reverses the cause and effect of ethics.

    The purpose of morality is to show you how to live your life on this earth, since this knowledge is not automatic to humans. Thus, the ultimate purpose of morality is to show you how to achieve your happiness rationally, i.e., live this life happily, which includes, as just one aspect, how to avoid suffering in this life.

    Thus, happiness and suffering are effects of the kind of morality you practice, the result of your actions–be they virtues or vices. They are not the cause of your actions, nor are they the standard by which you determine your actions or the moral nature thereof. Those who use happiness as the standard are hedonists; those who use suffering as the standard are worshippers of death–like Christians who worship the crucifix as their most cherished symbol of virtue.

    Thus, suffering is an invalid standard of judging moral actions.

  10. Ergo said

    I just received an e-mail from philosopher Joel Marks in response to my article and my e-mail to him. I’ll first ask him if I can post his e-mail to me here on my blog. I can say this much for now that he is writing a whole book on this topic, and he does not seem to be aware of how Objectivism derives its theory of rights; given that he hardly knows me, it is understandable that he assumes I am advocating a “contract” theory of ethics and hold human rights reciprocal with human duties/obligations.

    In my e-mail to him, I stated the following, which is interesting in the light of this discussion:

    I quite anticipated the objection that I have not defended why rights cannot be “delegated” or “given” to non-human beings. I was surprised that no one raised this objection on my blog. While I cannot explain it fully here and now, I’ll say only that to do so would permit the introduction of contradictions in the practice of rights; rights are intended to demarcate the freedom of action, specifically, it does not prescribe what one *must* do, but what one *cannot* do. Thus, rights are negative in their prescriptions. To “give” rights to non-moral beings would introduce the notion of *active* duties in the fulfillment of another’s rights, which will give rise to a whole host of new problems and contradictions (just one being, where does one man’s obligations to another man’s rights begin and end?). But contradictions are not permitted in reality.

  11. Eric said

    Ergo,

    I’d first respond by pointing out the fact that you’ve attacked a straw man: I never said that suffering is the standard by which we judge moral actions; rather, I said that the notion that we should not cause unnecessary suffering to sentient beings is an uncontroversial moral principle. Having studied Objectivism myself some time ago, I knew that I had to avoid a discussion about the ground of morality as such, since it would take us far afield. You yourself admitted as much when you said that morality in Objectivism is rooted in its theory of rights, and that the Objectivist theory of rights is a topic for another thread.

    That said, I’d like to address a few of your points.

    First, it seems to me that your argument presupposes that moral obligations only arise in situations where rights are involved. I think this is patently false. If a man cheats on his spouse, we would not say that he has violated any of her rights, but we would certainly say that he has acted immorally. So moral obligations are not precluded by an absence of rights.

    Second, you say that suffering is subjective, and therefore cannot be a reliable guide for moral choices. The experience of suffering certainly is subjective — pace Bill Clinton, I decidedly cannot feel your pain. But suffering itself is an objective fact: if, while walking from my parlor to my kitchen, I happen to step on my cat’s tail, I do not experience my cat’s pain, but I know without a doubt that he experienced it. If the fact that some sentient being is suffering, or that some action will certainly lead to its suffering, can be ascertained — and in the vast majority of cases it is extremely simple to make this determination — then suffering itself, as an objective fact of reality, is much more reliable than you suggest.

