PETA Wants You to Empathize with Fish

|

The President Bush pardoned, not one, but two Thanksgiving turkeys today (and I'm not talking about John Ashcroft and Colin Powell).

But that's not enough for the activists over at People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. They want you to empathize with fish. Say it ain't so Mrs. Paul's!

(Thanks for the warning to Pamela Friedman.)

Advertisement

NEXT: Choking on Disgorgement

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. Look at this sentence –

    “ANIMAL rights activists are calling for people to stop eating fish – which would mean the end of one of Britain’s favourite dishes fish and chips.”

    Do Sun readers actually need the presence of fish in fishand chips to be explained to them?

  2. joe,

    A more interesting question is, are they really eating fish or merely some devious by-product of soybeans disguised as fish? πŸ™‚

  3. Will no one speak up for the chips?

  4. What is PETA going to say when we’re eating soylent green?

  5. who do you think will be making it?

  6. Now I remember what’s missing from my fridge! Salmon steaks!

    Thanks, PETA! I’ve gotten so bored with beef and chicken. Now there’s something new to annoy them.

  7. At least PETA uses female nudity to gain publicity. That’s a spreading trend, so keep trying to get my attention, PETA, et al!
    (I’m thinking for this particular issue, a mermaid with humongous knockers would do the trick.)
    (Come to think of it, we Reasonoids would probably join this trend if we could find any women.)

  8. LOL Jesse

    At first they came for the fish, but I did not speak up because I only eat chips…

  9. I’m curious, what do libertoids have against PETA?

    You don’t criticize rabbis when they say individuals should choose not to eat pigs (or whatever animal) for philosophical reasons.

    Why do you criticize PETA for saying individuals should choose not to eat pigs (or whatever animal) for different philosophical reasons?

    I don’t believe I’ve ever seen PETA try to mount a campaign to legally prohibit the eating of anything.

  10. joe:
    Apparently you are unaware of their successful campaign to ban foie grois here in California. (because it’s mean to forcefeed the ducks all that corn)

  11. “No one would ever put a hook through a dog’s or cat’s mouth,” said Bruce Friedrich of PETA.

    No, we’d simply whack them over the head with a club, or shoot them in the head if they really pissed us off.

    “Once people start to understand that fish are just as intelligent they’ll stop eating them.”

    Maybe he just saw Finding Nemo and thought of it as a documentary. Or maybe the fish are as intelligent as he is.

  12. He’s right, fish are brain food.

    Hmmmmm brains.

  13. Shawn,

    This puts me in mind of conversation I overheard at SEA-TAC airport several months ago. A couple of guys were talking about exotic delicasies they had enjoyed in the Far East and one of them said he had eaten dog. I butted in and inquired if it was any good. He said yes, it was like well cooked pork. I expressed my skepticism that a full grown hound could be so tender and he replied, “Well, of course, you don’t eat them like that. You gotta get them when they’re only a year or so old.”

    BTW, the dog eater worked as a Chef on the Alaskan Railroad Coastal Classic.

  14. joe-
    I’ve got nothing against PETA. I don’t quite get their reasoning that the more intelligent an animal is the less deserving it is to be dinner. However, I empathize and like animals. So, the more PETA does to end animal cruelty the better. I eat meat, but I feel much better when I’m eating things I’ve killed myself. Factory farm raised animals are often treated cruelly.

  15. pigwiggle, me too, except I trust the animal care standards of organic, free range producters as well.

    Oh, and I don’t shoot things. I’d probably miss, and leave some poor critter to limp around miserably for a week.

  16. Joe,

    I didn’t think there was any shortage of criticism of religious rules on this forum. Perhaps this is more of the same?

  17. And the angel said unto me, “These are the cries of the carrots, the cries of the carrots! You see, Reverend Maynard, tomorrow is harvest day and to them it is the holocaust.” And I sprang from my slumber drenched in sweat like the tears of one million terrified brothers and roared, “Hear me now, I have seen the light! They have a consciousness, they have a life, they have a soul! Damn you! Let the rabbits wear glasses! Save our brothers!”

  18. I can’t believe no one took Andy’s bait, so:

    They’re gonna say: IIIITTTT’SSS PEEEOOOOOPPPLEE…..Soylent Green IS PPPPEEEEEOOOOPPPLLLEEEE!!!!!

  19. PETA advances the cause of humane treatment of animals kind of like Earth First advances responsible environmentalism.

    Don’t these people have more important things to worry about…like say…Internet hunting?

  20. “No one would ever put a hook through a dog’s or cat’s mouth,” said Bruce Friedrich of PETA.

    Buddy Bruce, obviously, hasn’t taken the Good Doctor into consideration:

    http://wolf.ok.ac.kr/~annyg/english/index.html

  21. PETA really annoys me. They act as if all of nature is some benign thing where the lion doesn’t eat the gazelle. All of nature ? beautiful as it is ? works in harmony as long as the big fish eats the little fish. Well guess what? We’re the big fish! If they want to tell me that we need to eat LESS fish, because we’re too successful at catching them, that’s a discussion I’m willing to have. Just stop pretending that the whole system isn’t based on life eating life.

    So why do cougars get a right that I don’t? They get to eat Bambi and I want some too!

  22. “Oh, and I don’t shoot things. I’d probably miss, and leave some poor critter to limp around miserably for a week.”

    The last time I hunted upland birds (pheasant, quail, and so forth) a coyote followed us for nearly 10 miles. I suppose it had learned there might be an easy meal to be had from the wounded birds we couldn’t track.

