Saturday, October 15, 2005

Arguments to eat meat

So , after prompting from copernicus now I am going to try to present some arguments for eating meat. I will respond o them, of course, and will probably miss a few out. I'll do my best.

P1-humans should do what is in their nature to do
P2-humans naturally eat meat
Conclusion-Humans should eat meat.

Now P2 is clearly true- we have always eaten meat, and its certainly a natural thing to do. If we stop eating meat we have to balance our diets carefully to ensure we do not miss out on the many important things you get from meat. However, P1 is more contentious. I would have to disagree- I think civillised society is all about suppressing some of our natural instincts- ones for revenge, and indeed for rape, are quite natual, but we certainly shouldn't follow them. I don't think following our instincts is always right.

P1-Superior creatures have a right to use inferior ones as they wish
P2-Humans are superior to animals
Conclusion- we can eat animals as they are our inferior.

This is an argument made by many meat eaters. I have phrased it in an unfair way, possibly, although this is the essence of the argument. I would disagree with P1 entirely- just because something is our inferior does not mean that we can treat it as we like. It is surely the role of the strong to protect the weak, not prey on them. As to P2, this is contentious. I would argue that humans are superior to animals in that a human life is worth more than an animals (consider the rabbit and the child trapped in the road, and which one you would save), but I know some might disagree. Still, I believe P1 to be totally flawed.

P1-animals eat each other in the wild
P2-if animals do something to each other, we are perfectly justified to copy them
Conclusion- its ok to eat animals.

Actually theres a huge problem with this argument in that most of the animals we eat are actually herbivores anyway. But P2 is nonsense anyway. Animals kill because they have to to survive, and there is no such thing as a moral code for them. I think this argument can be dismissed out of hand.

P1-We raise most of the animals we eat ourselves
P2-These animals would not exist if we had not raised them
P3-Therefore their life is ours, to do with as we see fit
Conclusion-eating animals- at least those raised in captivity- is justified.

P1 and P2 are certainly true, although I am not quite sure of P3. Actually, P3 is more of a sub conclusion than a predicate, I should probably have rephrased that. However, the hidden assumption in this argument is that it is GOOD to raise these animals just to be eaten. Once we have done so,it may well be that their lives are ours (I would disagree, but never mind). However, I don't think breeding animals just to be eaten is truly a justifiable process. It is rather cruel and cynical of us to do so. Again, I must stress the point that if we were all to become vegetarians there would be far fewer animals on the planet. This is not necessarily a bad thing when the animals that exist are artificially supported.

Still, of all the arguments so far,I suspect this is the strongest.


P1-the meat industry is heavily subsidised, and supported by the weight of majority popular opinion
P2-our eating or not eating of meat will make no great difference to this
P3-We enjoy eating meat
Conclusion- We might as well eat meat, as our actions can have little or no effect.

Well, I've addressed this argument, and of all the meat eating arguments, I would be tempted to say this is the strongest. Still, this call to apathy is one I would never disagree, and I think evidence suggest it is correct.

Please feel free to come up with some more arguments- these are all off the top of my head, and presented with understandable bias.


At 12:19 am, Anonymous hilarious catastrophes said...

Hmmm, you've reminded me of some points i have pondered myself. Tis after all a mark of our own society that vegetarianism exists. Who was it that said there are hardly any vegetarians in France? probably Kieran himself?! hmmmm! We consume so much as a society that all sorts of rebelion style groups spring up, and theres a useful quote i could use, but i won't, because i cant remember. its something to do with physics, and is something like..."if it goes, it goes" in, the more the world engorges itself on its resources, the more it will engorge itself on its resources... and instictively, we rise up against it because we are disgusted with ourselves and the destruction we cause. Thats enough reason to be vegetarian, or buddhist, or hippy, or whatever the hell floats ones boat... human nature is indeed a funny thing, with or without political jargon.

Enough said...i bid you adieu...


At 1:32 am, Anonymous Rob said...

Entropy increases? 2nd law of thermodynamics. Anyway...

P1 - Animals have rights.
P2 - Humans as moral creatures try to respect these rights.
P3 - Humans forget that desirable items such as leather jackets and medicines are also created with an animal has died to make it happen.
Conclusion - Humans eat meat anyway because they don't want to be called hypocrites.

At 1:41 am, Anonymous Rob said...

Also, by not eating meat, you suppress your intake of several key chemicals such as omega-3 which protects your heart, and is proven to help protect against breast cancer in women.

I'm arguing this side because you're all so boring on here and are all arguing the vegetarian opinion.

At 2:55 am, Blogger Copernicus Now said...

