(Bihar Times) Last week I came across this very interesting debate and I thought you should read it. A Contemporary Moral Issues class at the University of Wisconsin-Madison took up the one issue being debated fiercely across the world: to eat or not to eat meat. These are the main arguments, for and against, that were brought up.
1. The Bible Argument:
“The Bible says we shall have dominion over the animals and I take that to mean that we can eat meat and use animals however we want. Therefore, we can eat meat.”
Objection 1: If one takes what the Bible says to support one’s position, one will have to believe that a wife must submit to her husband, homosexuals are immoral, rebellious sons must be stoned to death publicly, women are tempted by snakes etc. People tend to pick and choose what parts of any religious text they want and twist it to suit what they want to do.
Objection 2: What is intended by “Man shall have dominion over the animals” is subject to interpretation. What is intended could be, “Do whatever you want to the animals, like torturing, eating, bestiality, etc.”, but, “Since I made humans with more reason than the rest of the animals on earth, it will be up to you to see that they are cared for .” Why would God want an interpretation of violence rather than love ? Parents have dominion over their children; but this does not imply that we can torture or kill or eat them.
Objection 3: If you interpret the Bible as encouraging you to eat animals then are all the other holy Books such as the Qur’an, Rig-Veda, Dhammapada, Taoist texts, Book of Mormon, etc., wrong?
Objection 4: There is a clear direction in the Bible to eat vegetables,grain and fruit only : In Genesis 1:29, God says to Adam and Eve, “I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which [sic] is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat.” It says that man shall have dominion over the animals, but it doesn’t say there that we shall have them for food, as it does of fruits and vegetables.
The Tradition Argument:
“I’ve been brought up eating meat and never questioned it. Our culture accepts eating meat as well. Therefore, I should be able to eat meat.”
Objection 1: The fact that one has been raised to eat meat is more of an explanation of why the meat-eating started, but cannot justify the claim that eating meat is ethically good. What if one were raised to hit people on the heads with hammers ? To use more real examples: “My culture states that people of color are inferior.” And, “My culture states that women should be submissive and stay at home.” These statements reflect the predominant opinion at one time. Are we to accept them as “proper” forever?
Objection 2: Everything a culture accepts may not be ethically good, e.g., slavery, thuggery, killing girl children, etc. Once you see there is no valid reason to continue current behaviour , this is immoral.
Objection 3: This argument allows us to eat humans: All that is required is that one is raised in a cannibalistic tradition.
3. The Taste Argument:
“I love the way meat tastes. I won’t deprive myself of this. Therefore, I should be able to eat meat.”
Objection 1: This argument leaves open the possibility that a person can say, “I love the way human meat tastes.” This principle is an argument to eat anything and treat the victim as badly as you like.
Objection 2: Think about what it would sound like to argue as follows: “I like the way it sounds so I don’t see why I should give it up,” when someone asks you why you’re hitting infants on the head with a hammer. Or, “I like the way it smells when I burn human flesh!” One who makes this argument leaves open the possibility that any sensation that brings pleasure is something that it’s OK to enjoy, no matter what it entails to enjoy it! “I have fun when I beat my wife after drinking.”
Objection 3: Taste is also linked with or caused by tradition: In the Northeast eating dogs is common but a goat is a pet. Imagine being told , have some dead dog on a bun , its great. .
Objection 4: If this argument can justify current practices of raising and killing non-human animals for food, then it justifies raising humans for organs in the same way.
4. The Teeth Argument:
“Our teeth are made for eating meat. All animals that have teeth like ours eat meat. So we should be able to eat meat.”
Objection 1: Just because our anatomy is able to do something does not imply that we should do that thing, or that it is morally acceptable to do it. Biologically, I am able to spit. But it is not considered acceptable to spit in other peoples’ faces. Hitting or torturing people is another example. Eating human babies is another thing you can do. But will you ?
Objection 2: Our teeth aren’t really “made” to eat meat. We cannot, for example, walk up to a cow or pig and start gnawing. We have molars like vegetarian animals and not canines. Moreover, we’d acquire lots of diseases if we were to eat uncooked meats.
Objection 3: If biologically my teeth can eat meat, then this argument does not give us any moral reason to not eat humans .
5. The Nutrition Argument:
“We need the protein that is provided in meat. Therefore, we should be able to eat meat.”
Objection 1: What if I want to get my protein from human flesh? This argument allows us the moral reason to eat humans.
Objection 2: Protein is necessary, but getting protein from animals, dairy products and eggs is not necessary. Why kill animals if it is not necessary? Whole grains, vegetables, fruits, and legumes give you much better protein.
6. The Darwinian Argument:
“The process of evolution has placed humans, the stronger, in a position to be able to use the weaker (non-human animals) for our eating and other pleasures. Other animals besides us eat meat (i.e., other animals) – are they immoral? It’s a natural instinct we have to eat meat. Therefore, we should be able to eat meat.”
Objection 1: If the stronger are always able to use the weaker however they please simply because they are more powerful, then we are in trouble. This argument justifies child abuse, killing infants, the senile, retarded etc. This is an “anything goes” principle, which cannot be limited to only include non-humans?
Objection 2: Other animals act solely on natural instincts, and in the wild, must kill what they’re killing in order to stay alive. We are not in a situation where (1) we can only act from natural instincts and (2) it is necessary to eat non-human animals. We should question this “animal instinct” in ourselves – that is what makes us different.
7. The A-moral Beings Argument:
“ Non-human animals cannot morally question their actions like humans can, and this is what makes humans special. If beings cannot question how they live, then they have no intrinsic worth or rights. Therefore, we should be able to eat them.”
Objection 1: Non-human animals are not the only beings who cannot question how they live/act: fetuses, infants, comatose, senile, or severely retarded persons cannot as well. How can we then claim that these beings have intrinsic worth or rights? If one responds, “because they have value to other humans,” then what about humans that no one cares about ?
Objection 2: It’s ironic that one would argue that humans are moral beings and can question what they do, and argue that this morality gives us the reason to treat non-human animals badly and kill them because they lack this power. This power is what makes us have a greater, and not a lesser, responsibility to other beings.
8. The Intelligence/Rationality Argument:
“Humans are more intelligent and more rational than non-humans. These characteristics give us the right or opportunity to be able to use non-humans for food. Therefore, we should be able to eat meat.”
Objection 1: There are unintelligent, irrational humans – they cannot eat meat ? Can we eat them ?
Objection 2: If we are more intelligent and rational than non-human animals, then we should be able to understand what is not good for us or the world at large – and there are far more reasons to not eat meat than to eat it.
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