Vegetarianism and Animal Cruelty

136


Discussion by: Maxi-pad

I was born in Argentina were the cuisine is mostly based on meat. Although I am a Omnivore, I strongly disagree with animal cruelty. I don't see this being contradictory, but was wondering if anyone here can give me their opinion. A few years ago I would question people all the time about their Vegetarianism. I finally matured (only a bit) enough to respect other peoples opinions, still question them, but I am more respectful. Am I being contradictory in eating animals but standing against animal cruelty?

Some other minor questions; Do people stand against animal cruelty because we can relate to animals? in other words, Vegetarians have a diet of mostly plants, vegetables, etc. but we don't know as much on plants as we do on animals. Aren't plants "suffering" too? Its just that their " suffering" doesn't relate to ours of showing pain, expressing it, crying. Plants don't have a face we can look into like animals, which makes me think that most people don't see plants and trees suffering.

136 COMMENTS

    • In reply to #1 by Nash33:

      I don’t see it as contradictory. In the wild, animals die of injurys, starvation or are eaten by a predator. I don’t think the death in the slaughter house is any worse.

      I disagree. A lot. First of all its not the death that is barbaric but the life of animals in factory farms. They are kept in cages so small and so tightly packed together that they have to have their beaks removed or they would peck each other to death. The conditions are so poor that the animals have to be pumped up with all sorts of antibiotics or many, perhaps most of them would die from disease before they could be killed for food.

      Life in the wild can be brutal but except for the wasp that paralyzes her victims so that her kids can eat them alive there are few examples of natural cruelty that are as disgusting as a factory farm. And in any case since when did “it happens in nature” become our standard for morality? As Sam Harris points out in his book on ethics if we are using nature as our metric for morality then rape is moral.

      I agree with the OP’s perspective though. As barbaric as factory farms are I think people like PETA end up alienating more people than they convince by their radical assertion of animal rights over all other factors. I used to be a vegetarian but I was concerned that I wasn’t getting enough protein in my diet (actually it was my daughter who made me realize this she is very into both animal rights and nutrition) so I eat fish and eggs fairly regularly. I try to eat eggs from free range farms. I think when we discuss these issues we need to try and stay rational rather than emotional and realize that what works for one person may not work for everyone.

      BTW, since I’ve been eating a more nutritious diet with the help of my daughters recommendations I’ve lost around 50 lbs and without going on any rigorous diet or with any exercise plan, just eating more healthy and trying to get off my butt more.

      • I don’t think the death in the slaughter house is any worse.

        To deal with the crowding, animals are kept pumped on antibiotics. This means we get does of antibiotics and bugs have a lovely test best to develop immunity to antibiotics that later don’t work when humans need them. That use of human antibiotics should be illegal.

        Look at the cattle in a feedlot compared with free range cattle. They are covered in feces. They get a quick hosing after slaughter. No wonder we have so much problem with contaminated meat.

        Compare the look, taste and texture of a free range egg with a factory farmed one. Factory farm eggs appear diseased by comparison.

        We are always expanding our compassion. It was not that long ago that whipping horses to death, bear baiting and bull baiting were perfectly acceptable entertainments. I think people of the next century will look with horror on factory farming (and probably the idea of eating flesh other than that grown in vats).

        see the DVD We Feed The World by Erwin Wagenhofer to see how a high tech slaughterhouse works.

    • In reply to #1 by Nash33:

      I don’t see it as contradictory. In the wild, animals die of injurys, starvation or are eaten by a predator. I don’t think the death in the slaughter house is any worse.

      Death in a slaughter house might not be worse, but life in a CAFO usually is.

  1. I don’t think you are being contradictory but realize that it exists and it exists in the companies that provide your meat to you. I don’t see any reason why you shouldn’t eat meat especially since meat is one of the things that allowed us to evolve the large brains we have. However, back then we hunted and killed them and didn’t keep them in horrible little cages that don’t even allow them to turn around.

    • In reply to #2 by bjchiaro50:

      especially since meat is one of the things that allowed us to evolve the large brains we have.

      True or false, I fail to see how that could possibly be a compelling reason now. Speaking for myself, I don’t need to eat meat in the 21st century to live well and be happy. Coincidentally, the same goes for gods (I don’t need them), but that’s a little off topic. :-j

      Mike

  2. I don’t think plants are suffering, but even if we all became vegetarians, there is a lot we can do to be more ethical about our diets.

    Harvesting results in the death of animals living in the crop fields, even if you aren’t eating meat. Additionally, we’re endangering topsoil by our farming practices and the fertilizers we use are detrimental to rivers, lakes, and oceans. There’s a large dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico stemming from all the crap that goes down the Mississippi.

    I think the world would be better off if we all ate less red meat though. Fewer pollutants, we wouldn’t need those vast fields of corn (with all their associated issues), and we’d be growing more food for human consumption, rather than shoveling it all into a cow. Eating lower on the food chain is generally better.

    • In reply to #3 by Kim Probable:

      I think the world would be better off if we all ate less red meat though. Fewer pollutants, we wouldn’t need those vast fields of corn (with all their associated issues), and we’d be growing more food for human consumption, rather than shoveling it all into a cow. Eating lower on the food chain is generally better.

      This TED talk might interest you and change your mind. Grass-fed beef is healthier anyway.
      Planned Grazing

  3. A few years ago I would question people all the time about their Vegetarianism.

    I changed my diet to vegetarian originally for health reasons which includes a family history of heart disease. Could I have achieved my current blood chem. values (which makes my science-based doctor happy) through a different approach that includes meat? I don’t know. What I do know is the sound concept of reducing one’s risk factors.

    I don’t need meat. Applying Occam’s Cleaver, as it were, seems sensible to me.

    Mike

  4. The question is a real classic.
    No, plants aren’t suffering like we, animals, do.
    But there’s an even better answer: even if you don’t want to hurt plants, you should still prefer vegetables and fruits over meat. Because in order to eat meat, a lot more plants need to be killed, than when you’d eat them directly :-)
    That brings us to the environmental issue, and food sustainability. Animal cruelty isn’t the only reason to eat vegetarian.

  5. It depends on how the animals you eat are raised, in what conditions they are kept during their lives, and how they are killed when the time comes. I don’t think it is cruel to raise cattle the traditional way (in pasture, and fed hay or silage during winter) or to keep poultry in a free-range system. I do think some modern intensive methods, where animals are kept constantly indoors, often in small confined spaces, are cruel. There is also the issue of farming fish in sea-cages – some fish e.g. salmon are naturally migratory, and some species are benthic and tend to rest against the seabed; keeping these in surface cages alters (or indeed prevents) their natural behaviour and may be seen as cruel by some people. Trawling fish from considerable depths causes a lot of damage by swim-bladder pressure, and various research (e.g. by Victoria Braithwaite and others) provides strong evidence that fish experience pain and distress.

    No, plants do not feel pain; they have no nervous systems.

  6. Eating meat is not “cruel” if animals are humanely destroyed. (Which they are sometimes not, in the case of halal slaughter, and never, in the case of kosher slaughter).

    Further, most domestic farm animals would not exist as species at all if there were no food market for them. Will vegetarians queue up to build the mass funeral pyres when we turn the land – often marginal land, unsuited to arable crops – to growing vegetables?

    I am against battery chickens, and pigs and calves that never see the outside of a prison cage. But there is a relatively happy middle ground.

    • In reply to #8 by Stevehill:

      Further, most domestic farm animals would not exist as species at all if there were no food market for them.

      This was an argument I made before I realized it’s irrelevant. It’s not the lives of the animals, but their suffering that mattered to me. I’d rather all the cows go extinct than have a never ending cycle of abuse and torture. If every one saw the light and turned to humane practices I’d be less concerned about it. But the fact that food is a commodity and people are largely selfish asshole it’s not likely going to happen any time soon.

      As for the OP, yes I think it’s contradictory given the state of the factory farms and unless you know for sure where the animals came from, it’s more than likely they suffered horrific abuse. Plants don’t have a central nervous system and by everything we know about biology, they can not suffer. I think you are just rationalizing at this point. Believe me, I went through years of it. I’d suggest reading the book ‘Eating Animals” by Jonathan Safran Foer

    • In reply to #8 by Stevehill:

      Eating meat is not “cruel” if animals are humanely destroyed. (Which they are sometimes not, in the case of halal slaughter, and never, in the case of kosher slaughter).
      st domestic farm animals would not exist as species at all if there were no food market for them. Will vegetarians q…

      Could you elaborate. I though Kosher and Halal were the same thing under a different name.

      • In reply to #20 by Roedy:

        The requirement in halal is not for “inhumane”slaughter, it is for an imam to say a prayer for the animal as it dies. Accordingly, there is no intrinsic objection to pre-stunning in halal slaughter, and for the animal to die unconscious, as would happen in any modern well-run abattoir. In Britain, about 80% of halal meat is pre-stunned, and meets modern standards for humane slaughter.

        Kosher does not permit pre-stunning. It is inhumane in 100% of cases.

        • In reply to #41 by Stevehill:

          In reply to #20 by Roedy:

          The requirement in halal is not for “inhumane”slaughter, it is for an imam to say a prayer for the animal as it dies. Accordingly, there is no intrinsic objection to pre-stunning in halal slaughter, and for the animal to die unconscious, as would happen in any modern well…

          It beats me why it’s considered wrong to improve the procedure and bring it up to date with our ideas of humane treatment. Why do things in the method prescribed 2000+ years ago? Why is considered a virtue? Tradition? We’ve moved ahead in so many areas, why not this?

        • In reply to #41 by Stevehill:

          In reply to #20 by Roedy:

          The requirement in halal is not for “inhumane”slaughter, it is for an imam to say a prayer for the animal as it dies. Accordingly, there is no intrinsic objection to pre-stunning in halal slaughter, and for the animal to die unconscious, as would happen in any modern well…

          Steve, this is very helpful to know. Where did you get your 80% figure from?

          • In reply to #43 by phil rimmer:

            Here’s a link to a Farmers’ Weekly article which in turn quotes the Meat Hygiene Service (part of DEFRA) concluding that 90% of halal meat is pre-stunned: http://www.fwi.co.uk/articles/23/09/2010/123611/meat-industry-defends-halal-slaughter-policy.htm

            That said, I strongly believe that all meat should be labelled (whether on supermarket shelves or restaurant menus) to indicate whether it has been ritually slaughtered or not, and if so, whether pre-stunned.

          • In reply to #45 by Stevehill:

            That said, I strongly believe that all meat should be labelled (whether on supermarket shelves or restaurant menus) to indicate whether it has been ritually slaughtered or not, and if so, whether pre-stunned.

            Exactly so. I was contemplating a sticker campaign for my local Tesco, but now I have some good questions to ask and a possible good outcome. Thanks.

  7. That is a great notion but to me kindness is irrelevant…we should do whatever is necessary to further the welfare of HUMANS. What is the scientific reasoning for caring if animals suffer if by their suffering we can eat more, and feed more people thereby ensuring our continued existence? Should we cause suffering on animals needlessly? Again, it is irrelevant since science has proven we have no free will in the matter. We are programmed to do what we do. Predictors often enjoy playing with their food/eating them alive… And some people just like to cause suffering. Not their fault,eh.

