12 April 2004

Confusions and Fallacies About Animals, Part 1

Some people defend their omnivorous diet by citing their religion. This is puzzling. No religion, to my knowledge, requires meat-eating. Some forbid it. For those that neither require nor forbid it, meat-eating is permissible, optional, or discretionary. Whether you should eat meat depends, therefore, on other considerations besides your religion, such as whether it contributes to the amount of pain and suffering in the world.

Do you care about pain and suffering? I assume you care about your own pain and suffering. You probably also care about the pain and suffering of your loved ones. But why are pain and suffering bad? Don’t say you’re not sure whether they’re bad. If you didn’t believe they were bad, you wouldn’t care whether you or your loved ones experience them. And once you admit that pain and suffering are bad, you can’t very well deny that it’s bad for anyone, even animals, to experience them. Pain is pain. Suffering is suffering. Why should it matter whether the being who suffers or experiences pain is white or black, male or female, American or Ethiopian, human or animal?

The meat you eat involved a great deal of pain, suffering, and deprivation. This is a fact, not an evaluation. (See here.) Most meat-eaters shield themselves (conveniently) from the suffering their actions cause. Find out how the meat that ends up in your grocery store got there. Ask yourself whether it’s right for you to support an industry that inflicts such suffering. Don’t say I’m imposing my values on you. I’m imposing your values on you. I’m trying to get you to examine your beliefs and behavior. I believe that if you do, you’ll see that you’re not living up to your moral principles. You would never think to inflict pain, suffering, and deprivation on a human being because of something as trivial as taste. Why is it permissible to inflict them on an animal?

Don’t say that your religion draws a moral line between humans and animals. We’ve already been over that. Your religion doesn’t require that you eat meat. At most, it allows you to eat meat. Whether you should do so, all things considered, is independent of your religious beliefs. It requires that you examine your beliefs about pain and suffering and draw a connection between your actions and various states of the world. It’s within your power to reduce the amount of pain and suffering in the world. Do think it through—for the sake of the animals.

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