Should animals be treated as property?

Discussion in 'Ethics, Morality, & Justice' started by hug-a-tree, Sep 23, 2008.

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  1. James R Just this guy, you know? Staff Member

    I didn't say that. Why is it relevant?

    Lions, like other cats, are carnivores.

    Also, the same humans who say they have a moral sense and animals do not, and that that fact justifies eating animals (somehow!), suddenly want lions to act morally?

    That's a fairly blatant double standard at the very least, wouldn't you say?
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  3. James R Just this guy, you know? Staff Member


    Unlike you, I am not a moral relativist. As far as I can see, there are universals in morals. People across the world and across cultures agree that certain acts are wrong, or desirable. Murder is high on that list.

    Here's one I prepared earlier:

    [enc]Equal consideration[/enc]

    Please read the entire article I wrote, and in particular the section on "Plant Rights" at the bottom.

    I am happy to answer questions.

    I disagree with your initial claim that all morality is subjective. If morals are all subjective, then morality is useless as a way of maintaining an orderly society. In fact, it is only because people agree on many moral issues that morality is considered to be a vitally useful study.

    You are conflating two issues here. The first is the question of whether it is moral for a cat to eat meat. The second is the question of whether it is moral for a human to feed a cat.

    Since you do not apparently recognise that cats are sentient creatures, let alone conscious, it is very difficult for you to argue that cats must act morally and not eat meat, so let's leave that issue aside. We need to get you to the stage where you agree that humans ought to act morally before we can start to debate whether other animals should act morally.

    As for human feeding cats meat, for now it is not at all an issue that I feed my cat meat. Why? Because my cat eats the "waste" meat from the animals that you choose to kill for no other reason than to satisfy your own pleasure. My cat gets the meat you don't want. (Think about why cat food is labelled "pet food only".) By feeding my cat, I am acting morally, as things stand, because I am helping to ensure that the animals you have killed are used more fully than they otherwise would be. Moreover, I am actually saving other animals that the cat would otherwise kill of its own accord.

    If we get to the stage where humans no longer kill animals because they like the taste of meat, then we might have an issue about feeding cats. But right now, it's a non-issue.

    No. I sacrifice no animals to feed my cat, as things stand. I'm ameliorating the impact of your evil acts as best I can.

    I don't really care about your semantic argument. Let's stick to discussing the moral question of whether it is right or wrong to eat meat, instead.

    Semantics is a human endeavour. How words are defined are not determined by "nature", but by people. If you wish to redefine the word "cruel" to mean something other than what its common meaning is, I have no particular interest in that. I am interested in what is cruel, not what you call cruel. My point regarding your logical fallacy is that it is wrong to say that something is (morally) good because it is "part of nature". Your attempt to divert again from the main game into a discussion of definitions is a waste of time.

    In fact, I would say that there is, or should be, a sliding scale of rights, based on capacities such as sentience and consciousness. Following Jeremy Bentham, I say we ought to ask not whether something can think or talk or reason, but whether it can suffer in a meaningful way. If so, then we should not act in such a way as to inflict suffering.

    For more on this, please refer to the article linked above.

    We should keep in mind, of course, that you are not in any way advancing your own argument here. While I might argue with somebody as to whether a tree or a rock can feel pain, with you we are much further up the tree. You apparently deny that animals such as cows, sheep and cats can feel pain, or have desires or any form of consciousness. You're part of the "automaton" brigade, as far as I can tell. You think that all non-human animals are essentially robot-like beings that have no "real" consciousness in the way that humans do. Therefore, you reason, they don't "matter" as far as killing goes. Please correct me if I have mistaken your point of view on this.

    Again, you are conflating two separate issues here. The first is the question of whether it is wrong to inflict pain on an animal. The second is whether it is wrong to kill an animal for its meat. I do not apply the same reasoning in both cases, which is why I refer both to [enc]equal consideration[/enc] and to the notion of [enc]intrinsic value[/enc].

    You seem quite reticient about stating your own position on these matters. From what I can glean, you apparently agree with "those who dispute that animals feel pain", or at least that they "feel pain in the way humans do". Please state what you believe about this, just so we're clear and don't misinterpret each other. I don't want to set up straw men.

    I would ask you, however, that if you are so convinced that a cow, for example, does not feel pain in the same way you do, then what convinces you that any human being other than yourself feels pain in the same way you do? Or do you also consider other human beings to be essentially unfeeling robots, like the other animals?

    Try to keep up. I was responding to your argument that we evolved specifically to like the taste of meat, and therefore that meat eating is right and good. By the same argument, we evolved also to like the taste of fatty foods, and therefore eating fatty foods is right and good. The more the better, because eating what we like the taste of is the "natural" thing to do. Right?

    I have not argued that eating meat is unhealthy. Even if eating meat is healthy, that does not make it right to eat it, because other moral reasons outweigh the health benefits.

    Consider the proposition: "Eating meat is moral". This is an easier phrasing than "Eating meat is not immoral". Avoiding the double negative may help prevent you from tying yourself in knots.

    Since eating meat is a positive act, freely chosen, it seems to me that you have the burden of proof to show that what you do is morally permissible. The act of not eating meat is a negative act - it is refraining from doing something.

    Thus, it seems to me that the burden of proof lies primarily on you, not on me.

    So, would eating a human child be amoral too, according to you?

