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"Faith is not a good reason to believe in any one thing. It's a bad reason to believe in everything. Faith is not synonymous with any one idea; it is synonymous with any strongly held idea, true or not. But one thing faith is not synonymous with is a logically justified idea."

June 18, 2010

Animal Rights: Letter to an Ethical Vegan

There's not enough consistency in the moral vegan/vegetarian argument for animal rights. One minute it's that every living animals has inherent rights, but then it's that we understand rights and have a moral obligation to them, but if a lion eats me it's justified because he didn't understand and has no obligation to consider my inherent right to life.

To me it's simple... Why don't you give a 2 year old the right to vote? Because a 2 year old can't comprehend what the voting process is all about. He cannot yet wield that authority with responsibility. In the case of an animal, it cannot understand the right to vote at any age. Understanding your rights is a prerequisite to having them. If a grown man kills another person because he is mentally incapable of understanding other people's rights to life, we put him in jail. Taking away his rights so that he cannot do harm again. If we already know a lion does not have the mental capability to understand my right to life, why should we let it out of the zoo?

Any organism can understand the need to survive, what we refer to as the right to life. But it's not a right. By calling it a right to life we evoke far too many misunderstandings in far too many arguments, apart from animal rights. What right to life does a man lost in the desert have? The desert sun will kill him and dry his corpse to dust with no regard to his right to live. What right to life does a man have who swims with the sharks? Do we arrest the shark who eats him? No, of course not. Organisms have an instinctual need to survive, not a right to live. The only reason we have laws among ourselves is to control ourselves, to limit chaos. The founding fathers (namely Jefferson) referred to the inalienable rights; the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. I'm sad to say he was wrong. He came close, but missed to obvious truth. Perhaps with a knowledge of evolutionary biology (to come many years later) he would have done better. No organism has the right to life, as I explained before. Neither does it have the right to liberty and happiness. These might seem like rights at times, but they are far from inalienable. Your liberty can be taken from you with either the signing of a bill, the lock of a jail cell, or the point of a sword. Your liberty is not a right, it's a condition that must be maintained by you if you wish to have it. Likewise, the pursuit of happiness is not a right, but a condition. As long as your heart beats and your brain thinks you will be able to pursue happiness. It's a universal condition that cannot be changed until you die. But nothing between Heaven and Earth can ensure that you ever reach happiness. These are not inalienable rights, there are no inherent rights to any organism.

We devised the concept of rights because we evolved brains able to conceive of such a concept. But they do not actually exist. They are conceptual by nature. Appealing to them for the good of an animal who cannot comprehend them is laughable. You would be better off trying to argue for the right of a new born baby to drive or carry a firearm. At least then you could convince me that the baby will one day be able to comprehend the authority he wields. With animals, you cannot. Until a cow evolves the ability to both understand rights and speak for them, I will eat cows and so will any other meat eater who enjoys the taste of beef.

Also, I notice how often your vegan/vegetarian/etc. friends on your page say things like "Don't worry about Alex, one day he'll see, one day they will all understand"... Sounds a lot like End Times doctrine speech to me. The theistic idea that since they are obviously right that there is no need to make a credible argument. Anyone who does not believe as them will soon learn they were wrong. That's why science dislikes certainty. No one can be certain of anything to that magnitude, and to pretend that you do not have to make a logical argument in favor of your beliefs simply because you believe it, that's dangerous lunacy. How many of your friends are vegans/vegetarians because they like the diet? How many because they just can't stomach meat? How many because they feel a moral obligation to not eat living animals? How many of them because they are mentally ill and have devised a strict duality of life to non-life? The same duality exists in theistic mental illnesses, I would not be surprised to find that such mental illness exists in vegans with such a duality in their moral code.

