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Ethics

Author/DatePost
Alex_Kasman
Jan 5 2006
humanist book discussion group - jan 2006

Note that the Book Group will be meeting 3PM on Jan 22 at the Barnes & Noble in West Ashley to discuss the book "Animal Liberation" by Singer.

Larry_Carter_Center
Jan 30 2006
Human Progress Made for Ethical Relations With Co-species???

Sorry I could not make the book discussion. I'd have shared that more progress can be made on improving the relationship we have with other species if the food economy could be less based on demand & pricing and MORE ON gardening & self sufficiencies. If people had to kill what they eat just once per year, work in a packing plant or load a farm truck with food/fiber animals, then there would be less "denial." If we could walk a mile in the moccasins of other people and other species, then we'd waste less & choose food ingredients much more carefully. Maybe we are better off not treating horses as beasts of burden like many in the South treated people as beasts of burden. But the greater distance from cows & plowing & harvesting makes us vulnerable to not knowing what is in milk products, steaks & produce. I know nothing of Peter Singer but I suspect his rhetoric inspired people to be less rapacious towards the food chain & exploiting species/habitat.

tersse
Jan 30 2008

im sory but that is rubbish, animal rights is just another religion, that is a beliefe with no proof that it is any better to believe in than god.

it is a personal choise, and i choose meat, i like it, i have killed my own and butchered it when camping, in the society we live in what you propose is just not practical, and with the same surity,all of us becomeing vegitarian is not practical, the discontinuation of useing animal products isnt practical, in a perfect world your delusions would work well im sure, but its not a perfect world, we dont all have the same time to shop and cook, nor do we all have the same taste prefrences, cash expenditure, nor availability to regular shops to get freash veg evry day.

and what about the transport of bulky veg in place of the high grade protine meat afords us, no im afrade it just wouldent work, and anyone that thinks it would is delusional, as i say its a choise and you can choose your way as long as i can choose mine, we cant just go makeing ppl do what we want because we think its better, otherwise we would be back in thew dark ages were whoever had the power could change the laws to what they want and soon, we are all parying to jahway, living on pridge, and dieing in the thousands because medicin is agains god, and meat is a sin.

Alex_Kasman
Jan 30 2008

I think you are making a few mistakes when you discount vegetarianism so quickly, Tersse.

Using vegetable products instead of meat is a MUCH better use of resources from a purely objective point of view. You seem to be thinking of a steak shipped to market versus a vegetarian equivalent and thinking that somehow the steak is more reasonable because it is "concentrated". In fact, however, if one counts all of the crops that were fed to the animal before it was slaughtered, all of the fuel that was used to harvest those crops, transport them to the animal farm, and heat the barn, it is not even close. If those crops had been used directly for human consumption, there would have been MORE food requiring LESS LAND and LESS FUEL.

Here's a quote from a recent NY Times article:

Though some 800 million people on the planet now suffer from hunger or malnutrition, the majority of corn and soy grown in the world feeds cattle, pigs and chickens. This despite the inherent inefficiencies: about two to five times more grain is required to produce the same amount of calories through livestock as through direct grain consumption, according to Rosamond Naylor, an associate professor of economics at Stanford University. It is as much as 10 times more in the case of grain-fed beef in the United States.

(read the rest of the article too for even more info).

Then there are other objective problems with meat: the cattle actually contribute a huge amount of greenhouse gases (more than all contributions from transporation), a meat-heavy diet is associated with health problems including heart disease and cancer, anti-biotic resistant bacteria evolve in livestock and then infect humans, etc.

I understand that there are taste issues involved. (Some people just love the taste of meat.) There are also moral issues that are quite debatable. (Personally, the thought of an animal being confined in a cage for years and then slaughtered really DOES diminish my enjoyment of a meaty meal.) Finally, there are a few nutrients that are more difficult to get from a vegetarian source (but none that are IMPOSSIBLE to get). These, perhaps, are arguments against vegetarianism. But, I think they pale in comparison to the more objective and serious concerns listed above.