    Are there any moral implications for you in eating anything at all, or is it open slather when it comes to what you put in your mouth?

    Hmm... touchy! "Moral smugness" indeed. Your position, of course, involves no self-interested "smugness", we can be sure.

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    Taking your points in order:

    (a) total consensus is rarely ever achievable in human affairs. If you wait until everybody agrees before taking action based on a moral judgment, you'll never act. And, if you do, you'll just be following the rest of the sheep.
    (b) addressed above, and also similar arguments apply as in (a).
    (c) I touched on this point earlier. If you'd like to discuss this particular point in more detail, please give your argument as to why killing is justified as long as it is "humane".
    (d) is interesting. It shows that you don't know much about the vegan rationale. I invite you to look up a few vegan websites (they are easy to find), and learn about the perceived suffering that vegans see associated with milk, honey and eggs. I won't just tell you, because at some point you'll have to put some effort into thinking about these issues for yourself if you are to progress morally. Let me know how you go, though.

    You have hit on a major point of difference between us. Unlike you, I do believe that conscious, sentient creatures have intrinsic value, by which I mean that I believe that such creatures are ends in themselves and cannot justifiably be used merely as means to my ends.

    Ignoring non-human animals for a moment, it seems that what you are saying is that you regard all other living things as fair game for advancing your own interests. Other people, and especially other non-human animals, are only valuable to you in terms of what they can do for you, and have no particular value in and of themselves.

    Is this a correct characterisation of your beliefs?

    Because to do so would not directly benefit you, and other groups only deserve moral consideration in so far as extending such boons is likely to make those groups more useful as tools to achieve your own ends. Correct?

    I agree with you, up to the last sentence here. I do not agree that any set of moral rules would be as good as any other set as long as they establish a sense of group unity. At the risk of invoking [enc]Godwin's law[/enc], the Nazis lived by a certain set of "moral" standards that helped to establish a sense of group unity. But few people today argue that Nazi morality is just as "good" as any other form of morality.

    To repeat: if human flesh tasted best, you'd happily eat human flesh, and happily kill for it? Because all issues surrounding where your food comes from and what you eat are amoral for you, so you say.

    Defining a right as an interest protected by law, it seems to me that animals do, as a matter of fact, have limited rights, even in America.

    Do you wish to have a semantic argument about the word "right" now? Or do you wish to challenge my claim? Or perhaps concede this point?

    Actually, it was a real-world example, used to make a point.

    By "not sapient" do you mean literally "not knowing"? i.e. not capable of forming an opinion on anything? Or not having any feelings or emotions? Or what?

    Do you believe a dog has the capacity to enjoy a particular activity, or dislike it? Or is it just a robot-like object for you? (Do you have a dog? Have you ever had a pet?)

    On what basis? Or is this just an arbitrary social convention for you, of the kind you spoke of before?

    Why is the dog different? Surely, if a puppy grows into a less cute dog, killing it after a year, and perhaps eating it for dinner, would present no problem for you.

    Why your reticence about killing the puppy, above, then? The puppy has no capacity for "caring" if you kill it, according to you. So, if it looks tasty, why not kill it and eat it?

    Why do you think such laws exist? Do they have a moral basis of any kind, or are they arbitrary, or perhaps just the result of muddied thinking and sentimentalism. Or some kind of twisted tradition, perhaps.

    What do you think?

    It is important that we establish exactly what your position is, first. You say an owner of a chicken should be free to kill the chicken and eat it on a whim. But, at the same time, you seem to have qualms about the owner of a puppy killing it and eating it on a similar whim. Why? Why are the two cases different? What's the important distinction?

    One significant right of an owner is the very one we are talking about above: the right to kill on a whim. At any time, the owner of a dog can take it to a vet and ask that the dog be put down. The dog can be perfectly healthy. It doesn't matter - an owner has the right to dispose of his property as he sees fit.

    A guardian would not have such a right.

    Do you want other examples?

    You, and your American law, apparently does not regarding having your dog euthanased just because that's what you want to do, as in any way "cruel". It's just your right as owner.

    According to you, this makes no sense, though, right?

    Since dogs aren't "sapient", these special laws for dogs make no more sense than having the same laws for chickens.

    If you could amend the laws to bring them in line with your own moral thinking, you'd remove these kinds of unjustifiable inconsistencies, would you not?

    Why pay for surgery for a non-sapient creature? In fact, why keep a dog at all? I suppose they can be entertaining, so maybe your own pleasure takes precedence and you might choose to keep a dog for your own enjoyment. Certainly, the dog can have no interest in being kept, other than having its physical needs attended to - if you don't feel like killing and eating it today, that is.

    Try seaching: "companion animal". You will find a wealth of resources.

    Of course, the best thing for everybody would be to not have any pets at all, because keeping any pet is a "chore". Never mind those troublesome additional requirements that you feed your pet, that you groom it, that you exercise it, that you treat it if it is sick or injured. It's all such a burden, and all for a non-sapient automaton.

    The only reason for having a pet is if all these burdens are balanced by the entertainment you get from the animal. Yes? Because the animal only "matters" or is valuable in so far as it pleases you.

    I've already answered this in a previous post. Of course, if we eliminated meat eating tomorrow, we wouldn't want to maintain millions of cows. As I said before, we could let the existing cows live out their natural lives in comfort, but cease deliberately breeding millions of news cows, and thereby gradually reduce numbers to sensible numbers.