19 comments:

C. Allen Thompson said...

Just a query. With power doesn't moral responsibility come as well? Since we're the only species who has the moral and mental capacity to understand the rights of living things, shouldn't we use that power to respect them? Or rather, shouldn't we use that power to do good where other animals don't have the ability? I'm not a full-on animal rights person, but there is ethical responsibility. Such as cows being tortured throughout their lives because of chemicals to make them produce more milk, which only gives them a lifetime of sickness and pain. Chicken coops where the chickens are stacked on top of one another. Veil in general - merely giving birth to an animal only to chain it to a post until it's a year old and slaughter it. You see, for a person who despises primitive mindsets and activities as much as you, I think maybe you've misunderstood the whole animal rights movement. If something is going to be killed to give us food, we at least have a moral responsibility to give it a decent life until we slaughter it, and we also have a responsibility to our planet not to over-hunt it, thus causing a rippling effect throughout thousands of other species. I'm sure you see what I'm saying.

dday76 said...

I'm not vegetarian because I feel like life has some magical quality of 'rights'. It's also not just for the animals. We have evolved admirable qualities like ethics, empathy, an understanding of nutrition, and an ability to recognize our effects on the environment. We, most of us, value things like personal health, environmental sustainability, and a reduction of suffering. Even for animals of very low orders, they certainly have the ability to feel pain. This is not about a dualistic dogma. This is an effort to reduce cruelty in the world, and to reduce human impact on the environment, and to live a healthier life. Not exclusively, but overall, a more vegan lifestyle does that.

http://www.dday76.net/goveg.html

SgtHaile said...

A lion has power in relation to a gazel. Compared to us he is almost entirely powerless. But would you be upset if a lion ate a gazel? Would you think it was an unjustified kill? Power is obviously relative, so in the sense that a lion had power over that of a gazel, should he not have the responsibility to consider the gazel's suffering? Consider the gazel's rights? Of course not. This standard of responsibility to other species is only ever applied to us humans. Animal rights activists say all animals deserve rights, but then it's only ever humans who actually have to consider them. It's only humans who ever have to follow the law. With authority comes responsibility, and in many ways I'd say the human race has misused its authority over the rest of nature. Just look at the BP oil spill, and you'll see what I mean. However, we have the authority and thus the responsibility to create a balance in the ecosystem, a balance in the food chain. We do not have the responsibility to make all animals equal to humans. Balance is fine. Ethical vegans/vegetarians and animal rights activists go too far.

C. Allen Thompson said...

Lions hunt for food, for one thing. Secondly, it's not about power, it's about cognitive thinking, which lions don't possess. When a lion kills, it is for survival. We eat meat to survive as well, but if you're saying most people don't eat far too much, then you're fooling yourself. And that Gazelle had a perfectly good and natural life before the lion hunted it - it wasn't stacked on top of 50 other gazelles, awaiting slaughter.

I'll agree that many animal rights activists go way too far, and most of them are very ignorant people. However, some of them have points. And those who work to shut down puppy mills are making great points. I mean, you're not ethically okay with puppy mills, are you? That's my point. We need meat to survive, thus we must eat animals. But it is only we who are forced to acknowledge these rights and laws because it is only we who have the cognitive ability to do so.

We humans go way too far in general in raping and pillaging the earth around us without a singe care for the ramifications. And those who over hunt or over fish are doing the same thing. But you already know that, I'm sure. On the other hand, animal squash videos and things like that? You can't possibly think that that is alright. They're not alright because they're pointless and meaningless violence, human or other animal, we have a responsibility to stop things like that. My question is, "Why aren't the animal rights groups getting on that, instead of trying to play pirate against Japanese whaling boats in stupid and trendy TV shows?"

SgtHaile said...

