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Posted: 21 January 2008 07:29 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 91 ]
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I don’t entirely understand the cruelty toward animals’ argument and vegitarianism.  Does this extend to the idea that we should feed lions (all carnivorous animals) human prepared tofu burgers, so that they don’t have to cause unnecessary suffering and cruelty towards wildebeests etc?  Humans are animals, right?  Maybe some day Peter Singer will make priority on my reading list, but for now this position appears radical and silly.  Keep in mind I grew up in Iowa where shirts reading PETA stood for “People for the Eating of Tasty Animals”.

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Posted: 21 January 2008 08:28 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 92 ]
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Well, to start with I think the notion of cruelty implies empathy-the ability to understand that one is inflicting suffering. There’s no moral dimension to the behavior of a lion, an infant, a severly retarded person because the necessary understanding and the ability to make choices based on it don’t exist. So while humans are animals, we are also unique (depending on what you believe about the cognitive abilities of other apes).

As for choosing what to feed a lion, versus what we choose to feed ourselves, there are some pragmatic issues involved. We don’t generaly feed carnivores in captivity live prey, but it’s more a practical issue (parasites, injury to the carnivore, the public yuck factor, etc) than a moral one. They are clearly obligate carnivores, so they need to be fed meat regardless of what we think about the welfare of the prey animal. But the meat doesn’t have to be killed in a way that ensures suffering, so when we have the choice we slaughter it as humanely as possible. All moral choices involve compromise, I think.

As for my own vegetarianism, while I’m not particularly militant or radical about it (and I have no use for the nutjobs at PETA), I don’t see much difference between slowly torturing a cat to death for amusement and torturing a chicken in a modern industrial farm because it produces meat we don’t really need more cheaply than more humane practices do. I’m not necessarily opposed to killing and eating animals, though I don’t think we can make strong arguments from necessity or lack of knowledge for ourselves such as we can make for lions. But I am opposed to systemtically inducing suffering for the sake of convenience or economic imperatives. If you feel differently, I’m not about to picket your house, but I do think “radical and silly” is, as you imply, just a gut-level intuition based on your early learning environment, not a well thought-out response to the kinds of issues Singer and such raise. One cannot, IMHO, understand the nature of animal perception and capacity to suffer, and understand the details of how the indsrial agricultural system prodces meat and nt at least acknoledge that we cause pain unecessarily. Then one has to decide whether such pin maters or not. I happen to feel it does. As you already know, I’m a moral relativist, so I think it matters for reaons that are not God-given nor writ into the fabric of reality, but I think good arguments can be made that it i better, practically and ethically, to care about such suffering and to try and minimize it.

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Posted: 21 January 2008 01:39 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 93 ]
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mckenzievmd - 21 January 2008 08:28 AM

I am opposed to systematically inducing suffering for the sake of convenience or economic imperatives

Does this mean that you would not steal someone’s food (who could survive the loss) to feed a starving family?  I think you may be a little hasty to throw out ultimatums like that.  Would you let pigs have more food and shelter than they could conceivable find by their own natural means, at the price of their discomfort with proximity, if you knew all those pigs were going to feed starving children in Africa?  Wouldn’t that be an economical situation where the benefits outweigh the costs?  What if those pigs fed the people who bring other food to starving children or who administer medicines?

How many pigs would exist if every human was a level 5 vegan that didn’t eat anything that casts a shadow?  Maybe by eating pork I am saying that I want pigs to have the opportunity to experience life.

mckenzievmd - 21 January 2008 08:28 AM

I’m a moral relativist, so I think it matters for reasons that are not God-given nor writ into the fabric of reality, but I think good arguments can be made that it i better, practically and ethically, to care about such suffering and to try and minimize it.

I am not opposed to limiting suffering when it is economical, but I am sure there are economic costs for doing so, no matter how difficult they are to recognize.  If there is an ultimate relativist argument for being a vegetarian I would like to hear it.

I should add that I rarely eat fish because I am concerned with the over fishing going on in our shallow waters and the economic impact that has on our eco system.  I once heard a report on the amount of methane gas animals release by farting and if I heard more on that I might be persuaded to consume less meat, but not for cruelty reasons.

[ Edited: 21 January 2008 01:41 PM by retrospy ]
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Posted: 21 January 2008 02:57 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 94 ]
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Does this mean that you would not steal someone’s food (who could survive the loss) to feed a starving family?  I think you may be a little hasty to throw out ultimatums like that.  Would you let pigs have more food and shelter than they could conceivable find by their own natural means, at the price of their discomfort with proximity, if you knew all those pigs were going to feed starving children in Africa?  Wouldn’t that be an economical situation where the benefits outweigh the costs?  What if those pigs fed the people who bring other food to starving children or who administer medicines?