    Cows don't naturally live forever, you know. Naturally, a cow might live 20 years. Of course, your juicy steak doesn't live anywhere near that long. You have it killed off when it is 2 or 3 years old, or perhaps when it is an even younger calf if you're a veal eater. But that's an "amoral" decision, isn't it? What does it matter if you reduce a cow's natural lifespan to 5% of what it would otherwise be? You enjoy the veal, and that's what really matters.
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  5. whitewolf asleep under the juniper bush Registered Senior Member

    Affirmative Action for cows and chickens!!!
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  7. Mickmeister Registered Senior Member

    I don't feel that I need to convince people at all. I have a dog that I realy love and I show it. He has gotten more possessions than most children get from their parents. I have had parents object to it and make nasty comments about it being a shame that I waste the money on him and not conceiving a child to raise, and I usually respond by laughing at them, as I cannot stand to be around children. I have even included my dog in my will, leaving $200,000 in trust to him, to continue his lifestyle until his death, in the event I died. I love animals, although I do take shit because I own three fur coats, mine, my wife's, and my dog's.
  8. Pandaemoni Valued Senior Member

    But different cultures do not universally believe that killing is wrong. The Romans believed that a husband could kill (or sell into slavery) his wife, slaves, children, and anyone else subject to his authority without any particular justification because he was the head of the household. It was not "murder" and it was not wrong.

    Most ancient cultures did not treat the killing or enslaving of foreigners the same way as they treated the killing of locals.

    In more recent times, others have come to the conclusion that killing anyone or anything is wrong, even in self defense.

    All morality is like that. Rules regarding sex, thievery, religiosity, drunkenness, assault, killing, etc...the standards have always mutated and changed over time. The only reason we have a nearly global standard on any of them today is that we have a nearly global culture, not because we are "more moral" than people who lived in the past.

    In any event it is very clear that your view of animals as equals is not now and has never been the view of mankind, so appeal to popularity aside, to what principle do look in your determination that animal rights are a moral issue? You seem to be asserting it based on deeply-felt emotion, not any universal principle.

    I will have to defer, as there is so much I would dispute in the essay that I haven't time to write it all just now. Suffice for the moment to say that I disagree with the motion that any rights are fundamental. "Rights" are an invention of society largely, though not entirely grounded in morality. Things become a "right" when society says they will not allow certain things and will work to defend or recompense you for events that occur to the contrary. In the U.S. the right to be free and not a slave is in fact a "right." In America in 1860, many people did not have that "right". In my mind it is not that they did have the right, and it was simply not being respected, it is that the "right" itself only exists insofar as it is respected.

    There is no natural law, there is only positive law. So, was Kant wrong to say that that all people have the right of self-determination? Yes. He believed he deduced this from logical principles, but the correct deduction that he should have made should not have been "All people have an inherent right of self-determination," but rather "Most people would prefer to have a right of self-determination."

    Unfortunately, most people would prefer a great many things be true, that are not true. To me it seems that whether self-determination becomes a defensible right depends on social consensus. In the west, in part because of Kant, that social consensus was reached. In parts of North Africa, it has decidedly not been reached. Even in the west, after its adoption, it did not apply to women for quite some time. In my view, that is all understandable because the morality underlying the position takes time to shift, as the personal morality of the society changes only one mind at a time, so to speak.

    Morality is useful. "Subjective" does not mean "random". Societies can and do have a common moral structure because we learn our morals from those around us. What matters is that the group achieve a common consensus that affords it internal stability, not the precise content of those rules.

    Take Rome again. It did not share our morality. If a patrician killed a plebeian, that was not a crime in the way we'd think of it, if a plebeian killed a patrician, that was definitely a crime. The rules were asymmetrical, but their society functioned because the rules were understood and accepted. The same is true of the pater familias concept, with the father killing off his family and other members of his household. It worked for them. If random individuals in modern America adopted similar standards, then that would create disharmony because those standards are so different from our own.

    Let's say that morality is objective (and I presume unchanging) then I think you would agree that the Romans were wildly immoral. Having sex with little boys was common. Gay marriage was permitted, though unusual, wife and children killing was "a father's right."

    All that said they clearly did have "rules" that they thought of as ethics, so where their rules come from? Moreover their rules differed greatly from that of the Celts in Gaul, and from those of the Carthaginians. If their rules did not come from the "universal" truth of "real" morality, then I think it's clear that the Romans must have invented them on their own. Somehow the Romans took their invented and (I agree) non-universal rules and thought them to everyone in their society and they stuck well enough for Rome to exist for nearly 1000 years in the west, most of it without the light of Christian morality troubling them.

    Human beings are social animals and we are designed (so to speak) to absorb and mimic the social rules of those around us. It does not matter what those rules are, we internalize them with only minor personal variations. Some of those rules we call "morality."

    Were we Vikings or ancient Anglo-Saxons, and were we engaged in this debate in the mead-hall of our chieftain, you might well end the debate by burying an axe in my skull, and the other Vikings would not find that "immoral." They might object on purely practical grounds or based on personal relationship with the now deceased me, but they would not have found your resort to violence innately objectionable (not even "deep down"). Because of the impractical nature of killing off your fellow tribe members, you be made to pay a fine (weregeld, literally "man gold")

    Morality is nothing more than a series of memes we absorb from the culture. So long as you and I spring from the same culture, we will absorb similar memes and our moralities will have overlapping parts. The rule against murder (within your own society) is a common rule, because the it is so useful in practical terms for maintain order, but it has not been universal. When you expand the principle to include foreigners, it has absolutely not been the rule through most of human history that killing foreigners has been considered immoral.

