If it bleeds, we can kill it… Ethics of Eating Meat (cc @tammois @msizer)

By and large, the ethics of eating meat doesn’t cross our minds. It usually takes a spectacular screw up – like the live export outcry last year – for the question to bubble up in public debate.

It doesn’t seem unreasonable to apportion some of the blame for this apathy on animal rights activists themselves. PeTA did a spectacular job of turning the animal exploitation into a debate about sexual exploitation with their scantily clad models. When discussing animal rights with most vegans and vegetarians, it is almost as if the parties are speaking their own language. In a recent discussion with @MSizer, there was fundamental disagreement about the words in play. What does it mean to make a creature suffer? To Sizer, if you killed an animal painlessly, the animal had suffered because it couldn’t pursue its life goals. To Sizer, a humane death was impossible if not in the interests of the animal itself.

In response to the discussion, left wing pastoralist and primary producer, @tammois shifted the debate on pragmatic terms. Even if Sizer was correct, people eat meat for complex reasons and, as such, Sizer should be more concerned about engaging people in a discussion about how to eat meat ethically rather than disengaging them by asking whether eating meat is ethical at all. You can read her summary here.

@Tammois’ point is correct but it doesn’t engage with Sizer’s point. Sizer denies that any production of meat is ethical (and considers using their products to be exploitative).

I used to be a vegetarian, so I’m not unsympathetic to Sizer’s cause. There is a strong need to rationalise our intuitions about the world. The modern convenience of getting meat from the supermarket means the ordinary person is less and less likely to connect ‘meat’ with ‘animal who frolicked in the fields with enormous Disney eyes’.

But it’s not an intuition we can support consistently. We kill things all the time, directly or indirectly. In order to support the population we’ve got now, we have to farm unfarmable lands and impact ecosystems in ways we can’t possibly imagine. If we are ill, we privilege our well being over the parasites in our stomach. Our immune systems destroy all kinds of life forms. When a woman doesn’t want a pregnancy, she can terminate it even though it interferes in the child’s pursuit of life goals. Killing things is not ipso facto a moral wrong.

If you don’t share Sizer’s dictionary, there is no reasonable argument against eating meat. If an animal is killed humanely, no reasonable person would say that it suffered. We are not inflicting pain on the world. We are not sadistically carving creatures whimsically.

The previous two paragraphs create a spectrum. If killing things is not morally wrong, there appear to be times when killing things is morally wrong. More precisely, it’s the lead up to the death which pricks our moral ears.

Consider killing a person. What is it about taking a human life which makes it troublesome? Historically, we’ve attached an idea of sanctity to it. Human life is special because it is sacred. If we don’t subscribe to the religious idea of the human person, we’re in a bit of trouble with that line of thought. The best we can do is affirm a principle that we don’t interfere with a person without their consent (whatever that means) and killing somebody (ordinarily) is a breach of that principle. Some people might suggest it’s in the interest of survivors to punish murderers, but that’s a difficult line to pursue.

We don’t run into the above problem with animals. Even if we’re not killing them, we interfere with animals without their consent all the time. We move them, shelter them, feed them, sell them, breed them, &c. Sizer’s argument about interfering with liberty (and therefore making them suffer) doesn’t match what we consider to be ordinary engagement with the animal kingdom. That doesn’t necessarily mean our engagement is correct, but it is more difficult to see how we could be incorrect.

Despite that, it doesn’t seem to be open slather season. We can imagine a time when a person consents to death but the person carrying out the wish takes pleasure in making the death as painful as possible. Here, consent isn’t really the issue (though we could ask if the person consenting to death consented to an excruciating death). The issue appears to be the character of the executioner.

Most of us don’t inflict pain on sentient creatures not because we worry about the metaphysics of rights or the philosophy of consciousness, but because we don’t want to be the sort of people who are cruel and sadistic. We worry about our virtue as people, and the behaviour of the sadistic executioner troubles that sense of our collective virtue.

The above results in the position that it’s not death which should worry us, but pain. Given that we can obtain meat without inflicting barbarous torture, eating meat can be ethically fine.

(P.S. The original title of this post was going to be ‘What Would Jesus Eat?’ but I wasn’t sure I could justify kosher meat production due to my hideous and inexcusable ignorance of it)

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Author: Mark Fletcher

Mark Fletcher is a Canberra-based blogger and policy wonk who writes about conservatism, atheism, and popular culture. Read his blog at OnlyTheSangfroid. He tweets at @ClothedVillainy

29 thoughts on “If it bleeds, we can kill it… Ethics of Eating Meat (cc @tammois @msizer)”

  1. I have a comment to make about your summation; “Given that we can obtain meat without inflicting barbarous torture, eating meat can be ethically fine”.