There has been a tremendous increase in the availability of vegetarian food in the US (including lots of good tasting and inexpensive meat substitutes). This has accompanied an increase in the number of people living on vegetarian (or nearly vegetarian) diets....but it is still a minority.

Perhaps we will never see a day when a majority of people in the US and UK rarely eat meat, but from the perspective of ecology, efficiency and public health, the closer we get to that the better off we will be.

-ak

tersse
Jan 30 2008

i beg to differ, no way i could live on veg alone nor meat i like a balanced diet, but if ppl want to live on maze, or chicpeas, go ahead, but just imagin a planet with only wild animals in it, with the area for them to live in getting smaller and smaller as people populate the remainder of the planet, and then imagin famin as new diseases that kill our veg food apear, and then think why there is such a large genetic pool in the world, i for one dont want gm meat, i want lots of variety, but not just veg, meat too.

it would be a poorer planet if we lost animals, and if we didnt eat them, soon they would be superflyous to our needs and ppl would take over the whole planet and we would be eating cultured protin like in the movie soilent green.

Dragonm47
Feb 1 2008
No way...

No way I could live off of vegetables alone. I love food...and meat is one of my favorites. Why do we still have incisors?

mccorquodale
May 5 2008

You guys should be ashamed. This is a thread about ETHICS. Curious people may come here to see what sort of ethics we non-religious people have. And the best you can say is "I like meat so I'm going to eat it?"

There are serious ethical questions here. Maybe you're too weak to go completely vegetarian -- even though it has clear benefits for human society (because it is so much better of a use of resources) and the animals (who are really mistreated and abused), not to mention healthier (which has ethical implications if there are other people who depend on you). But, how about trying to cut back? Start with one vegetarian day a week. I bet you'll discover that it isn't as bad as you think and can quickly move up to three or four days a week without meat.

And, the idea that we'd destroy all of the animals if we stopped eating meat is just crazy talk. We've got to make an effort now to save some wilderness -- and that won't come from a desire to eat its inhabitants. If we don't do that, if all of the WILD animals die, then I won't be too comforted to know that there are still stalls full of chained-up cows and chickens in wire cages waiting to become meat.

tersse
May 6 2008

You guys should be ashamed. This is a thread about ETHICS. Curious people may come here to see what sort of ethics we non-religious people have. And the best you can say is "I like meat so I'm going to eat it?"

There are serious ethical questions here. Maybe you're too weak to go completely vegetarian -- even though it has clear benefits for human society (because it is so much better of a use of resources) and the animals (who are really mistreated and abused), not to mention healthier (which has ethical implications if there are other people who depend on you). But, how about trying to cut back? Start with one vegetarian day a week. I bet you'll discover that it isn't as bad as you think and can quickly move up to three or four days a week without meat.

And, the idea that we'd destroy all of the animals if we stopped eating meat is just crazy talk. We've got to make an effort now to save some wilderness -- and that won't come from a desire to eat its inhabitants. If we don't do that, if all of the WILD animals die, then I won't be too comforted to know that there are still stalls full of chained-up cows and chickens in wire cages waiting to become meat.

never in the history of mankind was he vegitarian by choice, as we climed down from the trees and spread out across the planes we ate meat, not because we didnt like animals or thought they looked tasty, but because we needed it, in some regions of the world it is imposible to get all your daily requirments from vegetables, take for example the hunter gatherer comunities still in existence in africa, if they didnt kill and eat what meat came into thire path they would die of starvation and malnutricion, just because we live in a rich society and have the ability to choose, dont confuse this with morals or ethics, its a delusion just like religion, to think man should choose to be vegetarian, we are amnivourous animals, we have tearing and sheering teath as well as crushing, and when your hungry, i meen realy hungry like stranded in a life raft in the sea for 30 weeks you will soon discovetr that your brain tells you to eat things like liver, skin and eyes of the fish you catch, because for some unknowen reason it knows by smell and taste, you bloody need it to live, so dont go thinking cause we live in a rich society we can go changing a million years of evolution bewcause your squeemish and some ppl are cruel, no, i dont think animals deserve to live in 1 square foot of cage, but i do think ill eat them for the rest of my life not just cause they taste good, but because its what i do, im an animal that eats meat, and veg, and am healthier for it.

mccorquodale
May 6 2008

Hi Tersse! I'm glad you're still around.

