At Free from Harm, we work hard to dismantle popular arguments in favor of eating animals: we share scientific reports from leading government health organizations confirming that humans have no biological need to consume animal products. We profile vegan athletes and bodybuilders. Our contributing vegan doctor thoroughly debunks the protein myth, and we expose the gross inaccuracy of the “canine teeth” argument (herbivores have some of the largest and most ferocious canine teeth on the planet!). Father Frank Mann shares why he believes a vegan diet is the only consistent expression of core religious values, and author Robert Wayner provides a compelling analysis of the Christian basis for veganism.
We also get up close and personal with the truth about so-called humane farming, exploring the hidden practices and routine cruelties that are inherent to all animal farming. We show you why there’s no such thing as humane dairy, explore the hidden harms of “happy eggs,” and why even “local, organic, small-scale” animal agriculture is a leading driver of global warming and environmental destruction.
We’re grateful to be able to provide useful information from all of these perspectives. But at the end of the day, it’s hard sometimes not to wonder why, when it comes to the question of eating animals, people need anything more than the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you —
In the U.S. alone, we kill more than 9 billion land animals every year for flesh and secretions we have no need to consume. Globally, nearly 70 billion land animals are slaughtered every year. It is impossible to fathom such numbers. But one by one by one by one, in a never-ending, sorrowful stream, every second of every day animals are peering through the slats of transport trucks, feeling the last sunlight of their lives (which is very possibly also the first); one by one, every second of every day, entering the kill chute of the slaughterhouse and walking those final steps, defenseless and innocent; one by one looking up at the last human face they will ever see— and no kindness, no mercy comes.
When we have access to nutritious plant-based foods, and understand that eating animals is not necessary to good health, then the choice to eat animals anyway is a choice to intentionally hurt others we have no need to harm. No matter how much we may talk about kindness, no matter how much we may practice it elsewhere, as long as we demand that living, feeling individuals be harmed and killed for our pleasure — as long as we choose violence over compassion — then we do not live a good or just life. Far greater than the sum of our good acts is the trail of blood, suffering and death we willfully and needlessly leave behind us.
Need more reasons to go vegan? Learn more about the impacts of animal farming— including so-called humane farming— on animals, wildlife, the environment, global hunger, and human health at our Why Vegan? page.
Truth and consistency go hand-in-hand. That was brilliant, Free From Harm Staff Writers.
The overpopulation of these animals is caused purely by humans. It is also easily reversible.
I haven’t heard such a morally vacuous and utterly delusional post as this for some time. You work in an industry that benefits and exploits this situation and that is all. Your reasoning is hard to fathom and one can only assume that your desperation in justifying what you do is how you come to such bizarre conclusions. To compare your food with Macdonalds etc is irrelevant in the extreme, the cow that dies for your or their food suffers the same fate with the same results – who cares if your food tastes better or you think about it’s preparation more? And who cares for your oh so worthy ‘gratitude’ for their generous offering up of themselves? ‘The sacrifice they make for us’??? Please, what tosh is this? THEY do not make a sacrifice, WE kill them. To sacrifice yourself is to do something willingly, nobody could possibly think of them giving their lives for us surely? As for your position in gallantly accepting your fate if the tables were turned, just don’t. Don’t even pretend to explain it that way. Finally, such is NOT nature, such is choice.
As hard as you vegans are trying to get people to become vegan, you have to try to create some middle ground with your activism. No way are you going to get people to give up meat, not for at least 20-25 generations. Start with a concept like, say, in order to eat meat, one must hunt and butcher it themselves. Trust me. My way would make way more “vegans” than you showing a video of some anonymous cow being led to his death. That video is awful, but it wont stop me from eating cow. Now, if I had to hunt it and kill it myself, I’d probably become a Vegan, only because I know how much time and effort it takes to stalk, hunt, kill, butcher and refrigerate a large carcass. That, would definitely drive me to veganism!
Free From Harm Staff Writers says
Check this out from Gary Francione’s site:
“Scientists at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute have found that when just 10 percent of the population holds an unshakable belief, their belief will always be adopted by the majority of the society. The scientists, who are members of the Social Cognitive Networks Academic Research Center (SCNARC) at Rensselaer, used computational and analytical methods to discover the tipping point where a minority belief becomes the majority opinion. The finding has implications for the study and influence of societal interactions ranging from the spread of innovations to the movement of political ideals.
‘When the number of committed opinion holders is below 10 percent, there is no visible progress in the spread of ideas. It would literally take the amount of time comparable to the age of the universe for this size group to reach the majority,” said SCNARC Director Boleslaw Szymanski, the Claire and Roland Schmitt Distinguished Professor at Rensselaer. “Once that number grows above 10 percent, the idea spreads like flame.’
So here’s my question:
Why is every animal advocate and every large animal organization not working to get to that 10% rather than promoting welfare reform, “compassionate” consumption, and “happy” exploitation?
Yes, I know “we won’t have a vegan world overnight” (the favorite way of welfarists to mischaracterize the abolitionist position) but we don’t have to get the whole world to go vegan “overnight.” We just need to build a solid vegan movement of 10%. But let’s be conservative and say that we need to reach 20%. We could do that.
But we’ll never get there as long as we are telling people that they can do right by animals by consuming “happy” animal products.
We will, of course, appeal to donors who want to continue eating animals and are happy to pay for a stamp of approval from animal advocates so that they can consume animal products with a clear conscience.”
Free From Harm Staff Writers says
There are many “utilitarian” based animal advocacy organizations, most of all of the big ones in fact, which promote “happy” meat. We don’t. We believe it is just humanewashing which deliberately manipulates people into buying their happy products and happy branding fantasies.
