Vegetarians/Vegans: How would you respond to the classic food chain argument? Watch

username927016
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I'm quite interested in the ethics around whether killing animals for food is ok or not. So I reckon it'd be interesting to see some of the responses on here :holmes:
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River85
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(Original post by Multitalented me)
I'm quite interested in the ethics around whether killing animals for food is ok or not. So I reckon it'd be interesting to see some of the responses on here :holmes:
What some object to isn't so much the killing animals for food, but the methods and cruelty involved in modern factory farming and whether we are justified in killing animals for food when there are suitable alternative food sources.
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username927016
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(Original post by River85)
What some object to isn't so much the killing animals for food, but the methods and cruelty involved in modern factory farming
Oh yeah & that.
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P.Kaur
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A natural food chain would involve a person hunting, killing and eating animals. I don't think there's anything natural in popping by to the supermarket to collect your packaged meat. Or the process of caging, breeding, shooting or mechanically killing animals, for that matter.
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IFondledAGibbon
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What is the classic 'food chain argument'?
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StarvingAutist
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(Original post by Multitalented me)
I'm quite interested in the ethics around whether killing animals for food is ok or not. So I reckon it'd be interesting to see some of the responses on here :holmes:
What's the food chain argument?

Btw it's not usually killing animals that's the problem, it's the method of killing.

I'd like to add that, as we're apes, the 'omnivore' argument doesn't convince me entirely, since apes tend to eat fruit & other vegetation. You can see this from our teeth too; they look like they're meant for grinding and chewing rather than ripping and tearing.
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ZakV
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I'm not a vegetarian but I don't think it's just about the method, it's the idea of a sentient being having to die for your own sustenance when there are other options...
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Picnic1
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If you eat dead meat, then why shouldn't nature/life kill or eat you, physically or metaphorically?
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miser
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I see it as an instance of the naturalistic fallacy, i.e., that just because something is natural does not imply it is therefore moral. Instincts exist to murder, rape, injure, pursue revenge, etc., because these instincts and behaviour happened to successfully propagate the genes that encouraged them. That a behaviour is genetically successful does not validate it ethically.

As humans we're able to reason and consider what is ethical and what isn't. Even though we might have certain instincts towards behaviour we "evolved to do", it doesn't mean that we should let those instincts rule us. We create laws to govern our behaviour and generally try to do what we think is right, which may or may not be what is physically gratifying or what our ancestors happened to do.

Animals don't know any better. In fact you could say they don't have any choice in it - it's often a matter of eating other animals or dying. We aren't in the same position - we have ready access to vegetarian food and do have a choice. Some people may need to eat meat for some specific dietary reason perhaps, but the vast majority of us do not.

But importantly, when deciding our ethics, we don't just look at what other animals are doing. We don't look at the status quo - nature is evidently violent and cruel - and use it to justify doing whatever we like. It's peculiar then when someone justifies their behaviour in regard to their diet by pointing out that other animals do it, as if we were as constrained and morally-numb as a walrus. And even if we were to justify behaving like animals, that's not even what we're doing - we're mass farming animals in a wholly unnatural way. Perhaps it'd be one thing to go out and hunt and kill our own food, but hardly anyone does this, so the argument is in my opinion extremely tenuous.
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tomclarky
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I think if a person eats meat then they should be able to take the life of such animals themselves. I don't mean that everyone should only eat meat that they've gone out and hunted, but i think there's a lot of meat eaters that would suddenly grow a conscience if you put an animal in front of them and told them they had to kill it before their next meal. If you want someone else to kill your animals for you then you shouldn't squirm if you were asked to do it yourself.
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Plainview
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(Original post by StarvingAutist)
I'd like to add that, as we're apes, the 'omnivore' argument doesn't convince me entirely, since apes tend to eat fruit & other vegetation. You can see this from our teeth too; they look like they're meant for grinding and chewing rather than ripping and tearing.
Except for the ones at the front.
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Plainview
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(Original post by tomclarky)
I think if a person eats meat then they should be able to take the life of such animals themselves. I don't mean that everyone should only eat meat that they've gone out and hunted, but i think there's a lot of meat eaters that would suddenly grow a conscience if you put an animal in front of them and told them they had to kill it before their next meal. If you want someone else to kill your animals for you then you shouldn't squirm if you were asked to do it yourself.
Does that mean you should only employ a team of builders to build you a new house if you could physically do it yourself single-handed?
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tomclarky
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(Original post by Plainview)
Does that mean you should only employ a team of builders to build you a new house if you could physically do it yourself single-handed?
You're misunderstanding me. I'm not talking in terms of physical excertion required to do a task, i'm talking purely in terms of morality. The correct analogy would be that if someone started to build their own house but suddenly grew a conscience and realised the the task they were about to do is somehow unethical, then it would be hypocritical to get a group of builders in to do it for them.