But, I think this is one of the silliest things you've said:

in some regions of the world it is imposible to get all your daily requirments from vegetables, take for example the hunter gatherer comunities still in existence in africa, if they didnt kill and eat what meat came into thire path they would die of starvation and malnutricion, just because we live in a rich society and have the ability to choose, dont confuse this with morals or ethics, its a delusion just like religion, to think man should choose to be vegetarian

Using the fact that there are some situations where it is necessary to eat meat (e.g. if you happen to live in a hunter gatherer society or a life raft -- both pretty rare scenarios!) as an excuse for you to eat meat now is like using the fact that some people have to kill an armed madman in self-defense as an excuse for killing anyone anywhere.

The fact is, in developed countries today, you can eat little or no meat. The fact is, your claim that you are healthier for eating meat is contradicted by a huge body of scientific literature which says that the exact opposite is true. (You can ignore scientific evidence if you want, but to do that and then suggest that I'm the one behaving like a religious fanatic is a bit hypocritical.)

And, the fact is, there are serious moral issues that you're ignoring as well. I'm not talking here about the issue of animal suffering. There's another important question here.

If you don't think too hard about it, the question of whether you walk to the store or drive to the store doesn't seem like it has much ethical significance. But, we're now just starting to learn that the state of the world in the future may depend on how people answer these simple questions. If the difference between you walking to the store or driving a big gas-guzzler to the store makes the difference between whether the world is inhabitable ten years from now, then that seemingly benign question becomes one with ethical significance. Of course, one person driving one time won't make any noticeable difference...we need lots of people to make permanent changes to their lifestyles.

Now, I'd like to see you actually address and not simply pooh-pooh the ecological implications of meat eating. Here's a quote from New Scientist (a British magazine):

How to eat green

If you are serious about reducing your carbon footprint, going vegetarian for one day a week will make a big difference, says Christopher Weber of Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, PA, who has audited the greenhouse gas emissions of our meals. "The differences between eating habits are very, very striking," he says.

I'm a pretty tolerant person. I'm not trying to stop you from eating meat. I just want you to make the choice based on the facts. Our ancestors evolved eating meat...I'll grant you that. They also evolved living in caves and not in homes made of wood or brick. What would you think of the argument "Humans should not live in houses because we evolved to live in caves"? In the same way, I claim that we can now decide "Even though we evolved eating meat, we can see now that it would be better if we cut back or stop."

The difference is, having a house serve a selfish, short-term purpose. You don't need to be an ethical person to pick living in a house over living in a cave...that's easy. The meat issue, however, is long term and global. It will make you healthier in the LONG term to eat less meat, and it will help the world in the long term also. Just saying "I like to eat meat and so I will" or "My ancient ancestors ate meat and so I will" seem like selfish, short-sighted and (yes) unethical excuses for ignoring this.

PS I think many people in India and Asia became vegetarian over a thousand years ago, and many of their descendants are still vegetarian Buddhists or Hindus. I'm not sure exactly what their reasons were for doing this -- they probably were not worried about good use of limited natural resources -- but it does seem to contradict your claim that "never in the history of mankind was he vegetarian by choice".

tersse
May 9 2008

Hi Tersse! I'm glad you're still around.

yeh im still here and still sane, and still eating meat :).

