Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The Argument from the Deprivation of Pleasure for Vegetarianism

When most people eat animal flesh they do so in order to receive two goods; pleasure and nutrition. Pleasure is in some sense a luxury, though it should not be forfeited for without good reason. When there are overriding reasons not to engage in pleasurable activities, the pleasurable activities should be forgone. On the other hand nutrition is quite necessary; one needs a good source of nutrition to keep alive and well. Since vegetarian diet is a good source of nutrition for the majority of human animals, it is simply not necessary to kill a nonhuman animal and eat it for nutritional purposes. These considerations may seem like truisms, yet it is important to note that if meat eating is to be justified it must be in terms of the pleasures received from it. The good from killing an animal and eating it is the pleasure received from a few meals (along with the nutrition of course). Yet consider the good obtained from not killing the animal, the animal receives pleasure from the rest of meals it devours in its life and the would-be human carnivores still receive at least minimal pleasure from eating vegetarian. Killing an animal and eating it deprives that animal of pleasure unnecessarily hence it is immoral. Here is the basic argument:

  1. A world with more pleasure is necessarily a better world than a world with less pleasure
  2. A moral person endeavors to make the world a better place, and works even more so to not make the world a worse place
  3. Animals enjoy their meals, (they have the capacity for pleasurable experiences)
  4. Animals are killed unnecessarily
  5. An animal will have many more meals if it is not killed; opposed to the human who will only have a few meals if it is killed and eaten
  6. Thus the world where the animal is allowed to live is a more pleasurable world than the world where animals are killed and eaten unnecessarily.
  7. Thus a moral person will endeavor to create that world.

Premise 3 needs to be supported. It is a reasonable to believe that animals have the capacity for pleasure, because of the neurological similarities between animals and humans, positive behavior responses, and the evolutionary role of pleasure. Both human and nonhuman animal brains contain dopamine, a chemical which rewards the brain after eating. Rewards for good behavior, behavior which will increase chances of survival is quintessential to the functioning of evolution. Given these three factors it would seem unreasonable to suppose that animals do not have pleasurable experiences.

With premise 3 supported, the argument is successful. It is quite simple, yet I believe quite convincing. Killing an animal and eating it deprives that animal of pleasure unnecessarily. Unless sustainable objections can be made against vegetarianism or this argument then one ought to be vegetarian (or vegan). I don’t envisage any objections of that sort. (In other words I will comment on objections at a later point in time)

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The Argument from Unnecessary Suffering for Vegetarianism

The argument from unnecessary suffering is probably, I would think, the most common argument for vegetarianism.  It runs as follows: intensive agricultural techniques (factory farms etc.), which produce the most amount of meat, create unnecessary suffering, thus we shouldn’t eat meat. A more logical form of the argument is:

  1. A world with less suffering is necessarily a better world than a world with more suffering
  2. A moral person endeavors to make the world a better place, and works even more so to not make the world a worse place
3.   Immense amount of unnecessary suffering occurs to nonhuman animals because of intensive agriculture
  1. A world with intensive agriculture is necessarily  a worse world, then a world without intensive agriculture
  2. Thus a moral person will endeavor to create that world (i.e. abstain from eating meat produced by intensive agriculture)

