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Archive for January, 2011

A foray into the ethics of eating animals

I can appreciate that there are legitimate debates to be had over the ethics of eating animals. The use of animals as food is a widespread – transcultural and transhistorical – practice. To present reasons that challenge this practice, to say nothing of arguing for it’s reform or abolition, is to argue for a seachange. I understand that there are serious arguments to be made by both defenders and detractors, and that there are certain issues – for instance, whether or not animals feel pain, and to what degree – that require serious critical thinking, and deep consideration of the views on all sides. It’s somewhat disturbing then to encounter “arguments” that not only don’t consider the other side, but which don’t even consider the seriousness of their own stance. Perhaps the strangest arguments in favor of the consumption of animals are those that imply that gustation trumps morality. Obviously taste is a type of aesthetic experience, and gustatory concerns are aesthetic concerns. Unless we hold to some metaethical theory that regards ethical concerns as absolutely illusory, and thus, that there can be in principle no ethical evaluation of our actions – if we take seriously whatever obligations ethics may place upon us and our behavior – then it is not clear how aesthetic concerns trump ethical concerns. Specifically, it is not clear how, if indeed ethics does place certain demands upon my behavior, how the attainment of some aesthetic pleasure can morally justify my acting in some way that is unethical. The undesirable consequences of placing pleasure before morality should be obvious. Now obviously, whether or not this applies to the consumption of animals depends on whether or not eating animals is unethical. The upshot of this, however is that the non-argument of the one who says, “meat tastes good, so it must be okay” begs the question against whether or not eating animals is ethically defensible.

…To be continued..