I didn't quite get Rob's predicate notation, but I think I got his point. As I understood it, I would rewrite it as follows:

P1 - Animals have rights.
P2 - Humans as moral creatures try to respect these rights.
P3 - Humans should balance the effort to respect these rights against the positive benefits of killing them.
P4 - The positive benefits of killing animals go far beyond mere food production.
P5 - If we condemn killing them for food, but condone killing them for other reasons, then we are hypocrites.
P6 - Being a hypocrite is behavior we should not engage in.
Conclusion - We should eat animals for food so as not to be hypocrites.

If this is a fair assessment of what Rob is saying, I would have to say that I think P5 would be key to his argument. I think it would be strong against somebody who
1) takes an absolutist stand against eating meat under any conditions, and
2) simultaneously allows for killing of animals for other reasons.

It would also be strong against somebody who
1) provisionally allows eating of meat in cases where there is a real necessity, but
2) allows for the killing of other animals for reasons that don't seem to entail a reasonable necessity -- for example, somebody who would claim to be a principled vegan, but would buy a leather wallet.

P5 would be weak against somebody who is either:
1) an absolute vegan, and also does not condone killing of animals under any conditions, or
2) is a conditional vegan, but who only condones killing of animals (whether for food or for other purposes) when there is a serious necessity (for example, such as to produce life saving medicine).

Hmmm!! Rob's argument -- if that really is Rob's argument -- gives me an insight. It makes me suddenly wonder why the debate is centering on animals as food.

Certainly food is a factor, but it seems to me most of the arguments apply to the more general question: Should we or shouldn't we condone the killing of animals for any reason? And if so, what are should the guidelines be?

And, of course, the answer to the question of vegetarianism should follow from the answer to the general question.

In light of this view, focusing on just the vegetarianism aspect, while ignoring the larger question might seem trite, or perhaps even open one up to accusations of hypocrisy, though I don't think that would be warranted.

Okay, I know I am dragging this out, but I just now realized mr k's second pro-vegetarian argument (see end of mr k's first post on vegetarianism, plus comments) does not fit with the general statement above.

That argument does not say that killing animals is a moral question, but rather a question of preserving human rights, so it does not follow the general argument above.

Anyway, this has been enlightening for me. I still am not decided, but I think my mind has been opened on the subject.

I would like to hear more points of view.

mr k -- I think you are doing an excellent job, though by no means an easy one. I am particularly impressed with your effort to look at both sides of the issue to the best of your ability. To me, that is extremely important.

A question: I would like to know about your "conversion" to vegetarianism. Was it a drastic change (like Saul on the road to Damascus, if I may be excused for using a religious example)? Or, were you more predisposed to vegetarianism in the first place and just needed prodding?

At 3:18 am, Blogger Mr K said...

I was never predisposed towards being a vegetarian, in fact I was quite the eater of meat- I loved it, and still do. I openly mocked vegetarians.

But then, a while back, I read through a book of philosophy (a very popularised version, most of the arguments were rather trite), and on the chapter on eating meat, I found the arguments compelling. Then, through meeting a lot of vegetarians at university, and discussing it with them, I finally decided they were right. I switched at the turning of this year, after one last christmas of eating meat....

Hmm, the hypocritical argument is an interesting one. I would still hold that there are situations where killing an animal is necessary, but I admit I probably still kill them. By eating dairy products I am certainly contributing towards the death of animals. So I suppose you could call me a hypocrite, if I actively condem those who don't eat meat. I don't at all. I understand why people eat meat- convinience, essentially, but I feel that we should, if not give up on meat, at least reduce it drastically.

This goes for all things that we kill animals for- I want to aim for a reduction in killing animals to only levels that are absolutely necessary.

I don't think its hypocritical to become a vegetarian but not a vegan. It certainly isn't following your principles completely, but as a student it would be difficult to be a vegan healthily and affordably. As long as I don't actively tell meat eaters what they are doing is wrong, then it is fine. All I am doing here is clarfying why I am a vegetarian.

In fact I would argue that Rob's argument is not an argument against vegetarianism at all- rather its a call for veganism instead!

I'm going to ignore the health argument here Rob, 'cause I really don't think it applies. One can supplement omega-12 in other ways- I believe seed products available at your local supermarket contain them. Its a matter of effort.

At 4:19 am, Blogger Kirbie said...

I just read Fred's blog and would probably ahve to agree with one point. If the animals are well cared for then morally eating meat would not be such a bad thing. The animals would lead fairly happy lives free from disease and protected from "other" predators until their time is up. They have a quick death and it's all over. The animal probably gets a better deal really, even if ultimately it does get eaten up until that point it has it pretty easy not having to worry about food.. It also works out nicely for the whole species and could be argued that evolution (as well as genetic engineering) has made these animals useful to us and so they're number increases. I personally would always pick meat that was free range and hopefully come from somewhere the animals were looked after given a choice. I always do feel sorry however for the sheep when I see them crammed into lorries on the motorway - they're must be a better way to transport them.