If meat eaters can't bring themselves to kill an animal for food because they'd feel compassion and think it's cruel taking it's life then they shouldn't get someone else to do it for them.
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StarvingAutist
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(Original post by Plainview)
Except for the ones at the front.
The jaw structure is not one of a predator though - the jaw is very short and not that strong, so not suitable for biting prey. Case in point:
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The teeth you mentioned, at the front, are not comparable to those of a carnivore or omnivore. I would hazard that the only reason we eat meat so frequently is because we can cook our food. Otherwise, it would be quite difficult to rip through the flesh.
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Plainview
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(Original post by StarvingAutist)
The jaw structure is not one of a predator though - the jaw is very short and not that strong, so not suitable for biting prey. Case in point:
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The teeth you mentioned, at the front, are not comparable to those of a carnivore or omnivore. I would hazard that the only reason we eat meat so frequently is because we can cook our food. Otherwise, it would be quite difficult to rip through the flesh.
That might have something to do with the fact that predatory quadrupeds had to kill their pray with their teeth – ie. tear flesh off a living, writhing animal – whereas we've evolved to use tools that a) remove our teeth from the killing process and b) allow us to cut food up to more appropriate sizes before eat.
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StarvingAutist
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(Original post by Plainview)
That might have something to do with the fact that predatory quadrupeds had to kill their pray with their teeth – ie. tear flesh off a living, writhing animal – whereas we've evolved to use tools that a) remove our teeth from the killing process and b) allow us to cut food up to more appropriate sizes before eat.
Yes, exactly - the idea of eating meat was our own invention; not necessarily something we were 'designed' for. Chimps, our closest relation, are predominantly vegetarian.
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Plainview
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(Original post by StarvingAutist)
Yes, exactly - the idea of eating meat was our own invention; not necessarily something we were 'designed' for. Chimps, our closest relation, are predominantly vegetarian.
So where's the dividing line between evolutionary tendency and wilful habit? I'm pretty sure we evolved to use tools a long enough time ago for that to be considered a part of our human nature. It is naturally human, for example, to acquire and use complex language skills, but we presumably developed those long after we learned how to throw a spear.
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Baron of Sealand
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(Original post by miser)
I see it as an instance of the naturalistic fallacy, i.e., that just because something is natural does not imply it is therefore moral. Instincts exist to murder, rape, injure, pursue revenge, etc., because these instincts and behaviour happened to successfully propagate the genes that encouraged them. That a behaviour is genetically successful does not validate it ethically.

As humans we're able to reason and consider what is ethical and what isn't. Even though we might have certain instincts towards behaviour we "evolved to do", it doesn't mean that we should let those instincts rule us. We create laws to govern our behaviour and generally try to do what we think is right, which may or may not be what is physically gratifying or what our ancestors happened to do.

Animals don't know any better. In fact you could say they don't have any choice in it - it's often a matter of eating other animals or dying. We aren't in the same position - we have ready access to vegetarian food and do have a choice. Some people may need to eat meat for some specific dietary reason perhaps, but the vast majority of us do not.

But importantly, when deciding our ethics, we don't just look at what other animals are doing. We don't look at the status quo - nature is evidently violent and cruel - and use it to justify doing whatever we like. It's peculiar then when someone justifies their behaviour in regard to their diet by pointing out that other animals do it, as if we were as constrained and morally-numb as a walrus. And even if we were to justify behaving like animals, that's not even what we're doing - we're mass farming animals in a wholly unnatural way. Perhaps it'd be one thing to go out and hunt and kill our own food, but hardly anyone does this, so the argument is in my opinion extremely tenuous.
I'd say something like that.

And perhaps that by being a vegetarian, I did not upset the food chain at all. Plants are still under me in the food chain, and a non-vegetarian certainly does not eat everything below.
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xDave-
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Arguing that it's natural is the sort of thing I'd expect from a religious person; it's not even worth entertaining.
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StarvingAutist
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(Original post by Plainview)
So where's the dividing line between evolutionary tendency and wilful habit? I'm pretty sure we evolved to use tools a long enough time ago for that to be considered a part of our human nature. It is naturally human, for example, to acquire and use complex language skills, but we presumably developed those long after we learned how to throw a spear.
Had we not evolved our intelligence, we wouldn't have eaten meat nearly so frequently. It is precisely because our bodies lack suitable adaptations for eating meat that we had to invent tools and methods of cooking to do so. We aren't really physically equipped for it.
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