    It depends on what you mean by "ought". Humans act morally because we are social animals. As part of a complex survival mechanism, we are animals that enjoy the company of others of our kind and we internalize rules that lead to greater social organization. Each society has the potential to have its own (perhaps wildly different) set of moral rules, and those rules might well be inconsistent.

    In medieval Europe it was believed that morality demanded that "witches" be tortured into confessions and renunciations of the Devil and then immediately executed. At the moment of execution, in that way, they believed her soul was made clean and that she could be received in heaven. So, in their view, torturing her into confessing and then burning her at the stake was doing her a great service.

    Again, in my view there is no way to say that they were "wrong" (for all I know, their theology on this point may have been absolutely correct) it was simply included in the set of memes which people at that time were absorbing.

    Would I say that *those* people "ought" to behave morally? Because I do not share their view of the morality of their actions (coming from a different society as I do), I would answer "no." I find their moral intuitions so repugnant that I rather wish they had ignored them. On the other hand, because my morality is also not absolute I recognize that it would be foolish of me to foist my morality onto them. I would neither say that they "ought" to follow their own moral principles, nor that they "ought" to follow mine.

    The only occasion in which "ought" might possibly arise (though I think more weakly than you might like) is in the context of the behavior of someone within my society. Then I feel it is okay to say that he or she "ought" to behave in accordance with my morality. Even then, of course, allowances have to be made for minor personal variations in the understanding of the moral rules that we all have. Worse still, I think there are exceptions where people need to be free to argue for radically new moral standards (as you are doing in this thread), as it is possible that variations could lead to greater societal stability than the current rules set. If society disagrees (like when certain reformers tried to revive Biblical polygamy), society will smack them down. Sometimes, the reformers will win (as they largely have on the issue of racism).

    I can buy does skirt the "down the road" question of whether you allow your cat to starve assuming your position on meat eating became the commonly accepted norm, but it is a fair point.

    Well, to me, the question of morality is a fundamentally semantic point, as "what is morality and what does it say about this issue?" is front and center, and both are questions of definition.

    I take it, though that your position is that it is wrong to eat animals even if it is not in any way cruel to do so. That is fair enough, though the "cruelty" of it is a commonly raised objection to the practice, it need not be your objection.

    So, you are interested in debating it? "Cruel was not defined by God, it is a word invented by humans and given meaning by humans. What matters is not "what I call cruel" what matters is "what is cruel"...but the question "what is cruel?" has buried within it as a necessary antecedent the question of "how is the word 'cruel' defined?" Unless we agree on the definition of the word, we will never agree on whether a specific act needs that definition. Even if the word were carved in stone by God with an objective definition (rather than a meaning which arises by reference to a consensus of English speakers and their use of that word), we would still need to agree that God's definition was the only right one.

    Nature does not define "cruel" to be sure, but when people use the word (people being natural creatures themselves, you understand) I do not believe they create the definition in a way that is wholly divorced from or ignorant to nature. Nature does not define the word "mountain" either, but humans using the term refer to nature when using it. In fact, when I was in Wales recently, a companion referred to "mountains" I was unaware that we were on one. I thought we were on a "hill." I think most people in America would have thought that, because the mountains in America (note my reference to nature) are so much larger than the one we were on. Nature doesn't define the word 'mountain' but my definition of it comes by way of reference to the natural world as well as the usage of the word by those around me in referring to that world. Everyone has a personal definition of the word mountain that comes from same sources, local usage combines with references to natural terrain. The common meaning of the word 'mountain' then arises as a general consensus of all of those.

    Yet you responded, so I do. I don't want you to get the mistaken impression that because you disagree that definitions are important, that you have convinced me to the contrary, when you have not. You just tend to speak in terms that you leave hanging and ill-defined, which I think leaves your underlying (but entirely questionable) assumptions hidden.

    It is not a "diversion" in the sense that I am bamboozling you into forgetting what the fight was about, it is an effort to get you to unpack your position in greater detail without using undefined terms like "moral." Indeed you have asserted the existence of objective morality...which philosophers have debated and not come to a firm conclusion on (sadly for my side there is no way to prove the negative "morality is not objective," so we will be forever tormented by people who feel that their morality is the correct one and that every single human being who has ever existed in prior time periods was therefore, judging from the available evidence, immoral).

    Most of our debate turns on this fundamentally unprovable point: I assert that morality is not objective, you assert that it is, and your personal morality is the correct one. Well, okay, it is highly unlikely that you will win the argument for universal morality since no one has to date dome so, but the obvious line of attack next is for you to show that your moral system is superior to mine.

    Unfortunately, I see your argument in that regard as mostly questionable and somewhat unfocused. For example, I think we have some measure of agreement that the one purpose of morality is to aid in social cohesion. To me (and here I expect you will disagree), the key to that social cohesion is reciprocity. I agree not to kill you, because you agree not to kill me. As a result of that agreement we can thereafter trust one another and both live peaceably, social stability is enhanced.