  23. “Will no one speak up for the chips?”

    It’s been an hour and that’s still cracking me up.

  24. You don’t criticize rabbis when they say individuals should choose not to eat pigs (or whatever animal) for philosophical reasons.

    Rabbis don’t much care what gentiles eat.

    Anyway, PETA opens itself up for extra criticism for the same reason that the Christian Coalition does — because it attempts to force its silly moral system into law.

  25. he last time I hunted upland birds (pheasant, quail, and so forth) a coyote followed us for nearly 10 miles. I suppose it had learned there might be an easy meal to be had from the wounded birds we couldn’t track.

    pigwiggle, I think the coyote was merely making a guess at your survival skills.

  26. I’m curious, what do libertoids have against PETA?

    You don’t criticize rabbis when they say individuals should choose not to eat pigs (or whatever animal) for philosophical reasons.

    Why do you criticize PETA for saying individuals should choose not to eat pigs (or whatever animal) for different philosophical reasons?

    Well, the difference is that the rabbi says something like, “Those of you who choose to follow the Jewish faith should not eat pork.”

    Whereas PETA says something like, “Nobody should eat animals, because…” and then their reasoning is weak, if not hilarious.

    It’s to PETA’s credit that they try education and persuasion rather than political force (except apparently incidents like andy mentioned; I hadn’t heard of that one). But the “a rat is a pig is a dog is a boy”-type equivalency reasoning strikes most people as whacky, not just reflexively but even by those who attempt to give it some serious analysis.

    PETA is parading through the Free Market of Ideas with a big KICK ME sign taped to its butt. And some people can’t resist.

  27. They throw blood on people, which is at a minimum uncouth. They oppose scientific research. What’s to like?

    Besides, did you see what they did in “28 Days Later”?

  28. Billy J.: “So why do cougars get a right that I don’t?”

    Because cougars don’t have a choice. We do.

  29. for those of us who missed 28 days, yes its on my list, but haven’t got the dvd yet, please fill us in

    joe

  30. Joe,
    Hunters tend to not like PETA, ’cause PETA doesn’t like hunting. There’s one example.

  31. “Hey, Yutz! Guns aren’t toys! They’re for family protection, hunting dangerous or delicious animals and keeping the king of England outta your face!”

    Krusty the Clown

  32. I believe in the sanctity of all living things. That’s why I eat beef.

    As my jaws come together on that New York Strip, I hear in my mind the rejoicing of every blade of grass that was not murdered today. Every dandelion, ever stalk of clover, every green thing whose bretheren ever lay defenseless beneath the genocidal maw of the tyrant despot that lays upon my plate. I wipe my lips in righteous fervor. Let freedom ring!

    Besides, it’s safer than assault and battery on a foie gras chef. ( http://www.sfexaminer.com/article/index.cfm/i/082703e_unterman – see third subhead ) Who knows – the chef might carry a gun.

  33. Joe-
    I personally hate PETA because, among other things, they insist that there is NO moral difference between my killing a mouse and the Nazis murdering Jews, or me eating a hamburger and Jeff Dahmer eating his rape victims. No matter how mellow I might otherwise be feeling, if you accuse me of mass murder I’m not likely to have a hell of a lot of respect for you.

    Also, PETA is hypocritical–there’s against modern diabetes treatments, because getting insulin requires hurting animals, but one of their executives is an insulin-shooting diabetic. You see, it’s okay for HER to benefit from dead animals, because she’s so incredibly fucking important, but non-PETA diabetics all just have to deal with insulin comas and death, I suppose.

    When vegans question my carnivorous morality, I like to irritate them by saying that I eat animals because they are murderous bastards who deserve it. How many millions of blades of grass had to die, so that one methane-farting, global-warming-causing cow might live? (If you happen to be eating a hamburger, as I was when having this conversation, it helps if you wave it around for emphasis.)

    But seriously, I’m against the needless torture of animals, and I think that when animals ARE slaughtered for food it should be done in a humane manner, but to say that animal and human life are equivalent is asinine. If animals have rights then they also have responsibilities. When I can sue a wasp for pain and suffering after it stings me, and the wasp has to pay up, THEN I’ll consider the possibility that the life of the wasp is in some way equal to my own.

  34. Damn. I see Vynnie beat me to the “grass has rights, too” example.

  35. Vynnie – “…every green thing whose bretheren ever lay defenseless beneath the genocidal maw of the tyrant despot that lays upon my plate.”

    Fucking brilliant! πŸ™‚

  36. This topic always reminds me of Notting Hill.

    Keziah: No thanks, I’m a fruitarian.
    Max: I didn’t realize that.
    William: And, ahm: what exactly is a fruitarian?
    Keziah: We believe that fruits and vegetables have feeling so we think cooking is cruel. We only eat things that have actually fallen off a tree or bush – that are, in fact, dead already. William: Right. Right. Interesting stuff. So, these carrots…
    Keziah: Have been murdered, yes.

  37. I always like engaging PETA folks with the question “I guess if you’re against eating beef, you don’t mind that there won’t be any cows anymore, right?”.

    That’s usually met with a blank stare, and I can see the wheels painfully turning….

  38. Vynnie and Jennifer, would you eat the sign-language using chimpanzee?

  39. Mr. Lincoln,

    I would. If he was properly prepared in a nice sauce, with some appropriate side dishes and a nice red wine he might taste good.

    I mean, why not?

