Friday, July 22, 2016

Moral Status of Eating Meat

From guest blogger, Julie.

After discussing animal ethics, and whether or not we have an obligation to regard animals with the same moral standard we do humans, I couldn’t envision eating meat without struggling through an internal moral conflict. Singer’s “speciesism” resonated most with me. I find it slightly foreign to place the same moral significance on animals as humans, but logically following the concept of speciesism, I can actually place some reasoning behind it.

Our intuitions guide us to believe discrimination against a being based on non-moral components is wrong. And I think we could all agree this intuition makes sense. As Singer pointed out, we consider racism and sexism as immoral, why not include speciesism in that group. If at one point, one human thought they were “better” than another because of something as remedial as skin color or gender, than it seems as though belonging to a certain species is just as insignificant. 

Defending the consumption of meat as morally permissible because animals aren't moral agents is a common strategy. But what excludes an animal from being part of the moral community? Rationality or cognitive ability? That doesn’t hold because there are some animals that are more rational or are capable of greater cognition than human beings (i.e. coma patients, mentally ill…). So if we obliged by this principle, then we wouldn't have moral obligations to a group of human beings. Is it emotional connections? Pets allow for emotional connections. Being able to feel pain? Animals are able to feel pain. What then allows us to hold ourselves higher on the moral scale than animals?

Cutting meat out of your diet can be easy nowadays with the plethora of meat alternatives, and just as tasty. You don’t have to give up everything if this moral dilemma is causing you to lose sleep, Oreos happen to be vegan.

I couldn’t come up with a defense to allow meat eating as morally permissible, but I’d like to know if anyone else did!


Ming Yuan said...

Hi Julie,

I'm not a vegetarian, so I'm really trying to think of one reason to defend our behaviors. I think the difference between humans and non-human animals is that people have cognitions and can communicate between each group. However, humans are evolved from apes, and we are belong to animals too. If it is not true for tigers and other wild animals to prey on herbivore,then it is not morally wrong for humans to eat other factory-produced meat. Assume, if people drop into the sea from the boat by accident, sharks will also eat animals, and would that be morally wrong for sharks to eat people? If it is not, why would human eat meat be morally wrong?

Bryan Li said...

Hi Julie,

The question that why eating meat is morally permissible also drives me nuts. I even think of twice when I looked at some bacon the other day (I still did). A persuasive argument to me is very similar to Ming's perspective: If it is morally permissible for animals to eat other animals. Then it is morally permissible for human to eat animals. Also, as we have consumed meat over hundred years, it is not easy step for people to change the eating habits.

Bryan Li

Yi Iverson said...

Hi Julie,
Based on Singer's argument, it is impermissible for us to eat meat because animals suffer the pain as we human beings. One objection I could come up with is that if we can find out something to remove the pain, it is permissible for Singer to eat meat. Such as we develop some medicine which can remove the pain of animals but harmless to human beings. All we need to do is to feed animals these medicine and then they will not suffer when they die. At that point, it is permissible for us to eat meat. Singer cannot object it because all he focuses is the pain.
Nan Yi

Liam Perkins said...

Hi Julie,
I'm not a vegetarian but I feel guilt due to speciesism. When I think about why we shouldn't put animals below us, I think about a spectrum of all different species. You can sort the spectrum by any quality (intelligence, ability to suffer, appearence, etc.) but where do you draw the line through the spectrum of which animals are OK to eat and which animals aren't? I think it's important to imagine marginally different species, especially considering potential alien species similar to ourselves. When I think of speciesism this way it seems obvious that we shouldn't eat anything that can suffer.
But then why do I still eat meat? I think it's because we, too, are animals. Our natural instincts tell us to eat meat. It is also very difficult to resist our natural instincts because our instincts exist to help ensure our survival. My yearning to follow my instincts (survive) outweighs my moral commitments in some situations. I'm not proud of it but meat is so readily available and so distant from the slaughter-house that it has become too easy to ignore the fact that I am eating an animal.