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What the 'meat paradox' reveals about moral decision making (bbc.com)
41 points by astrocat 9 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 105 comments

Eating meat and being against animal cruelty is no paradox. At most it is a dilemma - "want to eat meat, don't want to hurt animals".

The fact that many (most) people continue to eat meat means that people resolve the dilemma - they not be aware of the issue, consider it less significant, consider eating meat more important, etc.

The distance from the details of animal husbandry probably helps a lot. If I had to personally kill and clean all my meat, I'd either stop eating it or I'd get a lot more comfortable with the process. Then again, I have relatives who raise farm animals and others who hunt - distance from the process is not required.

I agree with you that distance and disassociation are key. However, I would say the met eater's dilemma is to not want the animals tortured, not "hurt". It is also largely a time/cost tradeoff. You could raise your own chickens most places but most people don't want to take the time or expense.

I think there are other "paradoxes" that people are missing. For example, most people feel that Nestle is a pretty evil company[1] (especially in the developing world). However, some of the same people who hate meat eaters have no problem enjoying the Gerber, Blue Bottle Coffee, Perrier, San Pellegrino, Butterfinger, Nerds, Hot Pockets, Carnation, and Purina products they produce and sell. Who is to say which is the worst moral decision? We all hate that FB and Google are stealing our data and using it against us at the same time we enjoy 20%+ stock market returns in our 401K driven by these same companies. Life is very gray and there are no easy answers.

[1] https://www.zmescience.com/science/nestle-company-pollution-...

I'd kind of reject that creating meat hurts animals. Kill, sure - but hurting them is counterproductive. There's a large amount of work done to lower the stress of the animal, both because it's the moral thing to do and because it makes the meat taste better.

The ideal killing involves rendering the animal senseless instantaneously.

Check out https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VMqYYXswono for a demonstration of a well-run plant.

The counterpoint to that video would be the following:


Watch any consecutive 10 minutes of that, and let me know if that seems like it doesn't hurt animals. The evidence that industrial scale animal farming is harmful to animals is overwhelming. There should really be no debate about that fact at this point.

There is an incentive to raise them quick, raise them huge, and move them along the whole process as quickly as possible. Those things are generally not conducive with providing a humane life for them.

I agree the ideal killing is instantaneous, but the killing moment is not the only source of pain, and the ideal killing may not be very common. Sometimes we can't even kill humans quickly and painlessly, for example with the several botched lethal injections that took place a few years ago.

"Video unavailable" when I try to view it.

Works for me in the US, could it be a region thing?

Possibly, I'm trying to access it from Canada.

> hurting them is counterproductive.

That's certainly not necessarily the case. For example, the veal industry used to (perhaps still does - not sure) keep calves in tight cages in which they could not turn or lie down, because the "exercise" would turn their meat an undesirable pink. Likewise, laying eggs is a natural function for hens (like ovulation), so they will do so even when stressed out. The only reason there's some restraint on how many are kept in small areas, on uneven slatted floors, is regulation, not cost savings.

I switched to meal replacement shakes for this reason. Right now I am drinking bottle soylent but I enjoyed powdered joylent for a while.

Meat provides such easily prepareable calories, I can't say the same of vegan dishes that I know of, generally a lot more of a thing has to be eaten and multiple things. I enjoy spending 20-30 minutes total consuming food a day and not needing to spend time preparing food, cooking, and cleaning.

No idea why you seem to think meat is some how more easily prepared than vegan food. Both meat and vegan have easily prepared dishes and more time-intensive ones.

Entirely based upon instagram pictures of vegan food, which I am sure skew to the more visually interesting and intensive recipes. A lot of things seem like a lot of vegetables mixed together. I don't like to eat a lot of different things at once, I much prefer a single thing at once. I dislike the feeling of food in my mouth. For these reasons meal replacement shakes have been absolutely wonderful, without them I would constantly lose weight.

How bout eating a carrot. Or a banana. That is vegan food.

> Meat provides such easily prepareable calories

Ever hear of tofu? A tofu scramble takes maybe 15 mins to make, and it's actually good for you [0] rather than causing cancer. [1]

0. http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=111

1. https://www.who.int/features/qa/cancer-red-meat/en/

I have, I don't really like the lack of fibrous texture that meat has.