  40. Somehow I think there is a qualitative difference between the life of a blade of grass or, say, a carrot, and the life of a cow. Anyone who argues thats eating plants is just as brutal as eating animals is being dense or disingenuous.

    Anyone can pick a carrot, but I wonder how many of you proud meat eaters would be capable of killing and gutting an animal yourselves.

  41. Andy and Call me snake,

    The inevitability of Soylent Green was addressed in a thought-provoking and very special episode of News Radio:

    “…Now available in vanilla nut flavor. So for a tasty treat that’s good to eat, try Soylent Green. Soylent Green is people. Soylent Green. Made from the best stuff on Earth… People!”

    Maybe that’s my objection to PETA–if victorious, they’ll insist that homo sapiens is the only meat that we can eat. I suppose I’m mildly sympathetic to the idea of not eating animals (but I have it in for potatoes), but PETA’s rhetoric is just a wee bit too much.

    Here’s Moses/Ben Hur on the nature of Soylent Green.

  42. I agree with you up until the killing and gutting myself part, chaitanya. If I had to, you better believe I’d blast and clean an animal.

    I eat meat atm, but have been a vegetarian off and on for over 15 years. Whenever I order a hamburger or whatever, I feel ‘weird’ about it and it’s funny to realise that pretty much nobody else does, especially the person I order it from. I think that in this day and age, we’re advanced enough to where we don’t need to kill animals to live. But at the same time, I don’t think it’s immoral to kill an animal and consume it as long as you don’t torture it first. Which is a big reason I ever dabbled in vegetarianism in the first place (the inhumane way they raise chickens, cows, etc and whatnot).

    Don’t know where I’m going with this, so I leave it there. πŸ™‚

  43. Lincoln-
    I personally would not eat a chimpanzee, or a dolphin or whale, for that matter, because there is a considerable amount of evidence to suggest that these animals have a level of intelligence, language (or the capablity to learn it) and self-awareness. I won’t say I know exactly *where* to draw the line between okay-to-eat and not-okay-to-eat, but any animal capable of using learned language to express thoughts (as opposed to the instinctive sounds most animals make in certain situations) is definitely on the do-not-eat side of it. Show me even one cow capable of forethought and abstraction, and I’d stop eating beef and start believing in Cow Rights.

  44. While I, too, scoff at the silliness of PETA, I do think we ought to consider the implications of animals with more complex neurological systems. It seems that the great apes (with 99% of our DNA) should be considered not equivalent to fish, birds, cows, and pigs. I think that there’s a lot of evidence to suggest that apes are operating at toddler level intelligence. And while toddlers are particularly succulent, maybe it’s alright to wonder if apes aren’t worth a little more consideration than other animals.

  45. Okay the Notting Hill quote forces me to pull out this nugget from Derek and Clive:

    CLIVE:
    I’d like to see every endangered species wiped off the fucking face of the Earth.
    DEREK:
    Yeah.
    CLIVE:
    People go, they’re all moaning on, they say whales are more intelligent than human beings.
    DEREK:
    Yeah.
    CLIVE:
    Are they? Do you think whales and dolphins are more intelligent than human beings?
    DEREK:
    Oh yeah.
    CLIVE:
    Why?
    DEREK:
    Says so.
    CLIVE:
    Yeah, but they’re not. Whales are fucking stupid. Can you mention one whale in the history of mankind that has had a record in the top ten? Can you? Can you mention one whale who’s written the equivalent of, er, ‘Othello’, Shakespeare, ‘Health & Efficiency’? They’ve produced nothing in the way of literature. All they’ve fucking produced is a load of other whales and all they eat is fucking plankton, and they call them intelligent. Can you imagine drifting along in the sea with your mouth open and a lot of fucking plankton going in?
    DEREK:
    Yeah, I can imagine that.
    CLIVE:
    You’d like it, would you, just drifting around in the sea? And you can’t-, they’re such cunts they can’t even breathe underwater. They have to keep coming up the whole fucking time and spouting. Then some cunt comes on telly and he says, “Oh, the whale is being wiped out by mankind, save the fucking whales.” Well! During the war, did we notice a lot of whales w-, rallying roundand saying, “Save England!” I didn’t notice many down my part of the world.

  46. C’mon, does no PET-A-person hang at reason.com? Stand up and defend your side!

  47. chaitanya-

    ?Somehow I think there is a qualitative difference between the life of a blade of grass or, say, a carrot, and the life of a cow.?

    The difference being you identify more with the cow, that?s it.

    ?Anyone who argues thats eating plants is just as brutal as eating animals is being dense or disingenuous.?

    No, they just disagree with you.

    ?Anyone can pick a carrot, but I wonder how many of you proud meat eaters would be capable of killing and gutting an animal yourselves.?

    I agree. Too many people are unwilling to do the dirty work themselves. Most have no idea what goes into killing and dressing an animal. It doesn?t always go to plan and can get very messy.

  48. “Anyone can pick a carrot”

    You don’t pick them, you dig them up.

  49. I’m the advance being for a race whose average IQ would be about 2000 on your pitiful scale. Just so you know, any being with an IQ of below 300 is considered dense enough to eat. Passed by edict of the Kulankt conference 187257.938.888.