The following is a letter written by John Sanbonmatsu, associate professor of Philosophy at Worcester Polytechnic Institute, to Aaron Gross of Farm Forward which promotes “humane” animal products. I think this letter makes the best case for why this position is not going to bring about any paradigm shift in our relationship with animals and in fact has many parallels with fascism, as Sanbonmatsu points out here:
Thank you for writing me personally, and for doing so in such civil and gracious terms. These debates are emotionally fraught, because politically and morally so, and wherever possible one should reach for the high moral ground by empathizing with those one disagrees with and trying to meet them half way.
I am Jewish too, as it happens (on my mother’s side). And I too take seriously the Holocaust analogy. What other analogous human institution or set of moral crimes can we turn to, but to the Shoah, when looking at our treatment of the other species? It is precisely because I take the analogy seriously, however, that I cannot understand what you and Jonathan Foer and others think you are doing over at Farm Forward, HSUS, and other “reformist” groups.
Allow me, briefly, to “translate” some of the language on your website, imagining however that it is addressing the plight of European Jewry in the early 1940s, rather than the butchery of nonhuman animals today:
– “Himmler is a long-time friend and mentee of Franz Stangl. His objective is to turn the Coalition into a fully-integrated and self-sustaining production network capable of supplying the region with Jews to be gassed.”
– “The Integrity of Humane Practices” shall include shooting Jews in the head, gassing them, and slitting their throats. Our position is that while murdering billions of Jews, for eternity, is not “ideal,” it can nonetheless be made a “humane and sustainable” (and, what is more, highly profitable) enterprise.
– Buying and using products made from the bodies of gassed Jews–lampshades and so on–shall henceforth be known as participating in “Conscientious Consumption.”
– We at Camps Forward support “the transition back to sensible and sustainable practices”–such as pogroms in the Pale and the ecologically friendly, scientifically sustainable methods of the Einsatzgruppen. As is well known, Jews for thousands of years were killed in small batches, in a romantic and aesthetically pleasing way, rather than en masse in ugly industrial facilities. We therefore applaud a return to this aspect of our collective Heritage.
– The Camps Forward project makes it possible for “disparate interests opposed to the abuse of Jews in concentration camps [to] unite in coordinated and effective ways”–i.e. such disparate groups as the S.S., the Einsatzgruppen, as well as advocates of Jews in North America. We have created an ongoing dialogue and meeting ground between the peaceful killers of Jews, and Jewish advocates. Follow us on Twitter #Wannsee.com.
What kind of self-deception must be involved, I wonder, for your organization to go around writing and promoting such Newspeak? For Newspeak it is. Here is another example:
“Good Shepherd Poultry Ranch is a unique network of Heritage poultry farmers that includes the nation’s preeminent expert on Heritage poultry, Farm Forward Board Member Frank Reese. In 2009, with the pro bono assistance of Farm Forward Consulting, Good Shepherd was able to expand its production beyond turkeys to include chickens. Good Shepherd is currently the market leader in the sale of chicken and turkey products that come from birds who are raised entirely outside of the factory farm industry using humane and sustainable methods.”
Talk about Orwellian — a direct advertisement for the market in dismembered animal bodies, on a site by animal advocates. “A unique network of Heritage” farmers is a fine touch — an appeal to conservative instincts, and to the hoary myths of virtuous agrarian life. A real “market leader”: banal corporate-speak in the context of mass killing. And so on. The text cannily interpellates the reader into celebrating the putative moral or public good of “expanding production” of murdered creatures. It is this home team we are implicitly urged to root for.
The difference between true Newspeak and mere propaganda, of course, is the way the former unites contradictory or even antithetical concepts so as to evacuate them of substantive meaning, in order thereby to obscure (and secure) the violence at the heart of the enterprise. Hence the special genius of “the Good Shepherd” trope, which brings violence and government together under one roof, and which anchors the whole rhetorically in a Christian metaphysics. But as Thracymachus rightly pointed out in the Republic during his joust with Socrates, the “good shepherd” does not in reality have his flock’s interests at heart, since his job is to ready them for the executioner. To be sure, if given the “choice” between, on the one hand, being shot in the back of the head while overlooking the pleasant Latvian countryside, and a deep trench filled with bodies, and, on the other, being worked to death at Treblinka, then yes, by all means, I’ll take the former. But the moment one claims that the former “option” is “humane,” then I fear you are laboring in Orwell’s totalitarian vineyards, and indeed are repeating, but in a different key, the same arguments made by the Binding and Hoche and other leading ideologues of Hitler’s euthanasia program.
In your note to me, you write, “Emphasizing the crucial ‘more’ in ‘more humane’ is something we could do better. Point taken.” But no, I’m sorry, that is not my point, so you cannot have taken it. Murdering animals (yes, murdering them: I am tired of using euphemisms) is not humane. Period, full-stop. There is no “more humane” way of cutting throats, gassing hundreds of avians in CO2 tanks. There are only relatively “less brutal” ways. Techniques of extermination can be made more or less aesthetic, more or less horrifying. But changing such techniques, swapping out the mechanisms of doom, does nothing to make the violence any less extreme or unconscionable. You can murder me less brutally, but you cannot murder me “more humanely.”
Recall if you will the images from the beheading of Daniel Pearl by terrorists in the Middle East. Then look at some of the images I have attached here to remind you of where all the “happy talk” on your site about benignant farming really leads to in the end. If the leadership and board members of Farm Forward were intellectually and morally honest, you and they would include such images prominently on your website. But of course you will and cannot, since you are trying to make the bodies of dead animals seem palatable, not horrific. Please at least acknowledge that, in your special way, you are therefore lying to the public and betraying the interests of the millions of individual beings who are being killed on organic farms, precisely by not showing the public what actually ends up happening to them.