I have had an Impossible Burger that would be a drop in meat replacement for me if it ever becomes available to buy uncooked.

IMO the Beyond Burger is a better modern vegan burger patty. They have them in refrigerated 2-packs at Whole Foods. Sadly, they are not cheap.

Impossible Burger 2.0 (which just debuted) will be sold in "select US grocery stores"


If you bread and bake tofu you can get it to be pretty damn close. Impossible Burger is great, and should be available soon - Beyond Burger should already be widely available.

The thing where we have different words for animals and their meats is an artifact of how England got invaded a lot in the middle ages and the invaders brought their languages with them. For example, "veal" is a Norman word, while "lamb" is Germanic.

You can certainly argue that we use them as a euphemism today, but that's not actually how they originated at all.

Agreed.... But lamb isn't really a euphemism, it's a baby sheep.

I assume they meant calf instead of lamb. (Calf is also a germanic word.)

Ah yes, as I recall the (Germanic) Saxons grew the cows but couldn't afford to eat them, so called them cows, the Normans were the ruling elite so only saw it on their plate, thus beef.


Plain and simple, people have the ability to ignore things that are unethical if they consider the benefits sufficiently important. If you are reading this, you are using a device that is the result of thousands of hours of actual chattel slave labor, conflict-producing minerals, assembled by workers in horrific conditions. And yet you use that iphone or thinkpad.

Any person living in the first world is the beneficiary of an immense amount of human suffering and cruelty, period. There is no way to avoid it short of living a hermetic life in the woods. So why don't you do that? Because society is convenient and nice to live in.

People eat meat because it's delicious. People buy factory-farmed meat because it's cheap and they can use the money they save on something else. People use smartphones and PCs because they're entertaining. It really doesn't seem like a deep question to me at all.

As for why people who live on farms, specifically, would be more likely to eat meat... I suppose people probably become desensitized to it, the same as someone who works in Foxconn would become desensitized to what we would perceive as human suffering.

I dunno, it doesn't really seem that complex an issue to me. Pete Singer is right, the ethical answer is to reduce our suffering footprint as much as we possibly can. But hedonism is so damned pleasurable, that people won't. If you can moderately reduce your suffering footprint in a sustainable fashion, like a diet, by something like veganism then go for it, but you also can't reduce it to zero.

It seems you hit a nerve with some users here. I have to say I agree with what you said, it's really simple. If anybody asked "do you wanna contribute to suffering"? If you answer no then basically you should either go ahead and do it or turn a blind eye.

The “meat paradox” only happens because people living in cities are disconnected from how their food is grown.

People that lived on a farm, even for small periods of time when they were little, have no such issues.

If I understand correctly, this is the meat paradox: "the psychological conflict between people’s dietary preference for meat and their moral response to animal suffering"

How does living on a farm remove this issue? Does something about living on a farm make you not feel conflict about wanting to eat meat and at the same time not wanting to kill sentient beings?

I've never lived on a farm but I've seen pig and chicken slaughter in real life. Done by hand. I felt the same before as I did after, I feel that if I have the resources to choose to consume no sentient animal body parts, I have a moral obligation to not eat sentient animal body parts. Still, the ease of energy from meat compared to other foods makes me desire it, along with taste. This paradox is something that bugs me often.

Farm living shows it isn't a paradox.

1) Animals on family farms are actually treated pretty well. "Torture" is absolutely not the word for it, though it probably does apply to varieties of factory farming, in effect if not intent.

2) More animals die, in absolute numbers, from plowing fields and harvesting crops than are slaughtered for their meat, mostly because we choose large animals for their meat while small animals like to live in grain fields. The only way to conclude that vegetarianism is more ethical is to discount the lives of smaller, wild animals in comparison to their larger, meat-producing cousins, or else define having habitats and homes destroyed, starving to death, or being snagged on a thresher as more humane treatment than being stunned and having their throat slit after being fed and cared for until adulthood.

