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Old 06-30-2006, 03:55 AM   #31
David Cynamon
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Michael, My question (which you just answered)was if you don't eat meat for ethical reasons, either how far will you go to keep from harming animals. (or suggesting that maybe you really have another reason for being a vegetarian, even if you don't realize it.)

I personally check fruits and vegetables that often contain insects for religious reasons, and if you don't eat insects for ethical reasons, I was interested if you also check for them.

Is roadkill an option for an ethical vegetarian who just doesn't support animal suffering and death as an industry in and of itself?

I assume that you don't use leather products.
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Old 06-30-2006, 04:33 AM   #32
Marc Moffett
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Doug, Here is the basic lay-out of the animal rights debate. We use the notion of a "right" in at least the following three ways:

(1) an individual x has moral rights if and only if x is deserving of moral consideration.

(2) x has moral rights iff x deserves equal moral consideration for x's comparable interests.

(3) x has moral rights iff some of x's interests trump utilitarian considerations.

The last conception of rights (the one invoked by Tom Regan in his excellent book The Case for Animal Rights) I will put aside because it is an extremely controversial issue as to whether even people have such rights. On the first conception of rights it is entirely uncontrovesial that animals have rights. Torturing puppies by burning their eyeballs out for fun is simply morally wrong.

IMO the action for the animal rights issue concerns the second conception of rights. Do animals deserve equal moral consideration for thier comparable interests? I used to believe that a defense of meat-eating required a denial of the claim that animals do deserve equal moral consideration. For a number of reasons I believe that this is not possible.

However, it is possible to allow that animals do deserve equal moral consideration but nevertheless be suspicious about exactly what interests animals have. So the debate turn ultimately on questions of the cognitive sophistication of animals. This is an empirical question for ethologists. However, we do know quite a bit. Most importantly, it is not plausible to deny that many higher vertebrates have beliefs, desires and feel pain (and so have interests). [A collegue of mine, Jim Rose, has argued that the best scientific data suggest that fish don't feel pain--they don't have the right neural make-up--but the issue is controversial to say the least.] So cognitive ethology makes a convincing case that animals have interests.

But what interests? There are two crucial cases (1) pain/suffering and (2) death. Let me start with the second. What makes it wrong for someone to kill you? One thing is that you have a legitimate, direct interest in not dying. But it is doubtful that most animals (the possible exceptions being chimps and bonobos) possess the concept of death. If not, then they do not have a direct interest in not dying and so we don't need to take this (nonexistent) interest into account in our moral deliberation. The other possible wrong in killing you is that you are effectively robbed of your future life experiences. It is somewhat unclear exactly what the import of this claim is and somewhat unclear as to the extent to which animals can be "robbed" of such futures. But, however, that debate goes it is plausible to say that in the case of animals the discussion here basically reverts over to the question of animal experience and its moral significance.

So this takes us to the question, in particular, of animal pain. Let me review. I have granted that animal's feel pain and that they deserve equal moral consideration for their comparable interest in not feeling pain. Now what I would argue is that animal rights advocates generally at this point make an error--namely, they assume that the interest in not feeling pain has some particular moral significance which is independent of how that interest connects up with an organism's cognitive make-up. This is not plausible. (Consider, for instance, the fact that I just deliberately subjected myself to a fair amount of pain--ACL reconstruction. The moral significance of this pain is intimately connected to my life goals, conception of the good life, etc. It is not just that these considerations trump the pain, it is that the pain doesn't have some objective amount of significance independent of them.) The claim is that the extent to which we disvalue pain, and so the nature of our interest in avoiding pain, is a function of the inherently negative aspects of pain and the cognitive sophistication of the organism in which this interest occurs.

The upshot is that we cannot simply analogize from the moral significance of human pain to the moral significance of animal pain. Note that I am not denying that animal pain does have moral signficance and deserves equal consideration. I am merely denying that an animal's interest in avoiding pain is comporable to a human's interest. (Or, more carefully, that the two interests are comparable but that the significance of the human interest is inextricably connected to other related interests in humans which are possible because of our higher congitive functioning.) In a nutshell, pain isn't of as much importance to animals as we like to make out; there is a subtle degree of anthropomorphism in our judgments here. (After all, it is really not possible for you and I to imagine what it is like to feel pain sans our higher-order interests, long term goals, capacity for grasping long-term consequences and so forth.)

What I believe is that these considerations make room for very important interests on the part of people to over ride animal interests in avoiding pain (granting that some pain and suffering is inherent to the practice of killing and eating animals). Nobody IMO can morally justify causing animal pain for light or frivilous reasons. However, for many people, meat-eating is intrinsically connected with otherwise well-motivated conceptions of the good life. For example, the conception of human beings as natural, evolved creatures who have an interest in not becoming too culturally detached from their biological and ecological origins.

One thing that I hope this very brief sketch of the issue shows is that taking animal lives (and the associated pain) is not something to be done lightly or for trivial reasons. And I think that anyone who does eat meat needs to ask themselves about the significance of this act for them. If, as Michael suggested above, it is simply because they are tastey or that it will improve their atheltic performance marginally (and these facts do not tie into some larger conception of how to lead one's life), then arguably they should not eat meat. But I don't get the sense from talking to a lot of people on this board that this is the correct general description for why they eat meat.