You said "acknowledge these rights" as though rights existed before we could understand them and now that we can see them we should honor them? Rights do not exist without a being capable of conceiving rights. And even then rights only exist within the system that these beings create for themselves. You said yourself, the lion would kill to survive with no consideration of the rights of his prey. But I do not think it's because he simply does not consider them, I think it's because in the most basic of senses, rights do not exist. We have them because we devised them, and now some of us want to give them to animals who cannot conceive of them. This is serious problem. There is no one out there trying to argue that a baby should be allowed to own a handgun, or that a mentally ill person should be allowed to serve in the military and operate high tech weaponry. We understand that their rights are forfeit till they can prove to us they can understand them. We have standards set to show when someone is able to understand his/her rights, and our standards are mostly based on age. (in the long run this might be a huge mistake) So, within our system, I have devised a reasonable point in which animals can achieve their rights and I will recognize them. As soon as an animal can evolve enough to communicate to use and thus explain to us that it has rights that it can conceive of, then I will let that animal have them. And its entire species, seeing as how one animal evolving to such heights could not possibly be a fluke, it must be a new trend. Until then, animals only have the rights we afford them, and then we only afford them the rights we find convenient within our society. We are currently developing a better understanding of what is and is not convenient or comfortable within our society, and that's fine. It's good that this situation is acting as a mental exercise to teach us our limits. But to break down the limits and say animals have rights, that's laughable. And as I've stated, in the most basic sense, the concept of rights in general is laughable. Rights are like entropy; most noticeable within a closed system.

Jason said...

I think your Jun 18, 7:46 comment agrees with what I'm saying. We're better than the lion, and I'm talking about qualities like reason, compassion, empathy, etc ... not just power. We have evolved enough to value compassion in our lives and not to just advocate for our survival.

It's not valid to compare humans to animals for many reasons. There's a pretty good argument that animals, like lions, can't do evil. They lack the capacity (mens rea, to reference a legal term). They just do without much thought.

You said, "It's only humans who ever have to follow the law. With authority comes responsibility, and in many ways I'd say the human race has misused its authority over the rest of nature."

That's exactly what I mean. Why misuse our authority be destroying the environment or by murdering animals for our food? If it was the only option that would be one thing, but it's not. We can reduce our cruelty to the animals kingdom (and improve the environment) by sticking to a vegetarian or better a vegan diet.

You seem to think eating meat creates 'balance' but it doesn't, it tips the scales further from balance to human domination. This has implications both for cruelty we suffer and for the elimination of fisheries and land animal populations that affect the environment - which is imbalance.

Not eating animals hardly makes them equal to us. We're just not breeding-torturing-killing-eating them. When an animal communicates fear and suffering, every day, in the factory farming process, doesn't that qualify as a communication of a request for rights or at least mercy? Isn't that enough, or do you also require them to speak proper English in full sentences to call it communication? - "Moo, Don't taze me bro, moo"

SgtHaile said...

When I said that humanity has misused its power over the animals, I meant in other ways, not in regards to the food industry.

Here's what I told a person yesterday about enlarging chicken coop space so the chickens can spread their wings...

Where we can provide them [livestock] with their modest "Creature Comforts" and not degrade productivity and manufacturing efficiency, we should. But when the industry change you propose would limit functional space and thus degrade the industry's productivity and efficiency simply for the comfort of chickens, no one has to take you seriously. No one has to listen to someone who proposes change that does not help anything within the industry or the market, but only helps to temporarily increase the comfort of the one animal who is eventually going to end up under the knife. It doesn't make the industry any better and it doesn't generate more profit, in fact, it would just waste money. Where we can be kind and ethical to our live stock without reducing productivity and efficiency, we should. But that's not the place to do it.

Grace said...