You are mixing together all kinds of ethical issues which each deserve to be analyzed on their individual merits. The point I was making was that there are ethical issues involved in treating animals cruelly to obtain their meat. DO you agree? If so, we can certainly work through such details and hypothetical conflicts as you raise.

For example, I don’t see stealing food from someone who can find plenty to eat elsewhere morally equivalent to confining, debeaking, and otherwise causing pain to commercial poultry, so while I certainly would do the former, that doesn’t really have any bearing on whether the latter is right or wrong.

As for feeding the starving in Africa, one of the non-cruelty arguments against eating meat is that it is energetically less efficient to produce than plant foods, so more people can be fed well with less land by growing crops for them than growing feed crops and feeding them to animals for people to eat. So on a technicality, the question fails. However, what I’m sure you meant to elicit was a position on the relative value of the animals and the children. While I can see no absolute moral reason to prefer people over other animals, of course I do because I have both evolutionary and personal developmental reasons to feel this way. So I probably would prefer cruel treatment of pigs to letting children starve if that were really a choice, but that doesn’t mean the cruelty is not cruelty, and it doesn’t happen to actually be a real choice.

Should we eat meat because we allow more food animals to live, albeit lives of questionable quality, than would live otherwise? An interesting utilitarian hypothetical which, though again I think it beside the point, I would probably answer no. I don’t think the value of potential life makes a good argument in general, and I think that if the choice were raising the pigs to suffer or not raising them at all, I’d go with not at all.

I’m not sure what an “ultimate relativist argument” would be, since it sounds a bit of an oxymoron. My point in mentioning relativism was that I present my own moral beliefs as rational but by no means the absolute last word on any matter, and with a great deal of personal and cultural factors leading into them. Thus, I’m not a militant or evangelizing vegetarian. I do, however, believe the argument about cruelty and suffering has merit, and I’d be happy to discuss it. We seem, at the moment, to be talking around it, possibly because you don’t sound like you think there is any real issue there. Why don’t we start with finding lout what, if anything, we can agree on as a starting point?

1) Do you believe animals are capable of suffering?
2) Do you believe the system of industrial meat production creates suffering? Is this unavoidable or, at least to some extent, a consequence of choices we make in designing and organizing the system?
3) Is animal suffering automatically less important when making ethical choices than human needs? How about than human desires?
3) Do you think it is reasonable to balance the economic costs and human needs against the suffering of food animals in a sort of utilitarian process, or are you just fundamentally convinced that the animals’ interests are not a meaningful issue?

I don’t mean these questions to be loaded or to set you up in any way, I just think we could waste a lot of time debating when we don’t really have any meaningful common assumptions. I never find debate about animal welfare productive with fundamentalist Christians, for example, because they almost always believe that the possession of an immortal soul by humans alone, the “made in God’s image” business, etc mean that we have a fundamental right, even duty to use animals for our needs regardless of their interests. No useful debate would be possible starting from there. So if you are open-minded that there is something to discuss, great, but if you really think there’s nothing at issue we might as well agree to disagree and move on.

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Posted: 22 January 2008 09:53 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 95 ]
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Mriana - 18 January 2008 09:46 PM


You may eat such animals. I’m a vegetarian and have been the majority of my life.  Now, I understand not everyone can be vegetarians, but it is a thought if you want to protest this sort of thing.  Thing is, I’m not a vegetarian just out of protest, I never liked meat even as a child.  So, it’s a little bit of a different story, but the thing is, if you don’t buy it, they can’t sell it, and they will have to change their ways- esp if more people than just you don’t buy it.  The other thing is there is some petition somewhere, Care2 or something like that, that people can sign concerning this be stopped.  You could write the FDA and other government offices about this too, esp if it really concerns you.

Others have tried to do that, do you remember the protesters spilling milk to the floor as a sign that milk was full of chemicals?

The FDA won’t listen to the concerns of the public. Otherwise the milk gallons should come with a label describing the different preservatives added to milk to make it last for weeks in stores.

The nickname of “junk food” to the fried chicken sold in fast food restauranrs is not only by the fat (grease) when the pieces are fried but by the quality of the meat.