    Animals, in general, do not behave in such a reciprocal manner. If I feed and protect a cougar for many years and it and I become friendly, I still must realize that at any moment, it might kill me. While that is also true of humans to some extent, the animals are *much* more mercurial, unless the human in question is insane. If I extend rights to animals and assiduously respect those rights, the animals will never do the same for me. So, whether I recognize a cougar's rights or not, social stability is not enhanced by my decision.

    Why invent a new and potentially complex branch of ethics for animals when that does nothing to further any social goal?

    While I can conceive of a moral system that works that way, utilitarianism is not opposed to suffering per se. In a utilitarian model, you would need to weigh the suffering inflicted against the benefits derived from inflicting that suffering (like the pleasures of eating real meat and wearing leather and fur) and the costs of denying ourselves meat, leather, honey and other animal products. Read strictly, of course, utilitarians are concerned with human suffering by and large, not "any" suffering, no matter what the species.

    Actually there is no compelling argument proving that *humans* are not automatons. That's the free will argument. That aside, I can assume, from my perspective, that all animals feel pain. It seems right to me, although I do recognize that I am likely anthropomorphizing them to a large extent (I mean, so I kill spiders? Yep. Will I stop if you tell me I am a murderer inflicting pain on them as I crush them under heel? No.) I can accept the belief that plants feel pain too, though I saw that you deny that in your essay. I can even accept that it is possible that cosmos as a whole feels violated every time we move a rock. From my perspective, none of it is relevant to my position.

    Again, my position is that we have these rules as a means of aiding in the organization of social groups. Even if we are automata, our "programming" is such that we learn the rules from those around us and then, rules copied, we apply them throughout our lives. Group "cohesiveness" or "order" is something you see in many automata.

    A rule that said it is one's moral duty to save the souls of witches (even if that requires killing them) can be conducive to social order. I tend to "count" the suffering of the witches myself, but that is because I have a different moral system than existed during the witch trial era. So one could ask "do witches count?" The answer is "it's subjective." They "count" to me, but they did not in medieval Europe.

    Do animals "count"? They clearly do, to you. The rules in modern America on that point are nuanced. animals count to varying degrees under the laws and in people's minds. Dogs likely count the most. With dogs, most suffering is considered regrettable, but painless death is not if it avoids future suffering. Cows do not count enough to not be killed for their meat, but I think the do count just barely enough to not have them killed off slowly. Bolt shot into the brain, that's a quick death. Insects, bacteria and viruses count far less, as no one really cares if they die slowly.

    I am actually not reticent at all (did you see the length of my post?

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    ), it is just that it is so irrelevant to my position that it never came up. I assume ("belief" is to strong a term) that all chordates feel pain, though I would no go further up the family tree than that (so, to any crab, lobster and snail lovers out there, eat up). I do not have an issue with causing animals pain as being in and of itself immoral.

    There might be some small moral aversion to, say, pulling the wings and legs off of flies and leaving them to die slowly, but that is clearly me anthropomorphizing, rather than being based on anything real. At the same time if rubbing lipstick in the eyes of ten thousand rabbits averted the suffering of a single human, it would seem immoral to me not to start the rubbing. Preventing human suffering enhances human social order. Preventing rabbit suffering does nothing, not even to rabbit social order, because they do not have social cohesion.

    That said, let's consider chimpanzees, as they do have societies and are every bit as social and subject to pain as we are. Is using chimpanzee in test to avert human suffering immoral? I would say that it is not immoral. It improves human social cohesion, and while it might detract from chimpanzees' social order, I am not a member of that society and my moral rules are not geared towards protecting their society (in my defense, their social rules are not geared towards helping me out either). We could conceivably include chimp suffering in our moral rules, as the rules are arbitrary at their margins, but we can just as easily leave them out.

    I myself may be a robot. I am comfortable with that unknowable proposition. I would say not that cows don't feel pain, but rather that it doesn't matter if they do or not. Even under your system "pain" does not seem to be the sine qua non of immorality. If we killed cows painlessly, would you start cooking up burgers? Your point seemed deeper than that.

    That said I am not sure that cows getting a bolt fired into their brains feel pain. If a human were shot in the head in a similar manner, I would call that a painless death.

    What is clearly true is that cows do not "fear" death in the way that humans do. Cows are stupid animals. Dogs are stupid animals but even the dumbest dog is an veritable Einstein next to the smartest cow. They are machines for converting grass and water into beef. My suspicion (being familiar with cows) is that somewhere in their domestication we started breeding them in a mentally retarded form, and that all modern domesticated cows are descended from that retarded stock. Turkeys are the same...domesticated turkeys are so stupid that if it rains you have to make sure they are in their enclosure, because they often panic and can kill one another in their efforts to escape the "unfamiliar" stimuli (they do not however, drown as you sometimes hear).

    Humans are the only animals able to make sense of "the future" and the only ones who can "dread' things that might or will come in the future. I suspect most animals do not understand what "death" is in relation to themselves, they fear injury and pain, but they know not why. Even if they see another dead animal, most are not able to think abstractly enough to put themselves in the position of that dead animal. The only animals to master that trick, I suspect, are primates.

    Oh I do try, but we can't all keep apace with one so brilliant as you.

    As I said, all things in moderation, eating meat and drinking water included.

    Umm, try to keep up, you just said "the more the better" and that statement has definite health consequences. See? Even you can't keep up with your own brilliance.

