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  1. Adenosine Triphosphate
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    Adenosine Triphosphate Old Scratch Contributor

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    Animal Abuse vs. Eating Meat

    Discussion in 'Debate Room' started by Adenosine Triphosphate, Jun 6, 2015.

    We normally think of beating humans as a lesser crime than killing them, but this dichotomy seems to be reversed in our approach to other species, with many unapologetic meat eaters condemning people who abuse their pets or random animals in the wild.

    This attitude strikes me as tremendously inconsistent. I consider murder worse than battery, and it seems to me that the same should go for their non-human analogs. Some argue that it is possible to bring livestock down in fairly humane ways, but killing is still killing, and I would personally rather survive a severe beating than be the victim of a murder attempt, no matter how swift or painless.

    You may find this post preachy, but I truly cannot see any way to reconcile our empathy for household pets with our willingness to kill farm animals for food. They don't match up.

    Am I missing something?
     
  2. Lemex
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    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

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    There are no rules to empathy, it's an emotion - maybe an evolutionary misfire, but something we almost can't help but feel. Human beings are often inconsistent, they are animals, not machines, and undirected we sometimes just happen to fall into logic.

    I don't find it inconsistent. I don't really care how the slab of beef I slam onto a BBQ died - but I do care if things alive are put through needless pain. Why is that inconsistent? Killing something for food is natural if also an example of how cruel nature is. Killing something purely for fun is wasteful and selfish - and so we might call it barbaric. Making the killing for food needlessly long is pointless and unpleasent, killing it painlessly is mercy. Either way it's still killing.

    But killing in this world is a fact of every day life, and no amount of lofty opinions is going to change that fact. Nature is cruel; we try to make it kind, though in doing so we are doomed to fail.
     
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  3. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    Would you have rather never been born?

    Because for livestock at least, that's the option. I often feel guilty when I see calves being playful, thinking that these creatures are going to live such short lives that they'll barely get past the playful stage before they're killed and eaten. But the alternative isn't a bunch of happy calves living to a ripe old age and being loved and cared for until they eventually succumb to age-related illness. The alternative is not breeding cattle. The calves will either have short lives or no lives at all.

    Which doesn't automatically mean that we have the right to breed and kill them. But I think it does put a different slant on your question.

    And it puts a different slant on the humane treatment of farm animals, too. If we make their short lives pleasant, I think that's different than if their lives are miserable and then they die. Because if I translate this to your human connection, we have three options:

    Would you rather:

    A) never be born at all;

    B) live a good, rich life until you're about fifteen or twenty years old and then be killed in a humane way;

    or

    C) live a horrible, cramped, frightening life until you're about fifteen or twenty years old and then be killed via torture and fear.

    Based on my own answer to that question, I avoid factory-farmed meat, but still eat free-range meat, especially when I can find that it's been slaughtered humanely.

    We'll all have our own answers, obviously, but I think it's a more comparable framing of the question.
     
  4. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    The argument seems to me to be based on the premise that human sentience and animal sentience are on the same level such that taking the life of one is equivalent to taking the life of the other.
     
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  5. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    I don't think it entirely is. I think the idea is that if taking a life is worse than torture for one species, taking a life should be worse than torture for another species. It's more about trying to understand the reasoning, as I read it.
     
  6. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    I'm not sure I agree with the premise though. It still draws on an equivalence between species, and I'm not sure I see the basis for it. Do all species have the same value as a human life? If they don't, then I don't know that it is necessary to assume that the calculus on these issues comes out the same for any two different species. I think the idea for meat eating is the starting assumption that is it not wrong to kill animals to eat them. Once you've decided that is OK, then I think the moral question becomes how food animals are treated and whether unnecessary suffering of those animal should be tolerated (I do not think it should be).
     
  7. BrianIff
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    BrianIff I'm so piano, a bad punctuator. Contributor

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    I see ourselves as part of the food chain. Only herbivores in nature do not rely on hunting. No meat-eating animal kills out of greed, jealousy, or power. But some species do co-operate with others, like birds that eat parasites from hippos. In the same way, we can have a give-and-take relationship with dogs because we have the capacity to appreciate their company. We value pets in spite of being omnivores.
     