Can you not see why, reading the Farm Forward website, I cannot help being reminded me of the model camps the Nazis set up for the International Red Cross? The “humane” camps which showed the Jews and Roma well fed and clothed, but which left out the part about all the killing?
The reason this is all so very bad is that the global crisis of capitalist agriculture has for the first time in human history created an opportunity for us to challenge human species right and Herrschaft species politics — and you and others in the locavore/sustainability/welfare movements (sorry, but if I paint with a broad brush, it is because they ply the same basic message) are snatching defeat from the jaws of victory (or, at least, from the historical possibility of a true awakening to the nature and scale of the problem) by re-legitimating animals as commodities, as having lives that do not deserve to be respected or protected. That is what brings your “disparate” group of killers and advocates together: a fundamental conviction, implicit in everything Farm Forward does, that while the suffering of farmed animals ought to be relieved, the actual lives of animals simply do not matter. They are weightless and insubstantial as air. And that is the root of the problem, ideologically. If we don’t challenge that, then we have challenged nothing.
Farm Forward lobbies for purely superficial and symbolic improvements to animal “welfare,” without however attacking either the ideological root of the problem, which is speciesism, or the fundamental injustice that we do to other animals, which is to exterminate them in the billions. Far from promoting veganism, your organization promotes animal agriculture. Call it “humane” or “sustainable” or whatever you like, that is what you are doing — promoting one more kind of animal agriculture. Well, just as you can’t make a nation of alcoholics give up the drink by advertising 70-year old Scotch or offering them even finer liqueurs, you aren’t going to get people to change their prejudice that the lives of other animals are worthless by offering them “Heritage” flesh. The entire discourse is rotten and shot through with bad faith, because it tacitly affirms the behavior it supposedly disapproves of. In reality, asking people to reduce their meat consumption is like asking men to “reduce” their sexual violence against women, or President Assad to “reduce” his massacres of civilians, or racist whites in the South to “reduce” their lynchings of blacks (while adding, occasionally and timidly, that it would perhaps be “ideal” if they should cease such practices altogether). In other words, it is to give one’s imprimatur morally to the underlying practice, which is domination and extreme violence.
It has been my own personal observation that consumers of organic “beef” and other products do not stop eating factory-farmed steak when eating out with their friends, nor do they reduce their consumption of animal products, after reading Omnivore’s Dilemma. But then, nor do such folk subsequently go on to question vivisection, or their right to bring their kids to see Ringling Brothers or the zoo, and so on. They don’t in fact come away caring about animals at all. And why should they? Because so long as Farm Forward and others tell them that nonhuman lives are worthless — or rather, worth only as much as the market will bear for their flesh — then middle and upper class consumers can indeed eat with a clear “conscience,” while working people and the poor and other middle class people keep on buying affordable, factory-farmed products. It’s a win-win: everyone gets to continue doing what they’re doing, without challenging the overall system one iota. Factory farming is as you know expanding, in fact, not contracting: the Smithfield deal is only the beginning of things. Locavorism will remain at best a niche market (as James McWilliams has pointed out, were all the cows pasture-fed, we would anyway need several more earths to devastate). I fear then that your “peanut-pushing” approach, as you call it, won’t lead to the closure of a single actual animal enterprise, ever — and by design. Instead, Farm Forward is embarked on an approach which advocates continuing such practices for an eternity.
I cannot, therefore, make any sense of your otherwise heartening assurance to me that you too embrace the “project of trying to re-imagine subjectivity as such with a liberatory intent for animals.” Where is Hannah Arendt [author of the study, Eichmann in Jerusalem] when we need her? At least the Judenräte never had the chutzpah to advertise products made from Jews, or to speak enthusiastically of their liquidation as “humane and sustainable.” (Sustainable murder–now there is a concept.)
As for the terribly disappointing Jonathan Foer [one of the prominent supporters of Farm Forward], I appreciated much of his book, Eating Animals, and in fact assigned it to my students last year. For me, though, the most revealing thing in the whole book was this passage: “Whether we’re talking about fish species, pigs, or some other eaten animal, is such suffering the most important thing in the world? Obviously not.” How’s that for playing to the mob? Now, one may quibble about whether the wholly unnecessary suffering and violent deaths of perhaps 100 billion land and sea animals each year is more important than, say, climate change, or poverty in the Third World, or anything else. But it is Foer’s “Obviously not” that gives the game away. Obviously the lives of all those animals could not possibly be that important. Re-reading that enabled me to understand Foer’s reasons for participating in that awful New York Times Magazine contest, “Defending Your Dinner,” in which the Times invited readers to defend meat consumption.
In your note, you amiably advise me to expend my scarce energies elsewhere, rather than to attack fellow animal advocates. But the Times contest demonstrates perfectly what I am talking about, and why all this matters: viz. the strategic animal welfare intelligentsia, who are telling the consuming middle classes the very fantasy they most want to hear, which is that killing and eating animals on a gargantuan scale is morally unproblematic so long as we ameliorate the worst excesses of factory farming. Thus, on the contrary: revealing the fraud being perpetrated on the animal rights movement by groups like Farm Forward still seems to me the best possible use which I and others could be making of our time at this crucial historical conjuncture, given the way knowledge and legitimation practices circulate in our society.
In fine, or so it seems to me, Farm Forward fails on both deontological and utilitarian grounds. It fails on deontological grounds because it treats the lives of billions of our fellow beings as disposable commodities, and therefore reinforces speciesism at the most fundamental level. But it also fails on utilitarian grounds. First, because the new welfarism will not displace or lead to the abolition of factory farming, but will only lead to cosmetic changes in the industry (this much is clear) without producing any qualitative mitigation in either the suffering or final agonies of those being killed — all the while putting a moral “Good-Housekeeping” stamp of approval on the new, lucrative niche markets in animal flesh (the very markets lining the pockets of elite Judas like Whole Foods CEO John Mackey, another Farm Forward board member). Second, because the whole project meanwhile serves the aforementioned ideological function of stabilizing speciesism by re-branding and re-naturalizing “meat” as a virtuous commodity.
