My partner and I are vegetarians simply because we are so disconnected from the process of how these animals are raised and slaughtered for meat (seemingly they are mostly abused and treated very poorly). They just "appear" in boxes on the shelf and we prefer to know our food grows from the ground and we pick it or buy it at the farmer's market. Personal choice. We don't know any other vegetarians and couldn't care less about what anyone else eats.
If anyone would try to cook meat in my kitchen (and nobody has - for whatever reason) then I might not allow that if they would be using my equipment.
If anyone asks, I give them a healthy tip or two, but I don't care what someone else is eating. Why on Earth would anyone care that much about what someone else is eating? Control, control, control... Who would have the audacity to push their lifestyle (even if they actually follow it themselves) on another adult? Help when you're called to help and stop sticking your nose up in the air and proclaiming how better you are. Being obnoxious is not an attractive trait to me. Eat what you want.
Exactly and I agree- its a respect thing, with my vegan/ raw foodie friends I tend to meet them at a salad bar of their choice simply out of respect. However, occasionally they come over in which case again as a sign of respect for their choices (we all have choice right?) I tend to have a selection of foods that mesh with their appetites!
No, of course I don't think we should - or could - prevent non-reasoning carnivorous species from eating other animals. This is one part of the divide between humans, as a species whose members are in many cases (not all) able to try to work out a moral behaviour, and those who are not. Only humans who KNOW that there is such a thing as a right and a wrong situation can in any meaningful sense be said to be "in the wrong" in a given situation. Really there's not much more to be said about that since it would be an utter impossibility to even attempt - but I would point out that many meat-eaters I have known will show pity towards and try to rescue injured birds from the clutches of their cats, for example.
Next: It's a commonly-argued point, your one basically asking why I cannot support your freedom to eat meat, and the simple answer is because there are third-parties involved whose freedoms I believe conflict with yours. That's the original point I was trying to make. I believe that other sentient individuals do have the right not to be your property, food, or sport. It would be the same sort of argument if we were to argue (though, horrifically, many people in fact do) that for example freedom of religion means we can't try to intervene when those religions do unspeakable things to their members. If those religious freedoms did not affect others, I would be the very first to say that we should let them be, however, they very obviously do and I believe that those individuals' rights to be free of that treatment trumps the abusers' right to freedom of religion...
As for plants, I'd just say that while the jury is still out I would rather eat plants (that we aren't sure are sentient or suffer) than animals (that we KNOW are sentient and do suffer). And I'm reminded of the words of whoever it was I'm misquoting that said that just because I can't do everything doesn't mean I should refuse to do what little I can do...
I'm aware that this is a potentially inflammatory topic and that it is very easy to come across like I'm being judgmental and holier-than-thou - I'd just like to apologise in advance if this is the case! I admit I used to try to feed steak to my poor vegetarian friends so you sound like you're far more understanding than I used to be... ;-)
Actually you are doing quite well, something I hope you learn about me over time is that regardless of personal opinion on certain topics I will try to be fair in my approach. You are very correct, and as one of those "meat eaters" that rescues animals its like I tell my children, NEVER take a life without just cause, even my 14 month old girl will walk around ants. We understand that eating meat is in our case "just cause" however, I would never restrict my children to my diet either. (Just as I would not restrict them too my religious choice - or in my case lack of religious choice)
I teach my children how to think critically, make informed decisions and NEVER do something just because a person says "this looks cool."
So what you have said is very well put, dont apologize or stop trying to make a point simply because a person doesnt agree with it, just be aware I am a free, thinking, intelligent and well educated human. I will have valid reasons and choices as well - ;)
With that being said, I feel you are contradicting yourself in one area, (dont get upset I am not being mean just honest)
Morals are subjective to the society we are located in, they are not universally accepted, if they were we would have no need of war, or countries etc. As a result using a moral argument especially as an atheist tends to be counterproductive. I believe that we should follow the laws as they are within the society in which reside, if I reside in a nation that is only vegetarian I will eat that way etc. However, it should be noted that from a professional standpoint (educated in social psychology and criminal justice) I do honestly feel that there are many animal species (non human) that are in fact far superior in many ways to many humans I know. (just an opinion of course.)
Again dont apologize, if we are adults and if we are secure in our stances than we should be able to accept the occasional critical deviation from what we feel is right.