    Third, I’d like to pose a thought experiment to test our intuitions about the notion that rights are prerequisites of moral obligations, and about the claim that suffering cannot be a guide of any sort in moral decision making. Imagine a man who lives alone on an island. He finds it particularly enjoyable to torture animals, but has no desire whatsoever to harm another human being (if you think this is too implausible, reflect on the fact that many people get great joy out of shooting animals while hunting — a joy that is not in any way related to a need for meat — yet most hunters, by far, would never think about shooting another human being). Just as you find it enjoyable to eat veal, and believe that this justifies the torture and slaughter of calves, this man enjoys the torturing and the slaughtering of animals in itself. (If you don’t like the “man alone on an island” scenario, imagine that this man has taken a job getting calves ready to be slaughtered for veal, and that he has taken the job because he enjoys the torture and the slaughter of animals in itself. However, as I stipulated earlier, he would never intentionally harm another human being). Your moral theory would compel you to conclude that this man is not immoral, yet you know that this would require biting one tough bullet. Also, we are intuitively disgusted by the fact that this man experiences joy by causing animals to suffer (how does this differ from the fact that you too countenance such suffering by appealing to the joy you get from eating the end product?), and it is the fact of his enjoying the process that leads us to conclude that he is immoral. This suggests that we do in fact appeal to suffering on some occasions when making moral judgments.

    Fourth, you say that suffering and happiness are the effects of action, and so cannot be the cause of an action (or of a moral prescription). This is certainly true, but it is equally true that our desire for happiness, and our abhorrence of suffering, can — and do in fact — serve as guides to action. Our actions are not taken in an epistemic vacuum; we have a pretty good idea what acts will lead to pain, and what acts will lead to pleasure, and so we can let our anticipation of such effects guide us. You yourself must agree with this, since you said that “the ultimate purpose of morality is to show you how to acheive your happiness rationally.”

    So there is a case to be made that rights are not necessary conditions for the existence of moral obligations; that supposing that the two are so connected would require you to judge certain obviously immoral acts as moral; that suffering as an objective fact is a more reliable guide to moral decision making than suffering as a subjective experience; that we often do in fact appeal to suffering when making moral judgments; and that while suffering itself is the effect of an act, we can decide how to act bu anticipating what will lead to suffering, so as not to “reverse cause and effect.”

  12. Ergo said

    Eric,

    I haven’t challenged “the notion that we should not cause unnecessary suffering to sentient beings is an uncontroversial moral principle.”

    I only pointed out that sometimes this suffering is *necessary*, like when man chooses to eat veal. Man’s free and rightful choice introduces the necessity. Now, if you had said “that we should not cause suffering to sentient beings is an uncontroversial moral principle”, that I would have outrightly rejected.

    With regard to your first point: no, rights do not create moral obligations. That is not Objectivism, nor what I said. Rights demarcate the boundaries of your actions; it only tells you what you *cannot* do, not what you are obligated to do. The notion of duties arising from rights is not Objectivist. If you have the right to live, I do not have an active moral obligation to sustain your life for you; that you have to do for yourself, like I have to do for my own sustenance.

    Second, I already pointed out that suffering–while it may be determinable in most cases–is still not a robust standard. You would have to draw the exact line of sentience, demarcate legitimately caused suffering from other causes of suffering, you have to take into account the role of free will and volition in experiencing the emotion of suffering, you would have to quantify justified levels of suffering in contrast with unjustified levels of suffering, etc. etc. etc. It’s just not a robust standard, with so many complex loop holes. And project an intelligent alien with all human capacities except the capacity to experience suffering. What moral principles would you apply to this alien? Indeed, even some humans are considered incapable of suffering; does morality not apply to beings who do not experience suffering? And what if the experience of suffering is entirely internal to the person due to some physiological anomaly, would we always have to conduct physiological examinations to ascertain as fact whether or not the person is suffering?

    Third, a man who enjoys and revels in the tortue of other animals is certainly immoral. But Objectivists are careful to distinguish immorality from illegality, or criminal behavior. Thus, as my article notes, while wanton cruelty towards animals is immoral and pathological, it is not illegal (unless it’s someone else’s animal). Also, even if such a man were to enjoy the tortue of a cow that I would eventually consume as food, you cannot transfer immoral guilt from one person to another (like the Christian notion of Original Sin). So no, I would not be immoral in consuming the meat even if I had full knowledge of the psychopathology of the butcher’s joy when slaughtering the cow.

