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comment by mk
mk  ·  3324 days ago  ·  link  ·    ·  parent  ·  post: The 4 Ways People Rationalize Eating Meat

    Nothing you say here sheds light on the moral status of eating meat. I can honestly say all those sentences myself, and I believe most meat consumption in the United States is morally objectionable.

That much is true. I guess I wasn't trying to make a statement about the morality of eating meat specifically. I was saying that I see enjoying it as a reasonable part of the decision.

But is it morally objectionable? To a degree, I think it is. Meat causes suffering, and demand for it creates more suffering, not only animal, but justifiable links to human suffering can be made as well. If I saw meat-eating as one of a few ways that my lifestyle resulted in such suffering, I might be more inclined to minimize it, or find alternatives. However, I find that my lifestyle is linked to similar types of suffering, some of which I perceive as being worse than my meat-eating. Higher on that list would be the products of cheap human labor that I wear and consume, as you point out.

I suppose the question comes down to whether or not we exit a morally objectionable system that we find we are a part of, or not, and whether or not staying within the system can be justified. Does my better understanding of an animal's suffering make me morally culpable whereas a less intelligent carnivore is not? Does my being part of a system that cannot be changed by my actions make my choice to remain within it any less objectionable?

Is all suffering to be avoided, or can minimizing suffering be enough, and when?

I don't know the answers to these questions.

My father was a hunter, and I learned to kill and eat animals from him. It did not feel unethical, at least how we went about it. In some sense it felt as if I had assumed another role, that I became a player in the system of predator and prey that plays out without us. I do see some hunting as objectionable, however. Such as baiting a bear that you don't eat.

Oddly, I don't think avoiding meat would make me feel better about my behavior.





wasoxygen  ·  3323 days ago  ·  link  ·    ·  x 2

    the products of cheap human labor that I wear and consume, as you point out.

You refer to my mention of sweatshops. That could make for an interesting conversation, if you don't mind departing from the topic of meat.

I don't oppose sweatshops. I don't prefer clothing manufactured in facilities that guarantee comfortable conditions for workers.

Suppose you are scandalized by this information. Suppose that you determine to raise my awareness of the considerable human suffering that occurs in sweatshops.

Perhaps you watch documentaries to learn more about what happens in sweatshops. You discover alarming details. You feel certain that I can only act so casually toward sweatshops because I am ignorant of the truth.

You post shocking photos of sweating, weary children bent over sewing machines, of corpses burned in the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory. You recount stories of female workers who agreed to have sex with managers in order to get better working conditions, and you use the word "rape" when describing this scenario.

Your strong feelings on the topic lead you to use strong language in discussing the matter, to the point of being verbally abusive toward me.

What would you think if I focused on the shocking nature of your images, and your not-strictly-precise use of the word "rape," and your abusive language, in my response? Wouldn't it seem a little convenient, a little self-serving, that I deliberately miss your point by focusing on the manner and details of your presentation? I can dismiss your entire message because you do not present it in a calm, emotionless, and unoffending manner. (For your part, you feel that it will be all too easy to ignore the message if you do not raise your voice and display arresting images. You feel your only choices are to be ignored or reviled.)

What if I found exceedingly rare examples of sweatshops that were exceptions to the patterns you are concerned about? What if I asked you ridiculous questions that were obviously not honest attempts at gaining understanding, but carefully-crafted "gotchas" designed to trip up your argument? ("What about factory robots? Aren't they abused too?")

Perhaps no one would blame me if I ignore you when you become abusive and incendiary. But I feel like I am doing myself a disservice by not getting to the bottom of the question "What is this person so worked up about?", even if I have to make an effort to overlook the excesses of your presentation.

mk  ·  3323 days ago  ·  link  ·  

I agree with you. We often do ourselves a disservice by become emotionally invested in an outcome that usually doesn't hang in the balance.