I find your repeated illustration about affording a baby the right to use a handgun illogical. Babies, the mentally ill, and animals are all beings who cannot understand the concept of possesing rights or voice their desire to have those rights. Correct? Therefore, you say, giving rights to humane treatment to animals (for humane treatment as opposed to life is usually what animal rights advocates argue for, some animal rights advocates eat meat, and among ethical vegans personal ethics are almost often cited, I've never seen a proposal to make it illegal to consume meat) is as laughable as giving rights to a baby to own a handgun. Wait, what? There was a disconnect there? Wouldn't the logical line of comparison be to giving a baby rights to life and humane treatment? Oh, we do that, do you find that wrong/illogical? We give babies and mentally ill persons, creatures who cannot understand the concept of possessing rights or voice their will to have them, the rights to humane treatment and life (well, only the right to life insomuch as we will punish a society member who kills a baby or mentally ill person and we do not sanction slaughter of those beings). So, what is the difference between affording those rights to animals and mentally ill persons or babies? No difference except the former beings are human beings. The handgun illustration would make sense if we were arguing to give animals handguns. Your logic falls flat, so now you are forced to argue why being a human being (even one who cannot voice desire for rights, like a mentally ill human being) makes a creature deserving of rights and NOT being a human being doesn't. Either that or you will have to take the position that infant rights and the rights of the mentally ill must be thrown out with animal rights. Animal rights advocates never argue against bushmen hunting for their village, they never argue against defending yourself against a wild creature with the potential to seriously harm you. They argue against senseless violence and ridiculously inhumane treatment of animals, both within and without the meat producing industry. Some (ethical vegans like myself) protest the condition of the factory farm meat industry through boycott of their products. Most (also like myself) only argue the ethics of not eating meat to defend their own dietary choices, not to propose legislation that all meat-eating should be illegal. Most (again, like me) have compounded reasons for eating a vegan diet, not limited to animal treatment ethics but also including personal health reasons and environmental concerns. The vegan diet is in humanity's best interest as well as the planets- many major diseases and health problems can be traced to consumption of animal foods including many cancers, heart disease, and diabetes. That's the best argument for vegan eating, because everyone's set of ethics is different. I honestly don't know where you get the comparison to end of times philosophy as I've never run across a single vegan who said anything of the sort of "someday they will get it," as you cite, I'm guessing you got that assertion from one single acquaintance, good fact-base! I've heard a few talk about the fact that more people are vegetarian and vegan in recent years, so more people are seeing the health benefits and the cruelty in the meat trade, but never anyone asserting that everyone, or any one dissenter, would at any time "see the light."

Grace said...

I find your repeated illustration about affording a baby the right to use a handgun illogical. Babies, the mentally ill, and animals are all beings who cannot understand the concept of possessing rights or voice their desire to have those rights. Correct? Therefore, you say, giving rights to humane treatment to animals (for humane treatment as opposed to life is usually what animal rights advocates argue for, some animal rights advocates eat meat, and among ethical vegans personal ethics are almost often cited, I've never seen a proposal to make it illegal to consume meat) is as laughable as giving rights to a baby to own a handgun. Wait, what? There was a disconnect there? Wouldn't the logical line of comparison be to giving a baby rights to life and humane treatment? Oh, we do that, do you find that wrong/illogical? We give babies and mentally ill persons, creatures who cannot understand the concept of possessing rights or voice their will to have them, the rights to humane treatment and life (well, only the right to life insomuch as we will punish a society member who kills a baby or mentally ill person and we do not sanction slaughter of those beings). So, what is the difference between affording those rights to animals and mentally ill persons or babies? No difference except the former beings are human beings. The handgun illustration would make sense if we were arguing to give animals handguns. Your logic falls flat, so now you are forced to argue why being a human being (even one who cannot voice desire for rights, like a mentally ill human being) makes a creature deserving of rights and NOT being a human being doesn't. Either that or you will have to take the position that infant rights and the rights of the mentally ill must be thrown out with animal rights.

SgtHaile said...

You're confusing the potential to understand one's rights with the ability to understand one's rights.

Anonymous said...