    • In reply to #14 by Donny10000:

      That is a great notion but to me kindness is irrelevant…we should do whatever is necessary to further the welfare of HUMANS. What is the scientific reasoning for caring if animals suffer if by their suffering we can eat more, and feed more people thereby ensuring our continued existence? Should we…

      You can view the progress of human civilization and ethics as one long advancement where boundaries between deserving victims and undeserving victims get broken down. At first those who were of the same religion deserved altruism but those who weren’t deserved to be killed or enslaved. Then as people began to realize that “civilized peoples” shared many common rights very educated intellectuals in the west made arguments that we could do what we wanted with people of color, women, non-christians, etc. because they were less than human. Rights that were at first accorded only to men of noble birth or men who owned property were gradually expanded to apply to most if not all men as well as women and in many ways children as well.

      It seems a natural evolution to realize that the species boundary is in some ways an artificial one. There are various metrics where certain advanced primates score higher than some mentally challenged humans on intelligence. You could make an argument that the suffering of such primates is no less than the suffering of humans with mental disabilities.

      I’m not saying we need to suddenly accord non human animals all the rights that humans have. But acknowledging that animal suffering is not something that should simply be treated as irrelevant seems a natural step in our maturation as a species.

      Here is a paper that Prof. Dawkins wrote related to this topic a long time ago, its one of my favorites of his

    • Btw…I’m a Catholic and don’t actually espouse this view…I’m just trying to see this issue from a different point of view. I do believe in evolution, but also believe in God. I believe we are hard wired with morals, but have the ability to ignore or explain them away. How we got these morals, whether through evolution or divine intervention, makes no difference to me. They are there. Some people may train themselves to ignore them until they are practically erased but down deep every sane person knows stealing is wrong, even the thief (because he would find it unjust for someone to take something that is his). Most religions teach 90 percent the same thing when it comes to the 10 commandments (Hammarabi’s code predates the Hebrew law) but proclaims most of the same things. Even Eye for an Eye was in Hammarabi’s code. Most of our laws say the same types of things. Throughout all of recorded history people had the same moral laws hard coded in them. And like Jesus taught, it all boils down to do unto others as you would want them to do unto you. Nothing new…just clarified and articulated.

      • In reply to #27 by Donny10000:

        Btw…I’m a Catholic and don’t actually espouse this view…I’m just trying to see this issue from a different point of view. I do believe in evolution, but also believe in God. I believe we are hard wired with morals, but have the ability to ignore or explain them away. How we got these morals, whe…

        wow- “playing” we atheists, were you?
        I was wondering why your suggestions weren’t flattened before, but here it goes.
        Your idea is ridiculously easy to refute- it’s called speciesism. It’s actually what you should believe in; that humans are so different than animals that their pain and suffering isn’t as important as ours.
        I was also going to suggest that you read Anton LeVey and Ayn Rand- they would be right up your alley.

      • In reply to #27 by Donny10000:

        There are quite a lot of people who think theft is fine, since their need is greater than that of the owner. Both a starving street child stealing from a banquet and a 1% of the 1% business owner stealing workers’ pensions think this. An absolute position on theft allows one to ignore the differences between these two with respect to the morality of each theft.

    • In reply to #14 by Donny10000:

      we should do whatever is necessary to further the welfare of HUMANS.

      Which humans? And would you be OK with imposition of dietary restrictions for the sake of health?

      What is the scientific reasoning for caring if animals suffer if by their suffering we can eat more, and feed more people thereby ensuring our continued existence?

      What has “scientific reasoning” got to do with this moral issue?

  8. Read “The vegetarian myth” by Lierre Keith, it will blow your mind.
    It might be that killing an animal is cruel, but isn`t it curel to kill hundreds or thousands of unborn plant babies (seeds) in order to have a piece of bread?

    • In reply to #15 by Frank Ohsawa:

      Read “The vegetarian myth” by Lierre Keith, it will blow your mind.
      It might be that killing an animal is cruel, but isn`t it curel to kill hundreds or thousands of unborn plant babies (seeds) in order to have a piece of bread?

      that is a stupid argument

  9. My grandma raised chickens, rabbits, cattle and pigs. They lived a idyllic life. I don’t think anyone need feel guilty about the feasts. However, factory farming aims to maximise every last penny, no matter how miserable it makes the animal or what the damage to the customer health. People buy the cheapest meat. That means most meat is factory farm raised.

    The first shmeat was just demonstrated — meat grown from cells. It sidesteps the cruelty problem, and eventually should be cheaper than factory farms, though for now it is extremely expensive.

    The main reasons to feel guilty about eating meat are:

    1. inefficient use of the feed (20Kg of feed to produce 1 kg of meat)
    2. inefficient use of water (20,864 liters/kilogram)
    3. massive greenhouse gas emissions (cattle)
    4. a feedlot puts as much fecal material into the water as a small city, except it is untreated.
    5. meat is absurdly subsidised. You should not be subsidising irresponsible behaviour. It is unfair to vegans to make them pay for other people’s meat. A steak would cost $200 if the water and corn were not subsidised.
    • In reply to #18 by Roedy:

      My grandma raised chickens, rabbits, cattle and pigs. They lived a idyllic life. I don’t think anyone need feel guilty about the feasts. However, factory farming aims to maximise every last penny, no matter how miserable it makes the animal or what the damage to the customer health. People buy…

      Good argument, Roedy. I especially like your summation at the end. I hope it’s okay if I post it on my Facebook page.

  10. But why do chickens matter to us? Or a cow? Raise it, kill it, sell it, eat it. If we are going to do these things then why have a sudden bout of emotion over its suffering? We are animals no different than they are (other than intellectual capabilities) so why should we have some sort of a higher moral standard than they do? Higher Morals are for the religious.

    • We are animals no different than they are (other than intellectual capabilities) so why should we have some sort of a higher moral standard than they do?

      Well you answered your own question; ‘(other than intellectual capabilities)’ :)

      In reply to #21 by Donny10000:

      But why do chickens matter to us? Or a cow? Raise it, kill it, sell it, eat it. If we are going to do these things then why have a sudden bout of emotion over its suffering? We are animals no different than they are (other than intellectual capabilities) so why should we have some sort of a higher m…

    • In reply to #21 by Donny10000:

      But why do chickens matter to us? Or a cow? Raise it, kill it, sell it, eat it. If we are going to do these things then why have a sudden bout of emotion over its suffering? We are animals no different than they are (other than intellectual capabilities) so why should we have some sort of a higher moral standard than they do? Higher Morals are for the religious.

      the same daft argument could be used to justify murder and rape

      in my country there are laws against the mistreatment of animals. You could be jailed.

  11. Well, comments here show how narrow people can be. Practices in the US ARE NOT representative of the rest of the world. AFAIK, Argentinian beef is farm-raised, and grass fed.
    I’m not sure where the original poster currently lives, but here in New Zealand, it is almost impossible to buy factory farmed beef and lamb. Pork and chicken are largely factory farmed, but this appears to be waning.
    Personally, I have no problem with eating meat, and opt for free-range (or wild) where possible. There is no cruelty if the animal lives a good life, and has a clean, quick humane death. Plus, the meat just tastes better for it.

    • In reply to #22 by aaron.marshall3:

      Practices in the US ARE NOT representative of the rest of the world. AFAIK, Argentinian beef is farm-raised, and grass fed. I’m not sure where the original poster currently lives, but here in New Zealand, it is almost impossible to buy factory farmed beef and lamb.

      Good point. If I lived in such a place I might still eat meat.

    • In reply to #22 by aaron.marshall3:

      Well, comments here show how narrow people can be. Practices in the US ARE NOT representative of the rest of the world.

      Out of 25 posts so far, I see two, maybe three posts that touch on your point. Perhaps I’m horribly wrong on that figure but by no means is there a majority of posts supporting the shock & awe usage of all caps in a forum. :-j But I would like to ask, are there any posts in favor of a vegetarian diet that you do support?

      Mike

    • In reply to #22 by aaron.marshall3:

      Well, comments here show how narrow people can be. Practices in the US ARE NOT representative of the rest of the world. AFAIK, Argentinian beef is farm-raised, and grass fed.
      I’m not sure where the original poster currently lives, but here in New Zealand, it is almost impossible to buy factory farme…

      I currently live in the US, but I do like your comment. It is true that in Argentina beef is farm-raised.

      I like many of the opinions that were brought by people here. I see many interesting arguments.

  12. I honestly don’t think about it. I eat meat. But I can also see how being a vegetarian is reasonable.

    But becoming a vegetarian would be hassle for me and I feel it’s not worth it.if I was to become a vegetarian, It seems to me that I would constantly be thinking am I getting enough of this nutrient or that nutrient. Where as a carnivore , I just think; some carbs (potatoes , rice or pasta) , a hunk of meat(some protein and fat) and some vegetables (nutrient rich), It’s easy and it’s got all I need.

    Regarding eating meat and campaigning for animal rights , I see nothing wrong with it

  13. The hypocrisy of people who don’t eat meat is only surpassed by the meat eaters who feel gulity about doing it. If both types were in a survive or starve situation and only meat was available at the time I think both would kill an animal any way they could to survive.

    I think in Western society the issue is not eating the meat but the context in which it is eaten that gives some of us that guilty feeling. As in the West the meat is usually farmed and we are normally not starving and we normally have alternative food sources.

    Digressing slightly…
    If you want to eat meat without the guilt I suggest you go hunting with only a knife and eat only what you kill. I suppose there is the anology of the ‘fair fight in the playground’ us ‘decent’ humans adhere to, rather than an unfair one. People don’t feel guilt if the fight is fair. This is why when I was younger and would hunt rabbits near my uncles farm I would never take a shot if the kill was to easy as it felt cruel somehow compared to a really difficult shot. And yes I did eat the rabbit. On the other hand though my twin brother would just shot at point blank range.

    • Apeshit,

      This is not a survival of the fittest question. There is no hypocrisy in it. We in the west have a choice in what we eat and have the means to source our food as we want. If someone does not wan’t to eat an animal for whatever reason then they don’t have to.

      In reply to #31 by Apeshit:

      The hypocrisy of people who don’t eat meat is only surpassed by the meat eaters who feel gulity about doing it. If both types were in a survive or starve situation and only meat was available at the time I think both would kill an animal any way they could to survive.

      I think in Western society the…

    • In reply to #31 by Apeshit:

      If you want to eat meat without the guilt I suggest you go hunting with only a knife and eat only what you kill.

      That’s crazy. That would almost certainly mean a very messy and agonizing death for the animal. Even most hunters will agree you need to be extremely cruel to do something like that.

      • In reply to #35 by Nigel S:

        In reply to #31 by Apeshit:

        If you want to eat meat without the guilt I suggest you go hunting with only a knife and eat only what you kill.

        That’s crazy. That would almost certainly mean a very messy and agonizing death for the animal. Even most hunters will agree you need to be extremely cruel t…

        Agreed. Use a High caliber supersonic rifle. The animal won’t even know what happened.

        • In reply to #36 by zengardener:

          Agreed. Use a High caliber supersonic rifle. The animal won’t even know what happened

          The way I understand it, hunters will usually try and puncture the animal’s lungs and it dies by drowning in its own blood. It takes a few minutes and it’s certainly painful. Would it necessarily make the meat unsafe to eat if they used tranquilizers and then killed them painlessly like they do farm animals? Lead bullets will contaminate the meat and people aren’t that fussed about that. If anyone reading knows, please tell.

          In reply to #38 by Skeptic:

          Look up Peter Singer’s Expanding Moral Circles.

          Will do.

  14. The “being on the right side of history argument” for vegetarianism is one I’ve never seen, and I’m not sure why exactly.

