Wednesday, October 12, 2005

why I am a vegetarian

OK, just for fun, lets get our vegetarianism on!

I'm gonna argue the moral case first. P stands for predicate

P1-humans ARE higher forms of life than animals, but this does not mean that animals have no rights.
P2-It is unethical to kill an animal unecessarily
P3-Humans can live perfectly healthily without eating meat, as long as they are careful about their diet.
Conclusion- Humans should not kill animals for meat unless subsitutes are not readily available.

I think if you agree with the predicates of this argument then you HAVE to come up with the conclusion. And nowadays substitutes are very easily available. Also, I might add that because animals used for products such as milk are almost always slaughtered for food, really this leads to veganism. So yes, as a vegetarian, I AM morally compromised.

Now to defend my predicates. P1 is fairly straightforward, and not really essential to the argument. I think most of us would think of oursevles as superior to animals, but don't particularly want animals to suffer over much.

Now, P2. I think most people would agree with this. Necessary is of course a dagerous word- I would say any situation in which an animal inteferes severely with ones way of life- if animals were to attack your house you would be justified in killing them (if there was no other way to drive them off), or if you were, for example, trapped with only an animal to eat. For this reason I support animal research, although I want there to be a reduction in it.

We can disagree about what exactly necessity is, but if we agree on a particular definition in a particular situation, I think we can agree that killing that animal for a totally unecessary purpose is wrong.

So we get to P3. Is it necessary to eat meat to live? Evidence suggests no- while a vegetarian must be more careful, he/she can live quite heathily on said diet. I have done so for 8 months, and I know several people that have been a vegetarian for many years- one for 9.

So in other words we do not eat meat to live. We eat it because we enjoy it. I do not think that is a "necessary" use of an animals life, you may disagree, but ultimately, if you agree that it is unecessary, then you should probably be a vegetarian.

Next, the ethical case

P1-all humans deserve to be able to eat enough to live
P2-the earth's population is expanding rapidly, and soon will not be able to sustain itself.
P3-the amount of energy obtained from eating animals is deeply inefficient
Conclusion- we need to stop, or drastically reduce consumption of animal products.

P1 I think is a given, I believe this is a basic right of all humans
P2 is definitely true- simple extrapolation says our population is still rising, and isn't going to stop soon
P3-this is true. The ratio is ludicrous, something like 10:1 ratio on food in food out on cattle.

The conclusion you might disagree with. We can exercise population control, you claim. This could be true. Certainly with more education, and with some countries becoming more developed, families will become smaller. But right now the population is still expanding, and demand is outstripping supply. While we could just let them starve, the only real solution is to stop eating as much meat as we do. Incidentally, the majority of meat is consumed by westerners- we eat an insane amount.

Yeah, you might disagree with one argument's predicates. But I think a lot of you will not disagree with both.

Incidentally, the effects of us all going vegetarians WOULD mean that a lot of animals would be slaughtered- the only reason these animals can live is we support them, but if we want to stop this cycle we just need to stop breeding at some point, and kill and eat a large portion of the remaining animals.


At 11:30 pm, Anonymous Amanda said...

Hear hear!

I couldn't have put it much better myself... apart from the predicate that humans are higher forms of life than animals of course...!
But seriously, it's amazing how many people still don't believe that eating meat is wrong given
the widespread knowledge that is available today and that we as a race are lucky enough to be able to make choices about what food we eat.
It has been scientifically proven that animals suffer pain - after all, they do have full consciousness and a nervous system!
Simply because they aren't capable of acting as humans doesn't mean they aren't equally as worthy of life. Eg: Humans can do things that cats cannot
but then, cats can do things that humans cannot! Who is to say that one life form is better than another.

(insects are another matter - eat fly stew if you like - it hasn't yet been proven that they experience pain)

But people justify eating meat for a number of reasons, primarily because "it's the natural order of things" - a fox eats a rat eats a frog eats a fly and so on - but the fact unfortunately remains that humans far outnumber any of the other species on this planet and therefore are wrecking irreversible damage on the entire ecosystem - something like 30,000 different species become extinct every year - check it out - it's scary!

I don't argue against the unfortunate fact that nature dictates every species fights for its own kind first and foremost, generally doing whatever it must do to survive - and that due to this fact, frogs, antelopes, rabbits and the rest of Noah's Ark probably aren't going to rally round and join in the fight to save the world. However, for far too long humans have considered themselves
conquerors of the earth -(probably something to do with religion and being God's chosen people and all that). If humans really are superior in some way to animals, then they should prove worthy of that status by being responsible and showing consequential awareness of the wide ranging effects of their actions!!

Did you understand that?

(call me a bible basher if you didn't)

At 12:38 am, Anonymous Rob said...

Meat is rather good for providing you with a lot of things you need in a balanced diet. And it tastes nice.

While cattle farmers receive subsidies and the mindless over-slaughtering looks unlikely to stop, I will eat the meat that is already on the market. The animals will have died needlessly otherwise.

You can turn the "no one life form is superior" argument on its head. If we are no better than animals who are carnivorous, then no advantage is being gained by being vegetarian.

Yes, animals do have rights but with no one in power taking into account these rights, then the slaughtering of animals will continue.

And if you think that we shouldn't kill unnecessarily, I challenge you not to swat wasps ever again. After all, they can't kill you!

I can't let vegetarians get their own way; I felt compelled to post against the argument.

At 1:32 am, Blogger Mr K said...

Sorry Rob, but your arguments don't work.

If you apply that argument that "we can't make a difference" to, for example, slavery, you'll see it doesn't make sense. A rich guy who didn't agree with the practice of slavery might has well of kept slaves- after all they save him time and money, and as everyone is doing it, him not doing it will not make a difference. Bottom line is, if you think something is wrong, you do not do it.

