Description

Politics. Economics. Morality. Religion. And Everything In Between.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Moral Vegans Are Illogical

In addition to promoting sound and reasonable thought, I'm going to use this blog as a platform to expose and discredit ideologies that I think are harmful. You may have already seen me take swipes at feminism and various forms of socialism. In this post, I'm going to knock evangelical vegans off of their moral high horse.

In case you didn't know, vegans are people who eat absolutely no animal products whatsoever. Some do it because they believe that it is healthier than eating meat, fish, eggs, milk, etc. These people are wrong. People who eat a strictly plant-based diet must rely too heavily on carbohydrates to supply necessary calories, which puts them at greater risk for diabetes, obesity, and other health problems. Plus, there is no plant that can do as good a job of providing high-quality complete protein as meat. For more info on the nutritional misinformation underlying health-based veganism, click here or check out "Free the Animal" on the blog links to your right.

Other vegans, the ones I'm directly calling out as "illogical" in the title, eschew meat for moral reasons. They believe it is wrong to inflict suffering on animals by breeding them in cramped conditions and killing them for meat. They want all animals to live free, happy lives "from birth until natural death" in the wild. Where do they get the idea that animal suffering is an evil? It's usually not from any religion, since most moral vegans are modern secular liberals who don't subscribe to any restrictive religious beliefs. This is too bad for them, since religion would give them a convenient justification for their practice: "I believe in Religion X, and according to Religion X, God says killing animals is bad, so I shouldn't do it." (If you are vegan/vegetarian because you are Hindu or for other religious reasons, this post is not about you. Your ideology is logically consistent, at least on this level.)

Instead, these vegans usually argue from a biological basis. They say that, because the theory of evolution demonstrates that humans evolved from other animals, and because we share a vast amount of our genetic material with other life forms (even those that seem only distantly related to us), humans and animals really aren't that different. We're just like them, but with bigger brains. Therefore, all the things we shouldn't do to humans also shouldn't be done to animals. If harming some humans for the good of other humans is bad, so is harming animals. If killing and eating people is bad, so is killing and eating animals.

Can anyone guess where the problem occurs in this line of reasoning? Here's a hint: humans aren't the only meat-eaters on the planet. If humans and animals are so morally equivalent, then carnivorous animals are committing a grave moral evil every time they kill and eat just to survive. Vegans might say that carnivores aren't sentient and can't reflect on the moral implications of their actions, but this is just an admission that humans and animals really are fundamentally different.

Vegans who accept that humans and animals are fundamentally different would likely argue from this angle: because humans have a capacity for conscious reflection, we can recognize suffering in other creatures. In doing so, we incur a responsibility to prevent that suffering whenever we can. Again, vegans' animal friends catch them in a trap. Not only would humans have to refrain from killing and eating animals for meat, we would also have to stop carnivorous animals from doing the same. Why? Well, to an animal, being killed and eaten is no different no matter who's doing it. In fact, being torn apart alive by a pack of wolves is probably a great deal more painful than dying of a single clean blow from a human rifle, mallet, knife, or other instrument. Therefore, humans would have a moral obligation to prevent such suffering by incarcerating carnivorous animals and put them on vegan diets.

Anyone can see how absurd such a proposition is. Vegans object to zoos because they believe caging wild animals does them a great deal of harm. Would they be willing to violate their own principles in order to uphold them? Is such a thing even possible? Furthermore, I seriously doubt that sharks, crocodiles, snakes, and other exclusively carnivorous species could survive on a vegan diet. To put them on one would likely kill them.

This is the whole problem with veganism. Despite their enthusiasm for "living in harmony with nature," vegans ignore the fundamental realities of living beings. Some animals, including humans, eat other animals for food. There's nothing wrong with it; it's just the way we are. Perhaps we should do more to make sure that the animals we eat are treated more humanely and subjected to as little suffering as possible, but we have every right to eat them.

14 comments:

  1. The argument I have heard is that the only issue relevant to the (secular) morality of killing/hurting is whether the given being experiences pain. If we accept that animals experience pain, it is wrong to cause them pain. Whether they are sentient is irrelevant.

    I would assume the argument about animal on animal violence has to do with necessity and self preservation. For carnivores, there is simply no choice but to kill to eat. For humans, that is not the case. If we can survive without causing pain to any creature, oughtn't we?

    That said, I do enjoy my meat and I do it while having some degree of respect for the vegan position. Now there's some moral inconsistency for you.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I meant to say that the fact that carnivorous and omnivorous animals lack sentience absolves them of their moral responsibility for inflicting pain in the animals they eat, not that it makes the pain suffered by animals irrelevant (although that is another discussion in itself). I'm going to edit the post to clarify this point, thanks.

    ReplyDelete
  3. But we don't incarcerate for self-defense killing. For a carnivore who will starve without meat, that is what it amounts to.

    ReplyDelete
  4. I think that the pain argument is based on a false assumption. First we must define what pain is. Ask a scientist, and he or she will tell you that pain is the result of chemicals released by dying or damaged cells which informs the body that an adverse stimulus is present. We assume that pain is an awful experience for animals because they flinch, run away, or make audible warnings. These responses are the direct results of the damage caused by scratching/stabbing/slashing/shooting/other "painful" actions.

