To me this seems an open and shut case. I evaluate this based on three ethical
The Golden Rule. To treat others how we would want to be treated if we were
them. There are some pretty crazy people out there but I I have yet to meet
anyone who would volunteer to go through a factory farm or be killed so someone
could eat them. No one in their right mind would want to live the life of the
animals which we all contribute to. Strike one.
Utilitarianism. It is our duty to imagine ourselves as everyone else in the
world and to ask what we would want if we were them. It is hard to see how
putting ourselves through a factory farm benefits the greater good. In fact, it
is impossible to see, because, even forgetting justice for a moment, no reward
we get comes close to the suffering they receive. Strike two.
The Least Harm Principle. None of us are able to completely prevent all
suffering. It would be a monumental mistake to then claim we should not prevent any suffering. We are causing massive amounts of suffering. Strike three. We’re
There is no doubt that finding alternatives are needed to be able to follow
these three ethical principles, but I fail to see how any future civilization
would ever look back at our history and think to themselves we were ethical in
our actions. Rather, I think they would ask themselves how generations could own
slaves or raise animals just to kill them. I realize we are sucking on the teet
so our conscience loves to rationalize the hell out of this. It took me a long
time to finally admit this but there are only so many excuses we can come up
with before we admit the truth.
I do not think the golden rule is a good rule, and even if it were, I don’t think the golden rule should apply to animals. I don’t believe the biological desire to eat flesh is somehow base or icky. Rabbits, could they express it, probably would express that they don’t want to be eaten by anyone. Ready to jail wolves?
In my opinion all utilitarian analyses assume a level of empirical knowledge that we totally lack and are therefore bankrupt from the get-go. Putting a pig in a pig farm may cause suffering for the pig, and may bring joy to people that will eat the pig. I am not aware of any useful measure to put this suffering and joy on a balance to decide the issue.
Well, when we farm animals, we cause ongoing suffering. When we remove these farms to make our epic vegetarian farms, we starve them out of a place to live. It isn’t like if we gave up husbandry we’d just dedicate all this land to pig and cattle playpens. So what we’re really judging is whether an animal in an animal farm is better of not having lived at all. On this measure, I’d probably agree, but only because I think this is true of all life, period.
Additionally, I do think that the least harm principle is sound. All else equal, we should choose whichever path minimizes suffering. But in this case, all else isn’t equal, which would bring us back to (2), or some other kind of analysis in order to compare the cases.
Those same arguments apply towards plants, absent any kind of delineation of what counts as the sort of entity we apply our morals to. And of course, that dividing line is where all the discussion lies: lets say we draw it at ‘being capable of suffering’. Who’s to say that animals are, and plants aren’t? And which animals, exactly, can suffer? The same goes for ‘being conscious’, or anything else.
I think you’re equating different things, as others have said. Today opinion seems split between groups such as PETA who see animals as having the same rights as humans, and those who are okay with factory farming because they see animals as having no rights. A sane perspective treats animals as having some rights, but far less than humans.
Few people would, actually, disagrees that animals have some rights. Show people a dog or cat being tortured and almost everyone will agree that it’s morally wrong and should be outlawed.
The reason why animals should have fewer rights than humans ought to be equally obvious. Most of the rights that humans have, animals are incapable of understanding. All humans understand the concept of freedom, which is why whenever slavery exists, there needs to be constant violence and intimidation to prevent the slaves from demanding their rightful freedom. On the other hand, animals do not have any concept of freedom. Suppose I keep some cows in a field. You, demanding animal freedom, knock down part of the fence and tell the cows that they now have freedom. Well the cows just aren’t smart enough to understand the concept. Some of the them might eventually wander through the hole in the fence, but none of them would ever know that they’re free. Hence many of the rights that are guaranteed to humans cannot be meaningfully assigned to animals.