    Fourth, here I don’t really disagree with you, except, the emotions of happiness or suffering are consequences of actions: either of goals achieved, values lost, etc. And these emotions can guide subsequent actions, but the actions still need to be evaluated by reason in a rational manner against an objective standard of evaluation; here, emotions are not primary guides to actions.

  13. Ergo said

    Professor Marks has granted me permission to post his respone to my article, which he had sent me in a private e-mail. Here it is, in full:

    You refer to my starting down a slippery slope and then say, “I’ve always been perplexed by the view that one can breed and eat animals as food but not breed them in particularly “harsh” conditions, and that one must treat them “humanely” till the moment they are butchered.” But I thoroughly agree that my reasoning will lead to more far-reaching and radical conclusions; so I don’t view your argument as any kind of reductio. As I indicated in a parenthesis in my column: “… the production of veal is not really exceptional; for an exposé of the entire meat, poultry, fish, and dairy industry, see Peter Singer and Jim Mason’s new book, The Way We Eat: Why Our Food Choices Matter.”

    I will make a second point. Your claim about confusing cause with effect seems to me to itself be based on some kind of confusion (though I must infer what your argument is since I don’t think you state one). I imagine you have in mind that rights can only belong to entities that are capable of having duties, that there is a reciprocity of rights and duties. That is a common feature of so-called contract theories of ethics. But my view is that those who are capable of duties can decide for themselves who (or what) has rights; thus, rights (or moral consideration) can be extended to entities who are not themselves capable of having duties. (Christine Korsgaard argues this forcefully n her defense of animal rights a
    http://www.tannerlectures.utah.edu/lectures/volume25/korsgaard_2005.pdf

    Of course one would still need to provide grounds for extending those rights, but this applies as much to human rights as to nonhuman animal ones. And I would say the grounds are the same in the two cases for assigning the right not to be harmed for unnecessary purposes, namely, the valuing of freedom from pain. (And I cannot take seriously the idea that there is anything “necessary” about the taste of meat when equally (and more!) tasty and healthful alternatives are readily available.)
    ===================================

    [My thoughts: I intend to investigate his position further, since he seems to me as being very sincere in his committment to rationally pursuing the right way to live. I intend to find out exactly how and where we part ways in arriving at such opposing conclusions.]

  14. Kapad said

    I’d love to put a fork in you.

  15. […] my post Veals Are Not Innocent, I responded to philosopher Joel Marks’ defense of animal rights, which is based on […]

  16. Paul said

    I find your logic to be humorous when you state:

    “Now, if we assume that animals have no rights (which indeed they don’t), and if we assume that the animals we breed for food are indeed going to be eaten anyway, then I fail to see the logic in depriving humanity of delectable dishes of veal and foie gras only to spare the animals (who will end up as food anyway–some stewed, some canned, some deep-fried, some dehydrated, some roasted, and then plucked, chopped, cut, diced, sliced, chewed, swallowed, etc.) of “mistreatment and harsh conditions” in the interim before they are chopped up and sent packing.”

    As all life is temporary, to say that because the end is death (in this case, at the hands of the butcher) the quality of life is irrelevant falls flat as an argument. You can make your points against humans being inherently different than animals, but to say it’s acceptable that a conscious, sentient being should suffer for years prior to execution and consumption simply because it is going to meet such an end is careless at best, and could lead to even further ethical arguments regarding the mentally handicapped, for instance. A non-secular stance separating animals and humans typically revolves around the idea of a soul, free will, etc., whereas a secular one will find much greater difficulty when discussing issues of cognition, mental capacity (as well as neural capacity, the ability to feel pain, so on and so forth), and the inevitable demise of said subject.

    I say that although we love to distance ourselves from animals, we are, in the great picture of things, we clearly share far more similarities than differences. By taking your logic a step further, why should the life of any animal, human or not, matter when all that remains at the end is a dead, consumable meat package. I think the realistic viewpoint would be that life is temporary, but to every living thing it would be best to avoid suffering as much as possible until death. An argument can be made against killing animals at all for food, as humans can quite successfully live without doing so. Your argument seems to disregard the original author’s notion of eating veal to be a frivolous act — the act of eating is not frivolous, but the act of eating a specific meal such as veal can be when there are numerous other options available for receiving nourishment.