Farm Forward, whatever else it is or think it is doing, is therefore not promoting animal liberation. In my view, it is not even a pro-animal organization, but an anti-animal one. Call that “absolutist” or “purist” if you like. But I don’t see it that way. I believe it was Benjamin Franklin who said that in matters of ethics, we should stand firm as rock, but in matters of taste, swim with the fishes. Farm Forward and other groups seem to me to treat ethics as a kind of aesthetics, rather than as a fragile realm of empathetic and principled commitments that must be fiercely defended–defended at all costs and regardless of whether they happen to grate against the ugly prejudices of the majority.
What you mistake for “pragmatism,” I fear, is merely giving in.
John Sanbonmatsu, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Philosophy
Department of Humanities and Arts
Worcester Polytechnic Institute
– See more at: https://freefromharm.org/animal-products-and-ethics/language-humane-meat-holocaust/#sthash.4us0yyKs.dpuf
Andrew Paul says
>And what would the klansman say at the black meeting?
Well he might say something along the lines of “I’ve made studies of human skulls and these show the superiority of the white race. The white race is under threat from the black and so the whites must carry out lynchings in their own interests”
It might be a false argument but he would still be brave for delivering it in front of a black crowd. That’s my point.
I’m a meat-eater, but I wouldn’t have the patience or courage to justify my diet on a forum where I know I would be subject to harsh personal attacks.
That Mark is repeatedly willing to come back and engage with this conversation is surely a good thing and I posted to offer him support – I don’t believe there can be any ideology that negates dialogue.
Free From Harm Staff Writers says
Andrew, to follow your logic, then when a person has a pistol to your head, as in the case of the cow in the video, you go ahead and try to talk reason with him (at least you can speak his language). Is that a harsh personal attack too? For the animal victim, it is simply reality, the reality we choose to ignore. All in the name of defending our “taste” for the flesh of others. How brave. How valiant. How sweet of you to defend Mark.
Free From Harm Staff Writers says
And what would the klansman say at the black meeting? “Please respect our practice of lynching and burning at stakes your people.” How about the sexist at the feminist meeting? “Please respect us for fighting against laws to protect you from rape and against your right to vote.” And in the case of eating animals, what would you expect us to say to someone like you and Mark Ford? “We respect your views of paying someone to shoot an innocent animal point blank in the skull, as in this video, because you like the way his flesh tastes.” I fear that someone like you, Andrew, is far too indoctrinated into the mainstream carnistic worldview to see the absurdity of invoking the need for diplomacy and respect for those who defend ideologies like racism, sexism and speciesism that are, by their very definition, violent and oppressive, and therefore negate dialogue.
Ravi kumar says
Have you had no mercy ? Are you people are human beings or brutes in the form of human beings ?
Ashley Capps says
Mark, I also want to address your claim that your harm to animals is somehow more ethical because the food you prepare is “delicious” and “fine dining.” That’s preposterous. One of the things I find most repellent about foodies is their treatment of the rarified culinary experience as an inherent good in and of itself that transcends the ethical, as though the choices made in pursuit of “fine dining” and haute cuisine do not participate in a moral realm: the fetishizing of the sensual over the ethical. If foodies could take off their roast colored glasses for a moment, they would recognize that when you needlessly rob an animal of his life, it’s equally selfish, equally violent, and equally wrong whether you turn his mutilated body into bacon-wrapped éclairs au chocolat, or a BLT.
This attitude that fetishizes the products of completely unnecessary violence toward animals, and that celebrates the enslavement and killing of animals, has no place in a progressive moral framework; moral progress always leads us in the direction of causing less harm. Demanding that sentient individuals be brought into this world simply to be hacked apart like so much timber is not a morally neutral position. It is willed harm. The self-congratulating glorification of “local meat” and “humane slaughter” is nothing more than the celebration of indefensible brutality toward the most helpless and vulnerable among us.
Well said, Ashley. How difficult it must be to reply to someone so obtusely bragging about being an ethical miser — but you did so with moral clarity and concision.
Mark Ford says
Hi again Ashley,
“Mark, I also want to address your claim that your harm to animals is somehow more ethical because the food you prepare is “delicious” and “fine dining.”
I think I already did it, but sure, just to make myself pellucidly clear. I don’t make that claim. The deliciousness of meat does not have anything to do a moral justification for killing animals. It may be why we do it, but it’s not what makes it acceptable.
Ashley Capps says
Mark, you wrote in your first comment, “I also think it’s in very poor taste to turn such noble, gentle creatures into food that is tasteless and gross (i.e. Big Macs). Out of respect for the animal, I try and buy local beef and make it into an incredibly delicious dish.” The implication seemed and seems still to be that because you traffic in haute cuisine, you’ve somehow done better (acted more ethically) by the needlessly murdered animal than someone who turns him into a hamburger. If I’ve misinterpreted your comment and you were not claiming that your elaborate concoctions are more ethical because they are fancy and “incredibly delicious,” then why did you write that you do what you do “out of respect” for “such noble, gentle creatures”? The implication is that what you are doing is somehow more just on behalf of the animals. And that’s delusional.
Mark Ford says
Cooking good food is just a way I show respect for the sacrifice a creature has made. My thought process runs like, “Hey friends, this chicken’s life was ended so that we can enjoy this meal today. That’s a pretty serious thing. So let’s not waste it by overcooking it and turning it into some rubbery, bland hockey puck. And to you, chicken, thanks for your food, little lady.”