  50. And just to be clear, our physical form is identical to large english CHIPS.

  51. I have always wondered why it’s cool to fish but uncool to cap Bambi. Score one for PETA, for consistency at least.

    But, as a long-time practicing Waterian, I must point out that carrots scream when the next carrot over gets yanked out by the roots. And man, the life forms that are killed to plow the fields for broccoli plantations number in the thousands (thousands of species, billions of individual victims). Yet, PETA’s okay with plowing under the ground squirrels, gophers, k-rats, and multitudes of smaller vermin so long as the farmer doesn’t plant cows for tenderloins. Hypocrites, all.

    Vegans and Carnivores repent. Move to the higher celestial plane and join with the Waterians.

  52. I wonder how many of you proud meat eaters would be capable of killing and gutting an animal yourselves

    Ah, the “if it’s icky, it must be wrong” school of thought.

    There are many things that I would absolutely hate doing, and which I personally find to be gross, but which are nevertheless perfectly fine from a moral perspective — performing surgery, slaughtering animals, cleaning sewers, having sex with another man, voting for Ralph Nader, etc.

  53. Piggle, Dude, I am NOT going hunting except at the market. I leave that to my buddy Keith in Kodiak and my father in law. Hunting and killing is way to hard. It’s messy, difficult, time consuming, nasty work. Plus Venison just ain’t Filet Mignon.

    And although I was being a bit tongue-in-cheek about the animals killed when the fields are plowed, it is a fact of farming. Worse, it’s Ground Squirrel Buchenwald when a virgin field is plowed and there’s also plenty of carnage in a field that’s been fallow for a few years as well.

  54. Why I like PETA:

    “It would be a great thing if all of these fast-food outlets, these slaughterhouses, these laboratories, and the banks that fund them exploded tomorrow… Hallelujah to the people who are willing to do it.” – PETA Campaign Director Bruce Friedrich, July 2, 2001

    “Even if animal research resulted in a cure for AIDS, we’d be against it.”-Ingrid Newkirk, President & Co-Founder of PETA

  55. pigwiggle, the “it’s all just your opinion” dodge doesn’t hold up to scrutiny.

    A mammal can experience pain and terror. A carrot cannot. That’s not my opinion, that’s demonstrable fact.

    If you want to argue that the reaction of a mammal to massive physical insult or impending death – the fear, pain, and struggle – amounts only to biochemical reactions with no moral significance, then why should I consider you or your mom’s fear, pain and struggle to have any moral significance?

  56. …and you’d better come up with something more substantive than some watered down Genesis “image of God” shit.

  57. I’ve worked with people associated with PETA doing charity work for dog shelters, etc. Even the people I talked to who are affiliated with PETA think the things PETA does and says are outrageous. They say PETA makes these outrageous statements because they know that the more outrageous a statement is the more press it will get, and getting the message out is what it’s all about.

    A couple of years ago, PETA filed a false advertising suit against the California Dairy Association for their “Good Cheese Comes from Happy Cows and Happy Cows Come From California” campaign, alleging that there’s no way the Dairy Association could prove that California’s cows are particularly happy. None of the PETA people I talked to thought PETA had a real suit; they just wanted everyone who saw the press it generated to think about the conditions in which we keep dairy cows.

    Similarly, I’ve seen PETA members make fun of PETA for going into drought areas where people were starving to death and promoting vegetarianism in the hope of saving local wildlife. Once again, to the people I talked to, being covered by the press is the meaning of activism; people used to laugh at Green Peace, you know.

    There’s at least two kinds of animal rights activists: the people who volunteer for dog rescue, many of whom are happy to go out for burgers at the end of the day, and then there’s the hardcore types. I’ve heard some hilarious stories about the hardcore types.

    No one seems to have commented on my link to the “Good Doctor” above, but if you go to that site, it’s by a South Korean doctor who calls himself “Dr. Dogmeat.” He promotes, you guessed it, eating dog meat.

    The site is complete with cultural history, recipes, and just about anything you ever wanted to know about eating dog meat. The most amusing section of the site, I think, is the link titled “Dog Meat – Eating French.” At the top of the page, Dr. Dogmeat relates the story of a public debate someone of apparent note had with Bridgette Bardot about eating dog meat.

    Apparently, Ms. Bardot said that Koreans who eat dog meat were barbarians, to which her opponent replied that the French ate dog meat. Ms. Bardot became indignant, but that’s not the point. The point is: how funny is the debate over eating dog meat? I remember seeing people from PETA on the local news here in LA, years ago, publicly telling people not to give or sell puppies to Koreans.

    Seems quite racist, doesn’t it? Still, I’d feel funny givin’ away a puppy if…never mind; I’d never have a dog that wasn’t fixed anyway.

    P.S. There’s something to be said for the argument that so many people casually abuse animals because so many people are socialized to think of animals as food.

    To PETA people, it’s like the old Twilight Zone episode, “To Serve Man”. Dying is dying, really, but there’s something particularly horrifying about being treated as food. It strikes the same horrifyingly absurd chord with them as when you first heard that once people were made into lampshades. Anyway, that’s the way PETA people see it.

    Like I tell them, when you know you’re morally right, it’s hard to remember that the people who disagree with you are the battleground and not the enemy.

  58. What bugs me about PETA, for the record, is their strident insistence that if you don’t live EXACTLY HOW THEY SAY, you’re a horrible evil person. That, plus their incredible moral blindness in insisting that “a rat is a pig is a dog is a boy” ala Peter Singer. What just weirds me out is the fact that they seem to have no concept at all of how bizarre most people find their beliefs. I know that a lot of people think libertarian ideals are weird; that’s OK. I acknowledge that and try to take it into account, and I try not to take myself too seriously. PETA folks don’t seem to be aware of all this and have no sense of humor about anything. “When you lose your ability to laugh, you lose your ability to think straight”, as the man said.

