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For all you animal lovers…

March 25, 2011
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Most students have used this political theory blog to write about subjects that are important to them- and then connect this subject to a philosopher we have studied in class. So, I have decided to write about one of the most important topics to me—vegetarianism.

For over a year now, I have been a vegetarian. Before last year I had been a vegetarian on and off. However, the constant change in rather or not I ate meat was either to please or rebel against my family (we all know what being a stubborn teenager can do to our daily habits and choices.) But last March- when all things were neutral with my family- I made the personal decision to cut meat out of my diet. It was one of the best choices I have made.

Because I do NOT eat meat I have two POSITIVE impacts on our world:

1. I am a primary consumer, instead of a secondary consumer. Therefore, I use less valuable resources then a meat-consumer. This helps to decrease “overuse of resources, global warming, massive water or air pollution and soil erosion” (1).

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) writes:

According to Environmental Defense, if every American skipped one meal of chicken per week and substituted vegetarian foods instead, the carbon dioxide savings would be the same as taking more than half a million cars off U.S. roads.

and…

2. I do not support the abuse and slaughter of animals- in factory farms or any murderous environment.

I like to believe that the lack of meat in my diet helps with these two important matters. The faith that I have in my diet may be slightly idealistic- they do not put a halt to the 27 billion animals that are slaughtered annually in the United States.

Here is a small excerpt from PETA’s website, detailing the daily slaughter of animals that occurs no matter if I eat meat or not:

“Animals on factory farms are treated like meat, milk, and egg machines. Chickens have their sensitive beaks seared off with a hot blade, and male cattle and pigs are castrated without any painkillers. Farmed chickens, turkeys, and pigs spend their brief lives in dark and crowded warehouses, many of them so cramped that they can’t even turn around or spread a single wing. They are mired in their own waste, and the stench of ammonia fills the air. Animals raised for food are bred and drugged to grow as large as possible as quickly as possible—many are so heavy that they become crippled under their own weight and die within inches of their water supply. Animals on factory farms do not see the sun or get a breath of fresh air until they are prodded and crammed onto trucks for a nightmarish ride to the slaughterhouse, often through weather extremes and always without food or water. Many die during transport, and others are too sick or weak to walk off the truck after they reach the slaughterhouse. The animals who survive this hellish ordeal are hung upside-down and their throats are slit, often while they’re completely conscious. Many are still alive while they are skinned, hacked into pieces, or scalded in the defeathering tanks. By switching to a vegetarian diet, you can save more than 100 animals a year from this misery.

As I said, in my lifetime my dietary choices will not stop billions of animals from being slaughtered yearly.

However, if I am vegetarian for the rest of my life (say to ninety years old) I can save over 800 animals. To me, that is worth the sacrifice of missing out on turkey at my Thanksgiving feast or roast beef on Christmas.

To connect this ranting to philosophy- I strongly believe that Rousseau would support my dietary choices.

From his readings, I have inferred that he too was a vegetarian.

To be more specific for the purpose of this blog, I am going to focus on the second reason for being a vegetarian because it relates to Rousseau.

Like me, Rousseau believed in sustaining from eating a species that “has ideas” and “has senses.”

However, many carnivores will argue that humans have the “right” to raise and murder animals because we are a more sophisticated species. We have developed a brain intelligent enough to manipulate other species to be the resource of our energy.

 

 

But I always wonder- why do so many humans have this belief that our species are better then another species? Do we forget that animals feel pain too?

My boyfriend gives me a pretty simple answer: EVOLUTION. Humans have evolved to have an advantage over other species. In the industrialized world we live in, we are better then animals because of our cognitive abilities. Therefore, we have developed the technology (guns, factory farms etc.) to slaughter the lesser species (any animal).

I agree that yes- in OUR world, our brains have made us well suited to survive and manipulate other species to better our lives. But just because we can, does that mean we should?

In the following, Rousseau argues against humans who believe we have the right to kill because we have developed strong intelligence.

“Every animal (of the higher species) has ideas, since he has senses. He even combines his ideas up to a certain point, and man differs, in this respect, only in the more or less. Some philosophic writers have even advanced that there is more difference between this man and that man, than between this man and that (non-human) animal. It is not, therefore, intelligence so much as his quality of being a free agent which makes the difference.”  – Discourse Upon Inequality Among Men

Rousseau does not believe that it is necessarily intelligence that sets species apart.

Humans only have more power because they are free to do what they wish.

So why are we, as humans, using this power to destruct the lives of others?

