Tuesday, 11 August 2015

rejecting utilitarian justifications for carnism


I've seen these arguments before. I don't find them compelling for several reasons. First: the deaths of small animals in agriculture. Their deaths are accidental rather than deliberate unlike slaughter houses; which means that morally speaking, we are not as morally abhorrent for allowing their deaths as we are for deliberately killing cows, say. The same argument defends eating roadkill, as offered in the article cited. If eating roadkill is ok because roadkill is accidental, then vegan collateral damage is fine too. The article can’t be hypocritical about this. Either accidentally dead animals are ok to die and or be eaten, or they’re not. If the fuss is about collateral damage, then cars should be banned if combine harvesters should be banned. Furthermore, the small animals that die are less sentient and therefore of lesser moral worth than, say, deer or dog roadkill, or cows. Generally we’re talking here about mice, rats, bugs. Even Burns has a poem apologising to a wee little beastie.

I also contest the claim that animals have no moral value inherently. This is unadulterated nonsense. If it is not unadulterated nonsense, explain why you don't eat your dog. The answer is a dog is family. Therefore he has moral worth. Furthermore, it is clear that we allocate moral worth on sentience. We don't care about swatting a fly but we are reluctant to kill a lizard and won't kill a chimp. So no, animals have moral worth.

I think, lastly, that utilitarianism is false. It's not about quantities of suffering. Because it leads to counterintuitive results like the article’s claim that you should eat whales. No. A whale is sentient therefore shouldn't be eaten. Similarly, let me show one reason why utilitarianism is false. Suppose 20 people are going to die if they don't get organ transplants. Shall we sacrifice YOU and chop you up, even though you are healthy and happy, to save these others? If so, why is it not law yet (as in, why is it not law yet that the government can’t arbitrarily select a person off the street at random to chop up for organ donation, like in the Monty Python “organ donor/liver transplant” skit)? Reason: you are sentient and have a “right to bodily integrity". If you were in a vegetative state the answer would be yes, not so? Surely if you have no chance of returning to a qualitatively normal life with full experiencing consciousness, there’s more value in letting you die and then taking your organs? See the difference? Sentience is what turns an abhorrent idea (human sacrifice) into something acceptable (dare I say palatable?).

*There are other reasons why utilitarianism is false, e.g. it doesn’t say how to do the calculation; it doesn’t say at what point in the distant future the good consequences must arise in order to justify the earlier evils; and it doesn’t acknowledge inherent value of persons/sentient beings; it doesn’t treat people/beings as ends in themselves.

So it's nonsense. Eating meat isn't ethical and the more sentient the being the more unethical it is.

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