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« Richard Sorabji on Mahatma Gandhi as Philosopher | Main | Liane Young on Mind and Morality »

October 13, 2012

Comments

C. M. Frederick

Andrew H.
Don't hold your breath while waiting for a response. This whole animal rights movement insider argument is for ideologues. When any moral system is put to the test you run into Hume's "is-ought" problem. Your comments point out a consistent line of thought: If eating meat is "bad" it should be "bad in all cases." If it is not bad for the lion to eat the gazelle, then it follows that a human isn't bad for eating a chicken. If, however, it is "bad" for humans to eat chickens then the lion is "bad" as well, or in a word, immoral. And so a line is drawn. But where to draw that line is the ultimate question. Mr. Francione et al. have no more, or less, authority on such moral matters than you or I do.

...And to those who bring up rape and molestation, well, I think you are doing your cause more harm than good.

Spencer Lo

C.M. Frederick,

I believe you are confusing “bad” with “wrong.” It’s not “wrong” for the lion to eat the gazelle, but from this, it doesn’t follow that it’s not wrong for a human to eat a chicken. There are at least two differences between lions and humans: (1) lions need to eat meat in order to survive while humans generally don’t, and (2) lions can’t reflect ethically on their dietary choices while humans generally can.

Spencer Lo

Andrew H.,

I believe you ask a deep question, because it’s true that carnivorous animals inflict a lot of suffering upon other non-human animals—that doesn’t mean what they do is “ethically wrong,” even though it does mean what they do is “bad.” I suggest to you philosopher Jeff McMahan’s fascinating article on this subject: http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/09/19/the-meat-eaters/

However, the problem of wild carnivorous animals is completely distinct from the problem of human animal use. As Francione points out in his podcast, most animal uses can’t be justified because they serve transparently frivolous purposes—needing meat to survive is not one of them.

tartempion

@C. M. Frederick: No offense, but your arguments are not interesting for anyone with some knowledge of animal ethics (be they vegan or not).

You claim evolution is a justification for killing animals. Well, we evolved raping, eating each other and having slaves. That does not make any of it justifiable.

Then you say that we should first stop exploiting each other before caring for animals. But 1) one does not exclude the other, 2) it is a well established fact that people who care deeply about animals also care deeply about people.

C. M. Frederick

Confusing "bad" with "wrong?" The equivalency of bad and wrong, good and right is what moral philosophy is all about. Bringing up the evolution of humans in regard to what humans eat now, or have eaten in the past, is not justification. It simply IS the case. I should have been more clear. Furthermore, I am not here to attack anyone for being vegetarian or vegan. One must be true to thyself, as is often said. Whether we like it or not, morality IS a convention. Laws are the inevitable outcome of these conventions. The many have the "right" to impose how the few "ought" to behave. There is no justification for any of this. It is the way it is. Over time our society can, and will, change. Will it change for the better? That is for those in the future to decide.

Paul Jeffries

A fascinating episode (as always!). I thought that the point made towards the end about the storage of grain necessitating the killing of rats was interesting and I didn't find the answer Professor Francione gave particularly satisfying.

He appeared to be saying that killing animals in such a case is OK, provided he personally doesn't have to do it, which strikes me as a strange position to take although perhaps only because I am misunderstanding it. He explains this in the podcast by saying that if he were building a road he would not be responsible for the people who may be killed driving on it. Well, speaking as a civil engineer who has built roads I hope he is right about that! However, I'm not sure it's comparable.

More relevant, it seems to me, would be to consider whether, if I build a road, I am responsible for the destruction of natural habitat and the indirect death of animals that doing so will almost certainly entail. Which, yes, I think I probably am.

