Penny for Your Philosophical Thoughts?
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Sunday, February 27, 2005

Help on Jes's Article

Ok people. I am probably going to submit this article to the school paper. Care to help clean it up? While you may not agree with the stance, what I am looking for are things like logical problems, spelling and grammer errors, and sentence structure. Any help you can give would help me out. Thanks!
-jes

When I tell people I am a vegetarian, I get a myriad of responses. Most people are curious why I decided to give up meat, some want to know how I get my protein, some want to know how that weird morning star/ boca food tastes.

When I tell people they shouldn’t eat meat either, they get down right offended. The response I get then is usually “Who cares, they’re just animals. They wouldn’t even be alive if it wasn’t for us. They are stupid, incapable of reason and they don’t know better. Besides, you can’t tell me it’s wrong to eat meat, that’s just your opinion.” I am writing this article to say; the morality of eating meat is not just my opinion.

Before I begin, I would like to say; I understand that eating meat is a huge part of American culture. Meat commercials lead you to believe, that eating meat is an American activity. In fact, the phrase “where’s the beef” seems to be the embodiment of what meat means to Americans. Where’s the beef translates to “where’s the substance” or “where is the important stuff.” A meal consisting of a juicy steak has traditionally been a sign of wealth and prosperity. Meat is an important economic force as well. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, the beef industry in 2003 was valued at 70 Billion dollars. They produced 26.3 billion pounds of meat from 35.5 million cattle during that time. Veal production alone totaled 13.8 million pounds in 2004. The beef industry is huge.

Many people feel the success of the beef industry has been gained unfairly on the backs of animals. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals report on the horrid conditions under which these animal are not only kept, but also killed. Animals are kept in small cramped conditions, where they cannot move for their entire adult lives. Animals often have body parts removed without being anesthetized. Cows are sometimes skinned while they are alive and alert. The reality of the situation is, regardless of regulations put in place to ease the torment of animals farmed for food, the guideline are often not met.

Claiming the morality of eating meat is just my opinion implies that the morality of eating meat can be determined by personal preference. However, that claim reduces the morality of meat consumption to one of a preference to red over green, or vanilla over chocolate. This claim seems as false to me as saying that gratuitous torture of babies can be wrong for you, but right for me. Killing animals for food is not a subjective matter any more than the gratuitous torture of babies is. If, as I will argue below, there is no morally relevant difference between animals and babies, the state should recognize the immorality of the practice of slaughtering animals for food, and make the practice illegal.

There are two arguments that defeat the majority of the objections from meat eaters. The most popular objection from the meat eater is one that claims it is morally permissible to eat animals because they are animals. However, this objection fails. While it is true that animals are animals, nothing in that claim says why it should be ok to consume them. This objection is similar to a sexist argument. While the sexist might want to claim that a woman should not be entitled to equal pay because she is a woman, he hasn’t said anything about her womanhood that justifies his claim. Certainly, this is why sexism is frowned upon. Simply being a woman in most cases doesn’t say anything of her ability to perform certain tasks. Similarly, if we cite species membership as grounds for allowing torture, we should explain why species membership is a relevant difference. Simply stating it is morally permissible to murder animals for food because they are animals is speciesist , in the way that it is sexist to deny a woman a job because of her gender, or as ageist as denying moral rights to a child because of his age.

The move for the meat eater is to begin citing differences between humans and animals that he finds morally relevant. Here, the meat eater runs into a problem referred to as the argument from marginal cases. The argument from marginal cases, pioneered by famous ethicist Peter Singer, states roughly this: If we want to say that only humans are entitled to equal treatment, we have to cite some property all humans have that no animals do. Any property only humans have is lacking in some humans. Properties like language, intelligence, or ability to be rational are lacking babies and the mentally handicapped. Moreover, the more properties we cite to include marginal humans, the more animals share those properties. Emotional attachments, communication, a sense of the future are properties shared by humans and (some) animals. Because of this, there is no non speciesist way to justify treating these animals in a fashion we would not treat humans.
Given the arguments outline above, if the government allows marginal humans like babies and the mentally handicapped to have rights, the government should also allow animals who share morally relevant properties to have rights as well. While there are numerous objections, including appeals to financial loss, note that citing economic loss in terms of sacrificing human rights and treatment is unacceptable. To say the country will suffer monetary loss if practices like factory farming are banned, denies the moral relevance of animals, which, as mentioned above is arbitrary and speciesist.

Saturday, February 26, 2005

Updating the SPS website

I've now updated--or should I say that I've now tried to update--the SPS's website, located, of course, at http://www.csun.edu/~philos33/club.html. Will someone please let me know whether the damn thing is actually updated? It should now announce the results of last meeting's elections, the next meeting of the SPS, and Professor Brie Gertler's upcoming colloquium. My love to you all!

Thursday, February 24, 2005

New blog

We have a blog!

Thanks, Jes!

I must correct my earlier post -- either that, or Jes' seething anger will lead her never to talk to me again. Here's the corrected version: Thank you, Jes, for creating a blog for the SPS. Dan deserves no credit whatsoever and, in fact, I haven't the faintest idea who Dan is.

Thanks, Jes (and Dan)!

Thanks for the blog, ya'll! Let me address, in my first post, the problems I'm experiencing with the SPS's CSUN website. I've been trying to figure out exactly why I can view the updated webpage on the computer in my office, but I can't view the updated webpage--only an older version--on my laptop at PsychoBabble. I hope the blog remedies some of these difficulties. Spread the word!

I heart Philosophy

Philosophy is fun.