    The religious argue that humans and animals are different for fundamental reasons based upon faith, which cannot be argued for, or against.

    You, an atheist, argue that the extended suffering of an animal is acceptable for the momentary (unnecessary) benefit of a human. Your arguments on cognition differentiating man and animal are perplexing. Surely, based on your reasoning, you would not object to the consumption of, say, a highly mentally retarded individual, or perhaps even one on life support. I’d imagine a human vegetable would be quite tender, wouldn’t it? If you would object to such a thing — why?

  17. Paul said

    We’re all simply animals, we’ve just happened to be the ones who’ve taken the top rung on the food chain (for the most part).

    With our advanced cognitive abilities comes the choice: Do I want to create or prolong the suffering of others whom I have control over? It would be no different than if I were to be holding Ergo in a cage, keeping him from moving to keep his flesh tender. He’s simply an animal with a larger, more complex brain. Any atheist who says otherwise is confused at some fundamental level.

    “He who makes a beast of himself gets rid of the pain of being a man.”

  18. Ergo said

    Paul, there are very few things that annoy me the most. One is the combination of stupidity and arrogance in a person. You are exhibiting exactly that here. It’s one thing to pose a question, seek clarification, or express disagreement; it’s quite another to reveal your stupidity with a ton of arrogance!

    You say that my argument is “careless at best” and you say that it “falls flat.”
    You said: “As all life is temporary, to say that because the end is death (in this case, at the hands of the butcher) the quality of life is irrelevant falls flat as an argument. … To say it’s acceptable that a conscious, sentient being should suffer for years prior to execution and consumption simply because it is going to meet such an end is careless at best, and could lead to even further ethical arguments regarding the mentally handicapped, for instance.”

    In brief: to kill an animal cannot be compared merely to “ending” a life. To kill an animal should be compared to the killing of humans–if at all you wish to make an equal comparison. And indeed, yes, if you chose to kill humans–then you would be a truly frightening psychopath if you first fed, cleaned, bathed, and cared for your human victim before you chose to slaughter him, cut him up in pieces, and roast his flesh in olive oil!

    In other words, my logic remains sound: if you intend to kill and eat animals, then why bother with the “ethical and humane” treatment of it at all? Not that I am against such treatment–infact I encourage it like any psychologically healthy person would–but I am against making this a legal issue and certainly against making it a crime against animals!

    We do not intend to kill and eat the mentally retarded humans–and neither would we be morally and legally permitted to, given the nature of human rights.

    Whether it be a human infant, a toddler, a child, a teenager, an adult, a senior person, a severely disabled person, a mentally disabled person, or a person in coma–they are all humans at various stages and states of their lives. They are humans with differing qualities, capacities, and capabilities. Various attributes of the same human species. Nothing precludes them from having all the human rights that everyone else does, except if any of them introduces force.

    I won’t add any more comments if you choose to reply. You’ll have to make an effort to sort your own questions out.

  19. Paul said

    “To kill an animal should be compared to the killing of humans–if at all you wish to make an equal comparison. And indeed, yes, if you chose to kill humans–then you would be a truly frightening psychopath if you first fed, cleaned, bathed, and cared for your human victim before you chose to slaughter him, cut him up in pieces, and roast his flesh in olive oil!”

    I think the understanding is that one accepts the fact that the animal has been bred specifically to be eaten, but it is a living thing nonetheless, and as one would not wish to suffer their entire existence, one would wish the same for the animal who is unknowingly (and forcefully) sacrificing its own life for the pleasure of humans. If you were to live your life up until the age of 30, at which point you were to be slaughtered and eaten, would you prefer to live in a filthy, cramped cage or would you want to live a clean, much less restricted and (hopefully) more enjoyable one? Your fate is sealed, but you simply have to choose between the two.