    My own half-baked conception on “animal rights” is this: animals can’t conceive of their own morality; this is why it’s OK for us to kill them. They do understand fear and pain (to some limited degree); this makes it not OK to willfully cause them suffering. I think that chimpanzees, gorillas, dolphins, and maybe elephants and some parrots do have a greater understanding of the nature of life and death than most animals, so I’d be amenable to stronger protection for them. I realize this is hardly a fully formed philosophical argument, but I don’t intend it to be one – it’s just a gut feeling.

  59. Oh, and I forgot to add, if there are any of you anti-European, redneck types out there who’d like to know more about the alleged French consumption of dog meat, here’s the link:

    http://wolf.ok.ac.kr/~annyg/english/index.html

  60. “And the animals I’ve trapped
    Have all become my pets
    And I’m living off of grass
    And the drippings from the ceiling
    But it’s ok to eat fish
    Cause they haven’t any feelings”

  61. I’ll stop eating beef the day a bull stands up and asserts his right as a sapient being to be left alone. It takes just one. I’ll forego all members of the species if just one individual stakes a claim to personhood.

    Same with pork, chicken, crab…

    While we’re waiting, anyone want some yummy dolphin/tuna salad?

  62. Why stop at fishes? Consider the barbarous way we imprison living shellfish and scald them to death in boiling water.

    Free the lobsters! Together we can end crustacean captivity in our lifetime!

  63. I find the arguments here against veganism/animal rights rather weak. Are the PETA people nutty and “outrageous”? Yeah, that’s why I’m not a member. Frankly, I don’t like the way they perpetuate stereotypes — about women specifically, Pamela Anderson’s ads in particular — while railing against authoritarian stereotypes. Folks I’ve met from the Libertarian Party (and _Reason_ readers for that matter) have been not much different on the weirdness scale.

    PETA deserves some respect for raising awareness. Undercover videos like “Meet your Meat” have been critically important. Wasn’t a PETA hired investigator responsible for exposing one of KFCs’ biggest suppliers for animal abuse six or seven months ago…?

    I believe someone named “Jennifer” wrote the following:

    This is rather arbitrary. Is an infant capable of using and understanding language?* What makes langauge, or your own idiosyncratic understanding of “abstract thought” morally relevant?

    *Pre-emptive attack: Yes, humans often pass their infant stage and acquire language, but this common reply rests on potentiality confusion A similar argument could be made for a third term fetus, or a second term fetus, or a first term fetus, or a blastocyst, or a zygote. You see where I’m going.

  64. joe

    Exactly why should you consider her pain and suffering to have any moral significance? Maybe that’s what pigwiggle was getting at.

  65. Some Jews and some Muslims don’t eat pork for religious reasons, I’m of no religious faith/belief and I don’t like to eat pork because I understand that pigs are quite smart-too smart to slaughter. You know, I think that maybe we all can get along… πŸ˜‰

  66. I don’t think an inability to stand up and assert one’s rights necessarily makes one a candidate to be killed and eaten.

    Like I said earlier, the great apes are unable to do this but they are generally considered to be as smart as toddlers. We know that they often express something that looks very much like emotion. I have worked with mentally disabled people who were less aware of the world and themselves than your average ape.

    So, even though I don’t believe it’s morally wrong to eat the things that are generally eaten, I don’t think it’s as cut and dry as the PETA people and some here do.

    I think that’s the mistake people on both sides of the issue tend to make. They think there’s a simple answer to this somewhat complex question.

  67. People should not be killed (involuntarily) because such killing does a harm to a person on top of the physical pain it might cause. People, including adult humans, are intellgent enough to be self aware and to have preferences about their futures. They have hopes and goals. Killing a person prevents them from being able to achieve those goals, and in that way does special harm to him/her/it.

    This is why it is wrong to (unjustly) kill a person — and because cows, carrots, chips, etc. are not persons, this is one argument to show that killing a person is different.

    The great apes, dolphins, etc. deserve special consideration because they might be persons too, despite their inability to communicate.

    But it seems very unlikely that fish or even cows are people. So I don’t have any problem kiling a particular one for food.

  68. Anyone can pick a carrot, but I wonder how many of you proud meat eaters would be capable of killing and gutting an animal yourselves.

    Pffft. That’s a pretty bad argument. As someone pointed out, I couldn’t perform surgery; does that mean that I shouldn’t take advantage of modern medicine? I’m tender-hearted, and it would be difficult for me to kill an animal, one of the major reasons that I don’t hunt. But I have no moral objection to meat-eating, and indeed I think that there are no universal moral objections to doing so.

    If you want to argue that the reaction of a mammal to massive physical insult or impending death – the fear, pain, and struggle – amounts only to biochemical reactions with no moral significance, then why should I consider you or your mom’s fear, pain and struggle to have any moral significance?

    Well, humans are the only animals we’re aware of who are . . . sentient? Sapient? I’m not sure what the current term is, but I think it’s sapient. It’s pretty vague, but I believe the key difference is awareness of others as individuals. Many, if not most, mammals have self-awareness. They are aware that they exist, at some level, even if it’s not in the same way that a human would understand that. Self-awareness is pretty common. The difference is that humans, generally speaking, see others as being individuals in the same way they are. People who can’t do this are sociopaths, and in many ways they act like highly intelligent animals.