So it doesn’t have to do with being more ethical, so much as making the most out of the situation I guess. And, part of the point of my alien overlord thought experiment is that I know that I would want my body to become a delicious meal if it absolutely had to be used for that purpose. Animals probably can’t think on that level, but if somehow they could, perhaps there is a chance they would feel the same way as me.
actually, Mark has justified his actions by the only argument against veganism which is valid-that of “might makes right” or “i want to and i can”. of course, this is also the justification for everything from genocide to human slavery to the jewish holocaust. it is certain that people who abuse,rape, torture and brutally kill other humans are also convinced that they are ethical in doing so. to state that it is somehow ethical to harm and kill helpless, innocent beings because you gain pleasure from it shows an extremely self centered and narcissistic view of the world. as was brought up before in earlier discussions, the only thing which allows him the luxury of this is that he is the perpetrator of the violence instead of the victim. the Golden Rule, which is the basis of all morals and ethics, requires us to treat others as we wish to be treated. Mark is lying only to himself when he states that he would be fine with someone more powerful than he treating him how he treats those he cooks and eats.
“In their behavior toward creatures, all men are Nazis. Human beings see oppression vividly when they’re the victims. Otherwise they victimize blindly and without a thought.” ― Isaac Bashevis Singer
Mark Ford says
Dear Staff Writers,
You have outdone yourselves! Fantastic replies, and quite possibly beyond the scope of my abilities to rationally dispute them. But, maybe just a challenge to myself, I’m going to try. I’ll begin with the first reply, and may not get to the others until much later.
“You say you don’t want to see animals unnecessarily harmed and yet you don’t find it morally objectionable to harm someone for taste only, where 99% of our harm to animals is committed.”
I wonder where this figure came from. It seems to me that there is probably a great deal more than 1% of overall harm that occurs during the lives of animals in the factory farming system we have in place today. For some of these animals, life may actually be so bad that death comes as quite the relief.
“You say that the harm is minimal because the animal does not know that he is being killed until a few minutes before his death, but not knowing about your death would in no way make the murder of a human being less of a transgression. Our criminal justice system would not ease the punishmnent for the crime in such cases.”
I do think that ignorance of one’s death could minimize the suffering associated with it. Don’t you? Would you rather be living under the shadow of knowing you were going to slaughter, or living a normal life in the meantime? As to the criminal justice system’s treatment of murder, it would help to bear in mind the specific scenario I’ve been using here. The scenario is that advanced alien overlords descend to earth to take over the world and breed humans for use as food. The criminal justice system is useless in the face of such a threat. It would be like a gaggle of chickens attempting to hold counsel to determine what legal action to take against the humans. Not the most effective course of action.
“all the rationalizations we make for eating animals in an age when eating animals is not at all necessary for our survival or health,”
I agree, not necessary.
“it is usually followed by a statement sympathetic to their vegan and vegetarian friends”
The implication here seems to be that this is akin to racists talking about their black friends. I can assure you that, whatever the appearances might be, I do in fact have a vegan wife, who has dozens of vegan friends that I am also friends with, so I’m a bit of a special case. I seriously doubt that most carnivores have more than a couple of vegan friends.
“Eating is a communal, multi-cultural activity until the vegan sits down at the table”
This statement of fact is meant to support your position that eating animals products is not a personal moral decision. I can’t see how it possibly could. If eating animal products is not a personal moral decision, then the morality of food choices is ethically normative. But whether or not an activity is done alone, in private, or in the presence of fellow humans has no bearing on its moral status as a normative or a personal moral decision. Let’s look at an example. In ancient Rome, many Romans would gather at the Coliseum to watch gladiators kill prisoners. Most people would agree that it was wrong for the Romans to watch and get pleasure out of seeing a fellow human being slaughtered for sport. But we don’t invoke normative ethics in this case because people went there en masse. It would be equally as wrong for a rich Roman to hold a private gladiator session at which he was the sole spectator. This reasoning applies across the board to all questions of morality. The communality of a tradition has no bearing on whether or not the tradition is morally acceptable.
“They don’t want you to question their highly-coveted moral beliefs or perhaps they object to exposing their unexamined moral quandary over how one can justify using and killing animals for food in an age when it is completely unnecessary.”
As you can see, I welcome being questioned, and I also enjoy examining my own morals! I don’t fit your stereotype.
“There is no free choice without awareness”
Much of what followed did not directly relate to bullet point #2. You elaborated on the supposed failure of meat-eaters to question their beliefs, which is kind of related I guess. Like I said, I welcome critical examination of my beliefs. However, I don’t really have beliefs in the traditional sense. I’ve questioned my own “beliefs” so many times that I don’t really believe in beliefs anymore. Instead, I view my system of thought as reason based on probability of truth. I believe truth is real, and objective, but inherently unknowable in an absolute sense. Therefore what I claim as my belief is my best guess, and some claims I feel are more likely to be true than others. So any beliefs I have relating to the ethics of food choices are best guesses.
“the non vegan’s unexamined assumption that animals have no interest or understanding of the value of their individual lives.”
I don’t make that assumption. Certainly animals are not capable of the same level of abstract reason that humans are, and cannot form moral theories about the ethics of eating. But in an evolutionary capacity, animals definitely value their lives to the extent that they seek to preserve them and avoid death and pain.
“In the western world, we feel it wrong to torture and eat cats and dogs, but perfectly acceptable to do the same to animals equally as sentient and capable of suffering. No being who prides himself on rationality can continue to support such behaviour.”
I find this question interesting. Why do we not wish to eat cats and dogs in the Western world? The answer is that it reflects our cultural bias. We maintain special relationships with cats and dogs, and we find them especially cute. Cuteness is actually an important influence over human behavior. It helps us to feel motivated to protect our babies. Other cultures, such as the Cantonese, do not share our cultural bias to as great of an extent. They’ll just freaking eat a dog no questions asked. Personally, I love dogs so much I probably couldn’t eat them, but while I love and have owned cats, I might try cat if it wasn’t illegal to do so.