  8. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    I don't think we should assume that the calculus is the same, but I can see why we might question why it's different.

    It depends where you start, I guess. You're starting with the assumption that killing animals for meat is morally okay. But I'm not sure that's a fair assumption to start with. At least, if we do start with it, it closes down a lot of other questions!

    What if we started with the idea that causing unnecessary pain to animals is wrong? I think that's a premise that's at least as defensible as the "killing for meat is fine" premise. So starting with the idea that causing unnecessary pain is wrong, we have to examine whether killing them is painful, and if it is, whether it's necessary.

    With my "no-one would keep farm animals as pets" theory, we could say that killing them for meat is necessary in that it drives the entire economic system that results in their existence, even if that existence is artificially shortened.

    So we could do one of those logic statements:

    Killing animals for meat results in the breeding, birth, and raising of more animals of similar type.
    The breeding, birth, and raising of these animals is better than not breeding them at all.
    Therefore killing animals for meat is better than not breeding them at all.

    I'm not sure I agree with the premises, but I'm not sure I disagree with them, either.
     
  9. Ben414
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    Ben414 Contributing Member Contributor

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    The issue is that you could insert humans there instead:

    Killing humans for meat results in the breeding, birth, and raising of more humans.
    The breeding, birth, and raising of humans is better than not breeding them at all.
    Therefore killing humans for meat is better than not breeding them at all.

    This is a complicated question that too often gets broken down into arguments that ignore its complexity (you're not doing that, but others do). For example, humans don't literally need to eat other animals to survive unlike other animals that may literally need to eat other animals to survive or don't have the capacity for the feeling of morals. Does this mean we can't eat them morally since we already treat humans this way even though science has proven animals are a lot closer to use cognitively than we previously believed? What cognitive distinction is the line that separates how we treat man and animal? What about a person who has permanent brain damage and is a "vegetable"? Does he lose his human rights? Or maybe its our ability to form relationships with others? But we can have meaningful relationships with animals, and since we appreciate human rights for people who we don't know we've already decided it's specifically the potential that matters. Etc. Etc.

    A lot of questions... not many answers. We can't ignore potential logical incoherence in how we treat animals, but we also can't ignore the fact that we're human and that means certain mental, emotional, and physical assumptions can't be ignored in trying to determine our own "logic."
     
  10. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    If humans and animals are not equivalent, then you can't necessarily insert humans into the argument.
     
  11. Ben414
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    Ben414 Contributing Member Contributor

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    You'd have to show why humans and animals are not equivalent before you could make that assumption. I'm not saying what argument is sufficient or not sufficient, but you can't just assume it without some argument that can be examined.
     
  12. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'm not sure we could insert humans, at least not seamlessly. I mean, would killing humans for meat result in the breeding, birth, and raising of more humans? Who is it who's doing this killing and eating? Other humans?

    There's an element of control missing when it's all humans. I mean, humans are the planet's dominant species. We more-or-less decide which other animals (at least the larger animals) live or die. So I guess there is an assumption in my argument that this status will continue. There are lots of assumptions in my argument, of course - it's hard to do pure logic once you're beyond the purely theoretical. But I feel like the humans are the dominant species assumption is a reasonably secure one. If the cattle rise up and take over, we'll need to reformulate, of course...
     
  13. Ben414
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    Ben414 Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'm not sure how the dominant species thing plays out in this argument, but I was thinking in terms of humans raising other humans in order to eventually eat them. That would seem to meet that logic. I do see your point, though. Depending on how you can or cannot separate humans and other animals, the above argument would probably be more widely accepted. I think humans may naturally view themselves distinct and create those categories, which would make the "raise animals humanely (no pun intended), don't induce unnecessary pain, and then it's fine to raise them for eating" argument stronger.


    They might attempt this. I've heard they are getting increasingly tired of being tipped over.
     
  14. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    I've identified a few potential ringleaders:

     
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  15. Aaron DC
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    Aaron DC Contributing Member

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    How do you feel about euthanasia? Or is that too OT?
     