I definitely think that the animals should be cared for, but whether we should eat them or not I'm not convinced. I guess the ideal would be to create a blob of meat with loads of legs sticking out of it and no brain. Then we don't have to worry about caring for it.

At 1:19 pm, Anonymous Rob said...

Hehe, my vague post as intended to be a little joke has ended up being taken seriously!

At 1:40 pm, Blogger Mr K said...

heh, indeed Ben. Well that is an interesting idea- and I think covered by the "raising animals" idea. Personally I don't agree that raising animals just to kill them is very moral. Remember that most animals are killed VERY early in their lifespan- chickens (well, to be fair, factory farmed chickens) at about 49 days when they can live for 10-12 years. Lamb, of course, is immature sheep. So while they might have had a relatively enjoyable life, it would have been a very SHORT life.

At 2:41 pm, Anonymous starvictor127 said...

actually we are the victims in a matrix operation cuz we are all being raised as food for worms and maggots

which makes a point it is not the eating anybody should object to its the treatment and the killing

maybe eating encourages bad treatment and killing but its not the problem its after the fact

At 7:47 pm, Anonymous amanda said...

Ja ja, I do believe in and accept the natural cycle of things, such as the fact that we're not evolutionary herbivore by design as early humans, like chimps, ate some meat when it was available. All part of the natural system of things - survival, live and let live etc etc!

But in my view I guess the root of the problem that needs to be addressed is how circumstances
have completely changed since then
due to the massive increases in human population, (+ set to double by the year 2060 apparently) and consequently, the rise of intensive farming and also greenhouse emissions has pushed the entire ecosystem out of balance. It's like Alice was saying I guess, as far as I can see, everything that vegetarianism stands for is simply a reaction to this larger problem at hand.

But I'm not trying to say that the world would be a better place if it was run by chimps or if we were still stuck back in the prehistoric ages as neanderthal man! However, I do believe that nowadays the human species should be intelligent enough to know better and make
more informed choices about the way they live their lives in consideration of the effect they're having on the planet and other forms of life around them, - the food they buy, the clothes they wear, the type of energy they use and the jobs they do and so on. It would be fair to say that eating intensively reared meat from cows which graze on pesticide sprayed crops is only part of the problem.

Because unfortuantely the only way anything will change concerning these types of issues is if individual action is taken. Nothing will change about the state of the world unless the proletariat demands it - the government will only ever think short term enough to stay in power (subsidising multinational companies with poor ethical track records in the meantime).

I'm sorry if what I've just written has come across as really boring/negative/repetitive of what's already been said!! The reason these movements have come about from the state of the world (I'm guessing) is unfortunate - but I guess the main point of what I meant in general to say is that vegetarianism and the ethical movement as a whole are positive when you look at the global picture long term and what is trying to be achieved - making the world a better place for all living creatures!!

At 1:11 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hello there! Kieran do you still perform requests? Here we go,

Old people. (Alex's sugestion)
and, last but by all means least,

At 1:23 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

If all the points of vegetarianism-meatism haven't been covered by now people then I will, indeed, fox my own fish.

Mr k really seems to have opened up a molehill doesn't he?! For the record though, who here is a vegetarian?

At 3:41 pm, Blogger Kelly said...

"P1-humans should do what is in their nature to do
P2-humans naturally eat meat
Conclusion-Humans should eat meat."
You point out that this is perhaps a questionable argument. But the very fact that we accept P2 means that instead of focusing on the "arguments" to eat meat, you need to come up with arguments against eating meat, and thus far I have seen nor heard nary a one.

"I guess the ideal would be to create a blob of meat with loads of legs sticking out of it and no brain."
Scientists have already created meat in a laboratory. The only problem with it is that the texture is wrong--real animals walk around and exercise the muscle. Not really on point but I would be willing to switch to lab-meat if absolutely necessary.

"actually we are the victims in a matrix operation cuz we are all being raised as food for worms and maggots"
Very interesting point indeed. I'm not sure how to comment on it, save that I agree with the point that it's the treatment of the animals that's important.

I am a meat eater. I would say about 40-50% of my diet is meat (a little high, so I need to start using a fiber supplement to avoid cancer perhaps), and therefore about 80% of my nutrition comes from meat (it's the most nutritious food available to us--many people don't know that).

I agree with this proposition:
"P1-animals eat each other in the wild
P2-if animals do something to each other, we are perfectly justified to copy them
Conclusion- its ok to eat animals."
You say that it can be dismissed out of hand, but I disagree completely. Yes, we eat herbivores--but that's what animals in the wild do, too. Most prey animals are herbivores. If you were to adopt a Darwinistic morality (as I tend to do on many subjects), this is absolutely correct because eating hervivores is the best way to get nutrition. Eating predators is not as nutritious, and there is also less chance of catching disease by eating herbivores.