“Yet, for the non vegan, the choice of eating animals is completely disconnected from this concept of justice since justice does not, in their eyes, apply to other species, only to humans (how convenient). In other words, there are no visible, negative consequences to eating animal products.”
I believe it is possible to treat an animal unjustly. Factory farm workers have been filmed abusing animals. Cutting the beaks off chickens is cruel. I don’t support techniques like that. I don’t serve Tyson chicken to my clients, because I don’t support the techniques used to farm those chickens, and it doesn’t taste good anyway.
“In reality, the choice to eat animal products negates the very meaning of choice because the animal that had to be killed to procure the product had no choice in the matter at all. And the notion of characterizing such a choice as a personal one is even more problematic since the choice required the taking of another’s life, not a personal sacrifice. Nothing could be more public than the taking of a sentient life who cares about his own life, particularly when that act is neither necessary nor therefore morally defensible.”
Here we come to the “meat” of your argument. (Or should that be meat-free alternative?) I agree that the animal has no choice in the matter. Neither do animals have a choice whether or not to be eaten when they are consumed by their natural predators in their environment. But humans are in a unique position because we are able to rationalize and moralize about our decisions, whereas animals act according to their instincts. I believe that this ability to rationalize creates a kind of veneer between our mental states and nature as it naturally operates. We no longer operate according to instinct, we insert mental processes in between ourselves and our actions. No two individuals can be expected to have the exact same mental processes, which is where moral subjectivity finds support as a natural theory. It should be assumed that a moral stance that is consistent and well-considered is acceptable unless very good reasons can be given to show that it is not. Unfortunately, you have failed to do so. One of the few arguments you advanced against the acceptability of eating animals, that it is a normative moral choice made so by the communality of eating, was demonstrated to be incorrect. Any ad hominem-flavored attempts to describe ethical meat-eating as “delusional” are only going to weaken your cause when you have failed to provide a rational basis for normative veganism. But as I have previously insisted, you are well within rights and reason to choose veganism for yourself. Just don’t expect a few incoherent arguments to win over rational, ethical meat-eaters.
Free From Harm Staff Writers says
Mark, I don’t think the onus is on me or any other vegan, as you suggest, to prove that veganism is a good or just choice for respecting the animal’s sovereignty. The burden of proof, in my mind, is on those who choose to do harm to others who are clearly at our mercy, when they could choose otherwise. With all of the moral acrobatics you have displayed here thus far, you still can’t seem to explain to me why species is a valid reason to exploit or discriminate against someone, simply because he or she is a member of another species, when in fact, we categorically oppose the same based on race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation. You defend the right of the slaughterhouse worker to kill the animal in the video. And then you claim you care about the welfare of animals. You are clearly a very confused person who has much soul searching to do. I don’t think that’s an ad hominem, just an observation. Your ideas are not unique, I’m afraid. You’ve used just about every major carnistic defense in the book, ones we hear repeatedly from your side of the aisle. I wish I could say that you’re ideas are truly unique. It would give me great hope that such a chilling apathy is not “normative,” to use your expression.
Lastly I think your distinction between animal instinct versus human reasoning reveals your lack of understanding about animal minds and behavior. The study of animal behavior and personal observation tell us a very different story and evolutionary biology, from the time of Darwin on, shows us how much we share, rather than differ from other species. As I sit here and write this, one of my hens who is having health problems is being doted upon by another who cares for her well-being very deeply and demonstrates this regularly and unmistakably. If this is not the domain of moral behavior, I don’t know what is. Do we ignore this or deny it and claim that only humans possess moral behavior? Perhaps it is the human betrayal of morality, that ability to deny others their identity and render them as “inferiors,” which then erroneously permits us to do whatever we want to them, that is the human attribute more contemptable than whatever we claim is lacking in nonhuman animals.
Mark, your apathy, selfishness and taste for violence in order to experience a momentary taste sensation is truly disturbing. it shows a callous disregard for the pain, suffering and murder of helpless others boarding on sociopathy. with such insensitivity and disconnectedness being common, is it any wonder there are so many human created atrocities in our society. to condemn one form of violence and to happily support another is ironic, hypocritical and the epitome the brutal “might makes right” philosophy behind every act of cruelty and domination.
“Auschwitz begins whenever someone looks at a slaughterhouse and thinks ‘they’re only animals'”-Theodor Adorno
“It makes me sad to be in a world where innocent animals are literally turned into products and ingredients that people can, without even the slightest thought of the suffering and cruelty that went into the making of that “product”, simply toss into their shopping carts at grocery stores. Worse yet are those who see the suffering and cruelty and are made aware and do nothing about it, say nothing about it, or even go as far as to DEFEND IT!” – Sarah Kiser
“Asking vegans to respect your decision to eat meat is on par with asking feminists to respect sexists, asking people of color to respect racists and asking homosexuals to respect homophobes. It is ludicrous to think that difference in opinion warrants mutual respect, especially when the opposing opinion in question not only stands for everything you are against but also appropriates suffering, defends oppression and encourages the continuance of exploitation.” — Felix Sampson
Mark Ford says
Nice to talk with you.
This paragraph really saddened me:
“Mark, your apathy, selfishness and taste for violence in order to experience a momentary taste sensation is truly disturbing. it shows a callous disregard for the pain, suffering and murder of helpless others boarding on sociopathy. with such insensitivity and disconnectedness being common, is it any wonder there are so many human created atrocities in our society. to condemn one form of violence and to happily support another is ironic, hypocritical and the epitome the brutal “might makes right” philosophy behind every act of cruelty and domination.”