Is that how you feel about sweatshops? I am casually aware that you've been having some meat-related discussions, but haven't read through them (As an aside, I think I am granted far more omniscience here than I have). I claim to put my concern for sweatshop workers higher than that of farm animals, but my actions don't provide much evidence. Do you prioritize their plights opposite to my claim?

There is hypocrisy in my lifestyle. Hypocrisy isn't something we aren't supposed to come to terms with, and yet we all do.

I have mentioned before here that I believe that what we do is what we want. I suppose if I have a streak of objectivism in me, that’s where it can be found. I don't want to be an ugly person, but I don't want only not to appear ugly. Then I am ugly and dishonest.

On a very loosely related side note, I am glad that you found the flaw in my deconstruction of measurement in DC.

wasoxygen  ·  3323 days ago  ·  link  ·  

    Is that how you feel about sweatshops? ... Do you prioritize their plights opposite to my claim?

I'm with you: I care far more about a single human sweatshop worker than I do about any animal raised for food. My wish is to minimize needless suffering, and I suspect that humans are more capable of suffering than animals. Maybe I am wrong, maybe humans can use their intelligence to better rationalize and cope with difficult circumstances. I should also feel bad that a food animal has no hope of escape and no voice or agency to try and improve their fate. Still, I feel worse when I see a human suffering; maybe it is just bias because I am in the human club.

Is there any contradiction in not opposing sweatshops? The best way to help sweatshop workers might be to sacrifice all our leisure and spare resources and dedicate ourselves to sweatshop worker relief. I am not willing to do that. Campaigning to get Nike to manufacture with stricter labor standards might cause Nike to improve working conditions in the third world ... or to close factories in the third world and move operations to more developed countries.

The everyday decision we make is whether to purchase or not to purchase an item that was made in a sweatshop. Which decision helps the sweatshop worker more? Can it be helpful to an Indonesian worker to spend nothing on the product they make and buy an $80 hoodie instead? What is the sweatshop worker's next best alternative to working in the sweatshop? Whatever it is, "next best" is at least somewhat worse.

    my actions don't provide much evidence

I prefer to be judged by my words rather than my actions. It's easier to make nice words! So I try not to let myself get too bothered by hypocrisy and the unrealistic goal of living in perfect harmony with ideals. I think most of us are already pretty decent, and it's enough to try and be a little more decent whenever we can.

    I think I am granted far more omniscience here than I have.

What? You don't read every post on this site? I kind of assumed that you did, even though I feel Hubski is a damnable time sink even when I only skim.

wasoxygen  ·  3324 days ago  ·  link  ·  

    I wasn't trying to make a statement about the morality of eating meat specifically.

This appears to be standard practice on Hubski. At most, there are expressions of concern, but the majority of the discussion has focused on the tone of the discussion, or people in the discussion, or contrived exceptions to the central question.

Very little talk has been given to taking a stand on the question of whether eating meat is morally justified.

I very much appreciate your candor. I think it is a hard subject to be honest about.

I feel like it is not my place to tell you how to exercise your values. I am no authority and I live with a lot of compromise. I'll address some of your questions in case you were curious to know my opinion.

    Does my better understanding of an animal's suffering make me morally culpable whereas a less intelligent carnivore is not?

Not sure if you mean a less-informed human carnivore, or a lion. I think none of us blame animals for behaving according to their nature. Animals are not moral agents, according to the present majority view. (I wonder if the movement to increase recognition of the human-like qualities of intelligent animals like chimpanzees could one day lead to holding a chimpanzee somehow accountable for a harmful action.)

For people, "ignorance of the law" is not a legal excuse, and supporting industrial meat causes the same harm whether you realize it or not. This gives fuel to the activist, who wants to raise awareness so people will at least recognize the effects of their choices. Once you are aware of the harm, I do think it is morally suspect to refuse to acknowledge the harm, refuse to investigate it, and refuse to consider making different choices to mitigate the harm (absent a sound moral counterargument, something more sophisticated than "bacon tastes good, pork chops taste good").