    An animal isn’t capable of moral decisions, because it doesn’t comprehend that the other beings it’s harming are things that are capable of being harmed in the same way that it is capable of being harmed. Humans are capable of moral decisions, because they can understand that. That is the key difference between a human and an animal. If an animal ever shows the ability to be a moral actor, then PETA will have a case. As Jennifer said, rights have accompanying responsibilities. If an animal has rights, then it has the moral responsibility to respect others’ rights. Since it cannot do so, it does not have rights. Humans have a moral obligation to treat animals well, and to not be unneccessarily cruel to them. But animals do not have the right to be treated well.

    From a practical standpoint, how much money would we be willing to spend on keeping cows, sheep, chickens, etc., if there were no return in the form of profits from selling them for meat? Most domestic species would probably be extinct in short order if PETA were to have its way.

  69. grylliade makes excellent points, but there is one issue that I think is questionable:

    Humans have a moral obligation to treat animals well, and to not be unnecessarily cruel to them. But animals do not have the right to be treated well.

    I’m not exactly sure what this means, but maybe:

    (1) It is wrong for humans to unnecessarily harm animals because it harms us in the process.

    I don’t think this is true. It sounds good, but it doesn’t seem to have any justification I can see.

    There is an alternative:

    (2) It is wrong for humans to unnecessarily harm animals because animals feel pain and unnecessary pain is bad.

    But I don’t much like that either for the reasons that grylliade lays out about moral rights requiring reciprocal moral responsibility.

    I think maybe the real answer is:

    (3) It’s not morally wrong for humans to unnecessarily harm animals, but it is unattractive, unappealing, or ugly — a claim about aesthetics, not morals.

  70. Humans require vitamin B12 for survival. Humans cannot synthesize B12. Digestible B12 is not found in any plant species. It is found only in animals (particularly, ruminant herbivores, such as cow).
    Pound for pound, a human’s digestive track is almost the same length-to-body-size ratio as a canine’s, canines eating very little plant material in nature. In fact, it is almost as short a feline’s, which eats no plant material at all.
    Raw red meat is perfectly digestible, and is actually the only known food source, other than bee’s royal jelly, which can sustain a human indefinitely with no vitamin deficiencies. I have eaten raw meat before (I know, that puts me high up on the freak list, but I had a good reason… ok, a reason), and it is no big deal to eat, so the dental argument does not stand. Here’s a hint; don’t try to chew it so much, it’s not like eating boiled carrots. That is, if you get an itch to eat raw red meat like I did… not that I’m saying you will…
    My point is, humans are built to eat meat, and to a lesser extent, plants. That’s science. I can give you dozens more facts to back it up (and I will, if provoked). Nothing that is natural is ‘bad’ or ‘immoral’, including eating other animals, having sex, having homosex, or taking recreational drugs, all of which take place in the wild, and can be observed among many other species besides Homo Sapiens.
    Yes, animals should not be subjected to unnecessary cruelty, but whether an animal is ‘sapient’ or not is irrelevant. I would eat a chimp, if I were able to catch him, just as leopards do all the time, and just as the chimp catches and eats wild pigs regularly. You may argue that I may as well be eating other humans, but cannibalism is a bit rare in nature… there seems to be an instinctive bias against it. Humans seem to be on the short list of higher forms that practice it.

    P.S.: Another interesting tidbit; it appears 20% of all humans carry a digestive antibody against a prion that exists only within human nervous tissue. In other words, 1 out of 5 humans has an active gene that is useful only for eating humans. Chew on that.

  71. Actually, I like Rikurzhen’s post better.

  72. I agree with the idea that, while animals aren’t entitled to the same rights humans have, and can rightly be used by humans for food and human-benefiting research, humans should not tolerate unnecessary cruelty to animals.

    I’m still trying to figure out why I believe this, however.

    I do have the beginnings of a utilitarian argument that tolerating unnecessary cruelty to animals is bad for humans.

    See, the so-called “higher” animals, at least, experience pain, and are able to express pain in somewhat human-like ways. It is good for humans to be upset when such an animal is in pain. Because, if we become desensitized to human-like epxressions of pain in animals, it becomes easier to become more callous toward actual human pain. This is bad, because it blunts our natural reflex to avoid actions that cause pain to others. In other words, if you become accepting of casual cruelty to animals, you’re probably more likely to become blase’ about cruelty to humans too.

    What I don’t like about this argument is that it’s a fairly short hop from there to “and we shouldn’t tolerate depictions of violence, cruelty or pain in the movies or on TV, because those will desensitize you too.” I don’t want to end up with a utilitarian argument for censorship. Of course, there is a counter-argument that we know depictions of violence and cruelty in the media are fake (except for the news) while actual animal suffering is real. But I don’t find that very satisfying yet.

    For now, my instincts against needless animal cruelty are just that, instincts. I’m still trying to construct a philosophical underpinning to justify them.

  73. I know this is so far down probably no one will see it, but my question about PETA is, are they against sex with fish, such as in the famous Led Zeppelin ‘mud shark’ incident?

  74. Nothing that is natural is ‘bad’ or ‘immoral’, including eating other animals, having sex, having homosex, or taking recreational drugs, all of which take place in the wild, and can be observed among many other species besides Homo Sapiens.

    Ah, the naturalist fallacy, the idea that anything that takes place “in nature” is “good.” You don’t often observe it in the wild like this, so be sure to take pictures! Rape, torture, parent-child incest, and lots of other things that take place “in nature” are almost undoubtedly what most people would consider “bad” or “immoral,” which renders your statement untrue.