The question then becomes; is this a significant enough consideration that it presents an ethical barrier to my constructing that road? If we are according animals the same kind of ethical significance as we typically assign to human beings then it would tend to suggest that it does, but that doesn’t seem to be Professor Fancione’s position. In such a case we are not using animals as a resource, but it is still of utility to us to perform actions that we know will inevitably do some harm to them. The end result of this seems to be the same to me, so I’m not sure I see what difference the utilization of the animal itself as a resource makes. I would be grateful if Professor Francione or somebody else who is familiar with his writing could clarify the distinction that he appears to be making here.

tor

Peter Singer: 0 comments
Galen Strawson: 2 comments
Nick Bostrom: 2 comments
Adina Roskies: 5 comments (Bronze Medal)
Onara O'Neill: 3 comments
Fiery Cushman: 0 comments
Jonathan Wolff: 0 comments
John Tomasi: 0 comments
Tim Lewens: 0 comments
Jonathan Dancy: 0 comments
Hanna Pickard: 0 comments
Huw Price: 1 comments
Molly Crockett: 0 comments
Rae Langton: 3 comments
Pat Churchland: 0 comments
Daniel Dennett: 13 comments (Silver Medal)
Michael Tye: 1 comments
Tim Crane: 1 comments
Richard Sorabji: 1 comments

But the winner of the "Philosophical Engagement" Gold Medal is:

Gary L. Francione: 57 comments

Jim Vaughan

I am so glad that abolishionist campaigners like Professor Francione exist to challenge our use (and abuse) of animals. I can find no logical flaw in his arguments. I was vegetarian for 10 years... I now eat meat. Why?

Firstly, I care nothing for the taste, but the physiological effect of not eating meat for me as I got older, has been like running a car on paraffin. Until I gave up being vegetarian, on Quorn and TVP, nuts, beans and pulses I just felt increasingly unwell. I felt physically better as soon as I gave up the ethical high-ground and ate meat again.

In mitigation, I would argue that we have a symbiotic relationship with domesticated animals. Good free range farming involves protecting animals from parasites, predators, diseases, while ensuring they have adequate food, warmth and shelter during their lives.

Compare this quality of life to that of wild animals, who often suffer from parasites, and mostly die young and painfully in the jaws of a predator, or of starvation, or disease or injury. To argue that we act unethically in farming animals, is to ignore the brutal facts of animal existence in the wild. Painful, violent, brutish and short.

Anything that we can do, that improves the lot of humans or of animals, in however small a degree is ethical. I would include compassionate domestication.

Steve

In connexion with the controversial slaughter and consumption of two oxen at some US agricultural college, Francione made a reference on Facebook to Singer's comment about how we can 'eat ethically' if we avoid factory farmed foods even if we 'continue to eat a moderate quantity of organically produced, pasture raised, animal products.' Francione said 'We need to make clear that eating 'happy' meat/dairy is no more 'ethical' than not beating a rape victim before you rape her/him. We should never present 'happy' meat/dairy as an 'ethical' alternative.'

I agree. My comment: For Singer to say that eating 'a moderate quantity of organically produced, pasture raised, animal products' is 'ethical' eating because, as a consequential matter, it's better than eating factory farm meat is *no* different from saying that not beating the rape victim is 'ethical" rape because, as a consequential matter, raping without beating is better than raping and beating the victim. An excellent analogy.

I accept that Singer makes conflicting statements, which Francione explicitly recognised and discussed in his book written in 2000. But if Singer really believes what Spencer says he believes, then all Singer would have to say is that he regards the consumption of all animal products, however produced, to be immoral but that it's morally better to eat 'happy' rather than to eat factory but only in the way that not beating a rape victim is better than raping and beating the victim. What's so 'nuanced' about that? It's pretty simple to me. Now, of course, Singer would have to address whether it really is better to eat 'happy' rather than factory given that the practise of 'happy' may encourage people to consume animal products, but he could very easily state the view that Spencer attributes to him if that is what he really believes.

My own view is that Singer is very confused and is moving in the direction of accepting that many animals have mental continuity but does a fair amount of flip flopping. But it's folly to say that Singer regards all farmed animals as possessing the sort of interests that he recognises in humans, non-human great apes, whales and elephants.

Cordially,

Steve

Spencer Lo

Francione’s rape analogy is seriously flawed, and its sensationalist character obscures a very simple logical point. Instead of ethics, imagine Singer was talking about health and said the following:

(H) Just avoiding soda and processed junk foods is a big step in the right direction, even if you continue to eat moderate quantities of greasy sweet potato fries.