    This reminds me of the quote from Winston Churchill, “When you have to kill a man, it costs nothing to be polite.” In fact, we do this very thing to our death row inmates. We give them shelter, clothes, running water, three square meals a day, and years to make legal appeals until we strap them down and kill them. Since they’re destined to be executed, by your logic, shouldn’t we simply throw them in an inexpensive cage and let them suffer until they’re killed? That would certainly make most of the victims’ families happy, just as a caged cow will make the person eating happy with its tender flesh. Doing so certainly isn’t a civilized thing to do, and if we’re not going to be civilized, it makes it that much harder to differentiate ourselves from animals, does it not?

    “We do not intend to kill and eat the mentally retarded humans–and neither would we be morally and legally permitted to, given the nature of human rights.”

    But how can you justify the right of a human over the right of an animal? The only secular justification that comes to mind is simply “Because we can.” I’m just curious how you would distinguish and distance humans so greatly from animals that you could justify the complete lack of legal protection for them. You’ve mentioned duties and goals, yet we have animals working and bettering our own lives. In fact, I would say a seeing eye dog provides something far more useful to a blind man than an editor. What is your justification, aside from some preconceived, man-made “human rights?” To make your arguments based on current law alone is moot, as there’s really nothing to argue if we’re simply going to say “That’s how it is now.”

    “I won’t add any more comments if you choose to reply.”

    I know I like to put my fingers in my ears and shout “LALALALALA!” whenever someone tries to bring an opposing viewpoint to a discussion too!

  20. evanescent said

    Paul said:

    I think the understanding is that one accepts the fact that the animal has been bred specifically to be eaten, but it is a living thing nonetheless, and as one would not wish to suffer their entire existence, one would wish the same for the animal who is unknowingly (and forcefully) sacrificing its own life for the pleasure of humans. If you were to live your life up until the age of 30, at which point you were to be slaughtered and eaten, would you prefer to live in a filthy, cramped cage or would you want to live a clean, much less restricted and (hopefully) more enjoyable one? Your fate is sealed, but you simply have to choose between the two.

    I believe Ergo has already obliterated your position to a million tiny pieces, but when you said the above, perhaps you missed what Ergo said? It’s hard to see how, is it was directly above your post:

    In brief: to kill an animal cannot be compared merely to “ending” a life. To kill an animal should be compared to the killing of humans–if at all you wish to make an equal comparison. And indeed, yes, if you chose to kill humans–then you would be a truly frightening psychopath if you first fed, cleaned, bathed, and cared for your human victim before you chose to slaughter him, cut him up in pieces, and roast his flesh in olive oil!

    In other words, my logic remains sound: if you intend to kill and eat animals, then why bother with the “ethical and humane” treatment of it at all? Not that I am against such treatment–infact I encourage it like any psychologically healthy person would–but I am against making this a legal issue and certainly against making it a crime against animals!

    You try to compare animals to humans and say they should have the same rights, not noticing the glaring contradiction that Ergo exposed: if you were actually to treat a human like an animal in that respect you would probably be the greatest psychopath to walk the earth.

    Also, your comments above bear no logical relation to reality, and as such as an analogy are useful: animals don’t sacrifice themselves, and don’t choose their fate. They simply don’t have Rights, for philosophically reasons. The humane treatment of animals applied as if it was a Right for the animal is absurd: we have the Right to kill them, but not mistreat them?! Imagine if this reasoning was applied to humans: killing humans is ok, as long as they don’t suffer much in the process!

    As for your comments about “man-made human rights” etc – you clearly haven’t read the article above or paid any attention to Ergo’s explanation of the concept of Rights, and it is clear you have no legal or philosophical justification of your own because one for animals cannot exist.

  21. evanescent said

    *Ooops, when i said “are useful”, I of course meant to say “useless”.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

 
%d bloggers like this: