Saturday, July 30, 2016

Wisdom Of The Week

Indifference, however, appears to be the norm. Most of us live in “carninormative” societies where meat eating is so normal that no matter how many qualms we might have about it, it just doesn’t feel wrong to most of us. This is most evident in the mismatch between the almost universal reflective disapproval of inhumane intensive farming and the unreflective buying choices of most consumers. Christopher Belshaw, in his contribution to The Moral Complexities of Eating Meat, is surely too optimistic when he claims it is unnecessary to say anything about factory farming because “there is little point either in defending the indefensible or in attacking a practice that almost every reader here will already condemn”. I am constantly amazed to see well-educated, thoughtful people order meat at restaurants without any questions about its provenance.


Animal ethics debates often end up posing challenges like this. “There is no consistent solution to the problems we are discussing that does not involve biting at least one bullet”, says Peter Singer in an afterword to The Ethics of Killing Animals. Belshaw bites one himself, conceding that it is not bad for a baby to die, at least not for the baby itself. That last qualification is critical. To think that we can settle big issues of morality on the basis of just one principle is absurd. We have innumerable reasons to treat the lives of babies and the severely mentally impaired with deep respect, but these need not be the same reasons why we generally place more value on human lives. Ethical dilemmas are complex and multi-factorial and it is hopeless to try to resolve them by appeal to a single, simple criterion.
Too often animal ethics flattens to one dimension. Bernstein, for example, often addresses the issue of whether humans have moral priority over animals by considering choices about which we should give pain relief to first. But this is a very specific problem which doesn’t reveal anything about moral value in general. I might, for example, choose to relieve the pain of my cat before that of my own, not because I consider his life to be more valuable than mine but because, like a child, the cat cannot deal with it by being aware that the pain is not a serious threat to its life and will pass.

- More equal than others by Julian Baggini. He reviews 3 books and dismisses them and implies more or less than realism = part of animal suffering. He conveniently assumes human induced suffering is part of "nature". Pure bull shit but I am not surprised.

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