Would anyone really interpret (H) as claiming that it’s good for one’s health to *eat* moderate quantities of greasy sweet potato fries, as opposed to merely claiming that it’s good for one’s health—a big step in the right direction—to *avoid* consuming soda and processed junk foods? Isn’t it obvious that the latter is what (H) is asserting? Compare (H) with what Singer said:

(E) Just avoiding factory farmed products is a big step in the right direction, even if you continue to eat a moderate quantity of organically produced, pasture raised, animal products.

(H) and (E) are clearly parallel in terms of grammatical and logical structure; Singer in (E) is merely claiming that it’s ethical—a big step in the right direction—to *avoid* factory-farmed products, not that it’s ethical to *eat* “a moderate quantity of organically produced, pasture raised, animal products.”

However, according to Francione’s (interesting) logic, we should interpret (H) as an assertion that it’s good for one’s health to eat moderate quantities of greasy sweet potato fries, which is silly. As Francione is a fan of saying, “This sort of thing gives silliness a bad name!”

Michelle

What drives me bonkers about this stuff is the conversations which, really, are an aside to the core issue. Who cares what Peter Singer said exactly or Francione’s inflection. When we're dealing with moral issues we only need to think about the issue i.e. stopping animals natural/instinctual life for anthropocentrism and decide if that is right. If someone thinks it is wrong then stop doing it/taking part in it as far as possible.

Steve

Paul Jeffries: I think you're misunderstanding Francione here. I believe he was trying to distinguish intentional harm from harm that is unintended but substantially certain to occur as a result of some behaviour. You seem to accept what he says about the road example and I am not clear as to why you don't see how this applies to the animal example he gave.

Spencer Lo: Alas, Spencer, you are, once again, in error. Singer is not simply saying that it's better to avoid eating intensively products products; he's saying that to so so is to "eat ethically."

Cordially,

Steve

Spencer Lo

Hi Steve,

I believe my health analogy makes it very clear that Singer is not saying that it’s ethical to eat “a moderate quantity of organically produced, pasture raised, animal products.,” but only that it’s ethical to avoid eating FF products—which he says is a “big step in the right direction.” Merely repeating your assertion, in the face of my counterargument, does not support your interpretation. Again, as a matter of logic and grammar, in addition to what we know about Singer’s position described in his scholarly works, there is no reason to think Singer finds the consumption of “happy meat” ethical – only less problematic than the consumption of FF products. You are grasping at very thin reeds here.

Steve

Spencer-

I think we can let readers judge who is grasping at reeds.

It is beyond ludicrous that when Singer talks about the "Paris exception" or the "luxury" of eating animal products, or how we can "eat ethically" but continue to consume animal products, etc, you just dismiss that and claim that Singer's view is "too nuanced" for the common people to understand.

This discussion could have been far more interesting if you accepted that there are differences between Francione and Singer and discussed those differences.

Cordially,

Steve

Paul Jeffries

Steve: Thanks very much for your reply. However, I think you're misunderstanding my misunderstanding! I actually *don't* agree with what he says about the road - as I say I think it's a false analogy. I see a very clear distinction between people who may be killed driving on a road I have built (which is incidental to and several steps of causation removed from me having built it) and killing rats to prevent them from eating grain (which is to a certain extent necessary to me being able to eat that grain myself).

To make it even more stark: if I hire a hitman to kill a wealthy relative so that I can inherit their fortune then the fact that I did not pull the trigger myself and that their death was not my primary goal cannot generally be used to excuse me of moral responsibility for the act.

That's a bit of an extreme example of course, but even if human beings were wandering into our grain store and helping themselves most people would still not consider that justification for killing them. Even those who did would probably predicate that opinion on the idea that they 'should know better', which of course rats do not.

So, the source of my confusion is simply that Prof. Francione seems to be saying that he is OK with animals being killed in a situation where (I am assuming) he would not be OK with humans being killed. This suggests to me that his position is actually somewhat more complicated than 'human beings and (other) animals are exactly morally equivalent'.