look i may have put it badly but my point is clear and its proven by science too, we would never have goten were we are as a speciese if we hadnt found and eaten meat, it was one of the main evolutionary methods for mankind to grow larger brains and survive to be were we are now in the evolutionary chain, before we were just food on the menu for larger meat eaters, any moral grounds ppl have for not eating meat are delusional, as delusional as the reson for beliving in a god or gods, we are helthier for eating meat if we dont sit on our fat arses and stuff ouselves with 40000 calories a day and do no exercise, this is no reson either to give up meat, its a reson to eat less meat, but not none atal, and we are in a very dificult place as far as food production goes, it cots a lot of fuel to move all the vegatables around the world, so were are your morals on climat change, or are you another delusional person believing it dosnt exist? pls dont tell me one moral issue that is made up ( we can all live on vegetables, is not practicable) out weighs another more seriouse one ( the world is drying up and we are losing a lot of farmable land) and with the bio fuel program wasting loads of edible grain on fuel, we have even less edible grain than we need and less land to grow veg crops on in the countries in the west, so we import from round the world, impacting on the abillity for the ppl in the countries we purchase from to eat their own produce, keeping tyhem on a bad diet, so were is the moral issue, what one takes precedence, you tell me pls.

mccorquodale
May 9 2008

Tersse,

I'm afraid you're missing a really important point here. It really takes a lot MORE energy and resources to produce a meal including meat than to produce a nutritionally equivalent vegetarian one.

It looks to me as if our discussion is going nowhere. We both think the other is deluded. Perhaps we should just agree to disagree. But, let me point out one more time where I think you're seriously, logically, factually, in error:

Let's start with a clear and simple fact. This is taken from the US Department of Agriculture website:

According to the National Corn Growers Association, about eighty percent of all corn grown in the U.S. is consumed by domestic and overseas livestock, poultry, and fish production. The crop is fed as ground grain, silage, high-moisture, and high-oil corn. About 12% of the U.S. corn crop ends up in foods that are either consumed directly (e.g. corn chips) or indirectly (e.g. high fructose corn syrup). It also has a wide array of industrial uses including ethanol, a popular oxygenate in cleaner burning auto fuels.

I think you are not taking into account that for every 10 grams of meat you eat, kilograms of vegetables were fed to that animal over the years of its life. We see plenty of corn in US supermarkets: in the produce aisles, in corn chips, in popcorn. It looks like a lot of food. But that's only 12% of the corn grown here. Another 80% of the corn crop is fed to animals on farms. (So, when looking at the meat in the butcher shop/aisle, imagine each steak as being made up 100 times as much soy and grain. There's a lot of vegetarian food that was used to make that meat.) If more people were vegetarian, then the farmers who are growing this crop could instead send it directly to the market for people to eat.

And it is not just corn, which is the top crop in the US as far as the acreage for production. The second most common crop in the US by acreage is soybeans. According to the same USDA website:

Over 30 million tons of soybean meal are consumed as livestock feed in a year.

Soybeans are a complete protein. If you eat them, you've got all the amino acids you need and will not need to eat any meat, eggs or dairy to stay healthy. So, imagine if this 30 million tons of soybean meal was instead used to feed people. Hey, if you want to tell me that you don't LIKE eating soybeans, that's one thing...but don't go pretending that you've got some moral superiority because you eat meat instead. There's a lot of good vegetarian food going to waste in feeding animals that could more efficiently (and more healthily) be used in food for people instead and feeding it to animals is decadent and wasteful.

The THIRD most common crop in the US is *hay* (59.9 million acres of it). That is used almost exclusively as food for animals on other farms.

If the farmers who now grow the corn, soy and hay that gets fed to livestock and poultry instead were growing food for direct human consumption, there would be a lot MORE food in the world. And that doesn't even take into account the farmland now used for animals. If we were directly eating the vegetable crops instead of feeding them to animals and then eating the animals, we could use the land now used for raising animals for something else. We could have wind farms or solar energy collectors on that land, or raise more vegetable crops for non-food uses (cloth, bio-fuel, etc.) or perhaps even make nature preserves (although we'd then have to somehow compensate the landowners).

Also, you're really fooling yourself when you try to argue that shipping vegetables for vegetarians is somehow inefficient or bad for the environment. Again, you're forgetting that over the year or so that the animal was living on a farm, vegetables had to be shipped to the farm to feed it. And water (lots of water on most farms with animals) had to be used to clean the facilities and for the animals to drink. And then the animal had to be shipped to the slaughter house. And then the meat had to be shipped to the market. IF instead the food that was used to feed the animal was just shipped directly to the market, it would have used the same amount of fuel used to ship it to the animal farm...but saved all of the additional resources that were needed to produce the meat.