But anyway, we live in a capitalist society and we CAN make a difference by our choices as a consumer- succesful boycotts have shown that to be true. Yes, an individual has little effect, and yes that cow is already dead, but if less people buy meat, then less meat gets made- it takes a little while, and you will get years with food mountains as a result, but if there is not money to be made from selling meat people will not do it.

Also, this is a campaign on several levels. I am heavily against the subsidies that do exist for agriculture in Europe, and have campaigned against them.

And wasps can, in fact, harm me. I have actually taken to avoiding killing insects wherever possible, including spiders which I absolutely hate. But as I say, while I may believe my philosiphy, I don't always act like it- I still love the taste of meat, and I still want to swat wasps.

At 11:48 am, Anonymous Rob said...

I can give you an example of a boycott which hasn't worked. The Nestle boycott. Student Unions across the country have boycotted Nestle - that must be millions of students not eating Nestle products. However, nothing has changed.

Now they're launching a fairtrade coffee. Gonna be interesting to see the unions' take on that.

At 3:50 pm, Blogger Mr K said...

Wow, an example of a boycott that hasn't worked! That must mean none of them work! The nestle boycott did have some changes actually- they certainly lost profit, and at least changed their public face to deal with this- this is part of why they are launching this fair trade coffee.

However, I realise my argument is a little flawed, as I shall expand next post.

At 4:01 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

or do we?

At 5:15 pm, Blogger Kirbie said...

I agree with you, but still eat meat - probably due to convenience. Although I rarely choose food that contains red meat over something with chicken or fish in it. I don't really care about killing fish, because as far as I know they aren't much better than insects. Chickens I feel more sorry for, but they are designed for eating really. They can't fly and they're really tasty. I always buy free range stuff when I can and hopefully the chickens had a good life until they were mercilessly slaughtered.
I never buy lumps of red meat simply because I don't like dealing with it and I don't particularly like the taste. I can't stand food with blood in it and so really probably have a better standing to be vegetarian than most people. I certainly wouldn't eat meat if I had to kill it myself (though I'd still eat fish, molluscs and crustaceans). So the only fact I do it is that someone has packaged it up in a form that is unrecognisable it ever was part of an animal. Then again a lot of things I do like have meat in, so I should probably shouldn't eat cows, sheep and pigs at least. Though I try to avoid doing so. I think it's just too easy to forget where your food came from. If they had a little piglet or something on the packs of sausages saying "don't eat me!" that would put me off.

To be honest the whole food business is awfully crude and backward. I thought we'd all be poppin' chicken dinner pills by now.

At 6:43 am, Blogger Copernicus Now said...

mr k,

Until now, I never gave this subject much thought. I must say that I found your first argument very straightforwrd.

It was more than straightforward. Let's see...I had better watch what I am about to say, since I haven't had time to think it through yet...but I must admit am at least tempted to question why I am eating meat, based on my first encounter with that argument.

As for your second argument in favor of vegetarianism, I really don't understand how the premisses lead to the conclusion. I am not saying that I disagree. It really is that I just don't see what you are getting at.

And, since nobody else seemed to have a problem with it, it must be obvious to others -- just not to me.

I have tried to think of what your intent was (in the second argument). Maybe I sort of get it, but I am not so sure. Would you be willing to spell out the second argument in more detail? As if I were a 5 year old?

I also wonder if you are able to give me a sense of what the main pro-meat-eating arguments might be?

Anyway, I realize I am asking a lot.

Just want to finish by saying that I think what you are doing is very cool.

At 3:46 pm, Blogger Mr K said...

Hmm. Well argument 2 basically is saying that the population of the earth is expanding very fast- we have grown by an insane amount this last century.

So much so that the earth cannot actually support us anymore. Basically, there is more people than food. However, this is mostly because we eat so much meat. Animals are very inefficient- you put in 10kg of grain to feed them, and then you get 1kg of meat back, is a rough ratio, a consequence of thermodynamics (energy is always lost as heat). Basically, meat is a luxury- we support it by growing crops specifically for feeding the millions upon millions of animals existing. If we were to reduce the amount of animals on the planet- that is, stop breeding them at the intense rate that we do, then we would have more room for crops, and crops that were being fed to animals could be given to us. Many countries could be self sufficient if they only grew vegetable crops.

I hope thats clear.

I'll make another post about pro-meat eating arguments as I understand them.

At 1:43 am, Blogger Copernicus Now said...

I think I get it. It sounds to me like there are some suppressed premisses. Here is my proposed revamp of your second argument:

P1-all humans deserve to be able to eat enough to live
P2-the earth's population is expanding rapidly, and soon will not be able to sustain itself.
P3-the amount of energy obtained from eating animals is deeply inefficient
P4-the amount of energy obtained from eating vegetation is much more efficient (than eating animals)
P5-farming animals for food requires us to divert crop growth that could potentially feed humans to provide feed for the animals
P6-the amounts currently diverted have a huge impact on food availability for humans
Conclusion- we need to stop, or drastically reduce consumption of animal products.

Is this a valid representation?

Assuming it is, I must say that one thing I find very interesting is that it actually hinges on the preservation of human's rights, not animals' lives.

That said, I would have to say that I find your first argument stronger and probably easier to defend.

I am not prepared to argue that the second one is wrong in any way. It's just there seem to be a lot more directions from which to attack. Even if we allow that it is true, it just might prove too onerous to defend.

Oddly enough though, if global conditions deteriorate sufficiently, and if your premisses are true, then the second argument could yet prove the more persuasive as humanity sinks deeper into the future.

At 3:20 am, Blogger Mr K said...

Yeah, thats pretty much what I was saying. I dunno, the second argument is what tipped me over the edge- its always nice to come up with a different angle, and this one never occured until it was pointed out to me.


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