    Humans require vitamin B12 for survival. Humans cannot synthesize B12. Digestible B12 is not found in any plant species. It is found only in animals (particularly, ruminant herbivores, such as cow).

    It is also available in animal sources that do not require killing an animals, like eggs, milk and cheese.

  75. Chimpanzees and apes I would draw the line on. A photo of “bushmeat” in the Economist did it for me, and I’m also swayed by the yet-unresolved hypothesis of if HIV/AIDS was simian immunodeficiency syndrome that crossed the species barrier because of bushmeat consumption.

    In college a vegan friend of mine asserted that mammilian placentas or afterbirths were OK in a vegan sense because there was no explotation involved; and human placentas even better because the mother could consent. I’m not sure if he wasn’t pulling our leg. His epiphany and decision to become vegan came when he was in high school and worked for a summer at Burger King.

  76. I’m a humanist vegetarian. I put the feelings and desires of people above the feelings and desires of animals, for the most part. I wouldn’t let someone pick on my cats for fun, but if I go to my grandmother’s and she’s made a huge pot roast because she forgot about my eating habits, I’m going to damn well eat a piece of pot roast. (And enjoy it, too, Grandma’s pot roast never misses.)

    The main reason I’m a vegetarian is because I believe abstaining from meat to be cleaner and healthier for me. I find that the avoidance of unnecessary suffering is a desirable side effect. I certainly have nothing to say about how YOU eat, provided I don’t have to suffer to provide you with your food.

  77. Joe, There is a certain school of thought that insists that plants do indeed feel something akin to pain. The evidence isn’t enough to convince me but there is evidence to back the claim.

    OTOH, who was the famous guy a few hundred years ago who insisted animals didn’t feel pain and who performed horriffic experiments upon living animals while they were awake?

  78. “If an animal ever shows the ability to be a moral actor, then PETA will have a case. ”

    “It’s not morally wrong for humans to unnecessarily harm animals, but it is unattractive, unappealing, or ugly — a claim about aesthetics, not morals.”

    Watch “Why Dogs smile and Chimpazees Cry.” Once you’ve seen a chimp sign “tear” when a researcher loses her kid you’ll be done with this line of reasoning. Or you’ll move chimps out of the “animal” classification.

  79. joe-
    “A mammal can experience pain and terror. A carrot cannot. That’s not my opinion, that’s demonstrable fact.”

    No disagreement there. My point was that you consider terror and pain above whatever death processes a carrot goes through simply because you identify, no other reason.

    “…and you’d better come up with something more substantive than some watered down Genesis “image of God” shit.”

    And inevitably we come to the source of morality. It really comes down to what an individual perceives as right and wrong.

    “why should I consider you or your mom’s fear, pain and struggle to have any moral significance?”

    If your talking about someone hurting my mother, their motivation would self preservation.

    twc-

    google Galen and vivisection

  80. Would these conversations even be occurring if PETA people weren’t out there saying batshit insane things?

  81. I thought we ate meat becaue we could catch it and either enslave it or just eat it.

    If the meat does the same to me that’s fine too.

    Luckily, human’s ancestors were the best killing machines on the planet and seemed to kill and eat everything around them, especially other talking hominids.

    Also, where does PETA stand on medical animal testing for the veterinary sciences? If the testing is to elp animals, is that OK? Do PETA supporters volunteer for as test subjects in experiments which would extend the life of animals?

  82. so, what. this is a good argument for cockfighting, because this way the chicken is plucked, mostly skinned, and partially cubed? makes it easier and it saves time after a long day at work. Purdue Cockfight Looser Strips.

    (focus groups could help out with the name)

    and lucy, we can test veterinary science with captured PETA members. after all, they’re the ones fighting in iraq and were suspiciously absent from the WTC on 9/11, so they must be REAL ANIMALS! you see? it’s all a plot.

  83. “Would these conversations even be occurring if PETA people weren’t out there” saying batshit insane things?”

    Doubtfull. The whole B12 thing is a crock. I’m sure I could make it in the lab without killing anything (or using milk, eggs, …).

  84. OTOH, who was the famous guy a few hundred years ago who insisted animals didn’t feel pain and who performed horriffic experiments upon living animals while they were awake?

    Rene Descartes? He believed that animals were automatons whose internal workings mimicked the reactions of “pain,” “fear,” and so forth, but did not experience “real” feelings. A dark moment from an otherwise brilliant philosopher. Of course, Rene Descartes was a drunken fart: “I drink, therefore I am.”

    Here’s a controversial statement: Scratch someone who does not understand why it’s wrong to cause animals — oranything else — unnecessary pain, and you’ll find a budding sociopath underneath. Animal torture in childhood and adolescence corresponds almost perfectly with sociopathy later in life.

  85. I for one could indeed capture, kill, and eat animals–I’ve done so for fish and could learn for other animals. It’s messy and not pretty, but it beats starving to death.

    By the same token, I wonder how many vegetarians could successfully raise enough crops to feed themselves for any length of time? It is also hard, unpleasant, and unattractive work that rarely goes according to plan.

    But if I don’t raise my own crops, should I not eat vegetables? Otherwise, what’s the point of the “why don’t you kill a cow yourself” argument?

    I know some organic farmers that could come close to feeding themselves. I know many more city vegetarians who would starve in the first few weeks, let alone over winter. I know far more good ol’ boys who would do just fine raising crops and eating animals that they kill and dress themselves.

