13 July 2004

Len's Inconsistency

Len Carrier is my co-blogger on The Ethics of War. He opposed the war in Iraq. What would Len say if, during our discussion of the war, I said that Iraqis don’t count for as much, morally speaking, as Americans? He would deny it. He would say that Iraqis can suffer just as much as Americans, that their lives are just as valuable, and so forth. If I persisted, he would say that I’m racist, ethnocentric, or unacceptably nationalistic. He would say that I draw a moral line in an arbitrary place.

But that’s exactly what he’s doing with respect to animals. Len says he eats meat. But this inflicts terrible suffering on the animals whose flesh he consumes. If Len believes that suffering has moral significance, then its infliction must be justified. What is his justification for inflicting it on animals? Do his tastes for animal flesh justify it? Would my taste for Iraqi flesh justify killing and eating them? Would my interest in sport shooting justify my picking off random Iraqis?

People who discount or disregard the interests of other races are racists. People who discount or disregard the interests of the other sex are sexists. People who discount or disregard the interests of other nationalities are nationalists. People who discount or disregard the interests of other species are speciesists. If Len says that animals don’t matter, then I say that Iraqis don’t matter. If the former is rational, then so is the latter.

Len’s professed concern for innocent Iraqis rings hollow when he blithely inflicts terrible pain and suffering on innocent animals for his gustatory pleasure. And please, Len, don’t say that animals aren’t innocent. What are they, guilty? Animals are innocent in the same sense in which Iraqi children are innocent. If the interests of the latter must be taken into account in our deliberations, then so must the interests of animals be taken into account. Your eating meat shows that you do not take them into account. You are a walking contradiction who cannot be taken seriously. Before you respond to this post, read—and think about!—this essay by Mylan Engel.

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