    I think it’s a useful exercise to try and imagine what the end game for the rise in vegetarianism is. Will it decline, plateau or eventually reach some point of critical mass? The latter only need to happen once and these kinds of things are pretty much irreversible. There has been a steady moral evolution during the entire human history (read Steven Pinker’s The Better Angels of Our Nature) and it’s still going on. Which is a very good thing, but the price of moral evolution is there’s almost certainly things we’re doing today that will make us look like total monsters by later generations and it’s hard to anticipate exactly what it is. Well, it may be the eating of the flesh of fellow conscious creatures, certainly torturing them in factory farms. If history is any guide, if most reasonable people are slightly uncomfortable with factory farming (i.e. almost all meat eating in the west), our descendants will be absolutely appalled and disgusted. I don’t want them to see me like that.

    • In reply to #34 by Nigel S:

      The “being on the right side of history argument” for vegetarianism is one I’ve never seen, and I’m not sure why exactly.

      Look up Peter Singer’s Expanding Moral Circles. Pinker mentions it in his book. If we don’t devolve into chaos, it will be only natural that we start giving animals more moral consideration as we’ve already done. At some point I can see critical mass of awareness of animal sentience and keeping animals for sustenance, which is unnecessary, will start to feel repugnant as it does now to many.

  15. In reply to #39 by Nigel S:

    In reply to #36 by zengardener:

    Agreed. Use a High caliber supersonic rifle. The animal won’t even know what happened

    The way I understand it, hunters will usually try and puncture the animal’s lungs and it dies by drowning in its own blood. It takes a few minutes and it’s certainly painful. Would…

    A good hunter will go for a head shot rather than damage more edible tissue – and it is more humane. I have never heard of a “lung shot” being preferred, and suspect you are a victim of some lurid internet conspiracy theory on this one.

    A lead bullet will not poison a carcass. Lead has to be ingested by a living system over months or years to achieve that. Game birds are routinely peppered with lead shot. I have sometimes picked such pellets out of a portion of cooked meat on my dinner plate. If there were any serious health hazard, we’d know about it by now.

  16. I saw a documentary recently stating that surplus halal and kosher meat is put on supermarket shelves unlabeled. I think a sticker attesting to the fact that it had been pre stunned would be very welcome. I don’t think anyone (?) would relish the thought that their meat had been killed in an inhumane way….unless instructed to do so by their religion, of course.

  17. In reply to #44 by Stevehill:

    A good hunter will go for a head shot rather than damage more edible tissue – and it is more humane. I have never heard of a “lung shot” being preferred, and suspect you are a victim of some lurid internet conspiracy theory on this one.

    Most hunters aren’t that good. A vast majority of hunters aim for for the heart-lung area because it’s a bigger target.

    Shooting At Deer From Different Angles

    How to Hunt Deer : Where to Shoot a Deer for Deer Hunting

    Shot Placement On Whitetail Deer

    Use Your Head, and Avoid Head Shots

    Hunting roebucks, 5 kills, produced by Kristoffer Clausen

    Where to Shoot a Deer for One-Shot Kills

    A lead bullet will not poison a carcass. Lead has to be ingested by a living system over months or years to achieve that. Game birds are routinely peppered with lead shot. I have sometimes picked such pellets out of a portion of cooked meat on my dinner plate. If there were any serious health hazard, we’d know about it by now.

    You don’t get all the lead out of the carcass. The health risk is serious if you eat leadshot game frequently, say once a week, especially for vulnerable groups, like small children.

    Limit amount of game meat eaten due to lead shot residue, it has been warned

    Wild Meat Raises Lead Exposure

  18. In reply to #39 by Nigel S:

    hunters will usually try and puncture the animal’s lungs

    When I was thinking of a way to respond to your post I was reminded of Richard Feynman’s reply when he was asked “why do magnets attract?” That’s a question with a multi-layered answer depending how much you want to know and what you are capable of understanding. Likewise, there are many variables to consider regarding your hunting questions: species, shell caliber, distance, and terrain (among others). Head shots and other vital body area shots make sense for different reasons depending on those variables.

    Tranquilizing animals before killing them is not an option for animals meant for human consumption. And even if there was a cocktail that didn’t pose a human health risk and was available without a DEA license, there are all sorts of problems and challenges with controlled substances.

    What do you think of these two quotes by Spanish philosopher and hunter, Jose’ Ortega y Gasset:

    “Pushed by reason, man is condemned to make progress, and this means that he is condemned to go farther and farther away from Nature, to construct in its place an artificial Nature. Now it is clear why I said earlier that, far from hunting’s being a “reasoned pursuit” of the animal, the greatest enemy of hunting is reason.”

    and

    one does not hunt in order to kill; on the contrary, one kills in order to have hunted

    Mike

  19. In reply to #44 by Stevehill:

    A good hunter will go for a head shot rather than damage more edible tissue – and it is more humane. I have never heard of a “lung shot” being preferred, and suspect you are a victim of some lurid internet conspiracy theory on this one.

    Most hunters aren’t that good. A vast majority of hunters aim for the heart-lung area because it’s a bigger target.

    Shooting At Deer From Different Angles

    Shot Placement On Whitetail Deer

    Hunting roebucks, 5 kills, produced by Kristoffer Clausen

    Where to Shoot a Deer for One-Shot Kills

    How to Hunt Deer : Where to Shoot a Deer for Deer Hunting

    Use Your Head, and Avoid Head Shots

    A lead bullet will not poison a carcass. Lead has to be ingested by a living system over months or years to achieve that. Game birds are routinely peppered with lead shot. I have sometimes picked such pellets out of a portion of cooked meat on my dinner plate. If there were any serious health hazard, we’d know about it by now.

    You don’t get all the lead out of the carcass. The health risk is serious if you eat leadshot game frequently, say once a week, especially for vulnerable groups, like small children.

    Limit amount of game meat eaten due to lead shot residue, it has been warned

    Wild Meat Raises Lead Exposure

      • In reply to #128 by Roedy:

        I would think people who mount deer heads for their antlers would not aim for the head.

        Just a few things (some of which may or may not apply to your actual post, but are being mentioned because your post reminds me of a few things).

        All US States have laws requiring the salvage of meat so trophy hunting as in Buffalo Bill days is banned. You can’t lop off the head and leave the meat without risk of consequences.

        In the case of Alaskan Dall Sheep and Rocky Mountain Big Horns, if hunting is going to be maintained as a legal activity, it makes ecological sense to kill the oldest member of a group who also will typically have the largest horns. The reason being that he has had maximal time to spread his superior genes and will likely die the coming winter, whereas if a younger (just barely legal animal which is determined by horn size) animal is killed, you’ve essentially taken two rams from the herd: the youngster who could have bred a few more years and the old one who won’t live past his 14th-15th birthday that winter.

        This rationale does not work for all animals, but in wild rams it does because it’s one of the few game animals whose quality of meat does not deteriorate with age.

        And finally, unless it’s a European mount (emphasis on the skull being displayed) taxidermists typically don’t use the actual skull but rather a plastic mold so bullet damage is moot.

        Cheers,

        Mike

  20. Am I being contradictory in eating animals but standing against animal cruelty?

    No, in my opinion. It’s an inevitable compromise.

    Cruelty is optional. And in theory it shouldn’t be all that difficult to eliminate. Possibly it’s a similar issue to fatal road accidents – preventable but politically intractable. But eating meat might not really be optional. Those relatively few folks who make a conscious decision to either be a vegetarian or an omnivore I think are focusing mostly on their perceptions (or misconceptions) of personal health impact. The ethical aspects, mainly of vegetarians, being something of a rationalisation. Like if it were ever proven that plants suffered horrendous emotional stress, exceeding that of animals when harvested, I don’t think it would have much of an impact on most vegetarians’ choices of food.

    To put it in perspective you need an upper bound reference for the ethics of cruelty and a lower bound on the morality of eating animals.

    Cruelty is easy:

    Inflicting torture on humans might be the upper limit. Humans being the most intelligent and presumably the most capable of suffering. Torture has evolved over millennia, with its ultimate institutional form mostly now found in the Islamic world. Though as an imported technology, seeing as these techniques were perfected mainly by US government agencies in the mid 20th century, with the aid of modern scientific psychology. The Arab world simply adopting various recommendations via external consultants during the cold war era. (More or less the same thing as US economists recommending banking practises and monetary policy – potentially with even worse outcomes for the average victim.)

    Some cultures are obviously more oriented towards torture than others. E.g. the English and their practise of drawing and quartering, flogging around the fleet, and kangaroo courts followed by the routine thrashing to death of peasants transported to Australian penal ‘settlements’.

    According to the golden rule of ethics it might be difficult to consider current industrial abattoir practises as being other than what humans would otherwise be willing to inflict upon our own species. Anything less than whipping to death combined with public humiliation is getting off lightly for future steaks and sausages.

    The morality of consuming animal meat might be lower bounded by the practise of cannibalism.

    One might consider morally repulsive activities like picking and eating one’s nasal secretions, or eating one’s own earwax (as the Australian Prime Minister once demonstrated on public television) comparable to directly eating human flesh. Even if that flesh was one’s own. E.g. via cloning and farming of one’s genetically identical human bodies – presumably with the aid of designer drugs (not all that different to livestock dosing with antibiotics) applied to prevent the development of human-like intelligence in such domesticated and cloned human livestock. Seeing as lab produced artificial meat is now possible, it might only be a small step to produce similarly processed foods based on human cells.

    Though lab meat would be less useful than real cloned, but pharmaceutically stupefied and docile, real humans, who could also potentially be employed in various other uses. Just like purpose bred oxen can also be used for plowing as well as for fillet steaks. You could see potential human applications here in political and religious situations.

    There may be nutritional problem though, as for vegetarians, caused by the excessive consumption of cloned human flesh. It would seem that human meat would surely be the ideal combination of micro-nutrients and protein diversity to ideally suit human nutrition. However human physiology is much more complex than it seems. Just as cattle fed on cattle feed made from actual cattle has proven to be a problem via previously unrecognised parasite lifeforms.

    There are likely to be micronutrients in red meat, obtained via more traditional non-human prey species sources, which may be very important for long-term human health. Carnosine may be a good example. This particular micro-nutrient may play an important role in mitigating protein glycation caused by relatively high carbohydrate consumption combined with relatively low rates of exercise. i.e. Exercise rates that are normal for many sedentary humans. Compared to what might be expected of primitive humans where high energy output e.g. from scavenging, hunting, fetching water & firewood, combined with widely varying seasonal diets and occasional periods of starvation were probably the normal nutritional situation.

    Limiting red meat in the diet, in favour of superficially cheaper and more convenient grain-derived carbohydrates (i.e. grass seeds), may yet turn out to be the ultimate cause of cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and just about all other degenerative non-infectious or auto-immune metabolic diseases. Reason being that grasses evolve so very rapidly, and are extremely effective in producing ‘anti-nutrients’ which produce harmful consequences to deter predators. Humans have invented food technology to remove some of these deterrent effects, though not necessarily by also removing the actual harmful impact. Limiting red meat therefore may have multiple negative impacts.

    Meat is expensive and there’s a close link with low income and poor health. So there’s likely to be other important micro-nutrients in meat yet to be discovered. At present there just isn’t enough information about the long-term impact of various dietary components. Hence the concept of the paleo diet – which involves more or less eliminating most stuff that could be potentially an adaptation problem, adding some things back in slowly, and seeing where it ends up.

    Typically the outcome is that people seem to do better on a higher fat, lower carbohydrate diets. Alternatively people also do very well on a high carb, low fat diet, provided the source of carbs is not heavily grain based and/or the individual is very active physically. (Or very inactive, in which case the volume of grain-based foods to meet energy needs may be too low to cause metabolic diseases.)