    Is all suffering to be avoided, or can minimizing suffering be enough, and when?

This doesn't seem like such a hard question. You don't have to completely "exit a morally objectionable system" to live more ethically. You can make different choices that lead to less harm. That's the way we approach almost every moral aspect of life; you don't have to be perfect, and inability to be perfect is not a good reason give up trying to do better.

    My father was a hunter

Reading Michael Pollan on hunting makes me want to try it. I have learned a life lesson that deep pleasures can be had by participating in experiences common to our species from the start: running, walking, telling and hearing stories, preparing and eating food, stargazing, sitting by water, swimming. I don't buy the argument that humans are natural herbivores. I believe that "Walking with a loaded rifle in an unfamiliar forest bristling with the signs of your prey is thrilling."

Ethics has shades. Shoplifting is thrilling too.

    Oddly, I don't think avoiding meat would make me feel better about my behavior.

That is odd, especially for someone who supports voting. With some contrived exceptions, like pulling a burger out of a trash can, any time you choose cabbage instead of chicken you are reducing your participation in and contribution to the meat industry. You said you would be "happy to eat vat meat," isn't that the same as feeling better?

mk  ·  3323 days ago  ·  link  ·  

    This appears to be standard practice on Hubski. At most, there are expressions of concern, but the majority of the discussion has focused on the tone of the discussion, or people in the discussion, or contrived exceptions to the central question.

I don't think that's entirely off-base, but feel that part of the matter is that many of these issues are complex, and that it is difficult enough to settle upon a clear opinion, much less successfully communicate and defend one. As a benign example, minimum_wage asked me whether or not I considered horse-riding to be unnatural elsewhere in this post, and I could not come to a satisfactory answer.

That said, it is useless gabbing about such matters if we can't make some sort of progress.

Reflecting upon my motivations to eat meat, and upon my feelings regarding vat meat, I think that a significant part of my choice has to do with my desire to eat it. Taste is a significant factor. However, I have gone for up to a week without meat, and I found myself feeling physically worse over time, and much better after I began to eat it again. I am sure there are psychological components to this, but I also suspect there may be physiological components as well. My wife grew up with a high vegetable, low meat diet (nearly the opposite of mine), and she feels terrible if our circumstances prevent her from getting her veggie diet for days. I am mostly Polish and Finnish by heritage, and my ancestors ate a lot of meat, cabbage, and tubers. I often wonder if that translates into a genetic preference for a diet. We do know what physiology does vary between different peoples and their processing of some foods. In short, I suspect that vat meat could satiate my need for it, regardless of how mental or physical it might be.

I knew that you would call me out about the voting. :) I don't feel dismotivated by the proportion of my small contribution to a meatless society, and I should have phrased that question differently. Rather than 'cannot be changed' I should have written something like 'cannot measureable be changed'. As I mentioned in my reasons for voting, I do believe in the power of collective action. Maybe that's part of why I would feel good about eating vat meat. I would know that I was contributing, and still feel like I was eating what felt right for me.

I would recommend trying hunting. Even if you use rubber-topped arrows, or a slingshot with soft wax bullets.

wasoxygen  ·  3323 days ago  ·  link  ·  

    I think that a significant part of my choice has to do with my desire to eat it

I made light of the quote "bacon tastes good, pork chops taste good," but the pleasure of eating bacon is an excellent reason for eating it. Come to think of it ... that's really the only reason for eating bacon, “the candy of meat.”

If someone told me they really loved eating meat, and they were sorry that animals had to die to provide meat, but according to their values the pleasure of eating meat is more important than whatever happens to the animals, I would consider that a sound argument (though I might ask how much they know about the meat industry).

user-inactivated  ·  3323 days ago  ·  link  ·  

don't you dare hold me up as an example of productive discussion

mk  ·  3323 days ago  ·  link  ·  

The fault was all mine ;)