Specifically, he seems to be drawing a distinction between cases where animals are being used as resources and other cases where the animals themselves are not being directly used in this manner, but where it is still of utility for us to harm them (such as the rat example).

I'm interested in why he places such emphasis on the *resource-use* aspect, especially given that we fairly routinely treat (and speak of) humans as being 'resources' without anybody taking great issue.

In brief: why is it that killing an animal so that I can eat meat is different from killing an animal so that I can eat grain?

Spencer Lo

Steve,

I didn’t “dismiss” anything—instead, I interacted with *every* example raised by GF in this thread and showed why his interpretation is wildly wrong. Perhaps you should try understanding Singer's view via the Principle of Charity (wiki it).

Jonathan

I don't think there is a difference in your particular formulation, but of course it's not necessary for an animal to die so that you can eat grain (it's possible to prevent rats from entering a grain store without killing them), while it certainly is necessary to kill (or seriously maim, or otherwise inflict suffering on) an animal so that you may eat meat.

Gary L. Francione

Paul Jeffries:

I think we have a misunderstanding here. I did not say in the interview that I would regard as morally justifiable the killing of the rats to prevent them from eating the grain. I apologize if I was not clear.

What I was trying to say was that I recognized that, for example, the harvesting of crops will involve the unintentional killing of some animals. I believe that we should do whatever we can do to minimize those unintended deaths but that human activity will necessarily result in unintended harm to humans as well as nonhumans. It was in that context that I used the example distinguishing unintentional deaths on the road from acts of intentional homicide.

As far as killing rats in grain storage situations, I believe that in an age where we have all sorts of technological miracles, we can easily figure out how to protect our grain from rats without having to kill them.

Again, I apologize if I was not clear. I should have made clear that I rejected the intentional killing of rats but accepted that everyone, including vegans, is the proximate cause of harm to others (human and nonhuman), even if that harm is not intended.

Gary L. Francione
Professor, Rutgers University

Arpit Chauhan

Spencer Lo correctly identifies that Prof Francione fails to distinguish between the positions that: (i) it is morally good to avoid factory farmed products (ii) it is morally good to consume non-factory farmed products, aka "happy meat". This conflation seems to be a basic premise of Francione's argument that animal welfare is detrimental to the cause of animal rights, and consuming happy meat encourages animal consumption. Although, it might be that he thinks that the difference between the two positions is too subtle for an average person to be able to identify, at least unless he/she gives it a careful thought. Thus, he might want to make it simple and clear for the public: animal consumption is always wrong, period. But, this need for simplicity does not mean that we stop seeing nuances in the arguments against welfarism. For instance, Singer's arguments, when analyzed carefully do not seem to suggest that consuming happy meat is morally good. Singer identifies that consuming animals raised humanely (although, the term is open to ridicule, I use it to suggest better conditions.) is morally better than consuming factory-farmed animals, but doesn't claim that it's the ideal situation.

Rejecting all anti-cruelty measures as ridiculous in a way ignores the suffering of individual animals. To turn Prof Francione's argument on its head, I think that if I were one of the animals being raised for meat, I would prefer that I be treated without cruelty for majority of my life, even I am to brutally killed at the end. (I do not use the rape analogy because of its sensationalist nature, as someone already noted. That does not mean that I consider animal use less morally objectionable than crimes on humans) But, of course, we would have to also take the overall effect of this (welfarist) approach on animals. Animal welfare would be undesirable, if in the long term, it leads to more animal consumption than if we were to take the abolitionist approach, which Prof Francione contends does happen (even if welfarism was better for the animals being raised now). This seems to be the most difficult part to address. The only answer seems to be promoting veganism, while also reducing cruelty for animals that are raised, although this seems to be practically impossible because the nuance of "being morally better, but not perfect" is lost in the public while promoting labels like those by Whole Foods, which tell the consumer that animals were treated in a better way. A paper by Sztybel (http://davidsztybel.info/x-sfpragmatism.pdf) claims that opposing all anti-cruelty measures leads to more no. of animals being raised cruelly till the day the world goes vegan. It also argues that discussion of animal welfare is more conducive for animal rights than sticking to abolitionism. I am not sure about the correctness of the paper, and yet to have a good answer on what approach to follow (welfarism or abolitionism). Although, there is no doubt about people like us who are concerned about animals should do: be/go vegan. The confusion is only about what to tell the rest of the public. Dr Melanie Joy wrote a well-thought article on this (http://www.onegreenplanet.org/animalsandnature/our-voices-our-movement-how-vegans-can-move-beyond-the-welfare-abolition-debate/), although I don't believe it provides any satisfactory answer.

