Screw you PETA

I wish that the vegan/vegetarian lobby would recognize that dietary choices are inherently arbitrary, rather than moral or ethical. Even the most ardent vegan is still a heterotroph; the only difference is, a vegan eats species without a developed central nervous system. Until vegans learn to perform photosynthesis, they’re still required to consume organic material – usually plants – to obtain the carbon and energy they need to survive.

Now, I’m all in favour of ethical treatment of animals; I don’t eat pork or bacon because I know pigs have the cognitive capacity to understand what’s being done to them, and the other meats I consume (mostly chicken, bison and fish) are free-range or wild-caught. I don’t agree with the way slaughterhouses operate, and I fully support ethical treatment of farm animals, even when their final destination is someone’s dinner plate. But I also recognize that my choice is essentially an arbitrary one, made based on my own preferences and attitudes; I don’t pretend that my choice is inherently morally superior than anyone else’s. Human beings – like all animals – must consume other species in order for us to survive. That isn’t going to change no matter how many gruesome picture of slaughtered animals you shove in our faces. If anything, PETA-type groups are merely desensitizing us to the genuine abuses that are done by less-ethical food producers, instead of encouraging people to purchase ethically-sourced foods. By holding up vegetarianism and veganism as a moral standard, they lose a lot of credibility and lose the chance to alter peoples’ food choices for the better.

So please, until you’re able to turn sunlight into energy using leaves you grew out of your ass, keep your moralistic judgement to yourself. Don’t act superior to me because I eat species with legs, and you eat species with roots. There’s really no fundamental difference, no matter how much you wish their were; we’re a species of heterotrophs and no amount of moralistic grandstanding will ever turn you into a fucking plant.

5 thoughts on “Screw you PETA

  1. By that logic, cannibalism is purely an arbitrary choice, and we should just make sure the victim is killed “humanely” (which is another oxymoron). If your choice of prey is based on intelligence, then we can set up a special section of the butchery for you where only meat from the infant, mentally challenged or senile is served.

    It’s not about intelligence, though, is it? As Bentham said 200 years ago: ““The question is not can they reason, nor can they talk, but can they suffer?” Plants don’t suffer in any way we can distinguish. Animals unquestionably suffer when we hang them upside down and slit their throats (e.g. chickens) or pull them out of the water to suffocate (fish).

    • If we use the strictest definition of the word, then yes, cannibalism could be referred to as “arbitrary”, insofar as it has been practiced for millenia and has only been considered inappropriate for the past few centuries. As far as the survivors of Uruguayan Air Force Flight 571 would be concerned, or the Donner Party, it most certainly was an arbitrary choice, and deemed better than starvation. There are good and obvious reasons why cannibalism is considered taboo, but invoking it as an “arbitrary” choice involves more than a little reductio ad adsurdium.

      Nonetheless, your otherwise “modest” proposal doesn’t differentiate between killing live humans for consumption, as opposed to eating the already-dead for survival. Your second point alludes to the fact that there is a difference, and that suffering is the primary concern. To that, I would suggest that this is also a unique-human concern. Hyenas and African Wild Dogs don’t concern themselves with suffering while they consume their still-alive prey; wolves typically ensure their prey has been killed before they start eating, if for now other reason than to ensure their cubs aren’t at risk before dinner begins.

      Now, I’d pose the question – if a chicken’s head is severed, can it truly feel suffering? If not, can we justify eating it because we have absolved it of suffering by ensuring an absence of pain? That’s my point about the value of ethically-sourced meat; I recognize that my food consumption requires another species to lose its life, but I also feel there is value in limiting or eliminating the pain it experiences along the way. (And I again recognize this is an arbitrary position to take.)

      By counterpoint, I would further ask – if plants could indeed suffer, would we be similarly required to stop consuming them? Pain, by its very nature, is nothing more than an indication to our central nervous system that damage is occurring, and plants can definitely respond to such stimuli – they turn their leaves away from excessive heat, and engage in other responses that suggest awareness of their immediate environmental conditions. If we could conceptualize this as “pain” and extrapolate that to assume that plants can “suffer” does this change the equation, in your view?

      The plight of the heterotroph is that your survival depends on the death of others. Life feeds on life feeds on life feeds on life. That’s simply the way of life on Earth, and nothing can remove us from that circle.

  2. Hi Nikki,

    Your argument makes no sense. Paragraph 1: You claim that dietary choices are arbitrary and not ethical. Paragraph 2: You claim there actually are genuine abuses by less-ethical food producers; You are in favour of the ethical treatment of animals; You wish PETA would enourage people to purchase ethically-sourced foods. So are dietary choices ethical or not? Do you just want PETA to advocate your views instead of their own? Pigs feel pain and want to survive but not chicken, bison or fish?

  3. I misunderstood your argument. You think eating animals is not unethical because we must consume life to survive. Treating animals ethically however is a choice we can make. Therefore, we should take good care of animals until we slaughter them for consumption.

    So, is there a distinction between eating plant life and animal life? Does a chicken, pig or cow suffer more or less than a bean, seed or fruit? Do the second group suffer at all? If there is a difference in suffering, do we then have an ethical decision to make? Is there a difference between a poor Bolivian eating an animal for survival and a rich Canadian eating some cheesecake after dinner?

    Putting aside ethical questions and turning to self-interest: If consuming animal products were harmful to human health, would you still consume them?

    • Hi Dan, I suppose the answer to your question depends on how we define “suffering”. From a Buddhist perspective, all life is suffering, and therefore if we end a life we could be seen as ending suffering… But I don’t think that’s what you’re getting at. If we equate “pain” with “suffering” then we can narrow our focus a bit, and say that ending a life without incurring unnecessary pain (such as inflicting a blow to the head that causes instant death) would be considered ethical, insofar as it doesn’t cause “pain” as we understand it. We don’t know enough about plants to know what they “feel” but we do know they react to physical stimuli – so I guess the question is moot.

      To your second question – consumption of any food is actually “harmful to health” because the metabolic process is what ages us. Nobody lives forever, so in a sense, we could say that life itself is inherently harmful to human health. The lack of food (moreso the lack of proper nutrition) is certainly more harmful to human health than the availability of more-harmful or less-harmful foods, so again, it really comes down to what’s available, because pretty much any food is better than no food (as long as it’s not diseased of course).

      All the above is just to display the arbitrary nature of all these choices, as well as arguments for or against any form of food consumption. My choices are arbitrary too, I just don’t use nauseating pictures to try to pressure people to adopt my views. Life feeds on life feeds on life feeds on life, and none of us is getting out of here alive.

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