    Ethically eating meat can be ‘ethical’ if there’s no other choice, e,g, you live in an impoverished part of the world where it means human life or death. Aside from that, eating meat generally speaking is just a dietary choice, a whim, culturally/socially a way you were brought up.

    You don’t ‘have’ to eat meat (again generally speaking.) There are several authorities, the ADA for example says that a vegan diet is safe for all age groups including pregnant women and infants, if in fact you believe this to be true then eating animals is a moral decision and I for one choose to be species egalitarian and not infringe upon the freedom of sentient animals.

    What gives you the right to end the life of an animal that struggles to live (especially in North America or the UK or Canada or Australia etc) while you end her life because that’s what everyone else does? I’m not being adversarial with that question, it’s just a question I’d like answered.

    1. ‘Aside from that, eating meat generally speaking is just a dietary choice, a whim, culturally/socially a way you were brought up.Aside from that, eating meat generally speaking is just a dietary choice, a whim, culturally/socially a way you were brought up.’

      Speaking English is just a linguistic choice, a whim, culturally/socially a way you were brought up. Does that mean speaking English is bad?

      ‘I for one choose to be species egalitarian and not infringe upon the freedom of sentient animals’

      You don’t keep pets?

      ‘What gives you the right to end the life of an animal that struggles to live?’

      Because there is no competing right of the animal not to be killed for food.

      1. You said: “Speaking English is just a linguistic choice, a whim, culturally/socially a way you were brought up. Does that mean speaking English is bad?”

        If you’re going to make comparisons or analogies you’ll have to do better. Speaking english doesn’t conclude with the death of a sentient being.

        You said: “You don’t keep pets?”

        I secure their ‘freedom’ from certain death at the shelters, isn’t that self explanatory?

        You finally said: “Because there is no competing right of the animal not to be killed for food”

        I don’t know what[…]competing right[…] means but if you’re OK with extinguishing the light in their eyes because you can, doesn’t make it right or that I have to do so either.

        Tell me why you think it may be right to do so?

        1. I’m sorry if you think I was being uncharitable. You said that something was unethical if there were other choices, and that this choice was only based on whim and social/cultural habit. If you mean something else, I didn’t pick up on your argument and apologise.

          ‘I secure their ‘freedom’ from certain death at the shelters, isn’t that self explanatory?’

          No. So you’re happy to interfere with the freedom of animals in one sense, but not in another. The only distinguishing feature — and I have to assume a lot here — is the death element. In which case, you don’t have a general principle which you’re applying. You’re cherry picking for convenience.

          ‘but if you’re OK with extinguishing the light in their eyes because you can, doesn’t make it right or that I have to do so either.’

          I’m not a fan of right-dialogue but I understand I’m in the fringe minority on that point. Broadly, the argument is that we are maximally endowed with rights except for the sole case where we encounter the rights of others. My point is that, from the above, there is no competing right preventing us from killing an animal for its meat.

          1. “No. So you’re happy to interfere with the freedom of animals in one sense, but not in another. The only distinguishing feature — and I have to assume a lot here — is the death element. In which case, you don’t have a general principle which you’re applying. You’re cherry picking for convenience.”

            No?… OK yes I’m happy to interfere with the freedom of animals in one sense but not in the other, especially if it’s for the benefit of that animal, and yes it’s cherry picking.

            “I’m not a fan of right-dialogue but I understand I’m in the fringe minority on that point. Broadly, the argument is that we are maximally endowed with rights except for the sole case where we encounter the rights of others. My point is that, from the above, there is no competing right preventing us from killing an animal for its meat”

            I agree with you about ‘right-dialogue’ however I’m OK with someone using that kind of dialogue if it’s accompanied by critical thinking and a structured set of criteria outling the belief, whether I am onboard with it’s ‘position’ or not.

            As for “the argument is that we are maximally endowed with rights except for the sole case where we encounter the rights of others”. is exactly my point, i.e. if assuming humans are “maximally endowed with rights” (then we are taking the position of being moral agents) as moral agents we can as I have said before extend ‘rights’ to nonhumans and choose not to end their lives for culturally learned/selfish/unethical reasons. I’m not sure why that isn’t clear.

            Why do you have the right to end the life of a ‘sentient’ being for frivolous reasons?
            Why not begin a gradual changeover from a meat centric society to a plant based one?.
            Who does the ‘life’ of an animal belong to?

            1. I think this discussion has become a bit confused. I don’t think we’re using the same language to point to the same ideas.

              If animals are maximally endowed with rights, do you stop animals from eating each other? If you saw a person trying to murder another person, you’d try to stop them, right?

              1. Very possibly confused….I would say not ‘maximally endowed’ just to a certain degree, that of sovereignship of their future. No I wouldn’t stop animals from eating each other, it’s a matter of survival for them, not for industialized humans.
                Yes to the 2nd question.

  2. I agree with the abstract contention that it’s not wrong in and of itself to eat meat. However, I would argue that we also need to consider the matter in its material and social reality. You say, “Given that we can obtain meat without inflicting barbarous torture, eating meat can be ethically fine.” I would ask, who is the ‘we’ here? It certainly is possible to raise a sheep or cow in a comfortable environment and then at some point slaughter it in a manner that is not “barbarous torture.” But can we, as a society, maintain meat as a staple of our everyday diet and ensure that this staple is produced in this ideal way? I do not think this is possible. Given the population numbers throughout the world, maintaining meat as a staple in a developed or developing society requires the industrialization of the production process. This may not necessarily lead to “barbarous torture,” but I also don’t think we can equate it with the idyllic image of individual slaughter. And this isn’t merely a matter of inflicting pain at the moment of death. It’s also one of quality-of-life throughout the production process. Just as I don’t wish to be the kind of person who would torture an animal, I don’t think I want a society in which sentient creatures, for the entire duration of their existence, are subjected to an industrialized rearing and slaughter (or dairy, for that matter) process to produce food that is not absolutely essential to our health. I think such industries cannot but have a negative effect on who we are as a society.

    1. I don’t think I disagree with you. I think most of us pay far too little for our meat; externalising the cost in the form of inhumane treatment of animals. But this isn’t a discussion about the ethics of eating meat, per se. It’s a discussion about the ethical production of meat.

      Briefly, I don’t think there’s anything inconsistent about me saying: ‘We ought not to eat meat which has not been produced ethically.’

  3. I think we need to be careful when discussing the treatment of animals and the treatment of humans, especially by way of analogy. There is a fundamental difference between those animals we keep as pets and those animals we keep in order to kill and eat. Family pets are protected considerably better by the law than animals of the agricultural industry. (There is much contemporary debate in the difference between pets and non-pet animals; even the the extent that pets (βίος: bíos: form-of-life) are not considered animals (ζωή: zoê: bare life). This must be understood before generalising them under the one group: animals. Of course, there is a vast difference between what is lawful and what is ethical.

    The law is vastly anthropocentric (read also bíocentric) in its considerations, meaning that the upholds and adheres to certain human traditions and practices. Ethics can and does go beyond these traditions and practices, constantly including and incorparating the value of non-human entities. Ethics is a far more progressive enterprise.

    It would be myopic to ignore that all nourishment of life must see the negation of life. However, the term life must be defined in its most barest of understandings. The Greeks had two definitions of the term “life,” namely, zoê and bíos; that is, bare life and form-of life. For Aristotle this meant the difference between the bare life of an organism and the political life of the Athenian male citizen (re: “the good life”). It is in this sense we can begin to understand what it means to suggest “all nourishment of life [zoê] must see the negation of life [zoê].” It ought not be understood as “all nourishment of life [bíos] must see the negation of life [zoê]” or even “all nourishment of life [bíos] must see the negation of life [bíos].” This brings us back to the ethical treatment of animals and the consumption of animal flesh.

    There can rarely be no discussion of the ethical treatment of animals and the production of meat and the ethics of consuming meat. You cannot consume meat without the production of it and all that production entails. Ethics need to be specifically definied between the normative and descriptive elements. This definition between the normative and descriptive elements would characterise the difference between an absolute definition whereby there would be no killing of animals and the definition that would allow the killing of animals under certain conditions. The definition of ethics in the context of meat production and consumption appears somewhat of a loose definition of “ethics.”

    The death of an animal for the purposes of the consumption of its flesh is done so on the basis that said flesh is deemed a commodity. Conversely, it is not a gift from the animal. The right to kill an animal for its flesh is a self serving right, a right given to ourselves for own hedonistic [aestheitc] purposes. In this sense, the consumption of animal products is expressed and a kind of hatred for animals, what could be defined as misozoony. This kind of hatred is synonymous with the clandestine misogyny expressed in phrases such as “I love women; I love to fuck them. We can see the parrallels when we suggest that ” I love animals; I love to eat them. Examples such as this begin to blur the so-called ethical production and consumption of animal products.