    However, this definition of pain, upon which the justification of veganism might be built, can also be extended to plants. Faced with herbivory, a plant similarly releases chemicals that do a variety of things. Some poison the herbivore; some attract carnivores to remove the animal, either immediately or by recruiting other animals to lay eggs on the herbivore and eventually kill it; other chemicals are volatile and warn other parts of the plant, as well as other plants, to activate genes in defense of the offending herbivore. By the above definition of pain, this plant is also suffering. Maybe it isn't responding as fast or as visibly as animals do, but then shouldn't we protect these plants more because they had the misfortune to evolve mechanisms that humans don't find as heart-wrenching? But then, if plants also experience pain, we can't eat them either.

    We can either accept this as a complete argument, or we could come up with an alternative definition for pain. If it can't be the response of an animal to the stimulus, then what? The pain we humans experience is, in part, this same physiological and neurological response to damaged cells. But it is also a philosophical understanding of the origin, sensation, and consequences of pain, something animals are incapable of comprehending. Because of this, there is no way to justify veganism through an animal's supposed suffering.

    ReplyDelete
  5. While I really like this argument about pain, and would tend to agree that human pain is probably in many ways different from that experienced by animals, I worry that it leads to the conclusion that animals don't experience any suffering. This seems to justify practices that even inveterate meat eaters would consider repugnant. Perhaps there is something to be said for the fact that our own understanding of the origin of animals' pain is itself a moral reason to avoid it.

    ReplyDelete
  6. I agree that we shouldn't treat animals cruelly. They do experience pain, but so do plants. I was merely commenting on the hypocrisy of veganism's decision to care about animal pain and not plants' analogous pain. We shouldn't cause extra pain in suffering if we don't have to. From a religious perspective, the Bible intimates that we should treat life with respect (I'm Catholic, so I can't cite any specific verses, lol), but we also have dominion over them. I mentioned that humans experience different pain to justify the distinction we make in choosing not to harm our fellow humans (in addition to some inter-species rivalry) from a non-religious perspective.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yeah except the lack of a central nervous system would indicate that they categorically and decidedly don't...

      Delete
    2. Your argument is so illogical it barely merits of response. Pain is not some simple drescriptive precept. You would never justify the torture of your dog. We empathize with animals because the experience and the same denomination of senses as us and most likely experience pain and pleasure similarity. You are trying to find some relative loophole which is the source of evil. Even if plants did feel pain (even though they have no nervous system or immediate to sonde) it would take more plant mAtter to feed life mattock than to eat directly.

      Delete
  7. Yeah, I think it's actually easier to make the case either way from a religious perspective than from a secular one. I suppose the vegan counter to this would be that if human pain is different from animal pain because of our level of awareness, then animal pain could similarly be different from plant pain. Then the question of what is necessary injury and cruelty becomes pertinent. We have to eat something, so if we can survive on plants (which are less aware) then we should.

    (I feel the need to point out that I have no particular stake in this argument either way. I am just enjoying it. For some reason, I can't get my 9 month old to engage in intellectual debate with me. :) )

    ReplyDelete
  8. If you do enough research, you'll find that there is consistent evidence of negative health consequences from consuming animal products. The one website that you provided is not really sufficient evidence to prove your case. Also, I don't think you understand the goal of veganism. It is not to create a perfect world where nothing is killed - everyone knows that this is not possible. Yes, you are correct in that, unless we intervene in some way, there will be animals dying in the wild. Vegans aren't the extreme, unrealistic, idealists that you make them out to be - they realize that there will always be suffering in the world and that we are limited in preventing it. We don't have the power to prevent all suffering. However, we very much have the power to choose between eating a burger and a salad. The basic idea is that, if you clearly have the power to choose between harming something and not harming something, and the result of your decision has absolutely no affect on your survival, then it is probably morally correct to choose to NOT cause harm.

    ReplyDelete
  9. This post is absolutely absurd and ignorant. Just because I choose not to eat animals, doesn't mean I have to stop all other humans and animals from eating them too. Just because I'm not trying to stop others, means I'm illogical? So someone who is against murder has flawed logic because they aren't making an effort to stop others from murdering?? That makes no sense! I believe that "humans have a capacity for conscious reflection, we can recognize suffering in other creatures. In doing so, we incur a responsibility to prevent that suffering whenever we can." Meaning I am happy doing my part and I am not going to track down every meat-eating human or animal and try to force them on a vegetarian diet. Also, with the whole health aspect, I hardly eat any carbs. I avoid a lot of pasta and breads because they serve very little health benefits. Have you ever heard of beans, legumes and nuts? Black beans have the same amount of protein as pork and almost as much as beef for the same amount! Spinach and almonds have and most nuts MORE iron than meat for the same amount! Those are just naming a few. Get your facts straight because you are so so so wrong.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Its not about "humans being genetically similar to animals, blah, blah, blah"... Frankly that sounds borderline sociopathic, as if you are searching for every single reason other than the fact that people go Vegan simply because their conscience tells them its the right thing to do....

    ReplyDelete
  11. Wow. Just wow. It's odd for someone to call out someone else as wrong without any backup other than disdain and expect it to be taken as some sort of advice of fact. I really hope that someone wronged you, not that it's OK, but if this is coming from anything other than a place of hurt, you're actively trying to do harm to people who are working for the greater good.

    Also, Consuming flesh is immoral. There's no question. This is the conclusion that the englightened all reach. If you're not there yet, it's OK. But to so boldy condemn those with higher ideals is shameful.

    ReplyDelete
  12. What a ridiculous post. Looks like it's been cobbled together by someone who hasn't much idea about the ethics of veganism but has strung a few ill-informed and illogical stuff together (which, I have to say, I've never heard from the lips of any vegan!) in the hope of provoking us. Well done, you succeeded in that respect but in all others you've revealed yourself as a complete twerp.

    ReplyDelete