In general, living closer to nature shows that death and suffering is unavoidable. Certainly we should strive to minimize suffering, but interruption of a huge source of food for most of the human population is a bad way to go about it.

There is an ethical angle you missed: no animal wants to die, with or without torture. I am vegetarian mostly because I chose not to contribute to the death of any animal, if I have alternatives. Yes, death is unavoidable but it doesn't mean it should be encouraged.

And your point 2 is discounting the animals that died to produce the food that cows and such eat. Besides, personally not all animals are equal to me. When I drive I squash insects, and if I would hit a dog I would feel worse.

> "no animal wants to die"

This is a man made concept. Morality in general is man made.

In nature there is a very clear symbiosis between predator and pray. A herbivore population can get out of control if not hunted by predators, and then destroy the environment. Of course, humans are not in any symbiosis, we just consume and produce waste in the process.

So if you want to talk about how we destroy the environment via CAFO operations, then that's a valid worry, but the morality of killing animals for food (something we've been doing since the dawn of men) is just religion.

This is the best reasoning I have seen as to why it is not morally wrong to eat meat. Point 2 specifically. I had not stopped to consider the impact of preparing farming land.

Thank you for your time to write that out.

I still personally feel that in my position in life, it would be unethical for me to consume meat. Seemingly the amount of animals killed by a plant farm would decrease as time goes on yet a slaughterhouse would continue at least linearly in its pace of killing animals. I do admit that in some way I believe that it is " more ethical is to discount the lives of smaller, wild animals in comparison to their larger, meat-producing cousins" and I know that this is an undefendable position.

Most crops are used to feed the animals that are later slaughtered. A tiny amount is directly consumed by humans. So you're not actually reducing the number of animals killed by eating them.

See, I grew up on a small farm. We raised chickens that my father would butcher. He'd string one up, slit its throat and it'd die instantly. After it was bled we'd pluck the feathers off and then cook it for supper. There wasn't anything particularly cruel about it, and I feel no moral qualms about eating chicken or any other meat for that matter. Maybe growing up on a farm taught me the reality of it which I see as normal.

Feelings of parents actions being intrinsically "good" morally seem like they would factor in as well. Or at least, I feel like if I saw my father slaughter animals I would accept it more.

I also completely understand that vegan lifestyles are very far removed from the requirements of homesteading or personal farming. It may be impossible to harvest a nutritionally dense enough food in the winter that isn't a living creature.

As a person living where anytime of the year I can buy produce from around the world, I have more freedom to choose what I eat.

I'm interested in your ability to not feel moral turmoil about killing sentient beings. Have you ever struggled with it?

My issues around eating meat are based on the lack of necessity I feel towards it. I don't need to eat meat to survive, my choice to eat meat is a choice to support (in my opinion) murder.

A predator has no choice but to hunt, an eagle cannot decide to stop eating prey and switch to plants, it seemingly lacks the ability for self reflection of it's actions.

Your last sentence "Maybe growing up on a farm taught me the reality of it which I see as normal." The reality you explained of chickens being slaughtered in an instant way is still something I see as unnecessary.

Not the guy you were replying to, but I've got an anecdote related to your question:

>I'm interested in your ability to not feel moral turmoil about killing sentient beings. Have you ever struggled with it?

I'm 33, grew up fishing with my grandfather but never went hunting until this last fall when I went deer hunting for the first time. My reason for the hunting trip was about 75% because I wanted to eat deer meat, and 25% to get to know myself better - to see if I could do it, basically. Going into it, I didn't know how I might react after killing a deer or whether I would feel conflicted.

I didn't really end up feeling conflicted at all about it. After taking the shot I was running on 100% pure adrenaline. The deer made it about 20 yards after being shot through the heart and lungs, and was dead when I got down from the treestand and located it. Beforehand I had sort of wondered if I'd feel sad, or grossed out, when skinning and butchering it - I didn't, but I felt a couple of other things. The first was hunger - once you peel the skin off and start cutting into the meat, it really, REALLY lights up the primitive parts of your brain that THIS IS FOOD, SO MUCH TASTY FOOD. The other thing I felt was in some way like I was actually a part of nature, like our ancestors who first made the leap from being prey to being themselves predators, rather than apart from nature.