Im actualy am an atheist, and a vegetarian. And other things, but thats not what this is about. Honestly, I though atheism would lead to vegetarianism (I was an atheist first before I was a vegetarian). Why do I say this? Because atheism is a consequence of reasoning, logic; and that is why I a vegetarian. After learning what meat does to the body (extreme stress on the colan, which increases cancer rates of 88%with long term eating), aswell as other things, such as the way the human body is made.
For example, human stomach acids are 20 times weaker then that of a carnivore, but about the same with herbivores. So, why CAN we eat meat? Because the stomach got "used" to it, but the doesn't stop the damage. Its why some vegetarian will feel sick after eating meat, and also why vegetarian tend to have more energy then those who eat the same amount of calories and carbohydrates, but eats meat.
Carnivores and omnivores have claws, which humans and herbivores don't have. And, while only carnivores and herbivores have a mouth full of daggers, basically, humans also have canine teeth, but, so do gorilas; strictly vegetarian.
Carnivores have intestines roughly 3 times there body hight, where as herbivores and humans have intestines roughly 20 times there hight... Ever see rotting meat? And remember, meat doesn't get digested very easily in the human body, that means it stays, intact, in your bowls, rotting. That is why vegetarians visit hospitals less and for shorter times then people who eat meat. Its also pretty desguisting, isn't it?
Also, what does cholesterol do? Yeah, and where do you get it? Yup.
Now, I do I eat eggs. The human body still needs vitamin B12. And yes, humans scavanged eggs from birds in the wild. What? You didn't expect a cave man to whip out his claws and eat the thing raw*, now did you? Or would you rather he pistol wipped 'em? Early humans could only eat meat because of weapons, which, BTW, aren't natural. Why do I go on about things being natural? Because thats how the human body evolved, its healthiest eating the right food for it, among other things.
*Ever eat raw meat? Probably not. Ever even think about it? Maybe... maybe... But why is that we have to burn, cook, and really just desguise the look and taste of meat? Because if we don't, we get sick. And you cant tell me if it makes you sick, its healthy.
You mentioned that you enjoy the taste of a hamburger. Thats fine. Just know that the taste is mostly blood and urine. Ever wonder why steak doesn't have the same flaver?

Anonymous said...

Im actualy am an atheist, and a vegetarian. And other things, but thats not what this is about. Honestly, I though atheism would lead to vegetarianism (I was an atheist first before I was a vegetarian). Why do I say this? Because atheism is a consequence of reasoning, logic; and that is why I a vegetarian. After learning what meat does to the body (extreme stress on the colan, which increases cancer rates of 88%with long term eating), aswell as other things, such as the way the human body is made.
For example, human stomach acids are 20 times weaker then that of a carnivore, but about the same with herbivores. So, why CAN we eat meat? Because the stomach got "used" to it, but the doesn't stop the damage. Its why some vegetarian will feel sick after eating meat, and also why vegetarian tend to have more energy then those who eat the same amount of calories and carbohydrates, but eats meat.
Carnivores and omnivores have claws, which humans and herbivores don't have. And, while only carnivores and herbivores have a mouth full of daggers, basically, humans also have canine teeth, but, so do gorilas; strictly vegetarian.
Carnivores have intestines roughly 3 times there body hight, where as herbivores and humans have intestines roughly 20 times there hight... Ever see rotting meat? And remember, meat doesn't get digested very easily in the human body, that means it stays, intact, in your bowls, rotting. That is why vegetarians visit hospitals less and for shorter times then people who eat meat. Its also pretty desguisting, isn't it?
Also, what does cholesterol do? Yeah, and where do you get it? Yup.
Now, I do I eat eggs. The human body still needs vitamin B12. And yes, humans scavanged eggs from birds in the wild. What? You didn't expect a cave man to whip out his claws and eat the thing raw*, now did you? Or would you rather he pistol wipped 'em? Early humans could only eat meat because of weapons, which, BTW, aren't natural. Why do I go on about things being natural? Because thats how the human body evolved, its healthiest eating the right food for it, among other things.
*Ever eat raw meat? Probably not. Ever even think about it? Maybe... maybe... But why is that we have to burn, cook, and really just desguise the look and taste of meat? Because if we don't, we get sick. And you cant tell me if it makes you sick, its healthy.
You mentioned that you enjoy the taste of a hamburger. Thats fine. Just know that the taste is mostly blood and urine. Ever wonder why steak doesn't have the same flaver?

The Humane Hominid said...

Strange. You don't attack any actual "animal rights" arguments and you don't really seem to understand evolution all that well, yet you post and comment with the confidence of someone who's won a debate.