    It would, save that those are different. Don't make me break out the Venn Diagrams, but let's say we have two sets:

    A={a, b, c}
    B={e, f, g}

    Suppose "A" is the set of moral actions and "B" is the set of immoral actions. Suppose "d" is the eating of meat" Can I say "Eating meat is moral?" No, because "d" is not an element of A. Can I say that "d" is immoral? No, again, "d" is not an element of set B.

    Suppose I were to say "zero is not a negative number", your argument suggests that you would conclude that zero was a positive number, but you would be wrong. Zero is neither positive nor negative.

    Suppose I were to use my bathroom right now, is that moral or immoral? The answer, again, is that it is neither. It is an action with no moral dimension (positive or negative). The former identity of your meal is also that way. Saying that a thing is amoral means that it is neither moral nor immoral. It means that it is entirely divorced from the set of things that are moral and from the set of things that are immoral.

    So, when I say eating meat is "not immoral," I am in fact speaking correctly. Try to keep up.

    Buzz, see above. All I can say is that eating meat is not immoral. I would never assert that it is moral, and would agree with you that I should defend that statement, had I ever made it. This is why assumptions are important and why semantics matter. There are more things under heaven and earth, James R, than can be categorized by your morality.


    Buzz! See above. Your position is eminently provable in theory. If there is a universal morality, as you assert, show me where it is. If you can't do that, how do you know there is one? Faith? That would be fair enough, but you them have to concede that anyone not sharing your faith (whatever it might be) is likely to find your morality suspiciously subjective and limited to you and those who share your faith. One you have shown me the universal morality, unless its prescriptions are infinitely long, it should be a simply matter to demonstrate that eating meat is a violation of that code.

    Oh, and I thought we'd avoid appeals to emotion. So close! Oh well. As I stated in many places my personal morality affords primacy of place to humans, so I would oppose eating humans. That said, cannibals have existed, and had stable societies. Their moral rules would be different than the ones I learned, but not necessarily wrong in some universal and objective sense.

    It's the same as for the witch hunting Europeans.

    The rules on what may be eaten vary from culture to culture. I would not eat dogs, but my Korean friends would. I would not eat horses, but the French do quite often. I would not eat spiders, but they are a delicacy in parts of Africa. I would not eat clay, yet hunter-gatherers in many places do as a way to get minerals otherwise lacking in their normal diets.

    In my case, in addition to cultural norms that do not rise to the level of "morals," there are moral rules that impact eating pets, humans, endangered species and that's it.

    Let me restate. Until you prove affirmatively that animals suffer, people who disagree are equally as justified in believing that they do not as you are in believing they do.

    Addressed, yes, but all you've done is tell me what you believe, not given me any compelling reason why anyone else should change their opinion and side with you on this point. Nothing you've said "proves" conclusively that cows feel pain. That people can't be sure that other people feel pain, is not a logical reason to assume cows do,.

    You also have not even overcome the plant barrier, really. "They do not have brains and a central nervous system" works for me, but see The Secret Life of Plants, written by Peter Tompkins and Christopher Bird, where they assert that plants feel pain and have emotions. I don't think they are right, but they d deal wit the "lack of a central nervous system argument". Plants can react to touch, by the way, so they do have a way (at least some of them) to sense that, they also chemically react to damage (though ultimately human pain can be described as an electrochemical reaction too).

    Killing is justified is it benefit society, humane or not. The only reason to worry about such things at all is that humane killing might be more beneficial to society than inhumane killing. Killing animals for food confers a benefit on society because eating and wearing them makes humans happier, and that makes society easier to run. Not to mention the fact that it is easier to feed 6+ billion humans using meat as a major food source that it would be to produce enough TVP or other meat analogues. Again though, that is humane or otherwise.

    If you are opposed to even humane killing then, sadly, you are not going to be happy with society for the remainder of your lifetime, because (I think you would even have to concede) society is not rushing to give up on meat and not likely to in the next 100 years. If humane killing makes the squeamish happier than inhumane killing though, I am all for that, as happiness from the members of society improves society. (And, just in case, no, animals are not members of society save to the extent man decides to make them such. Their entrée into society is therefore as limited as society wishes for it to be.)

    Actually I do know that they find it cruel, akin to stealing in some cases. They are anthropomorphizing, of course, in thinking of chickens as distraught mothers grieving for lost eggs (though you'll note the roosters don't give a shit that they are leaving single mothers in their wake, them's some playas!). I see those sorts of beliefs (including bees annoyed to find their honey missing or cows uncomfortable in their milking machines as about as convincing as the notion of plants communicating chemically and feeling love for one another (see The Secret Life of Plants).

    Where does this intrinsic value arise? Does it come from God? Logic? Creatures are "ends" because nature is not sentient and itself has no purposes. No purposes means there are no real "ends," just things that happen. Why can't they be used as a means to your ends?

    It gets back into your equal consideration essay, but it seems to me that "rights" are not things that exist in the ether waiting to be "discovered" by philosophers. Rights are invented by society as a means of promulgating those values that society as a whole wishes to promulgate. If society wishes to promulgate the notion that others can be used for your personal benefit, they you have a "right" to use others that way. If society says you have a right to use others who are shorter than 5'6" as a means and not those 5'6" and taller, then you have a right to exploit the short. As long as society accepts the rules without widespread turmoil, the rules are fine.

    Not exactly.

