24 September 2004

From the Mailbag


I haven't seen the replies you have received to your "Confusions and Fallacies About Animals, Part 19" blog entry [see here], but I'm not sure whether your respondents intend to be arguing as follows:
1. Keith feeds his dogs meat.
2. It is o.k. for me to eat meat.
Perhaps that's how they put it, but I suspect that what they meant to say was more like this:
1. Keith admits (or should admit) that Shelbie and Sophie don't need to eat meat to survive or be healthy. [Dogs easily thrive on vegetarian diets.]

2. Why does Keith feed his dogs meat and animal products, if they don't need them to be healthy?

3. Because their lives would be impoverished if they didn't consume meat and animal products (impoverished in the sense that they wouldn't have the pleasurable experiences, satisfactions, and enjoyments that they currently get from eating meat and animal products).

4. So, Keith must think that it is o.k. to eat meat and animal products whenever refraining from doing so would result in an impoverished life (impoverished in the sense of lacking those pleasurable experiences, satisfactions, and enjoyments that would be gotten from eating meat).

5. If I were to refrain from eating meat, my life would be impoverished in just this sense, i.e. I would no longer get the pleasurable experiences, satisfactions, and enjoyments that I currently get from eating meat.

6. Given the principle identified in 4 above, which Keith apparently endorses in 3, it must be o.k. for ME to eat meat (since my refraining from doing so would result in my living an impoverished life), at least according to Keith's principles.
Given your commitment to 3, I can see why some of your readers think that YOUR principles justify their eating meat.

I think the mistake in the above argument lies in premise 3. It does not follow that a life that is "impoverished" in the sense stipulated in 3, is really an impoverished life in any meaningful sense. It would only be an impoverished life in a meaningful sense if there were no other pleasures comparable to the pleasures of eating meat and animal products that you could provide for your dogs. But there are lots of vegetarian foods that dogs love. Dogs go wild over certain veggie dog biscuits. With a little effort, you could provide your dogs with vegetarian foods that they would love. In some cases, you might have to cook some of these foods yourself. But they would love to eat these foods. By feeding them meat and animal products, you are "depriving" them of these alternative pleasures. Are they lives "impoverished" as a result of not getting these alternative vegetarian pleasures?

I suspect that if your readers explicitly formulated the above argument, your response would be something like this: YOUR life would not be impoverished if you refrained from eating meat, because you could get just as much pleasure (if not more pleasure) out of eating delicious vegan dishes instead. Many of these dishes (e.g. vegan Boca Burgers or Tofurkey sandwich slices) are even more convenient than their meat-based counterparts. While it's true that you won't be getting the pleasures of eating meat if you refrain from meat and animal products, you will be getting other pleasures that are just as satisfying as those associated with eating meat. Hence, your life will not be impoverished after all. In the case of humans, there is also the argument that humans will live longer, healthier, more fulfilling lives free of debilitating diseases, if they refrain from eating meat and animal products.

Some studies suggest that the same is true for dogs. The low quality of many of the animal ingredients [e.g. chicken meal (consisting of processed blood, bones, feces, etc. scraped off the killing floor of the slaughter), beef tallow (the rendered fat of cattle which is almost tasteless when pure and is used primarily in making soap, glycerin, margarine, candles, and lubricants), etc. Just read the label.] together with preservatives like BHT, BHA, and ethoxyquin found in most commercial pet foods, even upscale pet foods, like Science Diet, are thought to increase the risk of certain diseases and cancers. You may be shortening your dogs' lives and increasing their risk of painful cancers, crippling arthritis, and other debilitating diseases by feeding these commercial meat-based pet foods. For that reason alone, it is at least worth checking out some vegetarian dog foods to see how your dogs take to them and to see if their coats improve and to see if they have more energy. Here is a link to a web page about vegetarian dogs. Here is a link to a web site where you can purchase some vegetarian dog foods, and doggie treats.

I suggest you let your dogs decide for themselves whether they like vegetarian dog foods. They might relish them.

Hope some of this is helpful information for your dogs. I also hope that my above reconstruction of your readers' thoughts may better explain why they thought that your reasons for feeding your dogs meat and animal products gave them a reason for eating meat themselves.


Mylan Engel

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