I could take this post more seriously if you hadn't wasted your time tilting at wiindmills.

murraybiscuit said...

this also raises the issue of pets. what gives humans the right to domesticate animals? surely this is a form of enslavement?

Magda said...

Hi friend! I'm also an atheist, and I'm a vegetarian, not for religion reasons, but for ethical reasons. We don't have the right to make animals suffer, not because there is a big daddy up there, but because animals have the right to live a life without suffering, in their own habitat. There's no comparison between been compassionate with animals and been blind about the subject of religions and god. They are two concepts completely different. Bye. Magda.

Anonymous said...

a lion is not a justification for a human being to kill. that is a logical fallacy. people are not lions. if all of the lions disappeared now, what other justification/rationalization would we use? especially when we are actually able to function as moral agents and we do function in that way when people are considered and when animals are considered, but to animals we are culturally and morally selective - cultural preconditioning. well, most of the time we are. also, we become very disturbed when an animal suffers - most of the people would never harm an animal, they eat them only when they don't think about killing. people who work in the killing industry report about their mental numbness. people who eat meat are in a mental denial - they deny minds of animals they eat (study conducted last year - psychologist Brock Bastian). that means that you are living in a temporary illusion - you are not thinking clearly and critically while you are doing it. interesting, hm?
also, science proved that you can actually live on a plant based diet. it also proved that animals suffer and that they refuse to be killed. it also proved that people respond to suffering...

so, when you sum all that up, it means that the only thing we should try is to become vegan. when you know that you can live without killing, then that knowledge obliges you to do so. when you know that you can live without raping women, it obliges you to do so. when you know that you can live without making black people slaves, it obliges you to do so. when you know that you can live without killing sentient beings, it obliges you to do so... yes, i really think that the knowledge about a moral choice obliges you to choose morally...

sorry for bad english

Anonymous said...

Also, today to eat meat, when people are aware that they don't have to and that we don't need to do it, it means that we are doing the same thing religious people are doing – believing things that are part of previous believes, that are part of the tradition, part of something science and human practice started to overcome. when science explained many of the things people used to believe, critical thinkers accepted it. today science found that we actually can live without harming animals. when I found out that I can actually live without harming them (a few years ago, I became a vegan – it took me a couple of months to learn some basics, and the reason and comprehension of animals and human empathetic nature took me there – yes, I take empathy and reasoning before carnistic tradition I was born into. The same way I left catholic religious tradition I was born into when I saw that I can live morally without sexist and pro-slavery catholic perspective). You probablly receive many arguments from vegans on why they are vegans because they are usually attacked for their choice not to harm animals so they make up many different reasons in order not to be attacked anymore. But in the end, they all agree on a few things – animals have a right not to be killed. People who eat plants only for health are not vegans unless they have political and social dimension – „killing/using animals is wrong“. If what the bible says was true – people are above animals because people are made on god's image – then animals apriori wouldn't have the right to live. But, from atheist and evolutional standpoint, we are all here and the same, and from that standpoint we need a different, not biblical (the reason many atheist unintentionally use) definition of our relationship. Did you know that most vegans are actually atheists? It is because it goes hand in hand! again sorry for my english

Siddharth said...

A child doesn't have a right to vote, but he does have the right not to be used or killed for someone else's benefit. A mentally challenged adult is not devoid of the right to live because he cannot respect the rights of others. Bottom line, just because an animal, be it human or non-human, cannot reciprocate rights, it doesn't mean that their right to life can be abused. We agree that humans are different from other animals, but when it comes to suffering and a need to live, we are all the same. No matter what happens naturally, a lion killing a deer, for example, it cannot be used to justify our own violence and oppression of other animals. If we could do that, women oppression, abuse of the weak by the powerful, and everything that is natural can be considered permissible. Our understanding of morality comes from outside what is natural.

Anonymous said...

There is no reason to believe in animal rights.

If your a theist, in all large religions eating and killing animals is ok.
If your an atheist, there is no right or a wrong.saying "everything has a right to live" is silly because that's implying that there is a Devine authority saying giving or saying it has the right to life.

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