    From the standpoint of any individual, it is the value to that individual of others that makes being a social animal a good survival strategy. If other people added no value to that individual's life, then his being a social animal would not be conducive to his survival (again—positive, negative and zero—"not being conducive to survival" is not the same thing as being "maladaptive").

    We are social animals because we get value from being in groups. Nothing says that cooperating in that group must be "equal" or tit for tat or follow any other particular rules, so long as the rules selected work for that group.

    In setting up those rules, as it turns out, we have evolved a sense of reciprocity that is found throughout our moral intuitions. If someone does right by me, then I should do right by them, and if I am wronged, then shall I not revenge? In that sense a certain kind of altruism arises (that non-social animals, I can't stress this enough,do not share) in that I feel good doing good for others. Why? Technically, because chemicals in my brain make feel that way, but on a more macro level because that sort of behavior invites reciprocal good deeds in my society, and that enhances my chance of survival.

    My dogs treat me as their pack leader, which my anthropomorphizing brain interprets as "love" (even though it likely isn't) and their (perceived) affection feels like the sort of thing I should reward, so I do. They are not really enhancing my ability to survive (in fact, as cash drains, they likely reduce it), but my brain did not evolve to think its way through social issues intellectually, it solves them based on chemically induced punishments and rewards that are distinctly anti-intellectual.

    We all do that. We all stare longingly at photographs of loved ones and get a rush of good feeling from it because our brains to not fully grasp that the picture of a loved one is not the loved one herself. We respond to faces, and an image of a face will do just as well as a real one.

    So other people are not a means to an end on conscious level. I will do good things for them unprompted and even knowing that I will not be rewarded, but the reason I do these things is that my brain *thinks* I will be rewarded, and chemical inducements lead down that path, even when I know it is a dead end.

    The good news is that on average, when dealing with humans that share the sense of reciprocity, things work out and my odds of survival are enhanced. Further, if the decision were purely rational, then game theory tells us that, for an individual, mixed strategies or uncooperative strategies would often be superior to the pure-strategy cooperation. It would be Pareto superior for me to make all of these decisions rationally based on a cost benefit analysis. That said, it would lead to less trust in the system and bad for the system as a whole is we all regularly "defected" in that way. So instead we all bear a little cost of personally suboptimal decision making processes in exchange for enhanced outcomes in the system overall. It's a species of the free rider problem in that regard, and natures solution was to change the payouts by giving chemical rewards and punishments to the players.

    Few people argue it because (a) Nazi morality was different than the current morality of any of the societies you are referring to (save for splinter groups that have adopted minority ideologies themselves) and (b) Nazis were a direct threat to those other societies. If the other guy's moral principle is "The world would be better if I killed you," no one is going to say "You make a good point."

    Suppose the Nazi's had won? I think the outcome of the moral debate would be quite different. I deplore the Nazi's morality, but I deplore Roman morality too (which, honestly, was far worse in most ways). I have an aversion to most moralities that differ substantially from my own, but I have to be objective enough to recognize that I am hardly objective. I have an aversion to homosexuality too, but I recognize that as a consequence of the social norms I internalized, and not an intrinsic problem with homosexuality itself.

    Even with the Nazis, there is no way to pronounce them “objectively" wrong. I mean, you *can* say the words, but you can't prove it.

    To repeat, no. The rule of reciprocity is mostly what has elevated the status of humans in my morality, because they alone reciprocate. But their special position makes me averse to eating them, since it feels like I am doing them wrong. In other cultures, you ate the "great" men (which is what gave rise to Kuru amongst the Fore tribe, due to eating diseased brains). The Aghori believe that eating the dead floating in the Ganges is the path to spiritual growth. In the past many tribes in the New World and Africa waylaid non-tribe members and ate them.

    Are they immoral, or is it "Different strokes"? It seems to me that, on an individual level, both are true and that on a broader level that ignores the rules that work in my culture (and my bias in favor of those rules), only the latter is true.

    Absolutely some do. In America, "property" has rights in and of itself that society will enforce, even if inanimate. Animals have more rights than inanimate objects and fewer than humans and different species have different levels of protection in accordance with our moral rules, many of those rules being arbitrary. Pigs get limited protection, Horses get quite a lot. Dogs get the most of all.

    Note though that that is particular animals for mostly historical reasons. It's not "all animals" in the blanket sense, and you would find the distinction unbearably arbitrary (and incomplete in every single case).

    I'd hardly concede it, because I don't think you properly know what a right is, given your essay. You seem to think that rights are also objective and exist even when no one agrees that they do. It's very platonic, that there "are" a set of rights out there that we can only dimly perceive and must discover as we inch our way out of the cave.

    That said, imo, rights are invented, not discovered.

    I am sure. The fact that it was a "puppy", "kids" were involved and those darling children (tears in their eyes, no doubt) watched as their "Christmas treat" was put to sleep had no bearing on why you selected it...appeals to emotion can be real-world examples, but this one was obnoxiously obvious.

    If you had just said, "suppose an owner sought to have his dog put to sleep so he could go on vacation and not pay for boarding for the animal," then I'd never have mentioned it, but the details were (clearly) added to make the example more emotionally poignant. You insult your readers intelligence to maintain otherwise.

    I mean that a puppy is incapable of understanding the abstract concept of fairness. It knows "good for me" it knows "bad for me" (and even then, only in an immediate sense), it cannot comprehend "fair" and "unfair."

