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If animals have feelings then isn't that enough reason not to kill them for food

If animals have feelings then isn't that enough reason not to kill them for food? Some would say that self awareness is required. Why would that be relevant? Could the idea that a creature without self awareness lacks a unified state of being over time be a reason? They just sort of exist one moment to the next. Death for them would no different than the passage of time. But then how can mere concepts of self awareness have such an ontological significance? Much of their experience probably or may not be especially pleasurable and many wouldn't exist in the first place if they weren't bred to be eaten. I wonder if the inability of most people to form a moral opinion opposed to animal eating shows something dreadful about the human condition. Here I am sitting and eating meat while asking these questions in the abstract while I've never had the willpower to go vegetarian for any extended period just in case my fears about meat eating are right.

Terrific question, and I completely share your intuitions (not to mention your weak-willedness....). If pain or suffering are somehow intrinsically 'bad', then it must be right that killing animals is bad (assuming that involves inflicting pain, of course). Or more precisely, causing that pain without having some more compelling overriding reason is bad (and presumably we don't with respect to animals for food -- since human beings can live without meat, and even live well -- and indeed many argue that, economically, meat-eating causes horrible suffering all over the globe etc.) My guess is that those who might invoke 'self-awareness' as a justification for meat-eating -- who must merely presume that animals lack it, by the way; hard to know! -- are perhaps thinking that having self-awareness increases the degree of suffering of the animal. after all, knowing you are about to die, to be killed, along with some idea that the process will be unpleasant, indeed increases the suffering (and empirically it seems that animals in slaughterhouses clearly know something is up ....). But (to expand your thought) that doesn't somehow override the first point but emphasizes it: if self-awareness is bad because it increases the suffering/pain, then that must be because pain is bad -- in which case self-awareness must not be necessary for the moral impermissibility of meat-eating. (and if the self-awareness does NOT increase the suffering in the process, then, as you suggest, it's not so clear why having it would rule out the eating of meat.) so, basically, I agree with you ...!

best, ap

Terrific question, and I completely share your intuitions (not to mention your weak-willedness....). If pain or suffering are somehow intrinsically 'bad', then it must be right that killing animals is bad (assuming that involves inflicting pain, of course). Or more precisely, causing that pain without having some more compelling overriding reason is bad (and presumably we don't with respect to animals for food -- since human beings can live without meat, and even live well -- and indeed many argue that, economically, meat-eating causes horrible suffering all over the globe etc.) My guess is that those who might invoke 'self-awareness' as a justification for meat-eating -- who must merely presume that animals lack it, by the way; hard to know! -- are perhaps thinking that having self-awareness increases the degree of suffering of the animal. after all, knowing you are about to die, to be killed, along with some idea that the process will be unpleasant, indeed increases the suffering (and empirically it...

Is it morally wrong to eat my pet dog? Why is it right to eat beef and pork, but

Is it morally wrong to eat my pet dog? Why is it right to eat beef and pork, but our pets?

I agree with Andrew: the dog/pig distinction won't get us anywhere. And I might even be persuaded that we shouldn't eat animals at all. But there's a sliver of a distinction that may be worth noting.

If a stranger asks me to drive him to the grocery store, I don't have any obligation to say yes. If my friend asks me (and if it's not a lot of trouble to do it) then it's not so clearly okay for me just to say no. If my daughter asks me, the obligation seems even stronger. Our relationships with people can make a difference to how we ought to treat them.

We can and do have relationships with our companion animals. And those relationships could make a difference to how we should treat them. I have an obligation to feed my dog, for example, but not to feed yours.

Now it may very well be that it's wrong to eat animals at all. But even if it's okay to eat animals in general, it doesn't simply follow that it's okay to eat my own pet and the fact that it's my pet is the reason why it doesn't follow. The moral dimension of our special relationships with some of our conspecifics may well have an analogue in our relationships with our pets.

All that said, the point I've made is a very weak one: it's only that my special relationship with my pet might have moral weight. That still leaves us with the serious question of whether it's ever okay to slaughter and eat other creatures.

Who thinks that is right to eat beef/pork but not dog? Certainly many cultures do. No doubt our culture is squeamish about it -- dogs being so cute, and all, and enjoying such intimate personal relationships with them -- well that would suggest that if we cuten up pigs and cows and get to know them better we'd be opposed to eating them too! But anyway, what does cuteness and intimacy have to do with the permissibility of slaughter and consumption? there are plenty of non-cute humans with which I am not intimate, but that hardly seems a grounds for eating them; but then lack of those things is not be a grounds for eating them either. What I'm getting at is that whatever grounds you choose to be a vegetarian almost surely apply equally to all non-human animals (or at least those with advanced enough sentience to be worthy of earning 'rights' or 'interests)' -- so the disintcitno between the dog and beef/pork cases one is not likely to withstand scrutiny .... hope that helps ap

Should we as humans actively try to maintain the existence of other species

Should we as humans actively try to maintain the existence of other species (like we do now due to their cuteness/rarity)?

Hm; who would think we shouldn't, all else being equal? Although I suppose some might question whether "all else is equal." After all, "maintaining" has various costs (devotion of time, money, resources etc) that might better be spent elsewhere (for example, helping suffering human beings). But then again, not too many people think that we should each devote all of our resources to helping other human beings. (If you did then you probably should not be doing almost anything you are doing -- including spending time on the computer asking philosophers questions -- because that time could have been more directly spent helping someone in immediate need!) So as long as one agrees we are not obligated to spend all/most of our time helping other human beings in need then I suppose there are many things it is perfectly all right to do, including maintaining other species just because we like them. (One very useful resource here might be Peter Singer's recent book, The Life You Can Save, which focuses deeply on the question whether it really is okay for us to spend so LITTLE of our resources helping other people .....)

ap

Hm; who would think we shouldn't, all else being equal? Although I suppose some might question whether "all else is equal." After all, "maintaining" has various costs (devotion of time, money, resources etc) that might better be spent elsewhere (for example, helping suffering human beings). But then again, not too many people think that we should each devote all of our resources to helping other human beings. (If you did then you probably should not be doing almost anything you are doing -- including spending time on the computer asking philosophers questions -- because that time could have been more directly spent helping someone in immediate need!) So as long as one agrees we are not obligated to spend all/most of our time helping other human beings in need then I suppose there are many things it is perfectly all right to do, including maintaining other species just because we like them. (One very useful resource here might be Peter Singer's recent book, The Life You Can Save, which focuses deeply on...