I would agree, and most people would, that animals have a right to not be subjected to needless pain, and that the farming process should be required to not inflict great pain on animals. Much modern farming is wrong in this respect, and doubtlessly many people are in denial about how bad it is. However, there is nothing intrinsically unethical about raising animals for food. Frankly, cows don’t even know that they’re being raised for food. They’re not smart enough to grok the concept.
I am a firm believer in the Golden Rule.
I do not eat meat, mainly for ethical reasons.
Also, I believe that we, as two legged people, do not reign supreme over the animal kingdom.
My only problem with your- following the golden rule logic, is that I do not want others preaching to me about ethics, concerning my diet of choice.
So with that logic, I would not be following the golden rule, by preaching to them, about the ethics concerning their diet of choice.
I would have to find some other way to make that point, if I wanted to follow the golden rule.
I’m sorry, but what gives you this impression? It seems pretty obvious that, as a species, we absolutely reign supreme on this planet at this time in history…and have pretty much dominated the planet for at least the last 10k years (or more). That could change…hell, it’s possible that our undoing will be by some bacteria or virus sometime in the future. But today, right now? I don’t see how anyone could even say what you are saying here with a straight face, to be honest.
As to the OP:
I don’t see it as either ethical or unethical…it’s reality. We are omnivorous. That’s what we are. So, eating meat is part of how we developed, as a species. We are sentient, however, so we have a choice in how much (or little) meat we eat, or if we want to eat meat at all (assuming one is careful in their diet and makes sure you are getting all the nutrients you need on an all veg. diet). I don’t see that choice as being about ethics, however…it’s simply a choice that each individual makes for themselves.
In general I think that this is a good rule for treating our fellow humans…though, even there we, as a species, don’t exactly have a great track record. We should STRIVE for this treatment of our fellow human beings. However, trying to translate that into treating all animals the same is, well, ridiculous. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t have some compassion for animals, but it’s silly to try and equate a mouse with a human being in how they should be treated.
Horseshit. It’s not our duty to imagine ourselves as every other HUMAN on the planet, let alone having to imagine ourselves as every other animal species on the planet. Again, we should strive to be compassionate and caring about our fellow human beings, and I think it’s admirable to try and alleviate human suffering where ever and when ever we can…but our duty?? And then to try and further up the ridiculous scale by having to do so for ever rat, fish and insect out there??
Again, it’s laudable, if unrealistic, to think of things in these terms wrt our fellow human beings. It’s something that we should strive for, though realistically it’s something that we’ll probably never achieve. To try and put this in terms of every animal out there?? Um, no…that’s just silly.
Here’s the thing. If you want to make a choice not to eat meat due to some ‘ethical’ stance you are making, then more power to you…it means more steak and burgers for me! But many of the animals we raise for food these days have been specifically bread to BE our food…for hundreds and in some cases thousands of years. They simply wouldn’t survive ‘in the wild’, even if we assume that humans are just going to make room for them to live wild and free.
Bottom line is we’re omnivores, and a large percentage of us can and will eat meat. There are so many of us that the only way to have us eat meat is large factory type farms…which is probably not all that pleasant for the animals involved (though mostly it’s probably less grim than you think, when compared to the short and brutal lives they might have lead in the wild, constantly scrounging for food, occasionally starving and in constant danger of having something with large fangs and claws leap on them for a quick meal).
Animal suffering is completely, utterly, and entirely irrelevant to anything. The only reason we care about animal rights is because violating them makes human feel sad, in which case humans are suffering. The animals’ suffering, per se, matters not one iota.
The Golden Rule only applies insofar as the Social Contract allows it. Humans can be treated with dignity because they have the ability to grant me the same treatment in turn. A disabled person, for instance, is able to agree that if they were able-bodied and I were infirm, that they wouldn’t physically abuse me. An animal is unable to make such an agreement with our society. If the roles were reversed, the cow would choose to eat me. If I were suffering, the pig would do nothing to assist me. Because there is no Social Contract between animals and humans, there is not basis for the Golden Rule either.