I think premise (1) and (2) are quite uncontroversial. Essentially the only premise that needs to be defended is (3). In order for (3) to be shown to be true, it must be argued that animals do suffer, that animals can suffer and that their suffering is unnecessary.
So do the animals suffer due to intensive agriculture? It is quite clear that they do, in factory farms animals are subject to an intensely inhospitable environment and are treated with barbaric indifference. Mathew Scully explains in Dominion: The Power of Man, the Suffering of Animals, and the Call to Mercy that animals in factory farms are “Genetically engineered by machines, inseminated by machines, monitored, herded, electrocuted, stabbed, cleaned, cut, and packaged by machines—themselves treated as machines.” In factory farms and similar institutions livestock and foul simply don’t have enough space to move around in and will probably never breathe fresh air except on their way to the slaughterhouse. The lack of space, to in some cases even turn around, causes ‘vice’ in pigs as Peter Singer explains in Animal Liberation: “When kept in barren, overcrowded conditions pigs are prone to “vice” as hens are. Instead of feather-pecking and cannibalism, pigs take to biting each other’s tails. This leads to fighting… [So] they cut off their tails.” A similar practice occurs to hens whose beaks are cut off because of the agony caused by their confinement, which causes them to peck fellow hens and partake in cannibalism. Clearly it is unprofitable for hens to be killing each other or for pigs to be biting one another, but instead of changing the conditions they are kept in it is much more easy and profitable to cut off their beaks. This process causes, as anyone of who is half intelligent might guess, an immense amount of suffering. It will suffice to say that in intensive agriculture animals are held in disease inducing environments, mutilated, fed unhealthy diets, denied all healthy natural activities, and sometimes not even killed properly. For more information see the previously mentioned books, The Ethics of What We Eat by Peter Singer and Jim Mason, the previously linked The Immorality of Eating Meat by Mylan Engels Jr,  and this site for more info: . Obviously animals do suffer due to intensive agriculture.
But can animals suffer? I would think that it is empirically evident that they can and do; does anyone really supposes that animals cannot feel pain? At any rate if anyone did they would be indubitably mistaken. In a review specifically dealing with animal suffering, Engels lays out the evidence that animals can and do suffer:
“We witness pain behavior, not just reflex actions to noxious stimuli (protective pain), but subsequent pain-induced behavioral modification caused by bodily damage (restorative pain); we observe significant anatomical and neurophysiological similarity between humans and many animals (including all mammals and most vertebrates); endogenous serotonergic and opioid pain-control mechanisms are present in all mammals[Why would organisms incapable of feeling pain have endogenous pain-control systems?];...analgesics and anesthetics stop animals from exhibiting pain behavior, presumably because these substances prevent the pain itself in much the way they prevent pain in humans; and there is compelling experimental evidence that the capacity to feel pain enhances survival value in animals, based on the self-destructive tendencies displayed by animals that have been surgically deafferented.”
Given the weight of this evidence it seems absurd to suppose that nonhumans animals cannot suffer; plausibly as absurd as it is to suppose that humans cannot suffer.
            Yet perhaps the suffering of nonhuman animals is not unnecessary, but in fact necessary. On what grounds would one think that the suffering of nonhuman animals in factory farms is necessary? Some one may think that factory farms satisfy the demand for cheap meat. But surely this is not morally relevant , simply because it is the case that some people demand cheap meat (and in turn the suffering of animals) does not make it in any way necessary that animals be treated the way they are. Further Factory farms are not at all efficient in providing food to the general public. The animals consume extraordinary amounts of food (cattle alone consume up to 70% of US produced grain) and the protein created per an acre is inefficient; soy plants can make 5 to 15 times more protein per an acre then meat production. Thus if it is argued that the factory farming is in someway beneficial because it causes food to be more available this contention is false. This objection overlooks completely overlooks the importance of animal suffering. Further most peoples demand for meat is contingent, most people are capable of meeting their basic nutritional needs without any meat. Clearly factory farms and other intensive agricultural techniques do not occur necessarily.
            Thus it follows since animals can and do suffer and that this suffering is unnecessary premise (3) is true and without further objections (which I will discuss at a later point in time) this argument succeeds and one ought to be a vegetarian at the very least one ought to boycott factory farms and similar institutions.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

On Vegetarianism, new post series

In a few future blog posts I will be arguing for moral vegetarianism, that is the claim that it is nearly always wrong to eat meat. I will look at my original argument for becoming vegetarian, discuss an improved argument for vegetarianism, respond to papers on different arguments for vegetarianism, consider objections, and argue that it is morally obligatory that Christians be vegetarians as well.

1. Argument from unnecessary suffering
2. Argument from the deprivation of pleasure
3. Argument from analogy
4. Objections to vegetarianism
5. Why Christians ought to be vegetarians

Links to sources I will be using:
Info on Factory Farming
The Immorality of Eating Meat
Jeff McMahan on Vegetarianism
Jeff McMahan on Predation and Eliminating Carnivorous Species
Norcross Argument from Analogy Against Factory Farming
comments on "Christians are what Christians Eat" by Regan