That someone could have such an extreme distaste for the art form I have cultivated through countless hours of effort, and have literally shed blood for (knives, ouch!) saddens me greatly indeed. I’m not saying you have to accept this art in any way. Art is for the pleasure and edification of our fellow humans, and not everyone may choose to participate in the experience. But for someone to call my art form sociopathy, well, I just feel kind of sorry for where humans are going.
Now, if scientists were able to perfect cloning meat and make it every bit as desirable as real meat, I’d be all for it! It would be maximal harm reduction, and I think we’d all find it far preferable, and the planet could lighten its load a bit too. That would surely be something!
it seems that you are choosing to not separate your art form with the victims whose bodies you season, cook and serve as they are mutually exclusive. you speak of choice yet the non-human animals have zero choice in regards to their pain and death and therefore the violence which was forced upon them is not being recognized as the evil which it is. as Gandhi said, “The most violent weapon on Earth is the table fork”. there are countless, cruelty free, healthier options of which, by your previous posts, you are obviously aware of yet you defend your decision not to exclusively utilize them.
if you examine your actions with an open mind using logic and critical thinking, there are only two possibilities. either you have no concern for the pain, suffering and brutal murder of others and are therefore a sociopath, or you are choosing to be a moral schizophrenic by being against violence, abuse, oppression, rape and exploitation yet willingly supporting and contributing to them. we were all where you are at one point in our lives but after learning the truth, decided to align our actions with our values and refuse to continue to take part in the holocaust. part of the blame can be put on the cultural and societal programming we all were subjected to but knowing the truth and still happily contributing to the atrocities makes you culpable for your actions.
perhaps this passage will more clearly illuminate these idea’s for you:
“What we leave behind—our legacy—is how we affected others. And for most of us, no other choice has a greater impact on the legacy of help— or harm— we leave behind, than our daily food choices. Day after day, and year after year, our lives can be seen as the culmination of thousands of instances in which, equally assured of nourishment and health, we had the opportunity to choose kindness and mercy toward other animals, or to choose violence and death for them. For billions of people, the question of eating animals really comes down to this basic question: am I someone who, when able to freely choose, would rather harm animals, or help them? When able to choose, do I choose kindness over violence, or violence over kindness? Our answer is our legacy.”
Mark Ford says
Thanks for the reply. What I would like to focus on in my reply is the language you are using in your writing. It’s not that what you are saying is flat-out wrong, but you are using extreme language that inflates the situation beyond what it really is in reality, and really just makes you look like a swirling cauldron of emotion and anger. I respect vegans a great deal, and if more of the “hardcore” vegans would learn to simmer down and use a cool, clear head, I think your cause would be helped. You must realize that calling your opponents evil and schizophrenic and psychopathic does not support your cause. After telling one of my vegan friends that I was engaged in a debate in which I was being branded as psychopathic, she had this to say:
“That’s one thing about some people who are vegan that I dislike: they associate that if people eat meat they must have a mental illness. First off, I see nothing wrong with having a mental illness, and using it as an insult is just as bad as being racist or homophobic. Second, if they wish for you to go vegan, they’re using a very ineffective tactic. I chose to become vegan based off of what I read, saw, and heard, not because some people started hating on me. I mean who says “Wow, those people really hate me, I think I’ll be just like them!”? I may not agree with you on eating meat, but that’s a behavior. I still like you as a friend and a person. So a big *hug* from this ethical vegan!”
I find that to be a *perfect* statement of the kind of compassion that is sorely lacking in some vegan discussions like these. You chose to use the term “schizophrenic” in your comment above, which is addressed beautifully my my friend’s comment. Throughout this conversation, many on here seem to have gotten carried away with attacking me, using words like “apathetic”, “confused”, saying I “invoke Hitler”, etc. For a seasoned debater like me, I can’t get incensed anymore at comments like this, and if I did, it wouldn’t make me want to rethink meat-eating, it would just make me think vegans are a bunch of crazy folk.
I’m writing this because I truly am sympathetic to your cause. I cook vegan food ALL the time, and know tons of vegans. Seriously. I live in Austin. It’s an alt-lifestyle mecca here. I celebrate the fact that there are different lifestyle choices we can make, and even celebrate the fact that we can civilly disagree over those choices. I believe all parties stand to benefit from embracing civility in this debate.
“But it brings me and those I cook for a great deal of joy, and I suppose that makes me morally repugnant to you.”
“Saying eating animals is “yummy” as a justification for killing them is pretty much the same argument as saying rape is okay since it feels good to the rapist. Civilized people require more than sensory pleasure to justify behaviors.”
Ashley Capps says
That’s it precisely. Well said.
Mark Ford says
“Saying eating animals is “yummy” as a justification for killing them is pretty much the same argument as saying rape is okay since it feels good to the rapist.”
The deliciousness of meat is not my attempt to give a justification for killing animals. It’s merely one of the biggest reasons I serve meat and occasionally eat it, and not the reason it is morally acceptable to do so.
Perfectly put. It is beyond me how somebody cannot see the simplicity of this statement, make the connection and will continuously strive to argue against it. As far as the extreme language that has been mentioned in this discussion, how else is one to speak? To deliberately kill something against it’s will is surely murder? There aren’t too many other words that fit. However ‘extreme’ that language may seem it’s just a fact.
Ashley Capps says
It was very painful to read your opening sentence: “As a chef and a meat-eater, I am able to watch this and be at peace with humans’ consumption of animals.”
It’s hard for me to imagine a more callous response to the needless suffering of another fellow feeling creature. That anyone could watch what the cow in this video went through and write that they feel “at peace” with it feels, frankly, sociopathic. You then write:
“Yes, it is sad, but all creatures must die, and shortening the lives of some in order to create new, incredible experiences for others has its own beauty.” So basically since everyone dies, we’re morally justified to inflict needless violence and death on others if we get pleasure from it? That’s self-serving nonsense.