    Main issues with diet and long-term health seem to be in between these extremes. You can probably eat lots of grain-based foods, provided they are whole grains which tend to pass straight through into the faeces without being fully digested. Kind of similar to coating individual sugar grains in a layer of indigestible plastic to enable the increased consumption of table sugar. No doubt some processed food lab somewhere is already working on this one. Alternatively you can exercise a great deal, which will greatly mitigate the exposure to dietary causes of protein glycation.

    Regarding the sedentary lifestyle someone mentioned earlier (which may ultimately be the major cause of the health shocks that convince many people to attempt nutritional remedies):

    I’ve been experimenting with a quick fix for sedentary living. It seems to work very well. Unless you’re operating some kind of specialist machinery then, if you normally spend way too much time sitting down at a conventional work desk, you can just raise the level of your main work surface so that you spend your time standing instead of sitting.

    Can be done extremely cheaply if you have access to Ikea: Just make up a regular cheap table, but hacksaw the legs to suit the measured height from your existing normal level desktop to your elbow height, and stick some rubber feet on the bottom of the shortened legs to prevent slipping (buy from any hardware store). Place this coffee table height desktop on top of your regular desk and place your stuff like PCs, phones, and documents on top to form a light weight standing desk.

    Any issues and you can just lift the upper desk level away, set it aside, and sit down as usual. At worst you’ll end up with a cheap coffee table that may be useful anyway. At best you’ll end up feeling very much more energetic, plus will eliminate the urge for disruptive breaks to go out and walk around.

    Recent research (see one of the latest New Scientist issues) indicates that no amount of sensible nutrition or exercise can compensate the negative health impact of prolonged sitting.

    • Am I being contradictory in eating animals but standing against animal cruelty?

      Strictly speaking, no. Cruelty, as I understand it, is the inflicting of harm and suffering onto a sensing life form while it is still alive. It has nothing to do with actual killing, unless you make the death a painful last experience. However, it’s worth asking whether refusing to inflict harm on an organism, but nevertheless killing such an organism, is a defensible position.

      Some other minor questions; Do people stand against animal cruelty because we can relate to animals? in other words, Vegetarians have a diet of mostly plants, vegetables, etc. but we don’t know as much on plants as we do on animals. Aren’t plants “suffering” too? Its just that their ” suffering” doesn’t relate to ours of showing pain, expressing it, crying. Plants don’t have a face we can look into like animals, which makes me think that most people don’t see plants and trees suffering.

      From what we can tell, suffering relies not merely on being a living thing, but on being a sentient living thing. Sentience has been traced to at least some of the operations of the nervous system, and can be inferred indirectly via behaviour of the organism. As far as I know, plants don’t have an equivalent system, even if we allow for an analogy between chemical and electrical systems with similar functional purposes (e.g. sensing) and take into account the fact that plants operate on slower timespans. Even the most neurally endowed plants – flytraps, I think – have less neural matter than jellyfish, or so I understand it.

      In reply to #56 by Pete H:

      But eating meat might not really be optional.

      This is wrong. Humans are capable of eating meat, which is after all a concentrated source of protein, but we’re not obliged to eat it. We only eat it in the first place for those proteins, which are all available in other foodstuffs. Meat’s advantage is that it has those proteins in concentrated form.

      • In reply to #58 by Zeuglodon:

        In reply to #56 by Pete H:
        But eating meat might not really be optional.

        This is wrong. Humans are capable of eating meat, which is after all a concentrated source of protein, but we’re not obliged to eat it. We only eat it in the first place for those proteins, which are all available in other foodstuffs. Meat’s advantage is that it has those proteins in concentrated form.

        You might be making the mistake of thinking that vegetarianism is a scientific issue when it’s essentially a religious belief.

        There should be a government health warning regarding discussions about nutrition: “May contain traces of bullshit” seems appropriate! Suffice to say that there are serious concerns about the state of play regarding research into what humans should eat. Ideology is the prevailing paradigm.

        The most potentially fruitful theories about current human health issues involve AGE cross-linking in proteins. This is essentially a nutrition issue, for which the kinds of micro & macro-nutrients people are exposed to over a lifetime and across many generations is the most critical factor. Not so much the intake of protein, but how the body manages to get rid of dysfunctional proteins. (Cross-linked proteins being inherently compromised, but also difficult to dismantle.)

        Protein intake variety is only a minor aspect of the nutrients available from meat. Mature adults, especially those experiencing minimal sleep, little exercise, and with reduced metabolism, low growth hormone secretion, and relatively inactive immune systems, don’t need very much dietary protein intake at all. A handful of fruits and vegetables should suffice. Even the remnants of crushed insect debris in raw sugar may be nutritionally significant in some situations. There is unlikely to be much advantage in meat eating for what may unfortunately be a typical modern human in many parts of the world. Excess protein consumed in the form of meat is converted into energy in pretty much the same form as is plant protein gets converted into basic carbohydrate form.

        The situation changes a little with higher energy intake and output. It depends on the time frame and circumstances.

        Maybe many humans are not obliged to eat meat today, in the short run, and with our relatively easy 21st century living, medical care, agricultural and nutrition technology etc. But there is scant reliable evidence for this because accumulated studies of vegetarian diets are relatively short term and unable to separate major confounding factors. Other issues are reliability and motivation of the researchers involved with self-reporting of actual food consumption. Vegetarianism is more of a pseudo scientific issue than scientific. And there is a good argument to make that it’s origins are religious, based on vested interests of the plutocracy in eras of civilisations where there was nil separation between wealth, power, government law, and religion.

        Keep in mind that many scientists, especially from previous generations are not familiar with the philosophical essence or the reasons for many of the broad range of practices that make up scientific methodology. (It’s only recently begun to be taught.) There are practical financial imperatives driving many researchers and funding continuity is a huge elephant in the room issue. Most funding associated nutritional research introduces extraordinary biases via the agricultural and health industries. Results of studies are typically marginally significant, with significant biases in the direction away from meat consumption. Possibly via the odd situation where a great many scientists who are most passionate about human nutrition seem to also be vegetarians – but not in a good way as say for physicists also believing in gravity and then becoming physicists to try and prove that gravity really exists. It’s a bit more like becoming a psychology expert because of one’s interesting personalities.

        These biases and low levels of correlation significance, along with unjustified assumptions based on very loose correlations, occasionally bring the art of statistics and scientific integrity into disrepute. It probably isn’t possible to justify vegetarianism with good quality science. Religious and ethical arguments might be valid, but the science is more likely to indicate there will be a health trade-off in return for these ethical and religious accommodations.

        • In reply to #135 by Pete H:

          In reply to #58 by Zeuglodon:

          In reply to #56 by Pete H:
          But eating meat might not really be optional.

          This is wrong. Humans are capable of eating meat, which is after all a concentrated source of protein, but we’re not obliged to eat it. We only eat it in the first place for those proteins, which…

          This would be all well and good, except that the question of whether or not a vegetarian diet is healthy definitely is a scientific question. The evidence suggests that vegetarianism, so long as it isn’t as radical as fruitarianism or some forms of unbalanced veganism, is no more dangerous to one’s health than a balanced diet that includes meat. Even on your own grounds, there’s no scientific evidence that meat-eating is particularly healthy in the long run either, so you can’t make the point without using a double standard.

  21. In reply to #30 by Pauly01:

    But becoming a vegetarian would be hassle for me and I feel it’s not worth it.

    Thank you for saying this. I’ll go out on a limb and say it’s perhaps the number one reason people harbor when those same people have a choice between two diets that are equally nutritious. I’m not making a moral judgement, just an observation.

    Mike

  22. In reply to #50 by Sample:

    What do you think of these two quotes?

    I quite like that. I do believe people hunt because there are lines of reasoning that are closed to them. And also that it’s all about the exhilaration they feel before and after they get the hit, which is apparently quite something. From the outside we’re free to contemplate the whole of that little system of conscious mental events; the juxtaposition of the conscious mental states in the brain of the animal and the brain of the human in those seconds after the lung-shot, the sheer contrast of it and the fact that they’re both results of the same external event. Well, holy shit! I say if you don’t find that bone-chilling you’re a psychopath or you’re missing something.

    You can try and explain it to them, but then you invariably find they can’t get their head around logical fallacies, this one in particular. So yes, it looks like it’s a matter of reasoning, mostly.

  23. You are definitely being contradictory because modern meat, egg and dairy productions are inherently cruel. There are over 7 billion people on this planet. There is just no way to produce that much meat, eggs and milk without intensive farming. Intensive farming is extremely cruel and treats non-human animals as if they were meat, eggs and milk producing machines. See the movies “Meet Your Meat” and “Earthlings” on YouTube.

    There is, however, other problem with your view than just practical. It is philosophical. If you are a Darwinist, then you know that H. sapiens is only one of animal species. Charles Darwin´s theory of natural selection proved that human beings evolve according to the same evolutionary dynamics as non-human animals. Darwin showed that the difference between non-human and human animals is one of degree, not of kind. Through evolutionary theory, genetics, and neurophysiology, scientists are providing evidence that non-human animals feel and think in ways similar to ours, and that they are capable of experiencing not only simple emotions such as fear, but far more subtle and complex emotions such as love, grief, joy, pride, shame and loneliness.

    Any line placed between humans and all other animals is an arbitrary line, which only symbolizes human prejudice and allows exploitation of the other animals. Discrimination based on species is no different than discrimination based on gender, physical or mental disability, race, sexual orientation, or any such inborn and irrelevant characteristic. All sentient individuals should be entitled to a basic right not to be used as a means to an end. All sentient individuals should be treated as persons not as property.

    Reading most comments here is extremely disheartening. Atheists are supposed to be morally superior (at least in theory, not in practice) because their morality is supposed to be based on reason, not on religion. But as most commentators here have shown, their morality comes not from reason but from religion. It is a religious view that non-human animals are below us because only humans were made in the image of God, so only humans matter and deserve moral consideration.

    Some commentators here have proposed that we, humans, are superior because we have a complex brain and higher intelligence. But what is a complex brain and higher intelligence but just mere tools that evolution gave us for adaptation to the environment? Other animals have other tools. Whose tool will prove to be superior will be proven by the species that survives the longest.

    By ignoring the moral significance of non-human animals, most atheists also fail to see the most compelling argument for the non-existence of a merciful god. That argument is the suffering of non-human animals. Theists can give reasons (even if very weak reasons) for the suffering of humans, but they cannot give one reason for the suffering of non-human animals. When presented with this argument they are either completely speechless or, if they are less intelligent, give nonsensical reasons such as, “Animals don’t feel pain”. This is excellently demonstrated in the debate between Peter Singer and John Lennox. (You can see it on YouTube).

    Charles Darwin saw it clearly when he wrote, “I cannot persuade myself that a beneficent and omnipotent God would have designedly created parasitic wasps with the express intention of their feeding within the living bodies of Caterpillars.” But I have never heard any of the “leaders” of the New Atheist movement present this argument. I am guessing this is because they just don’t care about the suffering of non-human animals, so they think that a god wouldn’t have to care about it either. Richard Dawkins, despite admitting that he cannot justify the killing animals for meat, eats meat. Christopher Hitchens has stated that he does not care what Muslims do to animals as long as they do it out of his sight (on the other hand, he did care about non-sentient, parasitic human fetuses). And Sam Harris, in his book, “The Moral Landscape”, tried to justify the exploitation of non-human animals for human benefit by arguing that if significantly more intelligent aliens came to Earth, they would be justified in doing to us what we do to non-human animals.