    I commented over at Tammi Jonas’ blog post and what she had written on the subject which brings up the point that both yourself and Tammi deal with. For all the talk about the ethical production and consumption of animal products, there remains the fundamental task of dealing the these moral and ethical issues. If these issues are not dealt with, and our ideas of moral and ethical treatment of animals and not constantly challenged, revised or refined, then the discussion is for naught. The problen is not (necessarily) with those individuals that consume animals products with no consciousness of how the animal was treated and slaughtered, making the conscious decision to purchase products that have been raised “free range” and slaughtered “humanely”, etc, the problem is with prevailing social norms and those of whom that wish to maintain traditional, ignorant, uncritical views. The same traditional views that still see the discrimination of women and non-white people, privileging the status quo.

    Apologies for the long reply, there is much more I could have written, though I simply wanted to make a few points in regard to your post and to establish further the need to engage in this important discussion as both you and Tammi have done.

      1. What is it about my point you don’t understand, perhaps I could clarify it for you? And my Greek isn’t wonky at all. Anthropos refers to either a male or a female human being — what we may refer to as Mankind. The conception of zoon politikon, however, is based on Aristotle’s notion of teleology, situating man, that is, the male Athenian citizen, within the polis as a political animal. The zoon politikon is, therefore, man’s natural state, which is to say the natural state of the male Athenian citizen. I think you have confused the two terms and taken them out of context.

        1. Your comment was waffly nonsense. There’s no way to engage with it because there’s no content to it.

          You said: ‘even the the extent that pets (βίος: bíos: form-of-life) are not considered animals (ζωή: zoê: bare life)’. But I noted that Aristotle used ‘zoe’ to refer to humans (‘anthropon zoon’). You responded by telling me that I had my terms confused and out of context. So anything which directly contradicts whatever your point might happen to be is just confusion on my part and taken out of context.

          You will have to forgive me if I don’t take you seriously, Mr Misozoony.

          1. I’d prefer it if you didn’t reduce the conversation to insults and be disrespectful, onlythesangfroid. My name is Nathan as you can see, and I prefer to be referred to as such. I don’t believe I have shown you any disrespect.

            What you have just quoted, if I can draw your attention back to what I said, is a comment in regard to contemporary debate, not anything I have argued as my own point for you to consider “waffly nonsense”.

            Your point about Aristotle doesn’t contradict anything I have said; your point about Aristotle is incorrect. In fact, your comment above still doesn’t make sense. What is anthropon zoon?

            I’m more than happy to continue debate and discussion, though if you wish to reduce discussion to insults and stifle debate with arrogance, then I’m happy to concede and relinquish my involvement.

            Nathan

              1. Perhaps I could reframe it as such: My contention is with your definition of ethics. Perhaps it is more with me being uncomfortable with the notion of killing animals as ethucal simply because of the way the animal is killed. Considering the killing of an animal as ethical appears to be greatly self serving, a way of rationalising ones actions. Also, what appears to be your conflation of animals killing animals as synonymous with humans killing animals. There is a vast difference between the two, especially in terms of the environments both humans and animals exist. It appears you illogically project human values on animals that exist in a world where such values are meaningless.

                  1. I’ve read your post numerous times, as well as your comments to the other respondents.

                    I don’t think I’m confused with you saying: “The above results in the position that it’s not death which should worry us, but pain. Given that we can obtain meat without inflicting barbarous torture, eating meat can be ethically fine” (my emphasis). Are not your remarks that “eating meat can be ethically fine” the use of instrumental reasoning, deeming the slaughter of animals fine if done so “humanely”? The use of such tropes alters our perception and understadning of right and wrong, moral and immoral, ethical and unethical.

                    Considering I’ve read you post and subsequent comments, it appears I must be simply confused. Though, am I confused because I don’t agree with your anthropocentric outlook and use of instruental reason? Your continued arrogance in the face of honest critique and challenge is contemptible. At this point I’m happy to concede my position and bow out of this stifling discussion.

  4. In response to your first paragrah I have this to say, all non-human animals have varying degrees of sentience, that is seek pleasure and flee harm, so the ‘law’ hasn’t caught up with the ‘ethics’ of where animals fall within a protected species. For instance relative to sentience pigs have been shown to be as smart as dogs and possibly as smart as a 3 year old human. Why do I mention this? it’s because the pig has the ability to recognise it’s impending death at a slaughter house and displays fear and sadness when her death is imminent.