And, I note, it is certainly possible for someone to have a legitimate conception of the good life which conflicts with meat eating--Buddhists come to mind. However, as noted above, simply "being a vegitarian" doesn't get you off the moral hook. Such a person needs to scrutinize agricultural practices. For instance, grain storage without "vermin control" is expensive (vermin control is much less significant in the meat industry). Do the organic farmers from whom you buy your grains practice vermin control? Do you buy locally grown produce or do you buy stuff shipped from across the country or world which caused innumerable animal deaths in getting it to you? (In response to Charlie, yes it is possible that in some circumstances consuming meat causes less overall animal death than consuming plant matter.)

At any rate, as long as this post is, it is far too short to do justice to the issue. I am simply trying to sketch the outlines of the debate and the relevant considerations in the broadest possible terms. Someday I might finish my book on this stuff....
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Old 06-30-2006, 04:46 AM   #33
Michael Forge
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David, I don't go nearly as far as many, or, perhaps, as I should given my respect for all life. No, I do not wear leather or use animal products, although even in those areas I'm not nearly as vigilant as I could be. I never intentionally kill non-threatening bugs if there is a reasonable way to avoid doing so. I catch mice only in humane traps. But if there turns out to be a karmic consequence for killing mosquitoes, ants and the like, I'm definitely in for some payback.

As for roadkill, from an ethical standpoint, I'd have no problem eating it, but I can't say that I find the prospect even remotely appealing.
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Old 06-30-2006, 05:08 AM   #34
Marc Moffett
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Michael, I am sorry, did I use big words?

You mistakenly think that I believe that there is something wrong with your choice. I don't. In fact, I both respect and admire your general stance.

What I find deeply problematic about your view is your unwillingness to scrutinize your behavior even by your own moral lights. You profess to be concerned with animal lives. And yet, in a remarkable failure of imagination, you fail to see how the DIRECT and FORESEEABLE consequences of agriculture could be more costly in terms of animal pain and suffering than the direct consequences of meat eating. In fact, you seem to be more worried about not intending to kill animals than in actually killing them.

I know you find it hard to imagine, but SUPPOSE that as a matter of fact a meat-based diet caused fewer animal deaths than a vegetarian diet. How would you choose? If you say that you would still be a vegetarian, then you are not concerned with animal lives per se but with not intending to kill animals. And if that is your view, then I recommend some hard thought about why that is. If, on the other hand, you would switch, then it is an empirical question as to whether or not you are acting in accordance with your own beliefs. You may think it is obvious that you are. But (and this is simply a fact) it isn't obvious.

And, if you go reread your first post, you will see that you did recommend that Doug adopt your uncritical perspective and simply say that eating animals goes against MY ethics (or something to that effect).
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Old 06-30-2006, 05:28 AM   #35
Scott Kustes
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Michael,
The "high rate of harm" from a vegetarian diet that Robb mentions is in regards to the high number of animals killed by combines during harvesting of crops, plus as Marc said, "vermin control". The farmers must either fence their fields off from the world, subject them to deer and rabbits which can destroy a field in no time, or kill said vermin and insects using guns, traps, snares, and pesticides. Many animals make their homes in the fields and you could follow a harvester and pick up the dead bodies. Just thought I'd make that a bit more explicit.

Mmmmm....roadkill. Anyone for a Slab of Lab? How about some Smear of Deer?
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Old 06-30-2006, 05:44 AM   #36
Michael Forge
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Marc,

I'm more than willing to scrutinize my own behavior. In fact, I consider it imperative to do so. And I am also very open-minded to new ways of looking at things and different viewpoints. But there are some ideas so outlandish that I honestly can't take them seriously. I don't doubt that animals suffer as a result of supplying grains and vegetables. But, come on, you couldn't possibly believe that this is worse than a scenario in which BILLIONS of animals are bred specifically to be killed!

But, I've let you do what I said I would not, suck me into a debate. So, instead I'll just answer the direct question you posed to me: If, by some fantastic perversion of reality, directly killing animals to eat them would result in less suffering or loss of life than not doing so, would I eat animals? Without hesitation.

As for my first post, I was not recommending that Doug adopt this perspective, but suggesting that that was a better way of phrasing what he was trying to express. I distincly got the impression that this was a personal choice for him rather than a global condemnation of the ethics of meat eaters.
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Old 06-30-2006, 06:04 AM   #37
Marc Moffett
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Michael, I don't support factory farming. (In fact, 90% of my families' meat these days comes from hunting and fishing, not the grocery store.) But the alternative to vegitarianism isn't factory farming.

The debate needs to be couched in terms of the most humane workable alternatives in both cases. And when you compare these two alternatives, I do think that meat-eating comes out ahead because it is so difficult to harvest and store plant matter without a significant amount of killing of pests (or, as Scott noted, mere residents in the field). If you could hand harvest enough grain, then things might even out (though you would still have the storage problems). However, hand harvesting adequate amounts of grain may not be workable solution. By contrast, free range grass finished beef doesn't cost much in terms of animal lives to be workable.

So I don't KNOW that eating meat is (can be) less costly. But I do think it is a very realistic possibility.
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Old 06-30-2006, 07:16 AM   #38
Lynne Pitts
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Folks,
Let's reel this back in to the original topic - can a vegetarian find love and happiness in paleo/zone?


Thanks.
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Old 06-30-2006, 08:39 AM   #39
Elliot Royce
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Whew, thanks Lynne. I guess it just proves you don't need meat to have a lot of testosterone! :happy:
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Old 06-30-2006, 12:32 PM   #40
Robert Wolf
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Michael, Mark-
Thank you for the discusssion, much appreciated.
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