14 August 2009

Henry S. Salt (1851-1939) on Academic Hypocrisy

To the so-called ethical, no less than to the political school of thought, the question of Vegetarianism is unwelcome, obtruding as it does on the polite wordiness of academic discussion with an issue so coarsely downright: "You are a member of an Ethical Society—do you live by butchery?" But the ethics of diet are the very last subject with which a cultured Ethical Society would concern itself, and the attitude of the modern "ethicist" towards the rights of animals is still that of the mediƦval schoolman. The ethicist does not wish to forego [sic] his beef and mutton, so he frames his ethics to avoid the danger of such mishap, and while he talks of high themes with the serene wisdom of a philosopher, the slaughter-houses continue to run blood.

(Henry S. Salt, The Logic of Vegetarianism: Essays and Dialogues [London: The Ideal Publishing Union, 1899], 108 [footnote omitted])

Note from KBJ: Sadly, not much has changed in the past 110 years. Many philosophers who rail against torture, capital punishment, war, racism, and indifference to human poverty have no qualms about consuming animal flesh. Can you say "cognitive dissonance"?