    3rd paragraph you said “It ought not be understood as “all nourishment of life [bíos] must see the negation of life [zoê]” and I agree.

    4th paragraph: The definition of the production and consumption of food animals isn’t loose at all. You and I have discussed this previously, animals are soveriegn beings with their own inherent rights that humans (necrovores) choose to consume because they can not because it’s ethical.

    On your final paragrahs I have this to say, generally speaking mankind will always have a large element that seeks to use/abuse others for it’s own profit/purposes, ‘it’ can do so more easily with non-humans than ‘it’ can do with humans. Non-human animal are without a voice and it’s left up to us ‘vegans’ and ‘animal rights’ advocates and activists to speak up for and attempt to defend those rights. On a personal note it’s something I feel compelled to do and will always do so.

    Thank you for your comments and no apologies are necessary.

      1. Same as yours, based on the fact that you have a life force within you that you claim to own and have inherent rights for, also based on the fact that you are sentient, Since when did non-humans also not have the same inherent rights considering they also have a lifeforce within them, that they attempt to continue having within them, by fleeing harm and seeking pleasure (sentience) So based on that.

        1. But I don’t claim ownership of anything like that. What is this “life force”? Can I find it empirically? Is it deducible by reason?

          Why would sentience entail inherent rights?

          1. You may not but the rest of mankind does & if you observe non-human animals it is apparent they do too, try abusing one and see if she fights back, that’s deducible & empirical all rolled into one test, then repeat the test as often as you like until you’re satisfied, would a thousand times suffice? maybe 10,000 times, whatever it takes.

            Also the life force I’m being asked to attest to goes like this, if the animal is alive, a life force exists, is that any good?

            Finally, sentience is my standard for entailing inherent rights, I’m not asking that you agree, but unless you are nihilistic what is your benchmark for inherent rights?

            1. I haven’t met anyone before you who asserts inherent rights by virtue of ownership of a life force, so I don’t think you can say that the rest of mankind believes that.

              Did you actually just tell me to abuse 10,000 animals? Really? And how would that be an empirical demonstration of this magic ‘life force’? As to calling it a deduction, I suggest you brush up on your terms. It would be an induction and a faulty one at that.

              Arguing that the life force exists just in case the animal is alive doesn’t help at all, since you’re begging the question. You can’t stipulate x as a premise in an argument intended to demonstrate x.

              I’m not a nihilist, but it doesn’t follow that I must have a benchmark for inherent rights. I’m a Kantian about ethics; persons have duties to other persons, grounded not in sentience but in reason. Animals aren’t agents in the relevant sense and thus are not properly objects of moral duties, except indirect ones.

              1. In response to your 1st paragraph; You’re confused by… ‘the rest of mankind believes that’… because the rest of mankind doesn’t discuss inherent rights because they are too busy being apathetic to want to discuss ‘it’

                2nd paragraph; The purpose of empirical and deducction is to physically produce observable effects and to draw conclusions, What I asked you to try works for both empirical and deduction.

                3rd paragraph; Are you saying that you are not alive? or that a non-human animal is not alive?

                4th paragraph; Immanuel Kant wrote about ‘The categorical Imperative’ and to some extent I am in agreement with his assesment but we part ways where non-human animals are concerned, that’s where I pick up on ‘species egalitarianism’ it’s where my benchmark is, or where I draw a line in the sand based on sentience. I believe if sentience can be empirically shown, then a basic set of inherent rights are forthcoming.

                4th paragraph part 2; ‘agents of moral duties’, I don’t ask that non-human animals exercise moral duties, they are incapable of doing so, (is that your benchmark?) mine is sentience. Or, are you saying that it’s not morally obliglatory upon us as (humans) ‘Kantian like’, to extend rights to protect non-human animals from harm by humans. If that is your point then tell me why non-human animals that clearly display an interest in staying alive should not be allowed to do so by moral agents (yourself)

                Do you ‘need’ to eat them? Do you ‘need’ them for clothing? both those criteria are based in selfishness, if you were trying to demonstrate that we (humans) ‘needed’ them to test for life saving surgeries for human welfare then the benchmark is higher and would have to be rigorously defended unlike the situation with being selfish enough to want to eat them for pleasure.

                1. We seem to be stuck between two problems. Nobody can work out why you’re linking sentience to rights. When you’re asked to explain, you don’t. Why /sentience/? Kant links rationality to rights because he’s concerned about how we interfere with will. Non-rational agents do not have will, therefore we cannot interrupt that will. Put another way, we can use animals as means to ends because an animal is unable to will for itself its own end.

