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Christopher "Tanoro" Gray is a web programmer and science advocate especially concerned with resource management technologies, biology, and artificial intelligence. He is a student of epistemology and philosophy as well as an Atheist competent in Christian theology.
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The Morality of Meat-eating
Posted by: Tanoro - Apr 15, 2014 6:03PM

I have often wondered how long it would take for some vegan among my Facebook friends to get me to describe the moral reasons for my consumption of meat and animals products. I have been entangled in such a discussion and it has turned wordy, so here goes. This will be my typical format, breaking down specific arguments and rebutting them one-by-one.

Why would you kill animals when you know they suffer and plants don't? It makes no moral sense to consciously pay someone to kill animals. We all make a conscious choice when we go to the supermarket we can choose suffering (animal products) or we can choose non suffering plants.

While we're at it, here is an uncomprehensive list of other creatures that suffer and are routinely terminated for our pleasure: rats, mice, cockroaches, houseflies, spiders, snakes, scorpions, all unnamed pestilent organisms within the taxonomic kingdom of animalia, and anything dead on the highway as a result of modern transportation.

Morality is a bit more complicated than what suffers and what doesn't.

I've never met a vegan who even kills a mosquito for pleasure. If I kill a mosquito, it's because I'm defending myself. As an aside, I never intentionally try to kill pests. I catch and release bugs and mice outside, as do all vegans I know.

Defending oneself from harm is a legitimate reason to use force or violence against another. Killing an innocent chicken because you like the taste of her flesh is not the same thing.

I added the bold here because we'll be coming back to it later. First of all, you can't defend yourself from a misquito. If it is on your flesh, it has likely already bitten you. You either kill it or tolerate it. If you opt to kill it, you have already refuted yourself. Secondly, speaking hypothetically, I am skeptical that a roach infestation can be resolved by capturing each participant alive. In most cases, roaches nest in hard to reach places that need to be chemically treated in some way in order to terminate the nest and halt the progression of the infestation. I don't believe for a moment you practice non-violence for roach infestations.

Personally, I find the practice of moral veganism inconsistent. Your view is that it is moral to kill plants, but not moral to kill animals? Why? Because one can "suffer" while the other can't. That depends on how you define "suffering." You might define suffering as, "the unnecessary infliction of pain" as above, but then it becomes moral to kill any organism that can't, as far as you can tell, feel pain. Do you spot the inconsistency yet? I might hold the more realistic view that suffering is a inescapable component of life and that morality is about minimizing the unnecessary instances of suffering and ensuring no suffering is in vane. Empathy is about recognizing that I am also subject to such suffering for the benefit of others. More on this point later.

You find the spilling of blood morally repugnant because you're more easily able to relate to it. It is also emotionally convenient for you that plants don't have any means of audibly expressing their displeasure, even if cutting down a sheath of wheat is as painful and dispatching a cow. You are willing to kill plants instead because they can't scream.

Vegans bluster on and on about empathy. The fact is that they attempt to empathize with only one subjectively-defined group of organisms: anything that can't express its displeasure to pain. I, on the other hand, empathize with all organisms equally. It is unfortunate that no organism can survive without feasting on his fellow fruits of nature. That said, so long as I work to ensure the prey that I acquire -- be it a plant or animal -- does not go to waste, it remains equally moral to harvest either.

If you honestly believe it's wrong to eat plants, you could always choose the ultra-vegan lifestyle of fruitarianism (eating the fruits and nuts that fall from trees). From a comparative anatomy/physiological angle, humans are actually fruitarians/frugivores.

I didn't say it is wrong to eat plants. You're the one attempting to categorize what is morally correct to eat and what is not. I said it appears to be no more morally wrong to eat an animal than a plant and vice versa. Your view is about making exceptions -- special pleading. You're attempting to establish a tautology that it is immoral to kill anything that can feel pain. This tautology has no merit when there are exceptions on either side, like any animal that can't -- for whatever reason -- feel pain or insects that may be able to feel some form of pain, but you're willing to swat them anyway. This is in addition to how subjective it is to grade for yourself how painful your actions are to another organism.

And no expert in biology, taxonomy, or medicine believes humans evolved to eat exclusively fruits or vegetables. The only people saying this are vegans who are already biased to say this. It is simply a falsehood.

Okay, so by your logic I could kill you and feed your meat to my pet dogs. Because it's just a personal choice after all right?

Morally speaking, yes, you can. Fortunately for you and me, we have a culture, social decorum, and an abundance of convenient alternatives to render such a thing unnecessary. Cannibalism is simply not worth the effort, especially when stacked against the productive benefits that you and I gain if we keep each other alive and the cultural respect we are encouraged to have for each other. However, remove all of those factors. You and I are stranded on a snowy mountain with no food at all and desperately starving. Depending on which of us passes out first, one of us just might be willing to -- ahem -- utilize the other to survive.

On a related point, this argument goes both ways and suggests another inconsistency in your point of view. Are humans that are comatose or brain dead on your menu? They can't feel pain, right? Of course they are not, because their ability to suffer is not what your morality is actually using.

It seems like you have an incomplete inderstanding of the philosophy of Veganism. Veganism is merely the dietary practice of Non-Violence, the practice of doing no harm, or the least harm to other beings.

No, I understand completely. The problem is that your view of non-violence is -- as I stated unamibuously above -- highly inconsistent. You subjectively pick and choose what you're willing to kill based on the lack of emotional charge to do otherwise. Even so, you make exceptions on both sides of the fence for misquitos and animals that can't feel pain. I, on the other hand, keep to social decorum and view the sacrifice of a plant or an animal as equally acceptable so long as an effort is made to avoid the wasteful and unnecessary loss of life.

This blog is an editorial and contains only the opinions of the author. The author claims no expertise on most topics of discussion and this blog is not to be cited as an alternative for properly vetted journalism or scientific sources.

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