14 March 2008

Vegetarianism

I have been struggling with the issue of animal rights for literally months now. Specifically: is it morally wrong to raise and consume animals?

This is a very hard issue. I love meat. I LOVE it. The best meal is a thick, juicy steak, only seared on the sides. Every meal is incomplete without meat, I consider it the entree and main affair of a meal. It is seriously at the heart of my daily approach to food.

So when I say that I am wrestling with this matter, I mean I am wrestling. I don't want to come to the conclusion that it is wrong to eat meat, because I enjoy it so much. But I'll be goddamned if I am not coming inevitably down in that direction, no matter how much I read and think about it.

The first obstacle was my notion of morality, which stems from the idea of a social contract. Blah blah intro to philosophy: human beings have the rights and freedoms they agree upon, wherein natural freedoms should only be limited inasmuch as they impact upon the freedoms of others. It's very functional and leads me quite well through the ethical morass of life, but there's one problem: it is solely devoted to the human sphere. Global warming is bad because it will harm human welfare in the future, for example, not because it is wrong to damage the planet in and of itself.

So the conclusion of this moral view is that because animals aren't people their welfare does not matter. This is how I have always acted and believed: I don't care if you eat dogs or fight bulls or whatever, because they're not people so their suffering is not important and has no moral relevance.

The conflict comes when I consider that this seems inherently flawed on a gut level. The reducto ad absurdum is a situation wherein someone tortures a puppy to death. If animals don't matter, this is not wrong at all. No mitigation, it's just not wrong. It has the same moral consideration as eating a tomato.

But I'll be damned if that seems right.

I sat down to reevaluate morality from the ground-up, beginning with the beginning: Plato. Moving forward, I retackled Kant, Marx, and Locke, addressing their major works with an eye for an answer to the problem or some new fundamental of thinking. I read several of the works of Peter Singer, the seminal animal rights philosopher.

But I must reluctantly admit I am little closer to the source of the problem and understanding how the conflict can be resolved. It is maddening... I am driven to seek the answer I dread, but can't just forget about it because how could I live every day knowing my actions were morally untenable.

Gah.

1 comment:

  1. speaking as a vegan of four months- i feel there is nothing morally wrong with raising, slaughtering and eating your own meat. if i was in a rural, farm setting, things would definitely be different for me.

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