Hope this makes some sense.

The appeal to a primal urges makes sense, but do you rationally feel differently than you did when murdering the deer?

I have a feeling there are many things that are desirable and pleasurable, but not morally good.

Have I ever struggled with it? No, nature itself is violent where the only fittest and luckiest survive long enough to procreate. Death is the inevitable outcome of life. I doubt our chickens had any worse of a life than they would have out in the wild (if they weren't domesticated). I know factory farming exists but I don't care enough about it to give up the deliciousness of meat. We're omnivores by nature.

Interesting, I cannot relate to your lack of self-questioning your beliefs in this matter but I am positive I am similar about topics I feel strongly about in other areas.

While I feel it is delicious, I think there a multitude of things which are enjoyable, yet morally wrong.

Thank you for this exchange, I understand your position better and i hope I have helped to elucidate mine.

Likewise. Discussions like these are interesting and a nice break from technology and politics.

"... taught me the reality of it" is a bit of a downward-looking phrase. I think people understand the reality of it - that animals can be raised comfortably and killed in a way that looks gruesome but is humane, and animals can be made to suffer before and/or while they die, and both occur, the latter unfortunately in vast quantities. The question isn't that people don't know what's happening - it's that each person perhaps has a point on the spectrum I've illustrated where they are comfortable, a place where they might refuse to eat the meat (if they can even know the circumstances of a particular meal's origin), and a space in the middle where they are against the treatment of the animal, but not so much that they would not eat the meat. And of course, for some people there is no comfort zone - where even a comfortable life and painless killing is unacceptable.

The point is that I think the question is interesting, and I think you might be allowing yourself to dismiss it too easily in support of a personal identity you feel strongly about.

I don't mean to dismiss the idea. I think animals, farmed or not, should be treated humanely. My point is living or growing up on a farm where animals do get slaughtered can affect your perspective on the matter. I doubt a lot of people really do know the reality of it if their only knowledge of it is from the shock and horror perspective. I suspect culture also plays a role.

It's funny how we always apply the term "humane killing" to animals and never to people.

This is exactly it. When my grandmother had fried chicken growing up it was a result of "going to the back yard and shooting it (the chicken) between the eyes, plucking its feathers off, and frying it in fatback."

If today's fried chicken arrived on a plate the same way it did for my grandmother, I probably wouldn't have made the decision to eschew meat about 10 years ago.

I doubt you would shoot the chicken though, as that would basically blow its head off. More likely she would have just wrung its neck or chopped the head off.

In modern small-scale processing, they put the chicken upside-down in a cone and slit the neck to let the chicken bleed out.

Indeed, the article uses "meat-eating" as a gloss for eating animals raised in cruel conditions.

The article at no point considers the possibility that moral conflict is an unavoidable part of life, even if there are things we can do to reduce it.

> the article uses "meat-eating" as a gloss for eating animals raised in cruel conditions

Probably because that's how the vast majority of meat animals are raised.

But all farms are not even close to equal. Generally there are two categories of farms. There are small family-type farms where livestock live quite a good, cared-for life. Then there are enormous factory farms where an animals life is, in short, absolutely awful. The slight-of-hand moral reasoning I see all the time is that someone will use their mental picture of a small family farm to fill in for the reality that almost all of the meat/dairy/eggs they buy and eat came from a factory farm.

This is what people tell themselves to find an 'out' for eating meat.

I don't think it's the only reason.

I have a hard time rationalising my meat eating, but then following through on that train of thought leads me to full on veganism, which is further than I want to go, so I don't.

And I grew up in the country.

Hot take, of course, but I think pro-choice ethical vegans and (very) pro-life meat eaters have a more interesting paradox.

What interesting thing about a honey bee or fish deserves protection that isn't true of a fairly young human fetus? And, likewise, what's true of a young fetus that does not apply to a pig or octopus on the pro-life side?

There are clearly religious answers to some of the paradox on all sides of things, but I'm sure not all of us find them convincing.

EDIT: There is probably a more acute detachment/skin-in-the-game distinction to be made in this case, if we can suspend our politics for a moment, which might be asking a lot these days, perhaps.