Thanks for your reassurance - I do try not to offend so I'm glad I didn't!
Interesting you should say I contradict myself - I don't think so at all. You say that this is a contradiction I think because you are assuming I would agree that morals are subjective to culture but actually that happens to be something I do in fact disagree with. I think our PERCEPTION of what constitutes a moral/immoral action differs from culture to culture, yes of course, but I think that philosophy and humanity are getting ever closer and closer to wrangling out what people often call an "absolute morality". I would argue that if you want to talk about cultural morality it is impossible to separate that from a) religion and b) tradition, and I simply disagree that either of those are an inherently worthy basis and think that therefore the idea of a cultural morality is flawed to begin with.
I don't know if you have heard any of Sam Harris's recent stuff about morality, but I would recommend it (he did a TED talk on it last month, and I'm sure I've seen an article or two of his on morality as well). I agree broadly with him that an atheistic, scientistic, fact-based viewpoint most certainly CAN dictate our moral "ought to" (which is not necessarily to say that he would agree with me on all points, of course!). I think that education, information and knowledge are the key to "working out" morality and I do think that if we ever manage to achieve the sort of highly-knowledgeable society I think we need, then it is far more likely that human opinions will converge into a broader agreement on what is/is not moral than that we will continue to disagree.
If we can agree that morality is like a sort of quest that involves doing the least harmful and the most helpful action possible in any given situation (a gross over-simplification of course!), then all that remains is to quantify and qualify the possible results of all our possible actions and base those actions on the knowledge of what will result. This is of course what we already do now: this is what ethics committees are for, because often there IS no cut-and-dried answer if all available options contain a "wrong" result. In many of these cases, there isn't a "right" action and never could be - but does this make the model invalid, just because there exist situations in which we can't apply a "right" choice simply because it isn't available? The typical scenario of the runaway train headed straight for 5 people tied to the rails, with the option to divert it onto a sidetrack with only 1 person tied to the rails, is a case in point: obviously, running a train over a person is a harmful act, as is running a train over 5 persons, but in such a scenario where there IS no non-harmful option it doesn't mean our rules of what constitutes morality have to be suspended - it just means there was an impossible situation that couldn't be resolved ideally. The separation of parasitic conjoined twins is a real-life moral conundrum somewhat similar to the train example. As an aside, this is a very interesting talk to have with religious people since they (for some reason I've never understood!) claim an absolute-moral-giver, but can't of course find any instructions in their holy books for what to do in such ethically difficult situations...
So to get back to the veganism, mainly the ethics question here rests on whether animals deserve our serious moral consideration? These days (post-Descartes who I think it was believed that animals were simply automatons with no pain, desires etc., only reflexes!) most people, including meat-eaters, would say yes. My reasoning is that after the point at which we agree animals deserve our moral consideration, there are really only two questions left. (1) Does our eating of animals cause them harm (ie. do they suffer as a result)? and (2) Does our NOT eating animals cause US harm (ie. do WE suffer if we don't)? And when after researching a little longer I found that I had to answer those questions "yes" and "no" respectively, that's when for me it was no longer a simple dietary choice but actually a moral imperative.
We need to be careful though when allowing terms like "absolute" to invade our "moral system." What would you term as absolute morals, the ten commandments, the golden rule, the rig veda's interpretation of these laws or?
I dislike absolutes when it comes too something so very tenuous as "morals."
Descartes was a fun philosopher however he is not someone I would use as an Atheist- I would use Russell, Rand, or one of the other secular philosophers instead.
Love your responses, man your making me think! (and that is good!)
"We need to be careful though when allowing terms like "absolute" to invade our "moral system." "
Sorry, but I thought I WAS. Hence my many inverted commas! I hope you don't mind me pointing this out, but your statement above comes across as quite patronising - rather as if you think I haven't thought it through. I have! You're of course welcome to disagree, I'm very aware that many people (atheists AND theists) DO disagree with me on my "absolute moral" point. I wasn't looking to have you agree with me, I was merely explaining why I wasn't being self-contradictory in the way you assumed - because the stance that you felt made this contradiction ("morals are subjective") was not in fact one I completely hold.