I find the suggestion that Spencer Lo is "obsessed" with Prof Francione to be grotesque. As Spencer points out, we do not disregard Prof Francione's arguments about Singer by claiming that he is obsessed with him.

Arpit Chauhan
http://liberaloutlook.wordpress.com

Liberaloutlook.wordpress.com

Spencer Lo correctly identifies that Prof Francione fails to distinguish between the positions that: (i) it is morally good to avoid factory farmed products (ii) it is morally good to consume non-factory farmed products, aka "happy meat". This conflation seems to be a basic premise of Francione's argument that animal welfare is detrimental to the cause of animal rights, and consuming happy meat encourages animal consumption. Although, it might be that he thinks that the difference between the two positions is too subtle for an average person to be able to identify, at least unless he/she gives it a careful thought. Thus, he might want to make it simple and clear for the public: animal consumption is always wrong, period. But, this need for simplicity does not mean that we stop seeing nuances in the arguments against welfarism. For instance, Singer's arguments, when analyzed carefully do not seem to suggest that consuming happy meat is morally good. Singer identifies that consuming animals raised humanely (although, the term is open to ridicule, I use it to suggest better conditions.) is morally better than consuming factory-farmed animals, but doesn't claim that it's the ideal situation.

Rejecting all anti-cruelty measures as ridiculous in a way ignores the suffering of individual animals. To turn Prof Francione's argument on its head, I think that if I were one of the animals being raised for meat, I would prefer that I be treated without cruelty for majority of my life, even I am to brutally killed at the end. (I do not use the rape analogy because of its sensationalist nature, as someone already noted. That does not mean that I consider animal use less morally objectionable than crimes on humans) But, of course, we would have to also take the overall effect of this (welfarist) approach on animals. Animal welfare would be undesirable, if in the long term, it leads to more animal consumption than if we were to take the abolitionist approach, which Prof Francione contends does happen (even if welfarism was better for the animals being raised now). This seems to be the most difficult part to address. The only answer seems to be promoting veganism, while also reducing cruelty for animals that are raised, although this seems to be practically impossible because the nuance of "being morally better, but not perfect" is lost in the public while promoting labels like those by Whole Foods, which tell the consumer that animals were treated in a better way. A paper by Sztybel (http://davidsztybel.info/x-sfpragmatism.pdf) claims that opposing all anti-cruelty measures leads to more no. of animals being raised cruelly till the day the world goes vegan. It also argues that discussion of animal welfare is more conducive for animal rights than sticking to abolitionism. I am not sure about the correctness of the paper, and yet to have a good answer on what approach to follow (welfarism or abolitionism). Although, there is no doubt about people like us who are concerned about animals should do: be/go vegan. The confusion is only about what to tell the rest of the public. Dr Melanie Joy wrote a well-thought article on this (http://www.onegreenplanet.org/animalsandnature/our-voices-our-movement-how-vegans-can-move-beyond-the-welfare-abolition-debate/), although I don't believe it provides any satisfactory answer.

I find the suggestion that Spencer Lo is "obsessed" with Prof Francione to be grotesque. As Spencer points out, we do not disregard Prof Francione's arguments about Singer by claiming that he is obsessed with him.