If a fish were living inside your body, you'd have the right to expel it, too. That has nothing to do with the treatment fish deserve or don't deserve, and everything to do with human bodily autonomy.

Expel a fish? Sure. Expel a fish even if it kills the fish? Still, sure.

Expel a human even if it kills the human? That's a tougher sell. And that's always been the problem. Yell as much as you want about "a woman's right to her own body", but there's something there besides her body, something that is 1) still genetically human, 2) genetically different from the mother, and 3) will die if expelled by the methods used. It's not just the woman's body.

I think of it in terms of the Declaration of Independence: "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness". Well here, "life" is at war with "liberty and the pursuit of happiness" in a way where, whichever one wins, the other has to lose.

If a homeless person was living in your home, even if you invited him there in the first place, you still have every right to kick him out of your home if you decide you don't want him there anymore. Even if it's winter, and he'll die of starvation or freeze out on the streets without your hospitality. It may be a cruel and heartless thing to do, but it's perfectly legal, and should remain so. I believe we should have at least as much autonomy over our own bodies as over our real estate.

All right, what if the only way you can get the homeless person to leave is to murder him and then remove the body? Do your real estate rights give you the right to do that? Because, bluntly, that's the way abortion (almost always) works - you kill the fetus and then remove it, or at least kill it in the process of removing it.

I could see a libertarian principle, but most pro-choice people aren't exactly against seatbelt laws or opting out of national health services. So this is a principle, but generally a selectively applied one. Which was my point.

EDIT: What part of this is getting downvotes? I'm honestly curious for a distinction here.

If sex had a chance to cause a honey bee to grow in one's body over 9 months and resulted in many years of a full commitment of one's life, mind, and resources, I don't think people who respect bees would be hypocritical in killing a bee. Conversely, babies have potential that animals do not, and humans have inherent value to us, both practically and psychologically, that animals do not, so I think it's not hypocritical for somebody who kills pigs to refrain from killing a baby.

No offense, seriously, but the analogy seems simplistic to the point where it needs some kind of complete rework to produce an interesting question.

So, barring metaphysical axioms about the intrinsic worth of humanity, we measure worth by utility?

The utility answer resolves some of the tension, but it doesn't address what happens when an animal might have more utility than a human. What about protecting endangered rhinos versus viable fetuses with severe but nonterminal developmental issues?

Not really a rhetorical question, by the way, the Down's Syndrome population is way down and not because we cured Down's Syndrome.

I think the conflict would be greater for an anti-choice ethical vegan. You can't force a cow to produce milk, but you can force a woman to incubate a baby?

I get the libertarian position. Though we force women to wear seatbelts and wear motorcycle helmets, which is just as much about bodily autonomy.

I'm not making a libertarian argument. I'm arguing that forcing a woman to go through pregnancy is similar to the things ethical vegans are against doing to animals. I don't think ethical vegans are against using safety equipment when transporting animals.

No, I'm saying we don't respect bodily autonomy generally in the case of seat belt laws, but that is just an example. A women has to put a seat belt on her body whether she wants to or not. That's a government intervention into something less complicated than pregnancy.

I didn't say anything about bodily autonomy or government intervention. What does that have to do with ethical veganism? I'm only saying that not hurting women by forcing them to carry a fetus to term is consistent with the vegan ethic of not hurting animals.

> You can't force a cow to produce milk, but you can force a woman to incubate a baby? reply

The use of the word "force" is the key word here. Who is doing the forcing? Who should be making the decisions about what happens to the body?

That's the autonomy question.

Yes, you can easily turn this into an autonomy question. But you're missing the point I'm making. Suppose you instead asked how pacifists can be in favor of laws restricting assault and battery, as this is like waging war against batterers.

I'd rightly point out that pacifists don't tend to like people getting hurt, and battery hurts people. You could turn this into a bodily autonomy question and point out that we violate autonomy with seatbelts so why not violate the autonomy of the punched, but that would be missing my point. Pacifists aren't all about bodily autonomy, they're concerned about not hurting people.