    Among animal rights advocates there is a very high percentage of atheists. It is a pity that the majority in the atheist “movement” holds such a speciesist view because it alienates many would be atheist advocates. I can only hope that atheists will evolve morally.

    “Animals, whom we have made our slaves, we do not like to consider our equal.”
    -Charles Darwin

    “Nothing will benefit human health and increase chances of survival for life on earth as much as the evolution to a vegetarian diet.” – Albert Einstein

    P.S.
    No one has any moral obligation to respect a view that one thinks is immoral.
    P.S. 2
    For those, who mistakenly think that eating animal products is necessary for optimum health, I recommend the film “Forks over Knives”.

    • In reply to #60 by BaIB:

      Atheists are supposed to be morally superior (at least in theory, not in practice) because their morality is supposed to be based on reason, not on religion….. By ignoring the moral significance of non-human animals, most atheists also fail to see the most compelling argument for the non-existence of a merciful god. That argument is the suffering of non-human animals. Theists can give reasons (even if very weak reasons) for the suffering of humans, but they cannot give one reason for the suffering of non-human animals.

      If you base your morals on reason, what is the reason to minimise non-human animal suffering? Most comments here seem to assume/presume that minimising suffering is moral and it is beginning to look like a virtue i.e not based on reason.

      I can see reasons to increase suffering of farming animals such as cost/efficiency, but not decreasing it. It may be instinctive and virtuous to minimise suffering. I dont want to cause unnecessary suffering. But what is the reason to do so?

      If there is no convincing answer to that, Richard Dawkins need not to justify killing animals (for food etc).. he needs to justify why not to do so.

      • In reply to #61 by tangyit:

        If you base your morals on reason, what is the reason to minimise non-human animal suffering? Most comments here seem to assume/presume that minimising suffering is moral and it is beginning to look like a virtue i.e not based on reason.

        I can see reasons to increase suffering of farming animals such as cost/efficiency, but not decreasing it. It may be instinctive and virtuous to minimise suffering. I dont want to cause unnecessary suffering. But what is the reason to do so?

        If there is no convincing answer to that, Richard Dawkins need not to justify killing animals (for food etc).. he needs to justify why not to do so.

        Slavery was obviously justified by appealing to cost and efficiency, as well. Did slave owners need to provide a moral justification for manumitting their slaves? Of course not.

        The very definition of a moral act is one that reduces needless suffering. The reason slavery is wrong is because the slave owner is in a position where he needs to pretend his actions are objectively morally justifiable. This is impossible because, were he the slave, he would be mentally incapable of holding slavery to be just – no slave accepts his slavery as just. Thus the slave owner is in an unjustifiable position. Thus the slave owner is wrong.

        The same moral realism is played out in those who needlessly cause animals to suffer. Were meat-eaters in the position of the farmed animals, they would be mentally unable to accept the torments inflicted on them in factory farms and slaughter houses as justifiable. Thus the meat-eater is in an unjustifiable position and is therefore wrong.

        • In reply to #65 by vbaculum:

          The very definition of a moral act is one that reduces needless suffering. The reason slavery is wrong is because the slave owner is in a position where he needs to pretend his actions are objectively morally justifiable

          I disagree with this definition of moral act. Unless you prescribe to absolute morality (which i do not), morals are just a set of principles/code of conduct. It is up to the society/individual to decide what should be included in the moral code. If you are religious you might follow the moral code of the bible. If you are atheist/humanist, your moral codes should be based on reason. And we are at the stage of discussing the reason for minimising suffering and whether it should be included in the moral code.

          The slavery analogy is a good counter argument. It puts me to question of “what is the reason to minimise suffering of humans?” as opposed to my original question of “what is the reason to minimise non human animal suffering?” but it doesn’t answer both questions.

    • In reply to #60 by BaIB:

      You are definitely being contradictory because modern meat, egg and dairy productions are inherently cruel. There are over 7 billion people on this planet. There is just no way to produce that much meat, eggs and milk without intensive farming. Intensive farming is extremely cruel and treats non-…

      Very well said!

    • In reply to #62 by SalGagliano:

      I don’t think anyone in their right mind favors animal cruelty. Nevertheless, our eyes face forward – nature designed us to be predators …

      We are not obliged to live the way nature designed us. Nature designed us to be selfish/cruel at times and also kind/loving at times. To avoid living in a darwinian society, we use logic and rationale (preferably) to decide our morals/ethics. To be consistent, we not only have to overcome our selfish impulses but also our kind impulses.

      So approaching animal cruelty should be dealt with reason too. If there is no good reason to minimise animal suffering while there is a reason otherwise. How is it “wrong” to farm animals in a cruel but efficient manner?

      • Oh I couldn’t possibly disagree with that more. We are part of nature – not something above or detached from it. A view to the contrary , as well as the belief that consumption of meat is immoral or unethical, are simply religious views of sorts, and not scientific ones – – and If we allow ourselves to be blinded by such arrogance, then we will go extinct, and the Universe won’t bat an eye – just as it didn’t for 99% of the living species that once inhabited this planet, but no longer do. Again, no sane person favors – or even looks with disinterest – upon cruelty. All living things should be recognized as having dignity by virtue of the phenomenon of life itself – and that includes those living things that we cultivate – and hunt – for purposes of our own sustenance.

        In reply to #64 by tangyit:

        In reply to #62 by SalGagliano:

        I don’t think anyone in their right mind favors animal cruelty. Nevertheless, our eyes face forward – nature designed us to be predators …

        We are not obliged to live the way nature designed us. Nature designed us to be selfish/cruel at times and also kind/loving a…

        • In reply to #92 by SalGagliano:

          Oh I couldn’t possibly disagree with that more. We are part of nature – not something above or detached from it.

          Im not so sure about this. We are part of nature, but in the future we may very well go above it. Just look at the things humans have done to defy nature. From condoms to nuclear weapons.

          Again, no sane person favors – or even looks with disinterest – upon cruelty

          I still believe this view to be naive. Think about enemies. The conflicts going on where the opposing sides are held captives. Prisoners of war. We are made to be cruel towards our enemies. Of course im not suggesting everyone is cruel. But to deny it exists in sane people is reckless. Nature made us to be cruel but i believe we can rise above nature and choose not to be.

  24. In reply to #68 by DonaldMiller:

    Anyone in a position of power and control must be able to justify why they are entitled to that power.

    The trick there is what qualifies as justification. “I am heir to the throne” is a justification. There’s also the question of why it’s true: I’d suggest it’s because if you are not recognised as being entitled to the power you have it can be take from you, either by another powerful individual or by a broader group of people.

    BTW, NC is a good egg and all, but arguments from authority are poor as he’s said himself (j/k meta).

    This looks kind of interesting.

  25. @DonaldMiller

    I wasn’t trying to be funny. Fetuses are not sentient, and they are parasites since they feed off the body of a woman. I argue that only sentient and autonomous beings should have basic rights.

    • In reply to #76 by BaIB:

      @DonaldMiller

      I wasn’t trying to be funny. Fetuses are not sentient, and they are parasites since they feed off the body of a woman. I argue that only sentient and autonomous beings should have basic rights.

      I take your point, but they’re not really parasites as they share DNA with the women, as does their partner– unless you’re taking some kind of (imaginary?) extreme feminist position and regard the differences between men and women sufficient to qualify the former as parasites.

  26. @tangyit

    I don’t argue that we should minimize the suffering of animals. I argue that we should not cause it in the first place (unless it is accidental and we can’t help it). I argue that non-human animals should be given basic rights: life, liberty, self determination, and bodily integrity. I argue that they deserve these rights because they are sentient beings capable of experiencing pleasure and pain. What happens to them, matters to them.

    Richard Dawkins needs to justify his actions (eating meat).

    • In reply to #79 by BaIB:

      @tangyit

      I don’t argue that we should minimize the suffering of animals. I argue that we should not cause it in the first place (unless it is accidental and we can’t help it). I argue that non-human animals should be given basic rights: life, liberty, self determination, and bodily integrity. I a…

      I get your argument…. doesnt minimising animal suffering kinda covers not causing it?

      Anyways you argue for alot but i ask for the reason (of not causing animal suffering). Since you said atheist morals should be based on reason. Whats the reason to not cause animal suffering?

      • In reply to #83 by tangyit:

        In reply to #79 by BaIB:

        A fair question. What’s the reason for not causing human suffering? I think that will suggest some reasons for not causing animal suffering.

        I’d also ask tangyit what the most crucial differences between humans, animals and plants that justify treating them differently are.

        BTW, suffering is only one, and a relatively weak, reason not to eat meat. The consequences, sustainability and sufficiency of meat production are more important in practical terms.

        • In reply to #84 by PERSON:

          I’d also ask tangyit what the most crucial differences between humans, animals and plants that justify treating them differently are.

          All life is continuous. To avoid a speciesism approach, i realise any difference we use to classify humans, animals and plants are arbitrary. We treat plants, animals and humans differently based an the arbitrary classification. The arbitrary line i draw between humans and animals lies somewhere at the advanced intelligence of humans where other animals lack. The arbitrary line i draw between plants and animals is even more vague that i dont even know how to draw it.

          But surely this line has to be drawn? or else it would mean we treat all living things equal? non living things? My potted cactus plant cant possibly inherit a fair share of my possessions with my brother after i die..

          These arbitrary classifications (although vague and hard to define) are what i would use to justify treating humans, animals and plants differently. Unless you are suggesting i treat humans and plants the same.. maybe you have an alternative solution for this.

  27. In reply to #72 by DonaldMiller:

    I don’t see it as contradictory. In the wild, animals die of injuries, starvation or are eaten by a predator. I don’t think the death in the slaughter house is any worse.

    But don’t you as an atheist feel obligated to make up for the difference. Since there isn’t a God who cares about these creature, who else will show them any compassion?

    So this God cares but does nothing? What a psycho. Worse, he created (or allowed to be created, before you start on Teh Falls, etc) a world where all the above happens.

    The above is an appeal to nature: the fact something happens in nature does not make it right or acceptable.

  28. In reply to #67 by DonaldMiller:

    In reply to #64 by tangyit:

    In reply to #62 by SalGagliano:

    Forward facing eyes mean we are predators, so should use chemical weapons? You are agreeing that this is premised on nature-makes-moral and so is nonsense, right? Otherwise, I need to ask what on earth you’re on about.

  29. @tangyit

    The reason for not causing animals to suffer is exactly the same as the reason for not causing humans to suffer.
    Yes, I say morality should be based on reason, but morality is not like mathematics where you can prove every premise. I can only hope that we can find a premise with which we both agree and start from there. That premise is: it is wrong to cause human suffering. If you agree with this premise, I go to the next premise: it is wrong to cause animal suffering. Both humans and non-human animals can feel pain. Pain is extremely unpleasant. So this is the reason not to cause pain to anyone who can experience it.

  30. @PERSON

    Fetuses ARE parasites.
    Merriam-Webster dictionary:
    “parasite”: 2: an organism living in, with, or on another organism in parasitism
    (the definition does not say anything about DNA, and a fetus does have a different DNA than its host)
    I said nothing about men.
    I argue that to have rights one must be sentient (fetuses are not sentient) because without sentience one does not even know one exists so one has no use for rights. And I argue that to have rights one must be autonomous (be independent of a body of another sentient being) because one cannot have rights if one is violating someone else’s right to bodily integrity and self determination. Therefore, fetuses have no rights, but non-human animals (apart from bodily parasites) should have basic rights because they are sentient and autonomous.

  31. @DonaldMiller

    “Do onto others as you would have them do unto you.” vs. “Love others as you love yourself.”