  16. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    I don't know. This burden of proof is generally on the person making the affirmative case. Animals have never been on par with humans in this manner, and if you want to make the case that they should be I think the burden falls to you to demonstrate why.
     
  17. 123456789
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    123456789 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Yes you are. Having slaves (and physically abusing them) is worse than murder.
     
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  18. Aaron DC
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    Aaron DC Contributing Member

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    If a meteor threatens to wipe out all life on earth, will the cows even try to save us?

    If they do, or anything else of a similar level of intellect, I will stop eating them.

    (Stolen from maddox)
     
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  19. Ben414
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    Ben414 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Saying "humans are different than animals" is the affirmative case, as opposed to saying "humans may or may not be different than animals, and we need to lay out the arguments before we make a statement on it." Tradition can prove something has been done, but we're ostensibly arguing what should be done and I don't think tradition can be a starting assumption when dealing with what should be done.

    If I was making an argument for why they should be included in the same group, I'd start by saying the dichotomy isn't the best way to think about it anyway. Humans and animals are similar and different both between them and among themselves in varying ways and to varying degrees.

    Instead of starting by relying on these groups, we should start by considering how these groups are supposed to be delineated and whether these distinctions should matter to our argument. We could start with something like DNA. I would argue something as abstract as that does not play a role in people's views on these arguments. If, hypothetically, a cow could have the same DNA as a human but retain all of its other features, I don't think this would change anybody's mind in regards to its rights contained in this argument.

    Instead, I think it's the differences in cognitive capabilities that people use to delineate these groups for informing their views on this argument. An example might be that a cow cannot have aspirations, so raising it in order to kill it does not ruin its life purpose and this means it's fine to do. What science has taught us, though, is that cows and many other animals have greater cognitive capabilities than we once believed (e.g., they feel pain and feel emotions). Therefore, the delineation that relies on animals innately lacking certain cognitive capabilities (e.g., the ability to feel pain and emotion) may be empirically incorrect depending on how it was specifically defined, and we need to reconsider how we define these groups in its application to our argument and why these differences matter.
     
  20. Adenosine Triphosphate
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    Adenosine Triphosphate Old Scratch Contributor

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    It isn't. It's based on the premise that, because killing is worse than less extreme forms of violence, it can't wrong to beat animals but right to slaughter them. They either have no worth, in which case we can treat them however we want, or they at least have enough to deserve to live.

    Of course, they're all going to kill each other anyway, and from a pragmatic perspective it makes sense to prioritize our welfare over their own. However, this strikes me as a necessary evil instead of something actually desirable, and it wears thin as a justification for carnivorism when I realize that many of us do not need meat to survive.
     
    Last edited: Jun 7, 2015
  21. Aaron DC
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    Aaron DC Contributing Member

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    So what do you eat that doesn't get killed in the process?
     
  22. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    ...vegetables?

    Yes, yes, they're alive, but while I'll seriously engage in a discussion of whether killing animals is related to murder, I'm not willing to give plants the same privileges.
     
  23. BrianIff
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    BrianIff I'm so piano, a bad punctuator. Contributor

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    Is it you believe in absolute animal self determination or that only pet owners who eat meat have a gap in their conscience or some third position? I ask since now it sounds like you're taking an all-or-nothing stance on killing unless it is a matter of survival for the human.
     
  24. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    They either 1) have no worth; or 2) deserve to live is a false dichotomy.
     
  25. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I do think that killing animals for food (as opposed to, let's say, killing rodents infesting a house, where there is a self-defense element) where those animals at or above the intelligence level of, roughly, a chicken, is wrong. I still eat them. There is a large gap in my morals versus my actions in this area. If we consider morals to be an area where it's OK to "make progress", I could give myself credit for the fact that I'm trying pretty hard to confine my meat-eating to humanely raised meat, and that then I may start cutting specific animals out of my diet. (Pigs, for example, are supposed to be particularly intelligent.) But, really, this is a stain on my character. Or my soul. Or something.
     
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