In Spain, I read in another forum that a guy suggested to follow the McDonalds truck to find the origin of their cow meat in US. According to this guy, he said that the cows from this fast food restaurant comes from genetically modified “things”. He claims that these cows have also atrophied legs and lean on the floor all the time. They lack of horns and look like big jello masses over the floor. They, according to him- are fed by tubes.

I cannot confirm by any means those claims, but it won’t be a surprise if something similar is going on today with the meat of this kind of restaurants.

I’m glad that you have concerns about what you eat, but when production at great scales is made, you are at risk to be eating what you reject as your principles.

An example is the mass production of milk, where the machine keep pulling trying to fill up the container with milk, and sometimes makes the cow to bleed. The blood is mixed with the milk. Of course the process of pasteurization kills most of bacteria and such and such, still the cow was bleeding and blood was mixed with milk. It is hard to stop for this to happen.

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Posted: 22 January 2008 10:18 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 96 ]
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Occam - 18 January 2008 11:54 AM

A local news commentator on Air America Radio was similarly upset about a local water facility working to reclaim waste water.  If you think about it, we are all drinking water that has been recycled through the kidneys of countless generations of every sort of animal.  Consider how much urine the dinosaurs generated over the time they existed, or the amount of urine generated by all the mammals.  All of that water has gone back into the worldwide reservoir and we end up drinking water that contains molecules that have been flushed through the kidneys, bladders, and also intestines of many animals.

Just because a water molecule happened, at one time be near a urea molecule is meaningless.  As long as the process, natural or human, separates the water from the contaminants there shouldn’t be any problem.

Occam

The commentator of the documentary only said that the processor machine for these production of chicken dries up the excrement and mix additives to it. The wild guess is to assume that some residual will exit the factory.

Still you cannot compare the life that you have in comparison to the style of life of these chicken. A healthy animal can move to places, chicken run, jump, walk, and do what their organims need to release toxins, like we do when we excercise. I’m not talking to put the chicken to start a “pilates program” but to let them grow normally.

The main fact that demonstrates that this kind of chicken is unhealthy is that “chicken flavor” has to be added to this meat. The commentator finish this part of the documentary saying that the new generations of Americans are growing up ignoring the “real flavor” of chicken. This is correct. I have traveled to other countries and tasted their chicken and meat in the farm. The taste is really different. Even, the milk doesn’t bother me, I guess because my body reacts different to that environment, still, you have to taste that meat and find by yourself the difference. It is a big difference.

Who knows what kind of chemicals were mixed to create such flavor injected to the meat of these animals, but this production of meat doesn’t promisse anything healthy by any means.

You are correct that we drink water which in its original place collected urine and excrement from animals including fish. You must take note that we do so because we have no other choice. In the case of the chicken production, there are better choices to take and can be implemented in order to maintain a more healthy level for the animals and the humans who will consume the meat.

Still, I support to label the origin of the food I eat. I pay for the food and I want to know what I am buying. It’s a right.

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Posted: 22 January 2008 11:09 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 97 ]
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Most of your response had nothing to do with my post.  The commentator you refer to was assuredly not the same one as I referenced.  I was not implying any ethical connection between drinking water and chicken production.  I was only answering the posts that were concerned about their ick-factor from drinking water recycled from waste water.

Occam

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Posted: 22 January 2008 11:41 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 98 ]
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mckenzievmd - 21 January 2008 02:57 PM

For example, I don’t see stealing food from someone who can find plenty to eat elsewhere morally equivalent to confining, debeaking, and otherwise causing pain to commercial poultry, so while I certainly would do the former, that doesn’t really have any bearing on whether the latter is right or wrong

My aim with the stealing and starving dilemmas was to point out that you really don’t mean what you say:

mckenzievmd - 21 January 2008 08:28 AM

I am opposed to systematically inducing suffering for the sake of convenience or economic imperatives

There are economic imperatives and convenience issues that would lead you to allow suffering on various levels depending on the severity and radical-ness of the case.  I would argue that these issues are involved in a very complex network of supply and demand that is extremely difficult to pin point with animal rights issues.  Maybe I am putting too much faith in everyone’s desires regulating this market.  Part of being a relativist, for me, is that peoples desires are what make the right action relative.  Raising consciousness to hidden issues is important; my gut is just telling me that animal discomfort is near the bottom of the barrel on issues I find worth my efforts.  I look forward to analyzing my consciousness and thanks for being so thorough Brennen.

mckenzievmd - 21 January 2008 02:57 PM

Should we eat meat because we allow more food animals to live, albeit lives of questionable quality, than would live otherwise? An interesting utilitarian hypothetical which, though again I think it beside the point, I would probably answer no. I don’t think the value of potential life makes a good argument in general, and I think that if the choice were raising the pigs to suffer or not raising them at all, I’d go with not at all.