                  If you drop it down to sentience, why not drop it all the way back to life itself? Should we stop eating vegetables?

                  What’s curious about your position is how you cherry-pick for convenience. When it comes to treating animals as property for food, you cry foul. When it comes to treating animals as property for pets, when it comes to not even protecting animals from the harms of each other, when it comes to any other right, you dismiss the objection as trivially silly.

                  Are you against abortion? Or will you cherry-pick again to say that the rights of the sentient foetus are outweighed by the mother?

                  1. First of all citing Kant as your benchmark or ‘go to’ guy for your ethical paramaters, is not mine and likely not that of the vast majority of mankind. Secondly those ‘agents’ show ‘will’ by seeking pleasure and avoiding pain,Yes?, No? Maybe?
                    Also when you say ” Nobody can work out why you’re linking sentience to rights” the fact is that all animal rights activists are linking exactly that, so what do you mean when you say ‘nobody’?

                    I am selfish enough to want to live, demonstrate for me how I can live healthfully without eating vegetables, or are you saying that they also are sentient?.

                    There’s nothing wrong with ‘cherry picking’ it’s better than painting everything with the same brush, No?

                    I’m against abortion being used as a means of birth control. I’d be happy to talk about abortion but I think that subject needs it’s own thread.

                2. “In response to your 1st paragraph; You’re confused by… ‘the rest of mankind believes that’… because the rest of mankind doesn’t discuss inherent rights because they are too busy being apathetic to want to discuss ‘it’ ”

                  So…you’re attributing something to ‘the rest of mankind’ based on your belief that if they were less apathetic they would agree with you? Have you read any ethical writing at all? There are plenty of ethically involved ethicists out there and I can’t think of one who endorses your idea.

                  “2nd paragraph; The purpose of empirical and deducction is to physically produce observable effects and to draw conclusions, What I asked you to try works for both empirical and deduction.”

                  Incorrect. That is the *process* of empiricism. The *purpose* is gaining knowledge about the world. I also said ‘deducible from reason’, which means something rather specific. Knowledge gained from empirical investigation is inductive. This is important for, e.g., it’s truth being necessary or merely contingent. You also haven’t given me any reason to think that I would discover this ‘life force’ other than your insistence that it exists. Neither science nor philosophy gives me any reason to believe your contention, so unless you plan to introduce reasons for this belief, I see no reason to treat it seriously.

                  “3rd paragraph; Are you saying that you are not alive? or that a non-human animal is not alive?”

                  No, I’m saying that nothing about your argument actually provides reasons to believe in this ‘life force’. Why does something need magic to be alive?

                  “4th paragraph; Immanuel Kant wrote about ‘The categorical Imperative’ and to some extent I am in agreement with his assesment but we part ways where non-human animals are concerned, that’s where I pick up on ‘species egalitarianism’ it’s where my benchmark is, or where I draw a line in the sand based on sentience. I believe if sentience can be empirically shown, then a basic set of inherent rights are forthcoming.”

                  There doesn’t seem to be any Kantian reason to reason in that way. Mere sentience does not make for a moral agent.

                  “4th paragraph part 2; ‘agents of moral duties’, I don’t ask that non-human animals exercise moral duties, they are incapable of doing so, (is that your benchmark?) mine is sentience. Or, are you saying that it’s not morally obliglatory upon us as (humans) ‘Kantian like’, to extend rights to protect non-human animals from harm by humans. If that is your point then tell me why non-human animals that clearly display an interest in staying alive should not be allowed to do so by moral agents (yourself)”

                  I’m saying precisely that it’s not morally obligatory to extend right to non-human animals, yes. Animals lack the capacity for reason; therefore they are not agents and they are not objects of moral concern. Mark has explained this in his comment. It’s far from clear that “non-human animals … display an interest in staying alive” in any common-sense understanding of the phrase.

                  “Do you ‘need’ to eat them? Do you ‘need’ them for clothing? both those criteria are based in selfishness, if you were trying to demonstrate that we (humans) ‘needed’ them to test for life saving surgeries for human welfare then the benchmark is higher and would have to be rigorously defended unlike the situation with being selfish enough to want to eat them for pleasure.”

                  I don’t need to need them. They aren’t objects of moral concern. I think causing pain to animals sadistically is wrong – not because of the animal, but because it demeans the dignity of the person doing so (and so, in a sense, of all humanity).

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