    I don’t think these two sentiments are close. The first one talks about actions. The second one talks about emotions. The first one is better. Why would I care if my neighbor loves me? In fact, it would make me feel uncomfortable if he did. I would much prefer if he respected my rights. I think the rule should be: “Do NOT do onto others as you would not want them do unto you.”

  32. @tangyit

    If you say intelligence is the criterion, then your line is no longer arbitrary. It seems to me you are arguing that humans should be treated differently than other animals because humans have intelligence. I could not disagree more.

    [To clarify, I never said humans should not be treated differently. I only said all sentient beings should have basic rights: life, liberty, bodily integrity and self determination. Humans have additional rights: equal opportunity to education, employment, etc.]

    I say intelligence is an irrelevant characteristic for moral consideration. We can clearly see this fact in human society. We treat geniuses and mentally challenged people with the same dignity. We may give them different privileges, higher education for geniuses, medical care for mentally challenged people, but this is irrelevant here because I don’t argue that we should give non-human animals any special privileges except for basic rights. Chimpanzees have the intelligence of 4 year old human children. There are humans who have lower intelligence than an average 4 year old child. So clearly, you are wrong in saying that intelligence is the morally relevant characteristic.

    I argue that the morally relevant characteristic is consciousness (doesn’t have to be self-consciousness, plain consciousness will do). A being, who is conscious, is capable of feeling pleasure and pain. Pain is unpleasant and causes suffering. Therefore, causing pain is immoral. It does not matter that the being cannot do calculus.

    The majority of species of non-human animals have consciousness; therefore, they deserve basic rights such as life, liberty, bodily integrity and self determination. These basic rights provide protection from the infliction of suffering.

    • In reply to #89 by BaIB:

      @tangyit

      If you say intelligence is the criterion, then your line is no longer arbitrary…. I don’t argue that we should give non-human animals any special privileges except for basic rights.

      Why stop at basic rights for non human animals? Why not give them more? You seem to be drawing an arbitrary line you dont realise yourself? Im not clear myself if intelligence is a good characteristic to draw the line. How did you “draw” your line between chimpanzees and humans? consciousness is no longer an option since they both are.

  33. @tangyit

    Plants have no consciousness. What happens to them does not matter to them. So giving them rights is unnecessary.

    I know, some person will come out and say that plants have consciousness. I cannot prove a negative, but common sense leads us to believe that plants have no consciousness because consciousness would not only be useless to them; it would make their survival more difficult. Let’s imagine a forest is on fire. Animals feel the heat, know that fire will burn them and it will hurt, so they run. What good would it do to trees if they could feel pain from being burned? They cannot take their roots and run. All they could do is just stand there and burn. The fear and stress would make them sick and unable to grow.

    Another argument for consciousness is that we don’t grant rights to unconscious humans (we turn off life support machines of permanently brain dead people). So clearly, consciousness is the criterion, not the membership in the species H. sapiens or intelligence.

    • In reply to #90 by BaIB:

      @tangyit

      Plants have no consciousness. What happens to them does not matter to them. So giving them rights is unnecessary.

      I know, some person will come out and say that plants have consciousness. I cannot prove a negative, but common sense leads us to believe that plants have no consciousness…

      I would agree that plants have no consciousness… and rights are not necessary.

  34. @tangyit

    There is another problem with your position. Presently it is easy for you draw a line: humans – all other animals. But suppose species like H. erectus, H. habilis, and all the way to our common ancestor with chimpanzees, were still living today. Where would you draw a line then? Would you test their intelligence before granting them rights? Anyone who does not pass a calculus test would not get rights? Well, we know many H. sapiens would fail such a test.

    And another problem with you argument is that intelligence is nothing more than a tool evolution gave us for adaptation to the environment. Other animals were given other tools. No one species has consciously chosen the path of its evolution. So making a tool a moral criterion makes no sense. Imagine that an elephant were presenting arguments in this debate. Following your logic, an elephant would argue that having a trunk is a moral criterion for granting rights. You see the absurdity in your argument?

    • In reply to #91 by BaIB:

      @tangyit

      There is another problem with your position. Presently it is easy for you draw a line: humans – all other animals. But suppose species like H. erectus, H. habilis, and all the way to our common ancestor with chimpanzees, were still living today. Where would you draw a line then? Would y…

      Even using consciousness as a relevant characteristic, you would still face the question of giving a H. habilis just basic rights (non human animal rights) or additional human rights

      And another problem with you argument is that intelligence is nothing more than a tool evolution gave us for adaptation to the environment.

      Could you argue that consciousness is nothing more than a tool evolution gave us? Wouldn’t that face the same problem with intelligence? If my arguement is absurd.. it would mean yours is no different.

  35. @SalGaliano

    You obviously did not read the debate before posting your comment. Most of the arguments you present have been already refuted here.
    You are committing a logical fallacy called Appeal to Nature.
    I have already presented an argument that excluding non-human animals from out circle of moral consideration is a religious view. It comes straight from the Bible (and I am sure the Koran as well). A scientific view is that humans are just one of animal species, and we are not special.
    We would not become extinct by not eating meat. As many people already said here, meat production is devastating to the environment. Meat is also very unhealthy (see the movie “Forks over Knives”). Albert Einstein rightly said, “Nothing will benefit human health and increase chances of survival for life on earth as much as the evolution to a vegetarian diet.”

    • I’ll see your “Appeal to Nature”, and raise you an “Appeal to Authority” (Thank You Albert Einstein). The reality is, meat is a more efficient form of sustenance, because it is more nutrient dense – that is the objective truth, and the quest for objective truth is the scientific view. A naturalistic fallacy has to do with how one may arrive at a moral or ethical conclusion – not a logical one, such as the conclusion that if nature designed an organism utilizing a certain diet, then that – or something very similar – is the optimum diet for that organism; morals, ethics and above all, “rights” – all subjective human constructs – notwithstanding. The health concerns you raise have more to do with the quality of the food question. The environmental concerns are political issues, not medical or scientific ones.

      In reply to #94 by BaIB:

      @SalGaliano

      You obviously did not read the debate before posting your comment. Most of the arguments you present have been already refuted here.
      You are committing a logical fallacy called Appeal to Nature.
      I have already presented an argument that excluding non-human animals from out circle of mo…

  36. I’m appreciating all of these posts about this subject. As a relatively new vegetarian (almost one year now) I find conversations like these interesting because my vegetarianism rarely ever comes up IRL. I wonder if that’s true for others here.

    Mike

  37. I have just one question. Do chickens, and other animals we farm for their meat, really require a fully functioning brain?

    I have this mental image of headless chickens hanging in rows on life support systems, twitching as they get zapped with electricity.

    • In reply to #102 by Peter Grant:

      I have just one question. Do chickens, and other animals we farm for their meat, really require a fully functioning brain?

      I have this mental image of headless chickens hanging in rows on life support systems, twitching as they get zapped with electricity.

      What about a tub of cancerous tumours that grow indefinitely =)

          • In reply to #105 by tangyit:

            So its fried chicken….

            Yeah, like KFC! Except it’s not the Halal crap we’re subjected to here in Africa, but the real stuff where you can also get a slice of bacon on your “Double Down”.

  38. @ SalGagliano

    So Albert Einstein can’t make a statement? I thought his authority was in physics.
    Meat is not more efficient. I think the nutrient you are thinking of is protein (certainly not vitamins or minerals!). So let’s look at protein:
    From Wikipedia:
    “Soybeans produce at least two times as much usable protein per acre than any other major vegetable or grain crop, except for hemp which can produce up to 293 lbs of usable protein per acre (33 g/m²). They produce 5 to 10 times more protein per acre than land set aside for grazing animals to make milk, and up to 15 times more protein per acre than land set aside for meat production.”
    Look at the chart: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edible_protein_per_unit_area_of_land
    Meat and other animal products are at the bottom.

    Optimum diet for us, humans, consists of 4 or 5 food groups: vegetables, fruit, whole grains, and proteins. There is no food group called meat. So meat is optional. In fact, meat and other animal products have been shown to be detrimental to human health (and not due to quality). Do some research or see the documentary “Forks over Knives”. This is the chart of food groups developed by the U.S. government: http://www.choosemyplate.gov/food-groups/ Dairy group should not really be there, but if you click on it, you will see calcium fortified soy milk listed.

    Evolution gave us the ability to digest meat probably during the ice age when there was not much plant food available. This allowed us to survive, but it does not prove that eating meat is healthy for us. When food is scarce, you eat what you can find.
    Environmental concerns over meat production are not political. As I have already shown, meat production is very inefficient. It also pollutes water. It is a major contributor to global warming (see: http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=the-greenhouse-hamburger ). Scientists have predicted that by 2050 we will all be vegetarians: (http://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2012/aug/26/food-shortages-world-vegetarianism )

  39. @tangyit

    Why stop at basic rights for non-human animals? Why not give them more? What more could we give them? They have their own societies. They are not part of our human society (except for domesticated animals, but we should stop breeding domesticated animals).

    I did not draw a line between humans and chimpanzees. I simply am pointing out that it’s where most people draw a line.

    As for H. habilis, it would depend whether they would live separately in their own society, or would be living with us, H. sapiens. Obviously if they lived with us, they would have to be granted more rights, rights such as equal opportunity in education, employment, a right to drive cars, etc. But if they lived separately, they would not need those rights. They would establish their own rights within their own society.

    Consciousness is a tool for survival, but it has the property of making a being able to feel pain and pleasure (which is a tool for survival because it allows a being to avoid pain and seek pleasure). But this property in itself is what matters morally, unlike intelligence, which is just a tool and nothing more.

    You asked, “Would you kill or imprison lions to protect the basic rights of gazelles? What about the rights of the lion? to eat?”

    We, humans, are moral agents (except for mentally challenged people and young children). We are morally responsible for our actions. We are not morally responsible for what goes on in nature. We have no moral obligation to prevent suffering in nature that was not the result of our actions. However, if we could tweak nature so there would be less suffering, I would be for it. But let’s fix our own behavior first.

    Non-human animals have their own morality (or else they could not live in groups), but we cannot consider them moral agents. Their actions are neither moral nor immoral, but amoral. They also have no choice. A lion has to kill or he will die. Even omnivorous animals have little choice. They have to eat what is available. We, humans, have a choice. We don’t have to eat meat.

    • In reply to #108 by BaIB:

      @tangyit

      Why stop at basic rights for non-human animals? Why not give them more? What more could we give them? They have their own societies. They are not part of our human society (except for domesticated animals, but we should stop breeding domesticated animals).

      Why not give animal land rights? Would human land development be halted because we cannot develop on animal habitat? Building an oil rig infringes dolphin rights?

      I did not draw a line between humans and chimpanzees. I simply am pointing out that it’s where most people draw a line.

      But surely that line has to be drawn somehow, if not you would advocate treating chimps and humans equal. If intelligence is not a moral characteristic, what do you use?

      Consciousness is a tool for survival, but it has the property of making a being able to feel pain and pleasure (which is a tool for survival because it allows a being to avoid pain and seek pleasure). But this property in itself is what matters morally, unlike intelligence, which is just a tool and nothing more.

      So far the best reason i have picked up to minimise non human animal suffering is that suffering is unpleasant. I agree that unpleasantness is a good enough reason to minimise suffering (with the golden rule in mind) but i would still weigh the costs of trying to do so. I dont think it is of high priority.