Similarly, I'm saying here that vegans should be against forced continuation of pregnancy, regardless of who's doing the forcing or who has control of your bodily autonomy. Vegans are against egg farming regardless of who the farmer is. Who gets to make decisions about the chicken is a different question than whether this particular decision should be allowed.

Note that I'm not making an argument for or against abortion. I'm only pointing out that being pro-choice seems to be more in line with vegan ethics than being anti-choice. I don't think vegan ethics are based on bodily autonomy arguments, so it's weird you that you keep bringing it up. Vegans aren't primarily concerned about bodily autonomy. Their concern is about not hurting animals. Humans are animals too, so vegans shouldn't want women to be hurt regardless of how the government works.

If the argument that honey is a product of sentient creatures, then so is dirt.

All plants derive from dirt, an animal product of worms.

Does this means vegans ought to starve?

Veganism is a spectrum. Some are fine with honey, others find it exploitive. The interesting thing to me is the principle that is so important to warrant a conspicuous lifestyle change and how it maps to other issues.

I think the most common goal of vegan or vegetarian diets is to reduce animal suffering, not to eliminate any part of your life that is even adjacent to animals. As you've pointed out, the latter would be impossible.

In my experience vegans and vegetarians generally don't think any killing of suffering beings is automatically wrong, we think killing them when alternatives exist is wrong...

And in the case that mother and fetus are healthy, there are at least two alternatives to abortion.

What are the alternatives to abortion if the problem is not the child existing but the birthing process? (Serious question. I'm aware birthing has a fairly high chance of permanent damage to the birther, and I was under the impression the abortion isn't to avoid raising a child but to avoid the damage caused by birthing.)

The grandparent post which set the context for this discussion made a specific comparison between pro choice vegans and pro life meat eaters.

Lots of people have an abortion and then later have children. Their motivation is not to avoid damage but to delay becoming a parent for financial reasons.

I think it takes a particularly skilled mental gymnast to have an abortion for financial reasons and then turn around to say we shouldn't eat honey because we're exploiting the bees.

That is to say, I'm far more sympathetic to an argument from a vegan who also happens to be pro life, as that seems to me like the more consistent position: pro human and pro animal life.

"Pro life" is a feel good yet entirely inaccurate euphemism for "anti choice." One can find something unethical yet not want to ban other people from doing it. For example, I find both meat eating and religion unethical but I don't wish to stop others from eating meat or going to church.

>Lots of people have an abortion and then later have children.

Later? The majority of women who have abortions are already mothers. [1]

[1] https://www.guttmacher.org/united-states/abortion

That's more or less where I am though consistently libertarian ethical veganism makes sense too.

"I don't eat meat or abort fetuses, but I don't want laws or norms saying we can't either." There's no serious ban in meat being discussed.

>What are the alternatives to abortion.

Raise it yourself or put it up for adoption are the first two options that come to mind if the resulting child is the problem.

C-section or risk popping it out the normal hole are the obvious alternatives if medical complications are the problem.

Personally I don't have a problem with abortion but if you want alternatives then there you are.

I understand you may have missed my question. Please allow me to repeat it with emphasis on the part you may have missed.

What are the alternatives to abortion if the problem is not the child existing but the birthing process?

>What are the alternatives to abortion if the problem is not the child existing but the birthing process?

1. C-section.

2. Do nothing and let the thing come out the existing hole knowing full well that one of the side effects may be death of the mother, infant or both.

In this day and age the latter really isn't an option that's seriously on the table but back in the day abortions/c-sections weren't really a thing or were more risky and you couldn't tell in advance if there would be complications so that risk was just accepted.

Edit: FWIW I am pro-choice (since apparently we can't have a discussion about alternatives to abortion without assuming other people's opinions on the issues).

Ah, so who is going to force the C-section/normal birth to happen? The authorities, with guns? If that scene is ok with someone, that's where I'd disagree with them, because it's clearly cruel.

There's countless situations where I could judge someone's behavior as a thing they should never do, even though I'm not in their shoes, but this isn't one of them. If a mother wants to abort, that's just on her! Maybe the suffering of the fetus is tragic, but it's all her choice and I can't really judge her because I'm not her. I accept I can't prevent every bad or possibly bad outcome and end all suffering.