Consider these quotes from a description of a recent study at the University of Chicago:

The food that people eat is just as important as what kind of cars they drive when it comes to creating the greenhouse-gas emissions that many scientists have linked to global warming, according to a report accepted for publication in the April issue of the journal Earth Interactions.

The average American diet requires the production of an extra ton and a half of carbon dioxide-equivalent, in the form of actual carbon dioxide as well as methane and other greenhouse gases compared to a strictly vegetarian diet, according to Eshel and Martin. And with Earth Day approaching on April 22, cutting down on just a few eggs or hamburgers each week is an easy way to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions, they said.

In their study, Eshel and Martin compared the energy consumption and greenhouse-gas emissions that underlie five diets: average American, red meat, fish, poultry and vegetarian (including eggs and dairy), all equaling 3,774 calories per day.

The vegetarian diet turned out to be the most energy-efficient, followed by poultry and the average American diet. Fish and red meat virtually tied as the least efficient.

The same report also mentions health considerations:

Martin and Eshel’s research indicated that plant-based diets are healthier for people as well as for the planet.

“The adverse effects of dietary animal fat intake on cardiovascular diseases is by now well established. Similar effects are also seen when meat, rather than fat, intake is considered,” Martin and Eshel wrote. “To our knowledge, there is currently no credible evidence that plant-based diets actually undermine health; the balance of available evidence suggests that plant-based diets are at the very least just as safe as mixed ones, and most likely safer.”

(See here for more from the Chicago study.)

Although you claim I'm deluding myself, I really believe I've considered this rationally. It seems to me that the scientific evidence shows that -- even though meat played an important part in the history of humanity -- it is now time for us to cut back as much as possible on our meat consumption, for the health of the planet and society as well as for ourselves. (Personally, I have not eaten "red meat" in over 5 years, and I eat fish or poultry only about once a week....but I do eat cheese almost every day. Unlike Tersse, I don't claim that eating cheese is good for me or for the world. I admit that it would be better if I could cut it out. Oh well, nobody's perfect.)

That's the last I'm going to say about this. So, if you'd like to get the last word, feel free to post one more time that you think I'm deluding myself.

People who read the thread can consider for themselves which of us has made the more sensible argument.

tersse
May 12 2008

Tersse,

I

According to the National Corn Growers Association, about eighty percent of all corn grown in the U.S. is consumed by domestic and overseas livestock, poultry, and fish production. The crop is fed as ground grain, silage, high-moisture, and high-oil corn. About 12% of the U.S. corn crop ends up in foods that are either consumed directly (e.g. corn chips) or indirectly (e.g. high fructose corn syrup). It also has a wide array of industrial uses including ethanol, a popular oxygenate in cleaner burning auto fuels.

yes you are deluded, supose we stoped sending this grain from america to feed animals, then what would we replace the animals as food with, yes you got it grain, so the grain would still be sent all aover the world, burning fuel to get wereever it goes to, so how is this going to be more eficient, and it takes more grain to provid the same nourishmeent as meat, so we would need to send more of it to these places that use it, increasing the fuel used to move the same amount of protine, and lets not forget about the bio fuel industry that is increasingly useing good fodder and food grain to make fuel, its a cash crop for farmers, they will not reduce this amount of grain used, in fact it goes up evry year, try getting them to sell it cheeper with no subsidy for food, and see what they tell you, vegitarianism is a fad that just hasnt died yet, it isnt sustainable fothe worlds population, idealism just dosnt work, no matter how apealing an idea is, it needs to survive the scrutiny of real life aplication, and vegetarianism just dosnt cut it, no matter what bunch of ststistics you pull out, they can be made to say anything you want, but in reality, if it was true, we would all be vegetarians by now like it or not, it just doant work for 90% of the world population, you need only put your news program on and watch to hear evry day that 20-30 % of africa india and the far east is still startving most of the time, and we ship them a starvation diet of grain and oil, to survive, what they realy need is a diet rich in meat and fish and fruuit, like ours, not gruel like you would keep them on for eternity.

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