You’ve just written that it’s not wrong to harm and kill others for pleasure, then you write: “No, I don’t believe “might makes right”. I am not entirely certain of which moral theory I subscribe to at this time, though I don’t believe actions are justified simply because one has power over another. I am probably somewhere in between Utilitarianism and Kantian morality, with a dash of subjectivism, with Utilitarianism being a bigger favorite.”
Actually the philosophy you clearly subscribe to is called ethical egoism, the idea that self interest is the only determining factor in whether or not an action is wrong. It is based on the naturalistic fallacy (which you use to defend your position over and over again) and it manifests in the Might Makes Right worldview which you do in fact endorse here. You endorse, and practice, harming animals for pleasure. You believe that it is ethical to intentionally harm animals for mere palate pleasure. You can’t then say that it’s wrong to willfully harm animals for pleasure in some instances, but not in others. Or, rather, you can, but the cavalier and capriciously inconsistent application of the moral principle renders your position completely meaningless.
Finally, in your thought experiment about aliens, you write:
“If alien overlords descended to the earth tomorrow and enslaved the human population to be used as food, and there was nothing we could do, poor, stupid creatures in comparison that we were, I’d do my best to accept my fate and hope that my body was used for an alien’s favorite meal of his life.” I find this utterly disingenuous. No, Mark, if you were forced to walk into a slaughterhouse and knew your killers were rational creatures who had a choice about whether or not to kill you — actually even if you didn’t know that at all — I can assure you would not meekly offer yourself up in sacrifice to their cruelty; you would, like the cow in the video whose life and suffering you so callously dismiss, fight till your last breath, and you would beg, sir, for the mercy you so flippantly deny to others. You would beg for it.
Mark Ford says
Thanks for the reply. I enjoy discussions like these. I like the challenge that those with differing views are able to offer.
I find it fascinating how someone could think me a sociopath. If society embarked on a trend towards thinking like zealous vegans, true sociopaths would probably rejoice at the knowledge that the label they have been stuck with is being watered down so carelessly. You write,
“So basically since everyone dies, we’re morally justified to inflict needless violence and death on others if we get pleasure from it?”
I haven’t actually attempted to put forward much of a justification for meat-eating thus far. I have only attempted to show that eating meat is ordinary, which it clearly is for us and many other animals. Certainly at this point in human development veganism is the more extra-ordinary diet. I haven’t justified meat-eating because I don’t believe anyone should have to justify their eating habits. I don’t believe you have to justify your veganism. I’ve only maintained my interest in responding because you are the ones making the much, much stronger claim that it is morally wrong to choose to eat animals, not just for yourselves, but for all humans. The quote you cited was not any attempt at a rational justification for meat-eating whatsoever, but rather was meant to provide insight into why this chef prepares and serves meat for his dinners.
“actually the philosophy you clearly subscribe to is called ethical egoism”
This is the most facepalm inducing straw man I have ever read. I come very close to despising ethical egoism. Rand is one of my least favorite moral philosophers in the world. This would be akin to me saying the philosophy you subscribe to is fundamentalist Christianity and just thinking it’s all well and good. No, I’m far more interested in Utilitarianism as a moral philosophy, it seems the most intuitively rational of the bunch. I’m attempting to maximize good for humans and minimize bodily harm to animals (though not, ultimately, death, although I try to eat meat only on special occasions) through my actions.
“You can’t then say that it’s wrong to willfully harm animals for pleasure in some instances, but not in others.”
I don’t believe death is necessarily significant harm. If I were dying a protracted death from some horrible wasting cancer, I might envy the fate of the cow in the video. I think, though, that you’ve finally forced me to state what I believe the only real justification for killing animals that exists is. I’m sure you’re gonna just hate it, and you’ve heard it so many times before, you’re gonna bash your head into that computer screen. Animals just don’t have the right to life, since they are unable to willingly give their consent to participate in a social contract. I’m sure you likely believe that their sentience alone grants them protection.
“No, Mark, if you were forced to walk into a slaughterhouse and knew your killers were rational creatures who had a choice about whether or not to kill you — actually even if you didn’t know that at all — I can assure you would not meekly offer yourself up in sacrifice to their cruelty; you would, like the cow in the video whose life and suffering you so callously dismiss, fight till your last breath, and you would beg, sir, for the mercy you so flippantly deny to others. You would beg for it.”
I only said I would do my best to accept my fate, if it really was inevitable. I didn’t say I would willfully “offer myself up”. I accept right now, at this moment, that I am going to die one day. I could even be murdered. I no longer fear death after wrestling with my mortality for over a decade. In fact, I very much look forward to it, for complicated reasons. If there was nothing I could do to stop the alien overlords from slaughtering me, I’d try to calm my nerves and prepare myself for whatever may or may not come after. Death is a part of every life. And when I died, since I would already be dead, I would hope that my body could be used to provide a wonderful meal for the creature who would eat me.
Yes, I’m a little weird. 🙂
sava hmelnitski says
Makes me so angry.
watching the poor cows in line to be killed has made me cry for the rest of the day…still, I just cried, but I am still here, and alive…how must it have felt to be in line, to be a cow? We humans are so cruel!!!
this is outrageous, inhumane, poor animals, tear are flowing, GOD take care of these innocent animals
That was awful; truly one of the saddest things I’ve ever seen. It took everything I had to watch the entire footage; I was ready to bail after 26 secs. and that was nothing compared to the end. It makes me so angry; I’m glad I’m a vegan but I want to make everyone else a vegan as well. I get so angry over people and their “humane meat.” I feel so sad.