      You argued that you draw the line at consciousness, it is still arbitrary because there would be animals that are semi conscious.(since consciousness has evolved and life is continuous). After some Wikipedia, ive seen some draw the line at the capability to enter a social contract. We see this at the H. Habilis example which we discussed previously where you said “As for H. habilis, it would depend whether they would live separately in their own society, or would be living with us, H. sapiens.” Another arbitrary line is struck at duties, only humans have duties e.g. duties to reduce human suffering, while non human animals do not. A chimp is not duty bound to reduce human + animal suffering and therefore only humans have rights.

      You seem to be decided on consciousness as the line, but i remain undecided among these arbitrary lines probably because i do not have as much concern as you do on non human animal unpleasantness (nor i have a moral obligation to). I also wonder if unpleasantness can justify minimising non human animal suffering, can pleasantness do otherwise?

  40. @Sample

    Your vegetarianism rarely comes up IRL? Consider yourself lucky. I get harassed by meat eaters all the time, especially at meal times (I came to the point where I avoid eating with meat eaters, but you can’t avoid your own family completely). But if you want it to come up, bring it up, but I advise you not to do it during meal times, and I advise you to learn the arguments so you can defend your view.

    • In reply to #109 by BaIB:

      Your vegetarianism rarely comes up IRL?

      That’s right.

      I get harassed by meat eaters all the time

      This is such a foreign scenario for me to envision. Is it your vegetarian rationale that gets inappropriately criticized or just the fact that on occasions your supper plate looks slightly different than the others’ around you? Since it’s likely the former, is it more a reaction to claims being made by you? I mean, it’s not like you have to fear ridicule by making a loud verbal order at a crowded deli for a veggie bagel sandwich, right?

      Mike

      • In reply to #112 by Sample:

        In reply to #109 by BaIB:

        Your vegetarianism rarely comes up IRL?

        Sample: > That’s right.

        I get harassed by meat eaters all the time

        Sample: > This is such a foreign scenario for me to envision…

        Same. My whole life it has never been more consequential than a food allergy… it affects shared food situations. One notable exception, when I was 9 an uncle told me that the Bible said we were supposed to eat meat, and that vegetarianism was wrong. Glad I thought he was nuts.

  41. @Sample

    I don’t know what it is. Depending on the type of people, it could be just ridicule (“you’re a weido”), or downright hostility. For example, at the last dinner party at work, people were asking me what I eat. So I told them. Then one person made a remark, “I would rather die than eat that!” Stuff like that. I could only guess that maybe meat eaters, deep down inside, know that they are wrong and feel morally inferior. Or maybe they think I am judging them (and I am but in my mind).
    Arthur Schopenhauer wrote, “All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident.” Maybe we are between the first and the second stage.

    • In reply to #113 by BaIB:

      @Sample

      I don’t know what it is. Depending on the type of people, it could be just ridicule (“you’re a weido”), or downright hostility. For example, at the last dinner party at work, people were asking me what I eat. So I told them. Then one person made a remark, “I would rather die than eat that. I could only guess that maybe meat eaters, deep down inside, know that they are wrong and feel morally inferior. Or maybe they think I am judging them (and I am but in my mind).

      That’s just so strange (the consistent berating aspect you’re getting at). Here in Alaska the majority of everyone I know eats wild game of some sort. Then there is the Native Alaskan demographic who can interject a spiritual point of view to subsistence that is somewhat foreign to me. Be assured, this is not a “novelty” way of life; this is an often “lived way of life”. Having said that, I do see the bumper stickers on cars locally with the words, “Moose: 10,000 wolves can’t be wrong” or “Commercial fishermen help you live better.” That’s more about political statements against anti-hunters in Washington DC making policy for us who are 5,000 miles away though than anything personal about local vegetarians. But the outright berating of me personally because I’m a veggie? well maybe we just hang around different kinds of people!

      I have my own reasons why I don’t eat meat anymore, but as far as being an activist for any public policy regarding meat consumption, I think that’s a very complex subject and I find it difficult to tackle philosophically. It’s not a black and white issue for me. I think vegetarianism is a relatively new “global experience” and therefore civilization is only in the infancy of the debate about its practice. I just came back from a trip to Iceland recently where it was not hard to find whale on a menu, or puffin, or horse. I had a rule, I would only eat meat if there wasn’t a veggie option. There was always a veggie option! In Iceland, home of Viking ancestry!

      I don’t have a problem with individuals eating meat but I do realize there is a spectrum of husbandry practices that are far from being resolved in a manner that is optimal in my opinion regarding the environment (now industrial antibiotic-use impacts fauna in marine estuaries, et al.), the animals (certainly cruelty is sometimes present), and society (resources).

      Mike

  42. In reply to #101 by Sample:

    As a relatively new vegetarian (almost one year now) I find conversations like these interesting because my vegetarianism rarely ever comes up IRL. I wonder if that’s true for others here.

    It’s seldom discussed. Mostly people seem to agree with me, which is a bit weird maybe. But then I would have no case if confronted by a vegan. Life’s hard to get right.

  43. In reply to #102 by Peter Grant:

    I have just one question. Do chickens, and other animals we farm for their meat, really require a fully functioning brain?

    I’ve been wondering, why the fuck are pigs still one of the most intelligent creatures around? That seems just sadistic. If farmers had consistently selected the dimmest ones for breeding from the start, we might have pigs now with the mental life of garden snails. I‘d eat that.

  44. In reply to #108 by BaIB:

    We are not morally responsible for what goes on in nature. We have no moral obligation to prevent suffering in nature that was not the result of our actions.

    I think this might be a kind of appeal to nature fallacy. If we’re morally obligated to alleviate human suffering that was not the result of our actions (and I think we are), then we’re also obligated to alleviate animal suffering in the wild. Only problem is it’s ridiculously impractical, we’d probably make it worse if we tried it on a large scale.

  45. @tangyit

    I don’t know whether animals have to have land rights. I think we should set aside land, like we do now in the form of national parks, where development would be prohibited.

    I draw the line with consciousness. There are animals, who probably don’t have consciousness, such as sea sponges. So I cannot say that I draw the line between plants and animals.

    Chimpanzees and the other Great Apes (bonobos, gorillas, and orangutans) were given something like human rights in Spain. Read about it here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_ape_personhood

    What do you mean it is not of high priority to stop human inflicted suffering on non-human animals? I see no greater priority. And what possible costs could there be? I only see benefits.

    Yes, I know that consciousness varies in degrees, but even a small degree is good enough. If in doubt, just leave the animal alone. It is better to err on the side of consciousness than to make an animal suffer.

    There are many humans, who cannot enter into a social contract, such as young children and the mentally challenged. So obviously this criterion is no good.

    Only moral agents have moral duties. To be a moral agent, one has to have some level of intelligence, a level that enables one to distinguish right from wrong. Not all humans are moral agents. Young children and mentally challenged people are not moral agents. They, along with conscious non-human animals, are moral patients.

    I know that most people do not care about the suffering of non-human animals, just like most people did not care about the suffering of enslaved people. But there is such a thing as moral progress. People are starting to care about the suffering of non-human animals. For example, in 2008, California passed a ban on certain intensive farming practices. The ban was passed by a referendum. Read about it here (see how farmers are worried about this): http://www.farmanddairy.com/news/california-bans-gestation-crates-hen-cages-which-state-is-next/10456.html This is proof that people are starting to care about the suffering of non-human animals. If you don’t care about it, I say you are behind moral progress.

    When I say “unpleasantness” I really mean torture. See the documentary “Meet Your Meat” on YouTube.

    • In reply to #122 by BaIB:

      @tangyit

      I don’t know whether animals have to have land rights. I think we should set aside land, like we do now in the form of national parks, where development would be prohibited.

      My point is why stop short of land rights. You implied in post 89 that humans should be treated differently to other animals, would you agree that humans get priority over animals?

      Chimpanzees and the other Great Apes (bonobos, gorillas, and orangutans) were given something like human rights in Spain

      I believe you but this is irrelevant to our discussion

      What do you mean it is not of high priority to stop human inflicted suffering on non-human animals? I see no greater priority. And what possible costs could there be? I only see benefits.

      Advancing science? Space travel? Education? Eradicating superstition? all seem to be higher priority for me, not to mention what a great blow to science in the animal research area if you want to grant animal “rights”. I dont see what “benefits” you see. The “priorities” we talk about at this point is probably our own opinions. We should think about the reason which gets higher priority.

      There are many humans, who cannot enter into a social contract, such as young children and the mentally challenged. So obviously this criterion is no good.

      The difference between young children and other animals is that they have the potential to enter a social contract. Cows do not, not even mature ones. Also, young children dont have certain rights adults have, such as the right to drive, drink and make important decisions. The child is granted those rights when considered mature enough to enter the social contract.

      As for mentally challenged people, i propose that mentally challenged people who have the potential to enter the social contract be granted rights, if in doubt, leave them alone. For those who do not (have potential) such as comatose patients who will not likely awaken (medically certified), the guardian of the patient have the rights to decide their fate e.g. euthanise etc. If you want to argue that foetuses have the potential to enter a social contract and hence be granted rights, i would say that the rights of the mother be granted priority.

      Only moral agents have moral duties

      If you are able to enter a social contract, you are a moral agent. The argument for kids and mentally challenged people follow above.

      I know that most people do not care about the suffering of non-human animals, just like most people did not care about the suffering of enslaved people.

      The question “why should we care about the suffering of non-human animals?” is a legitimate question and deserves a legitimate answer. I say we feel strongly about animal suffering because its instinctive (we have both kind and cruel natures) not because it is rational.

      This is proof that people are starting to care about the suffering of non-human animals. If you don’t care about it, I say you are behind moral progress.

      Proof of people caring about non-human animal suffering does not say anything about the act being moral.

  46. @Sample

    Try hanging around the Internet. I will give you a sample I saved, which appeared on a Yahoo forum:

    “Vegans need to just die. Only a retard would deny millions of years worth of evolution. If you are going to be a vegan – I want you to tear all those meat-eating teeth right out of your retarded head. And then die.” LiveFreeOrDie, 7/17/13

    This was totally unprovoked. The commenter was commenting under an article about vegetarian recipes.

    Right now activism focuses on eliminating certain intensive farming practices such as a ban on gestation crates and battery cages, which was passed in California by a referendum. Another form of activism is to try to convince as many people are possible to go vegan. When we have the majority, then we will pass laws banning animal agriculture (it’s only fair if we live in democracy).

    Vegetarianism is not new. See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_vegetarianism
    Vegetarian activism and animal rights activism are new. The modern animal rights movement started in the 1970’s with the publication of Peter Singer’s book “Animal Liberation”.

    I have a problem with people eating meat. I think it’s immoral. So how do I live surrounded by meat eaters? The same way abolitionists lived surrounded by slave traders and slave owners.

    “The time will come when men such as I will look upon the murder of animals as they now look on the murder of men.” Leonardo da Vinci

    I have no choice but to believe this.

    • In reply to #124 by BaIB:

      @Sample

      Try hanging around the Internet. I will give you a sample I saved, which appeared on a Yahoo forum:

      “Vegans need to just die. Only a retard would deny millions of years worth of evolution. If you are going to be a vegan – I want you to tear all those meat-eating teeth right out of your ret…

      I do understand why you are passionate about this issue. I don’t have an answer for everyone. I don’t think eating meat is necessarily immoral. For instance, the thousands of pounds of meat from the dozens of moose that are killed by trains in Interior Alaska every winter is collected and distributed to food banks for poor people. I find that use of meat to be located toward the more moral section of my hypothetical spectrum for what constitutes my personal position regarding meat consumption.

      Western tourists killing a jaguar for sport (and subsequent meat distribution among locals) is toward the other end of my moral spectrum.