Rousseau makes a carnivorous diet sound pretty dang negative:

“The animals you eat are not those who devour others; you do not eat the carnivorous beasts, you take them as your pattern. You only hunger for the sweet and gentle creatures which harm no one, which follow you, serve you, and are devoured by you as the reward of their service.” – Emile

 

In this writing, humans sound destructive and insensitive. Is Rousseau correct?

I enjoyed how Rousseau did not have the same cynical view as Hobbes did on human nature. He believed morality was “natural.” He even believed that humans and animals share these same “innate” morals. To me, Rousseau was optimistic. He believed in the good of humankind.

I connected with that because I like to think that I too, an am optimist. And, as I stated before- maybe this makes me an idealist.

Eating other species that can feel and think takes away from the natural morals we are born with. I don’t believe we are born to hurt or kill others.

Is it insensitive of humans to eat other species? Or have we earned the right to eat them by being “the best” species?

Why not find daily satisfaction in meals that contain lots of vegetables, grains, beans, nuts, fruits, soy etc?

You will save hundreds from pain and death- and Rousseau would be very proud:)

 

 

1. http://www.peta.org/issues/animals-used-for-food/meat-and-environment.aspx

 

2 Comments
  1. chrisshu permalink
    March 25, 2011 8:43 PM

    Let me start off by saying I am not a vegetarian and that although I am not against vegetarian mindsets and ideologies, I disagree with many points they raise. Firstly, you stated how because you do not eat meat, you leave less of a carbon footprint or as you said, “less valuable resources then a meat-consumer”. However, unless the vegetables you eat are specifically locally-grown you will have the same carbon footprint as the spinach or carrots you are eating must be shipped from an out-of-state farm just like the steak I eat.
    Also I do not like the mindset that some vegetarians have, that because they don’t eat meat, they are somehow “better” than meat-eaters. I do not think you were trying to come off this way but many others do and your statement, “I do not support the abuse and slaughter of animals- in factory farms or any murderous environment” demonstrates this. This can be interpreted as because I eat meat, I support the abuse and slaughter of animals. However, this is not the case. I don’t think anyone “supports” the abuse or even the slaughter of animals. I think humans condone it, but meat eaters do not support it.
    Thirdly, you reference PETA a lot in your post but PETA is unreliable since it is heavily biased towards animal rights and may and has in fact misconstrued facts.
    http://www.consumerfreedom.com/news_detail.cfm/h/1786-peta-wouldnt-lie-would-they
    http://www.consumerfreedom.com/news_detail.cfm/h/2932-another-peta-lie-chiseled-in-stone
    http://thenexthurrah.typepad.com/the_next_hurrah/2006/09/peta_crosses_th.html

    Another of your arguments I disagree with is “However, if I am vegetarian for the rest of my life (say to ninety years old) I can save over 800 animals.” By looking at this purely statistically yes, you will save 800 animals a year. However, on a reality standpoint, you being a vegetarian has 0 effect on the lives of animals. Even if you don’t eat meat for the rest of your life, the animals you don’t consume will still be murdered.

    Now, going back to your argument based on Rousseau. You raise a lot of points about our cognitive abilities and senses and how animals also share these abilities with us. By stating such, you have already assumed animals are cognitive or at least on a similar level than us. You have also assumed plants are not because you eat them. You also refer to the consumption of other species as being morally not “good”. However, the plants and beans and other vegetables you eat are also species, just species you yourself do not associate with cognitive abilities. However, research has show plants also feel pain to a certain extend and they are also living. If we are morally obliged not to harm other living things than what gives vegetarians the authority to say meat is unacceptable but plants are when plants are also living. Vegetarianism then falls upon a fallacy. It’s ok to kill some living organisms but not others.

    “You will save hundreds from pain and death- and Rousseau would be very proud:)”

    You can save millions of leaves and tubers and roots from death if you don’t eat anything.😀

  2. timkrippner permalink
    March 26, 2011 6:03 PM

    Chris, I agree with most of your objections, but I don’t think you’re being very charitable with your criticism of the post author’s sentence, “I do not support the abuse and slaughter of animals – in factory farms or any murderous environment.” I don’t think it means that those who eat meat are all enthusiastic about the poor treatment of many animals; no one’s going to go rally to keep factory conditions the same because they approve of them. The support still exists financially. Meat eaters who purchase meat that originates from factories like this are implicitly supporting the practice and enabling it to continue. The fact that many meat eaters are indirectly/unintentionally supporting something which they would not approve of directly is a difficulty worth dealing with.

    FYI, I am also not a vegetarian. Go figure.

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