Edit: I appreciate dialog on the specifics of these things. I think people just... assume that because they're all on the same "side" they come to the same beliefs and conclusions from the same reasoning (or that everyone around them has a reasoning to begin with) and that can end up causing huge problems.

Since when are we talking about forcing anyone to do anything? Someone asked for alternatives and I presented them.

Neither of these are alternatives if birthing is the problem, as they are both births.

Also, abortions weren't really a thing? Are you sure about that? I'm pretty sure it's only recently[1] that abortions were distinctly not a thing.


What "serious chance of permanent damage to the birther"? Down-thread, you make it clear that you're not talking about something that a C-section can prevent. What are you talking about?

We are aware that birthing causes a permanent change to the body in terms of bone calcium, along with things like tearing(which is really common), hormonal changes, etc. I also should note I consider C-sections to be serious damage, as it results in the cutting of the abdominal muscles and uterus, which can result in weakness later on.

Adoption and...? Sorry, I'm drawing a blank on what the second alternative would be.

Not the OP but I believe the second option would be raising the child.

Well, cool, that's where the disagreement is. If some woman I don't know says there's no alternative, I'm going to believe her because I don't know her.

For me, killing animals for meat isn't a problem. It's the way that they're treated before they're killed that bugs me about factory farms.

I shot a deer about 6 weeks back and butchered it myself, and I don't feel any moral conflicts over it. Over those last 6 weeks, though, I've actually eaten far less meat. I haven't bought meat from the supermarket at all, and I've eaten it at restaurants just a handful of times. Most days I eat vegetables, lentils, eggs, beans, etc., and once or twice a week I put on the chef hat and make a fancy venison dish. In comparison, factory farmed meat just isn't all that interesting or appetizing to me anymore.

On a side note, I recently tried the "Impossible Burger" and was duly impressed with how delicious it was for a plant-based patty. I could tell it wasn't exactly beef, but if you had told me it was from some other bovine relative, I would have believed you.

That and the Beyond Burger are both pretty good. It would be nice if they weren't at least double the cost of beef though.

On the flipside.

Let's say you eat 300g of beef a day, every day. Let's say a full grown cow will give you 300kg of beef. In order to fuel this habit of pretty intense meat consumption, you have to kill a cow once every three years.

I think for many people, this in itself doesn't strike them as that immoral, especially if the cow lives a pretty chill life.

The harder one is that if you want to do the same with chickens, you've got to pop one once every 3 or 4 days. Given the fact they often live horrible lives, this seems beyond what most people can morally justify.

People have two layers. Behavioural psychology tends to pretend that the deeper layer; the one that comes out when you're depressed and shatters all your illusions; doesn't exist. People know. They just block it out and invent reasons. Rationalisation is a powerful tool. We couldn't survive without it.

I am against animal cruelty, except I don't consider killing animals for meat to be cruelty, it's just an animal fulfilling their life purpose. That's how virtually all wild animals die, by becoming a meal for some predator, so killing them by humans is no different.

Then again, if someone would do some unnecessary torture on said animal, starving it, beating it up, then of course I would consider that cruelty and demanded punishment for that.

Declaring another living thing to have a life purpose that involves a harm to them and a benefit to you is probably not that defensible, at least not if you want to be objective about it.

You've said "if someone would do some unnecessary torture on said animal"; since a person can be vegetarian or vegan, isn't it a reasonable argument to say that any pain inflicted on food animals is unnecessary?

When is torture unnecessary? For example, factory farmed chickens have their beaks cut off (and there are nerves in there - they're not like nails or hair). This allows you to keep more in a small space, because even those the stress causes them to start pecking at each other, they can't damage each other too much. And if you can keep more in a small space, they are cheaper, and we can eat more eggs.

Thus, it benefits us in some way, but we would not suffer greatly if we had fewer/somewhat more expensive eggs. Is it then necessary?

We see all kinds of moral decision making paradoxes: when men act against homosexuality and then later come out as always having been gay, when religious leaders abuse people sexually...