      Mike

  47. @Nigel S

    No, appeal to nature fallacy is basing your moral principles on what goes on in nature. This is definitely not what I am arguing for.

    I disagree with you that we have a moral obligation to alleviate human suffering that was caused by nature (earthquakes, tsunamis, etc.). We do it because we have a contract: you help me, I help you. We don’t have such a contract with non-human animals, except for domesticated animals.

    Would it really make you feel better if pigs were less intelligent? They would suffer just the same. And what do you know about the life of snails? Look at this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GSW9kWIRCOQ

    Life’s not hard to get right. Just go by the rule: “Do not do unto others what you would not want others do unto you”.

  48. Dutch scientists have managed to reproduce a hamburger out of cells from a cow. It seems the result has been rather successful and in the future we’ll be able to consume meat without having to kill any animal. At the same time the greenhouse effect, one of the causes of the climatic change, will be greatly reduced by lowering the number of the huge herds of cattle whose abundant flatulence contributes to this greenhouse effect. We’ll be able to eat juicy and tender beefstakes, while breathing much fresher air, without feeling guilty for the plight of the animals we love, . With a bit of patience all our anguish will be gone.

  49. In reply to #125 by BaIB:

    Would it really make you feel better if pigs were less intelligent? They would suffer just the same.

    Suffering from boredom/lack of stimulus is particularly hard on highly intelligent creatures. To be clear, I want the pigs to stay smart and be liberated; that is what would really make me feel better.

    • In reply to #127 by Nigel S:

      Suffering from boredom/lack of stimulus is particularly hard on highly intelligent creatures. To be clear, I want the pigs to stay smart and be liberated; that is what would really make me feel better.

      Yes! Wild pigs also taste better.

  50. @Sample

    If people want to eat road kill, I have nothing against that. That’s scavenging. But I do think we should think of ways to minimize animals being accidentally killed by our vehicles. For example, in Hungary they have fences running along highways. I did not see one dead animal on the road when I was there. But deliberate killing of animas for meat or any other reason is immoral, as I have already presented arguments here that lead to this conclusion.

  51. I do not eat either meat or fish, or egs. Just do not like the taste. However I like reply of one molecular biologist to the question about cruelty: the fact that a tomato is not running around and weeping does not mean it feels no pain.
    Or one can also consider the fact that many posionous plants start producing poison (after all it is a resource consuming process) only when being attacked by somebody that is not big enough to swallow these plants whole – the damaged leaves send signals to the others and they start producing poison. Of course it is molecule-receptor interaction, but so are the processes maintaining human body and conscience.

    • In reply to #136 by ieva:

      I do not eat either meat or fish, or egs. Just do not like the taste. However I like reply of one molecular biologist to the question about cruelty: the fact that a tomato is not running around and weeping does not mean it feels no pain.
      Or one can also consider the fact that many posionous plants s…

      The trouble is that this argument is like saying an abacus can simulate virtual reality because it and a virtual reality machine are both computers, or like saying a campfire can produce as much power as a thermonuclear reaction because both are heat-based, energy-producing reactions. So many necessary principles to get from one to the other are missing that the comparison is false to the point of misleading.

      There should be at least a structure analogous with the complex processing parts of the brain that register pain and noxious stimuli before it can be considered a candidate for a sentient thing. The only plants that have neuron-like structures have even fewer neurons than jellyfish, and they are brainless and almost entirely reflex-based.

  52. Ieva> Zeuglodon

    Well, I think that mediator-receptor reaction is more important than understanding what has happened. After all one never dies of the thoughts like “I am in such a pain!” (unless this person commits suicide), however cascade of chemical reactions induced by trauma can really lead to shock and death.

    • In reply to #139 by ieva:

      Ieva> Zeuglodon

      Well, I think that mediator-receptor reaction is more important than understanding what has happened. After all one never dies of the thoughts like “I am in such a pain!” (unless this person commits suicide), however cascade of chemical reactions induced by trauma can really lead to…

      That doesn’t actually address my point about the false comparison you made. We haven’t traced sentience to individual neurons firing in response: those firings merely make the foundation for the next part, which is what makes a brain experience things but not a bowlful of neuron spaghetti.

      Merely having a neuron doesn’t equip you with sentience. We’ve traced it and aspects of it to the brain and its parts, the bigger picture. The brain contains hundreds of billions of neurons with each one packing ten thousand connections to create a whole that can feel, and think, and deliberate, and experience the world. It’s how it’s put together and coded that makes it sentient, and we’ve barely begun to capture the scope of its complex circuitry. Plants don’t have anything even close to it, so they can’t have sentient experiences because they don’t have the mental machinery needed for it.

      All computers have metal wiring, but not all metal wires are computers.

  53. I think hunger, and starvation in particular, knows no morality. There is a certain amount of “smartness” that needs to be taken with regards to eating, so that populations of animals (and plants) are not depleted and the environment not seriously harmed. There’s no rule in nature that says eating animals is wrong. Humans are animals, and as such are omnivorous predators. No other apex predator is going to show us any courtesy of not eating us if we wander too far, and too unprotected, into it’s realm. It’s hungry and it wants to eat to live. Simple as that. Some aspects of life are simple cruel by nature, and in a way that cannot be undone. We can fulfill our roles as omnivorous predators while still showing respect towards the environment, and without being unduly cruel towards other animals. Another predator might eat you alive, but we have no need to role like that. A quick and efficient kill is all that’s necessary. Animal cruelty manifests itself as people who torture and kill merely for fun. As was said by a Klingon in an episode of Star Trek: TNG “We do not kill an animal unless we are going to eat it.” I’d prefer to see a more Native American outlook towards hunting myself, and towards animal consumption in general. What gets me upset sometimes is when self righteous vegans, trying to promote their “one true diet” act like humans are somehow not a part of nature, or that their life style is necessarily more moral and more healthy (it isn’t, but that’s another discussion for another day). As long as you don’t go around thinking that resources are infinite, that everything is there for your exploitation, or that you somehow exist separate from nature, I really don’t see a problem with your chosen diet, whatever it is.

  54. I’ve never eaten meat, and this has made me privy to curiosities and experiences. It’s my strong belief that people become dependent on meat and must eat it to maintain proper health. Therefor, I see no contradiction in eating meat and being against animal cruelty, especially if one is mindful of the source of their food.

    Some animals lack a face, and we know they can suffer. Sharks don’t feel pain. I am confident in our estimation of what suffers and what does not. The degree of suffering is a mystery, as Dawkins raises a great point that animals with less intellect may suffer more because it is necessary to compell in the absence of intellectual awareness of threat. It might be possible for plants to suffer, but not any examples found on Earth. A human blastocysts does not suffer, and neither does a carrot. It’s not about category of plant or animal, but capacity of a nervous system

  55. In reply to #71 by DonaldMiller:

    I’d love to see what Christopher Hitchens would do to the animal cruelty faction. Simply being an atheist wouldn’t save you from his righteous indignation. We have thousands of years of the greatest minds in human history at our fingertips who we can turn to for tried and true wisedom that has survived the test of time, but because you exclude religion from your thinking, you also exclude — evidently from what I’ve been reading — all of philosophy.

    You shut your whore mouth when you wanna talk about the Hitch. Did you just g(x) religion and philosophy? Wow. Really?

    Wow.

  56. I have given a lot of thought to this topic. I am a vegetarian and have been for most of my life. I have a hobby farm and have to deal with way more animal death that I want to…from my animals getting sick, to predators, to wondering what to do with the vermin that eat my vegetables and animal feed. It is impossible to get away from death and suffering in this life, sooner or later it happens regardless of what you do. That said, the suffering that happens on factory farms is utterly unacceptable to me. The suffering of animals that are not allowed to express their natural instincts..ie Chickens to scratch in the dirt, the suffering of living in incredibly smelly/toxic environment instead of the open air, cramped unable to move around for their entire short lives, eating food that is not appropriate for them, etc…than the whole slaughter processes, being loaded roughly into vehicles to be shipped off, knowing their death is imminent etc. And I like animals…if treated well they are joyful, curious, and willing to get along with others for the most part. It is nearly impossible for farms to treat animals well and make money. If you are serious about eating ethically raised animals, then raising your own, hunting, or getting to know a farmer who is genuinely interested in the welfare of his/her animals is the only way to go…I do not believe you can buy ethical meat/eggs/milk at the supermarket or for supermarket prices. I do not see plants as suffering, they do not have nervous systems…for the most part they can reproduce rapidly even after they die so it seems as if they are here as food. Sure I have seen the studies that suggest that plants are cognitive, but nothing to show they feel pain. (animals defiantly do). I have given a lot of thought as to why I am a vegetarian…it is not that I think animals are the same as humans (they are not). It is not that I am unable to handle the thought of them being slaughtered by/for me, I have killed animals and eaten them before. It is because when I look at them, spend time with them…I simple do not think of them as food. They are beings living their own lives. I can live healthily without meat. If I needed it to survive I am capable of killing and processing animals, but I would rather not and it seems hypocritical to make someone else do the “dirty work” of killing the animal for me.

  57. To me, human rights and animal rights go together. Humans have a duty to care for animals and other humans because both have the ability to suffer. Both are capable of experiencing pleasure, fear and pain. I find discrimination on the grounds of species similar to discrimination on the grounds of race or sex. Our bigger brains come with the intellectual responsibility to do what’s right, not what’s commonplace. Furthermore: According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, animal agriculture is linked to “contamination of aquatic ecosystems, soil, and drinking water by manure, pesticides, and fertilizers; acid rain from ammonia emissions; greenhouse gas production; and depletion of aquifers for irrigation” (United Nations Food & Agriculture Organization, Livestock & the Environment, 1996).

    And it’s pretty impossible to deny that growing and feeding grain to animals and eating them is much less efficient than just growing the grain to feed people. It’s an essential inefficiency in the process. It’s also reflected in a more basic resource: water (http://www.waterfootprint.org/Reports/Report12.pdf).
    It takes 2x the amount of water to produce chicken than plantfood. 3 times as much water to produce pork. And 10 times as much water to produce beef. And that’s not even counting the water used to grow their feed – add in that, and you quadruple that number (http://awesome.good.is/transparency/web/trans0309walkthisway.html).

    If we are thinking people who rely on logic and reason to make ethical decisions, veganism is vital for animal welfare and necessary for the future of the planet.

  58. Of course it is contradictory to eat meat and condemn animal cruelty at the same time, it’s called hypocrisy. Killing other beings for pleasure is cruel, sadistic, borderline sociopathic. And that does include killing other beings for the pleasure of eating them afterwards. Human animal can sustain himself at optimal shape without the need for meat. That’s considering you follow the “traditional” liberal-judeo-christian moral code of the herd.

    Humanity as the apex predator of this planet has the capability to subdue and eat any other animal, and the capability to do so is the only permission we will ever need. There is no absolute moral code that condems it, and the rest of codes that do condemn it are man-made and thus false.

  59. I am absolutely for making the farming practice more ethical — I believe this will dramatically benefit human health (you are what you eat ate . . . or was injected with).

    Having studied nutrition, and having spent two decades as a vegetarian myself, I do not believe that optimal health and performance can be achieved through a plant based diet.

    When you choose not to eat animal products, you are literally choosing (whether knowingly or not) to sacrifice your own mental, physical, and emotional potential to some degree. The degree will vary from person to person.

    Understanding this, I choose to eat high quality meat despite not enjoying the taste, and despite preferring a vegetarian diet out of habit and because it’s not nice to think about the animal on the plate in front of you.

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