(I also feel a kind of brotherhood with predator animals, so I would feel bad about killing them. Not principled, I know, but that's my feeling.)

The Darwinistic morality also tells us that we should not eat the brains of animals, because this can also cause problems.

[The reason I don't eat testicles is on another principled basis. (: ]

Adopting the Darwinistic morality, it's also wasteful and therefore immoral to eat animals that are not yet fully grown (i.e. veal). However, it's also immoral to keep feeding and raising an animal after it's fully grown. Once you do that, it beomes a pet, and is no longer food.

So, you may be wondering, why would anyone adopt a Darwinistic morality? The reason is simple: principles of natural selection govern the relationships between species, so we should follow them.

The question then remains whether there are any other moral constraints on our treatment of animals.
"P1-We raise most of the animals we eat ourselves
P2-These animals would not exist if we had not raised them
P3-Therefore their life is ours, to do with as we see fit
Conclusion-eating animals- at least those raised in captivity- is justified."
You note that P3 is a sub-conclusion. It is, as you note, flawed. Simply because we raise them for food does not mean we can do what we wish with them. Here's a more logical argument:
P1: We raise animals for meat
P2: The animals we raise for meat would not exist if we did not raise them
C: To those animals, we can do whatever is reasonably related to the production of meat.
So, we can see that this doesn't give us license to treat them however we wish. In fact, it's an argument for the ethical treatment of animals. Beating them has nothing to do with raising meat, so we have no right to do that. Putting them in a cage so small that they can't move (as is done to veal calves) is not related to this (and is probably counter-productive to their growth and the attainment of high nutritional value).

So, I guess, you treat them well until they are fully grown, kill them quickly, and there are no moral or ethical problems, as I see it.

Side note: in my animal behavior class in undergrad we learned about an autistic woman that has her PhD (you read that right). She says that the way she thinks is in images rather than words, and so she is uniquely gifted in that she thinks like an animal. So, since she thinks like a cow, she would logically want to protect, them, right? Wrong! Her job is to design slaughterhouses! She thinks the way they do, so she can design it so that they're not frightened on the way to the killing floor. It's not only humane, but it makes the meat taste better.

At 3:49 pm, Blogger Mr K said...

The arguments for not eating meat are here

Hmm, interesting points. Certainly, if you accept a darwinistic morality then eating meat is fully justifiable. I do not, and surely darwinistic morality would argue something similar to the eugenics. Why should the state support those who do not help themselves? The elderly and infirm, for example, those who cannot truly add much to society. I don't know, possibly you would disagree here, but I don't find the idea of applying a scientific theory to morals an agreeable one.

At 3:52 pm, Blogger Kelly said...

I left one point uncovered. I think it's immoral to eat dogs (in fact, I think dogs are better than people). Part of this is that it's not healthy to eat predators, and part of it is that we generally treat them as pets. This also applies to cats, which I also think it's probably immoral to eat them, although their case is not as strong.

The final reason for this, however, is historical evolutionary fact: dogs are the first species domesticated by humans. They were not domesticated as food. Rather, they serve as a warning system for intruders and they help in hunting. Also, they are companions, and become a part of the tribe, so eating them is like cannibalism. It becomes a different story when you're starving, and then it becomes okay to resort to cannibalism. (Stuck on a boat in the middle of the ocean with a dog and another person, however, I would eat the person first. The dog is much less likely to become annoying. This reminds me of a Far Side cartoon where they find a boat with just a dog and the people are gone, and after weeks at sea he was still fat and happy.)

At 3:55 pm, Blogger Kelly said...

I wouldn't apply Darwinistic morality to inter-human relations, because that would be inadequate. At least, I would not apply a solely Darwinistic morality to them. However, I think that it is one moral system to take into account when making policy decisions (along with Kantism, consequentialism, and religious moralities among others).

At 9:44 pm, Blogger Kirbie said...

Also is it therefore immoral to raise animals just for pets? We're still using the animals for our own ends and basically controlling their lives completely. I would say no, but it could be argued that it's wrong and even more so for say sheep dogs, police dogs and even guide dogs.

At 10:37 pm, Blogger Mr K said...

Yeah, but in that case Ben I would argue that certainly guide dogs etc are very important, and after all, they get an EXCELLENT life in our hands, and are not killed before their time.

At 11:54 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...


At 12:01 pm, Blogger Imperium child said...

Well I kinda missed the boat didnt I?! I havent logged on for a while and now all the points have been discussed that I would have wanted to bring up. Good show people


Post a Comment

<< Home