I think morality is just fluid for most people, when we want to do something badly we will take on frameworks of atonement or utilitarianism ("I'll do this thing, but it's ok because of this separate thing cancelling it out") and it's often wrapped up in our own greater inner struggles, not some isolated psychological puzzle box that can be studied. Meat-eating is a worldwide culturally-reinforcing personal struggle of having compassion toward suffering of all things that can suffer. I think part of why pro-animal activists get so derided when they criticize people or behaviors, is because we know that they're trying to heal by force when people need to do it themselves.

>when men act against homosexuality and then later come out as always having been gay, when religious leaders abuse people sexually...

Those aren't moral paradoxes, those are just people being hypocrites.

The paradox, as such, is trying to reconcile the genocidal God of the Old Testament with the New Testament, and both with modern morality.

The BBC writer uses the phrase "forms of behaviour that conflict with deeply held moral principles" to assumably define moral decision making paradox. One could also add "being hypocrites" to make a sort of definition triangle containing all of these examples. Where's the differences?

The difference to me is whether the moral principles are deeply held, or merely pretense.

There is also a possibility that there is no moral paradox. The article uses the idea that factory farms are animal torture as an axiom, it never argues for that case. Animals are killed quickly and painlessly for meat. I've seen animals killed for food, and have done it. Animal torture is abusing and giving animals pain purposefully, and often does not involve eating them. It is clearly different.

> Animals are killed quickly and painlessly for meat.

I've watched enough undercover video of factory farms to know that is at least not true 100% of the time. Killing is also not the only possible moment for suffering, for example with gestation crates, battery cages, merely moving livestock around with electric prods and pokers, etc... Treating animals humanely costs money, and in a capitalist system there is always pressure to reduce costs.

A recent documentary came out called Dominion which is about the most comprehensive criticism of factory farm conditions I have seen. It's almost entirely composed of undercover video. You can actually watch the whole thing online:


I sort of hate linking that, because it feels like diet-shilling, but the reason I do so is really pretty basic: I think there is a misconception and that there is video evidence that I think would correct that misconception. I could write everything out, but I think actually seeing the video is more effective. You don't have to commit to watching all of it, just watch a random 10-15 minutes.

The only reason we care about animal treatment is because we anthropomorphize them. Money corrects this inaccuracy.

That says a lot about you.

But I'd say most of us don't want any living thing, including our dogs and cats, to be poorly treated. And humans fall under that umbrella as well. I wouldn't even treat your personal property poorly, and I don't need to attribute human qualities to your blender to do that.

It says nothing at all about me because it's how everyone who eats meat operates...

Harm for harm's same isn't what we're talking about. I may not beat my blender for fun but I'm never going to consider it's feelings because it has none.

Well, you didn't actually pitch a way in which people who eat meat operate. With a provocative one-liner like that, it's an exercise left to the reader. I'd challenge you to belabor it into a paragraph if you think you have a point, else it's too easy to dismiss any response as "you misunderstood me."

For example, what are you referring to with the word "inaccuracy" in your statement? And how do meat-eaters operate?

Anthropomorphizing something is to attribute to it emotions it does not have. Obviously that's an error, and meat eaters correctly operate without this false belief.

...just like we anthropomorphise other humans. Sure, I believe animals are e.g. not capable of being terrorised by death threats, but I have just as much reason of believing many of them of being able to suffer pain just like humans can. Do you have reasons not to believe that?

Yes, animal brains are fundamentally different from human brains, and pain as we perceive it is hugely wrapped up in our understanding of time and our own mortality in ways that other animals can't even begin to comprehend.

If you don't know you're alive, how is dying the same?

Well, how are they "fundamentally" different from human brains? Can they not understand time, can they not feel pain, and why? Do their nerves not work? Do their brains work differently, and if so, in what way? And what about people with Down's syndrome?

No, animals literally don't understand time like we do, or experience pain like we do, mostly because they're not as complex. This stuff is all online and you really shouldn't be prodding some random Internet commenter for this information.

All human brains are vastly more complex than the next most complex animal brains. We truly are worlds beyond any other species when it comes to intellect.

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