Thursday, December 08, 2005

st. paul had it all when we called

What I envisioned for this blog all along is more of a dialogue and less of my big mouth. If I knew anything about HTML, I'd quit this blogging game and set up a real deal webpage, something a bit more egalitarian and less one-sided. I'd better quiet down with that shit, though, before Blogger drops my ass. Here's more from Nathan from St. Paul, with my reply below:

"Hey, thanks for sharing. Good point about how even "good" farms would have to do something with the male animals.

Not that you asked but since we're sort of having a conversation here... I don't have moral objections to killing animals for food but I do think they need to be treated well while they're alive. Our moving away from meat is due mainly to environmental and health reasons. If it were up to me we'd buy only organic meat and dairy for the sake of the animals' quality-of-life as well as our health but I just make the money, I don't buy the groceries or deal with our budget.

One thing I figure, too, is that animals eat animals so what's the difference with us? Shoot, even our worst butchering techiques are no worse than how some animals "butcher" their prey. So, while I hope/want/expect us to do better than even the "best" animal carnivore, you do too - really you're just further down the line than me. I'd love to hear more about why you're further down the line but I don't want it all to get irritating or unpleasant for you. Maybe you've got a link to direct me to?

Oh - yeah, St Paul."

Second draft: The first didn't make a lot of sense.

I think for me it comes down to necessity. That sounds rather simple, and maybe it is, but I'm not really well-versed in philosophy. When I stopped eating animals, it was basically because I realized I didn't need to.

My wife tells me that Peter Singer argues in one of her philosophy texts that eating an animal can only be justified if it is a matter of survival. I haven't yet read that article, so I'll have to get back to you, but it does raise some questions for me. If I am going to starve to death, I get to kill a bear and eat it, that way I don't die. Fair enough, but if I starve to death, the bear gets to live. I have trouble discerning a difference morally. I understand that every creature is instinctually wired for survival, but would that make it somehow immoral for one to sacrifice oneself for the sake of the bear?

Don't ask me, I've been killing houseflies and yelling "vegan power" quite a bit lately. Besides, I'm way off topic.

I do like Singer's idea apart from that, however, or what little I understand of it. The idea, as explained to me, is that we would have to allow for a starving bear to eat a human as well, without passing moral judegement on the bear (read: hunting it down and killing it for revenge). Further, it allows for certain people groups to continue to rely on local meat, something that has always seemed a tricky issue for veganism to contend with, and one I'm glad someone else thought enough about to create a philosophy about that I can get behind. That was one of my more convoluted sentences. You should have seen the first draft.

I can understand how one might come into the "the animals are doing it, so why can't we?" mindset, but I think it's a dangerous argument. Kids often use this line of thinking: "She's not doing her chores, so why do I have to?" Sounds good, but often there's more to the story, like "Because she didn't put Play-Doh in the gas tank of the lawnmower."

Finally, I'd like to add that while it might be totally possible to buy free-range/organic animal products for at home and then eat vegan in restaurants (because they aren't likely to have free-range/organic stuff at most places), it isn't a likely scenario. Once we get into certain eating habits, they tend to be rather hard to get out of -- if I start eating free-range meat at home I'm going to want steak fajitas at my favorite Mexican restuarant, and I might not be able to source that meat, and then pretty soon I'm eating anything. I've seen that happen a lot of times before.

Further finally, I'm not further down the line than anyone, I promise. I don't do the budget either.


Blogger Nathan said...

Are you calling me childish?! 'Cause if you are I'm tellin'.

Man, that Peter Singer needs to write fewer articles...

Sorry, I don't have the patience to write a proper comment right now. But, I'd hate not to comment so this is what you get. You've got me thinking, though...

10:13 PM  
Blogger sui generis said...

Since we got a dialogue goin'...

I think the post was well written. The question of necessity is the crucial one, along with the question of choice. Carnivorous animals don't choose to kill and devour other animals--they simply do so because of their instincts and the training they received from their parents.

There is no moral decision made by the animals wherein they weigh the pros and cons of a carnivorous diet. But we, as humans, are capable of making up our own minds. We don't have to follow blindly what we have been taught and once we see that we don't have to eat animals, or don't want to eat animals, then we have the ability to actually STOP eating animals.

That is an important distinction that sets us apart from other animals--such as a starving bear. If you are starving and see a fat, meaty bear, then you have a decision to make. If a starving bear stumbles across you, on the other hand, it has no such moral qualms! (side note: at this point, an attempt to explain to the bear that humans are at the "top of the food chain" will likely be irrefutably denied by the bear.)

8:25 AM  

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