I suppose I could bounce back and forth on this issue and here is the reason why I can never settle down.

The mere addition paradox: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mere_addition_paradox

Both ends of the spectrum can appear correct and yet absurd if played out to the extreme.  So, the issue for me is finding that equilibrium.  I find the best method for doing this is economics.  I am not sure when it is appropriate to tell specific people when their views are too far from the norm.  So lets start with the questions.

1) Do you believe animals are capable of suffering?  yes

2) Do you believe the system of industrial meat production creates suffering? Is this unavoidable or, at least to some extent, a consequence of choices we make in designing and organizing the system?  potentially

3) Is animal suffering automatically less important when making ethical choices than human needs? How about than human desires?  yes and maybe I’m sure we could do animal trolley problems and identify where the average cut off is, I just haven’t made the commitment that this is a priority.

3) Do you think it is reasonable to balance the economic costs and human needs against the suffering of food animals in a sort of utilitarian process, or are you just fundamentally convinced that the animals’ interests are not a meaningful issue? Utilitarian would be my preferred analytical method technically I am somewhat persuaded by my fundamentally instincts that this issue isn’t worth the analytical effort, but here I am, barely persuaded.

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Posted: 22 January 2008 12:09 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 99 ]
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Retrospy,

Excellent, thanks for your clear and forthright response.

As for the general statement about inducing suffeirng, I do stand by it. I suppose maybe there’s some leeway in deciding what constitutes “suffering,” “convenience,” etc, but I still think it is a good general principle and that the case you described is more qualitatively than quantitatively different from the issue of animal welfare and as such not really relevant.

I agree that beliefs and desires are key in beginning to form moral or ethical principles. Rational analysis, utilitarian considerations, and so on are helpful in elaborating them, but we don’t get very far if we start with sufficiently different beliefs or premises. I might be able to make arguments that would convince you of the desirability of reducing the suffering of food animals based on general principles we can agree on. Perhaps an appreciation for suffering beyond our own species might be of value in broadening or encouraging empathy, decreasing our intraspecific cruelty etc. Singer is much better than I could be at making such a case if you ever are sufficiently motivated to investigate. But I think it is unlikley I’d get you to go along with the idea that we have a moral duty to reduce food animal suffering if you don’t feel, in a personal and visceral way, that said suffering is real and wrong. People’s view do change over time, as do those current in the culture at large. The percentage of white supremicist or people completely comfortable with their own anti-semitism is a lot less than it once was, as is the percent of people willing to tolerate us non-believers. I can hope that the same trend will appear with regard to my view of how we should treat other animals, but I’ve got other things to do than take on the job of making it happen.

My own choice not to eat meat is based on both rational factors (I think the production of it is economically and environmentally more harmful than not, I think as a food source it is not especially healthy, etc) and on a fundamental personal conviction that the economic justifications for industrial agricultural practices and the underlying desire for meat as a food source just don’t justify the cruelty of the process. As a vet, I know a fair bit about the system from both a practical and economic point of view, so I don’t think this is just a “knee-jerk” reaction, but rather an informed conclusion I came to over many years. But at its core there is a feeling, an intuition which you don’t share. And I’m not interested, as I said, in evangelizing for my position. I appreciate that you’ve taken the time and effort to at least talk about it as a serious question, despite your Iowa roots. wink

[ Edited: 22 January 2008 12:12 PM by mckenzievmd ]
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Posted: 22 January 2008 01:55 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 100 ]
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Brennen,

Because it is so glaringly obvious that people can hold a view that is demonstrably false, I will wager that my evolutionary and cultural instincts might be off on this topic, and I won’t make any claims until I have put forth the critical and skeptical evaluations necessary to take an informed stance.  It looks like the best way for me to start this inquiry is by reading Peter Singers book.  As I recall, I think he was interviewed on a past episode of POI.  I already have a somewhat audacious reading list to tackle, so I hope issues of animal rights and the environment hit a peaked interest publicly, later in the year, so that I am motivated to jump on that research bandwagon when my reading list is not so plentiful.

Scott

Also, I have not been able to find Derek Parfits “Reasons & Persons” at any of the Des Moines Libraries or at Barnes & Noble.  I’m wondering why this book is so unpopular, is there a better read on Utilitarianism & ethics?

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