Nevertheless, I'll expand on the topic somewhat if I may, since you asked me questions on it! I am not saying that I think that anyone has necessarily yet agreed on a perfect system of absolute morality, nor am I saying I am CERTAIN one could exist. My own current position is actually more of a cross between moral absolutism and moral relativism, which I'll try to explain further as follows:
Let's take a moral absolutist position such as, for example,
"killing (humans for the sake of argument!) is always wrong".
Now, my position is this: in a situation in which such killing cannot be avoided it does NOT follow that therefore the moral absolutist model must of necessity be false. Or that the moral relativist position of "killing can sometimes be justified" must therefore apply in its stead. It simply means that there exist difficult situations in which a moral absolute position CANNOT be applied, and that practically speaking a morally relativist system must then used as a back-up. To make a rather trivial analogy (that I hope is just apt enough to illustrate the point!), if they don't have your favourite flavour in the ice-cream shop you have to choose between all the other non-optimal flavours instead, but it doesn't mean your preferred flavour is now invalid... I hope I'm making the distinction clear; I feel like I'm rather labouring the point now!
Secondly, when I say "absolute morals" I of course do not mean ones that are externally applied by any deity, since I do not believe in such a deity. I think that, yes, concepts such as the Golden Rule get somewhat closer to the heart of the matter, and what has been dubbed the Platinum Rule is yet better ("The golden rule is a good standard which is further improved by doing unto others, wherever reasonable, as THEY want to be done by." - Karl Popper). Incidentally, what is your own "do no harm unless in self-defence" if it is not a sort of "absolute" guiderule along these same lines? I think if that's your moral system, on a VERY simplified basis you and I potentially agree - we only disagree as to who deserves not to receive "harm"...
Anyway, I know I'm rather long-winded sometimes so if you got right to the end thanks for reading... ;-)
First, my apologies for coming across patronizing that was not my intent.
Okay, if you say that killing humans is always wrong regardless than you are denying a person their individual right to defense. Logically your position claims absolutism, and yet when you present it you show that this is an untenable position. Hence my position that morals are ever changing based on the societal needs of the moment. And again I would stress that I would rather die than live in a society of absolutes.
Good arguments. I'd just like to add a couple things, and I apologize if any of it has already been covered (I'm really late to this convo!!!).
If plants were found to suffer, do you think we should stop eating them? I realize the jury is still out, but I'd like to hear your response. I like the idea of vegetarianism, I just can't bring myself to commit. I don't feel obligated, just compelled.
Now, I'm taking this to an extreme I think, but... if all life forms became conscious, in the same way we are, and stopped eating each other, life would cease to exist. On some level, I don't see death as evil or something to be avoided, but something inevitable that actually creates new life. Every creature has the "survival instinct" and doesn't want to be someone's next meal; at the same time, we're all going to perish,consequently contributing to the proliferation of life through the decomposition of our own bodies (or by being someone else's meal). It's a cycle, and the "death" part of it isn't inherently bad. All animals have the "right" to eat what they want, and all animals are at risk of being another's meal (even us).
I guess my real point is that "good" can be subjective, relative, or simply short-sited. In the span of 1,000 years, perhaps we cannot see the full scope of damage that could be done if everyone strictly ate plants. I'm not exactly using this argument to justify meat-eating, but it is still an argument that could be made.
You seem to be attributing a value to life that does not, in fact, exist. Indeed, you seem to attribute sanctity to life. Period. That's a noble ideal . . . but hardly realistic. The fact is, life is not sanctified . . . nor do we (in practice) value it absolutely. Am I to assume that you're against abortion or that you don't wear leather shoes? What about cosmetics derived from animal by-products?
You do appreciate that plants are also alive, right? Why does your rationale stop at the divide between plant and animal? There is scientific evidence that plants respond to classical music and human murmurs of affection. Should we then not eat plants OR animals? Don't you swat flies/mosquitoes and rid your kitchen of ants?
You adopt a position that you can't extend to its logical conclusion. Nature has no morals. Meat is fine.
Theists have a God-given dominion over all animals. It's in the book! But you don't have to be a theist to recognize that meat satisfies unlike ANY vegetable known to man. I don't really care if the protein of meat is correlated to the dramatic increase in human brain mass over the eons. What I do care about is a life of munching vegetables when livestock is there for the eating.