    I have had many dogs, many cats, a pig, and have relatives who live on farms, so am familiar with a wide range of animals. Dogs may or may not be automata, just like humans. They seem to enjoy things and dislike things, but they have no abstract reasoning skills and no appreciation for abstractions (even ones as seemingly simple as "the future" save on a very minor level). These are animals that can learn, as an example, that tearing through the garbage is bad, Bad dog! But they cannot fathom that, when you leave the house and they tear through the garbage, that they will get in trouble later. Worse, if you chastise them later, they do not learn anything, because they can't connect the punishment to that thing they did hours earlier.

    People sometimes believe their dogs understand these things, but based on my extensive history with them, I am quite sure they do not.

    Absolutely it is.

    Again, it's arbitrary, in this case it is an accident of history. Most dogs were working dogs until the 19th century when they became layabout pets. Possibly due to coevolution or just the misapplication of our sense of reciprocity, dogs enjoy a special status. Horses also enjoy a special status mostly because they are iconic symbols of America in the form of the cowboy. If chickens had been kept as pets or if they'd been made into icons, they would likely enjoy the same special treatment.

    Reasons explained, moral decisions are not rational decisions, and dogs have a special moral status.

    It is not really "twisted", but it could conceivably have as easily worked in favor of almost any other set of domestic animals. It definitely did not come about based on their inherent rights, but sentimentalism and the accident of their history in America.

    The same point. Why am I happy when my local sports team wins and dejected when they lose? Are they objectively superior to all other teams in any respect? No. The only difference is that I grew up here and around here everyone is a fan of the local team, and I internalized that as the norm.

    My brain issues chemical rewards and punishments to me based on their performance even though (i) there is no objectively valid reason that I should care about their performance and (ii) their performance is independent of any actions I might take. You see, my brain cannot adjust to parts (i) and (ii), they are just hardwired in.

    In the same sense I am on Team Puppy and not on Team Chicken.

    I may address the rest of your post later, but must go to work, and this is reasonably long as it is.
  9. Challenger78 Valued Senior Member

    Because not everyone has the capacity to do so. Look how fucking long it took to stamp out racism, and it still can exist in some capacity. You really think all people can be compassionate to every living thing, when we're still not compassionate to everyone ? thats taking idealism way too far.

    I didn't post that. In fact, I have no idea what you are talking about.
  10. hug-a-tree Live the life Registered Senior Member

    I don't think it's "taking idealism way too far." I think you need to give humans more credit.

    Oh, it's probably a different quote then that I messed up.
  11. hug-a-tree Live the life Registered Senior Member


    I guess it isn't.

    I was just wondering.
  12. lucifers angel same shit, differant day!! Registered Senior Member

    credit for what, destroying eachother, killing one anouther, aids, ?
  13. Betrayer0fHope MY COHERENCE! IT'S GOING AWAYY Registered Senior Member

    Dude, this is an epic argument.
  14. Nin' Registered Member

    How in hell do you people find the time to write nonfiction rhetorical books in your free time?


    edit: What's the character limit on these posts?
  15. hug-a-tree Live the life Registered Senior Member


    I think most people are not bad people.

    Aids? I don't get how that would fall in with destroying each other and killing one another. Aids is an illness.
  16. Orleander OH JOY!!!! Valued Senior Member

    no its not wrong. No I don't feel the need to convince people that it is wrong.
    Humans are at the top of the food chain for a reason.
  17. Orleander OH JOY!!!! Valued Senior Member

    Can Pandaemoni's post be put in the sciforums encyclopedia for the longest post ever? And did anyone actually bother to read it?
  18. S.A.M. uniquely dreadful Valued Senior Member

    You haven't read tiassa's or even James when he gets excited over meat eating.
  19. Betrayer0fHope MY COHERENCE! IT'S GOING AWAYY Registered Senior Member

    Would you explain to me why you think this? I would love to understand why, because I really do not know. Do you feel God made it that way? I can't remember if you are an atheist or not. Are you for social Darwinism? Imperialistic?
  20. Orleander OH JOY!!!! Valued Senior Member

    I don't believe in god. I think in the ocean a shark is at the top of the food chain. Should we rant about it being unethical; for it to eat us? Animals eat other animals. Its what we do. Nothing unethical about that.
    How you keep the animals, hunt the animals, kill the animals, is where ethics come in. Its unethical to torture an animal.

    And why bring Darwinism or imperialism into it? Why make it harder than what it is?
  21. Betrayer0fHope MY COHERENCE! IT'S GOING AWAYY Registered Senior Member

    Lions hunt other lions, sharks attack other sharks, humans are not allowed to attack or hunt other humans? You said yourself we are animals(and we are), so why do you make this distinction but not that?
  22. Orleander OH JOY!!!! Valued Senior Member

    where did I make that distinction. As soon as our food supply becomes so low where we are reduced to cannibalism, I will be knocking on your door. Gotta feed the kids after all.

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  23. Betrayer0fHope MY COHERENCE! IT'S GOING AWAYY Registered Senior Member

    I assumed from your response to the Social Darwinism and the Imperialism question that you were offended by me asking, but I guess that is just an assumption. Alright, I can respect that view of life. Just self-preservation, nothing else matters?

    Edit: I used to be that way, until I starting thinking nothing matters. Period.
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