  86. Next PETA rally I run across, I’m calling for the Scoops.

    “SOYLENT GREEN IS PETA!!! SOYLENT GREEN IS PETA!!!”

  87. Did groups such as PETA exist before the use of all types? animals was so reduced by the introduction of machinery? If the PETA guy couldn?t get to his big protest rally because his horse was sick or just ornery that day, would it be OK for the PETA guy to whip the horse? I bet he wouldn?t think twice about giving his car a kick if it wouldn?t start.

    Some animals are easy going and some are just so plain full of cussedness that they have to be put down, just like people they have different personalities. Perhaps since most people these days only see dogs and cats which have been harshly bred for cuteness and docility for many years they think that all animals are cute and docile?

    Tell me, what?s cuter than an animal close-up with a wide angled lens?

  88. We don’t eat domesticated cats, but we should. One day they’ll overrun us, form their own civilization and get even for millenia of being forced to play with balls of yarn and rubber mousies. Where’s PETA gonna be when Morris has me crapping in a bucket of sand?

  89. chaitanya,

    Anyone who compares killing a fish to killing a dog or cat is also disingenous.

    Given enough time and the right circumstances, I’m probably capable of “empathizing” with anything that has a reasonably developed cerebral cortex.

    But a fish? Gimme a break.

  90. One day my dad and I were out fishing at a local lake. The SAME bluegill bit on the same jig-head lure of mine three times in ten minutes. When they quit chomping down on stupid colored bits of metal, rubber and thread, I’ll be impressed enough with them to consider their feelings.

    Fish, I mean, not PETA members.

  91. “Did groups such as PETA exist before the use of all types? animals was so reduced by the introduction of machinery?”

    Kenny, read up on factory farming. The mechanization of society has not been entirely a blessing for animals, to put it mildly.

  92. joe-

    I’m from Iowa. “Factory farming,” or “large scale hog confinement operations” are a big problem – for human beings moreso than the hogs. Ever seen “free range” domesticated hogs? They pretty much hang around in one place, mostly as close together as possible. Hog confinements aren’t that big a cultural disruption for them. On the other hand, the things crap about 12 times more by weight and volume than the average human being. It’s the sewage and the smell that’s the problem.

    Unfortunately, we have no local control over the siting of these operations. The Great State of Iowa protected Smithfield Foods, Tyson, and the like from their neighbors years ago in the name of economic development. The good news is that the pork market is in the tank, while beef is at almost historic highs. And beef is still largely raised conventionally, and with considerable loving care.

  93. I understand that mechanization allowed factory farming, just like it allowed factory executions in the third reich.

    I really meant that mechanization took animals out of the day to day existance of most people in the US. I wondered if people became more concerned about animal’s welfare when they didn’t have to clean up their crap and get them to earn their keep.

  94. Tell me, what?s cuter than an animal close-up with a wide angled lens?

    A wide-angle closeup of an animal wearing a hat?

  95. Kenny McC – “I understand that mechanization allowed factory farming, just like it allowed factory executions in the third reich.”

    Are you implying moral equivalience here?

  96. Nope, not implying anything besides mechanization makes all sorts of stuff more efficient.

  97. Let me step up and claim that gutting out a deer is no big deal. After hitting nine with the truck, I decided that for the betterment of mankind I’d better start hitting them with the slug gun. Deer kill humans. We’ve eliminated their other predators.

    A sharp knife makes a good cut horizontally below the rib cage. A good gut hook will unzip the animal like a tent fly. A bone saw will quickly split the pelvis. Vension jerky is wonderful!

    Jarod Diamond wrote “Guns, Germs and Steel.” There he postulates that survival of the fittest is species related, not for each individual within the species. Cows, chickens, pigs all have managed to avoid extinction by creating a symbiosis with man. We eat them, but we also breed them, and invent and apply medicines to the herd. This also includes species that we rarely eat, like horses and dogs.

    Species that don’t work well with man, such as zebra and rhino, don’t fare as well.

  98. Usoe, venison is terrific in a multitude of ways. If you feel healthier eating it, then it’s right for you. I don’t choose to eat it anymore, but I know and agree with the reasons why it would be good to cull the herds, and it’s good that you don’t waste your kills.

    Sandy, I think the issue is not as much whether a vegetarian can raise enough vegetables to eat, as it is whether the farmer/householder is willing to use the time-tested storage and preservation methods that keep less of the crop from deterioration and damage. I know a lot of people who won’t touch homemade pickles, for example.

    And while I’m on the subject of homemade pickles, Pigwiggle, vitamin B12 is commonly made by bacteria. Some of these bacteria live in our digestive tracts, so a healthy human can life for some time on just what is made there. B12 bacteria can also be cultivated in naturally fermented foods.

  99. Cool! I’m gonna go down a six pack of B-12!!

  100. Ain’t no meat in beer πŸ˜€

  101. Lincoln wrote:

    Watch “Why Dogs smile and Chimpazees Cry.” Once you’ve seen a chimp sign “tear” when a researcher loses her kid you’ll be done with this line of reasoning. Or you’ll move chimps out of the “animal” classification.

    Earlier I wrote:

    The great apes, dolphins, etc. deserve special consideration because they might be persons too, despite their inability to communicate.

  102. I’d like to know PETA’s position on eating fetuses — animal or human. If a fish or a lobster is a person, is a human fetus? For the sake of logical consistency, is PETA hardline anti-abortion? Is my question somewhat sarcastic?

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.