Arpit Chauhan
http://liberaloutlook.wordpress.com

Arpit Chauhan

Spencer Lo correctly identifies that Prof Francione fails to distinguish between the positions that: (i) it is morally good to avoid factory farmed products (ii) it is morally good to consume non-factory farmed products, aka "happy meat". This conflation seems to be a basic premise of Francione's argument that animal welfare is detrimental to the cause of animal rights, and consuming happy meat encourages animal consumption. Although, it might be that he thinks that the difference between the two positions is too subtle for an average person to be able to identify, at least unless he/she gives it a careful thought. Thus, he might want to make it simple and clear for the public: animal consumption is always wrong, period. But, this need for simplicity does not mean that we stop seeing nuances in the arguments against welfarism. For instance, Singer's arguments, when analyzed carefully do not seem to suggest that consuming happy meat is morally good. Singer identifies that consuming animals raised humanely (although, the term is open to ridicule, I use it to suggest better conditions.) is morally better than consuming factory-farmed animals, but doesn't claim that it's the ideal situation.

Rejecting all anti-cruelty measures as ridiculous in a way ignores the suffering of individual animals. To turn Prof Francione's argument on its head, I think that if I were one of the animals being raised for meat, I would prefer that I be treated without cruelty for majority of my life, even I am to brutally killed at the end. (I do not use the rape analogy because of its sensationalist nature, as someone already noted. That does not mean that I consider animal use less morally objectionable than crimes on humans) But, of course, we would have to also take the overall effect of this (welfarist) approach on animals. Animal welfare would be undesirable, if in the long term, it leads to more animal consumption than if we were to take the abolitionist approach, which Prof Francione contends does happen (even if welfarism was better for the animals being raised now). This seems to be the most difficult part to address. The only answer seems to be promoting veganism, while also reducing cruelty for animals that are raised, although this seems to be practically impossible because the nuance of "being morally better, but not perfect" is lost in the public while promoting labels like those by Whole Foods, which tell the consumer that animals were treated in a better way. A paper by Sztybel (http://davidsztybel.info/x-sfpragmatism.pdf) claims that opposing all anti-cruelty measures leads to more no. of animals being raised cruelly till the day the world goes vegan. It also argues that discussion of animal welfare is more conducive for animal rights than sticking to abolitionism. I am not sure about the correctness of the paper, and yet to have a good answer on what approach to follow (welfarism or abolitionism). Although, there is no doubt about people like us who are concerned about animals should do: be/go vegan. The confusion is only about what to tell the rest of the public. Dr Melanie Joy wrote a well-thought article on this (http://www.onegreenplanet.org/animalsandnature/our-voices-our-movement-how-vegans-can-move-beyond-the-welfare-abolition-debate/), although I don't believe it provides any satisfactory answer.

I find the suggestion that Spencer Lo is "obsessed" with Prof Francione to be grotesque. As Spencer points out, we do not disregard Prof Francione's arguments about Singer by claiming that he is obsessed with him.

Arpit Chauhan

Gary L. Francione

I am not sure why Arpit Chauhan posted his comment three times. Perhaps he feels strongly about it.

In any event, Mr. Chauhan, like Mr. Lo, seems to think that Singer's comment that we can eat ethically if we avoid factory-farmed products but eat a "moderate quantity of organically produced, pasture raised, animal products" does not mean that Singer thinks that it is ethical to eat a "moderate quantity of organically produced, pasture raised, animal products." How very odd.

Moreover, Mr. Chauhan, like Mr. Lo and others, does not seem to understand, let alone address, the position that animal welfare measures do little, if anything, to increase protection for animal interests.

Finally, like Mr. Lo, Mr. Chauhan seems to like the work of Melanie Joy, who argues that the ideology of animal exploitation is "invisible." That is simply wrong. See, e.g., http://www.abolitionistapproach.com/there-is-nothing-invisible-about-the-ideology-of-animal-exploitation

Gary L. Francione
Professor, Rutgers University

Spencer Lo

I do wish Francione would take the time to explain why my interpretation of Singer's comments - which I supported via argument - is "very odd." How so?

Moreover, I believe Francione has **completely** misunderstood Melanie Joy's position. For those interested, see my comments below Francione's linked piece here: http://www.opposingviews.com/i/health/there-nothing-invisible-about-ideology-animal-exploitation

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