Discussion in 'January And Everything After' started by Creole Ned, Jan 7, 2012.
I was thinking more along the lines of:
The bad poetry thread is over there.
Which is why I'm in the worse poetry thread.
So I have this really stupid roommate. He's been jailed a few times in the last several years, and lost his drivers license as part of those issues. A couple of years ago he got his act sort of together and learned a trade skill (which he now hates but that is a different issue) and makes pretty good money. He also got his drivers license back, though with some terms.
In the last couple of weeks he a) got suspended from work because he failed a drug test (for pot) and b) got a letter today pointing out that his three speeding tickets in the last several months violate the terms of his getting his license back.
Of course he isn't taking any responsibility for this. Its all other stupid people's fault. He seems to not grasp the idea that when you do major dumb things (his earlier issues that resulted in jail time) you lose the system's willingness to let you slide on lesser dumb things (speeding tickets when you know your license is at risk, smoking pot when you know your job drug tests.)
If I recall my lesson in Utilitarianism back in Ethics 101 correctly (and I probably don't, ha!), then 'humans being cruel to animals for pleasure' can be considered immoral. For one reason or another, most people don't get their jollies from animal cruelty. If, to throw out random numbers, 10% of the human population likes animal cruelty but 50% do not then what makes that 50% happier matters more. That 50% gives a greater contribution to the total net happiness.
The grey area for most would be whether it's right to be cruel as long as the general populace never finds out...
At first I thought I liked utilitarianism since results matter a little more to me than motivations, but then I learned that utilitarianism doesn't care about a person it cares about people. My upbringing in an individualistic country combined with my naturally selfish personality makes this set of ethics, not willing to serve me personally, distasteful.
Utilitarianism, at least as it's generally understood, includes animals as relevant subjects as well as humans. They might not count for as much, but they are most definitely included in the calculation. Jeremy Bentham (basically the founder of utilitarianism) believed that the capacity for suffering was the relevant moral consideration, and as such animals should not be made to suffer unnecessarily. Peter Singer can perhaps be regarded as the most prominent intellectual advocate for animal rights and the most prominent living utilitarian philosopher.
But you're not wrong to say that in theory utilitarianism could allow for animal cruelty if it resulted in enough happiness. It would be very hard to think of a plausible scenario, given how much the suffering involved would offset the happiness, but it isn't ruled out in principle. I'm quite like you in being intuitively inclined towards consequentialism in my ethics but also put off by this issue among others.
Oops double post. Have this instead:
That kitten is a great source of kitten oil, one of our most precious resources. I am assuming this picture was taken at a kitten oil processing plant and that the dog is there to keep intruders away.
The dog is the machinery that process the kittens into oil.
Perhaps I missed it, but in all this discussion I've seen surprisingly little about ethics as applied to killing and eating animals. I was about to ask about the utilitarian view on that, but decided to do the two seconds of work myself and find out that it rules a'gin it. To anyone familiar with Peter Singer (I wasn't particularly until just now) I guess that should come as no surprise.
I'd be willing to wager that plenty of us maintain a logical inconsistency when it comes to the way we treat animals, given that we wouldn't kill and eat a dolphin but are happy to grill up a nice, juicy steak.
I don't find there to be a logical inconsistency - when it comes to value, I'd wager that cows, pigs, and poultry are probably much more efficient than exotic meats. You'd have to figure out cost and ease of production (I'd imagine that a dolphin ranch would be expensive as hell), how much it costs to raise the animal to slaughter versus how much value you can get from the meat. A better example of cultural inconsistency would be varying opinions on things such as horsemeat in the western world.
The reason I wouldn't kill and eat a dolphin is because I am not able to safely kill an animal myself and prepare it for eating, and because I have never seen dolphin meat at the supermarket, not because I view food animals as worthy of less protection than non-food animals. I would view all animals as worthy of protection from torture and mistreatment, but they are below us on the food chain and humans are omnivores. You could argue that because of that you have a moral imperative to try to buy meat that you know the animals weren't tortured or mistreated prior to being butchered, but I don't believe that because one views animals as deserving some protection, one has to take it to the logical extreme and become a vegetarian or vegan.
Do you consider tuna an exotic meat?
Most people value different animals differently where we think it's acceptable to kill certain ones for our own consumption but not others. There are a myriad of reasons for this from intelligence, to their perceived roll in human society, to scarcity of the species and even how cute or even distasteful we may consider the animal.
I was referring more to an ethical framework (in this case, specifically Utilitarianism) that values an animal more than a rock. It's not about market value or profit margins, it's about what generates the maximum amount of overall happiness. With that in mind, it's difficult to argue that the joy and nourishment I get from eating a steak outweigh the harm done by killing the cow.
(Note: I'm not saying I personally follow a utilitarian system of morality, just pointing out the potential inconsistency of those who might say they do)
While it's fair to say that a dolphin farm would be prohibitively expensive to maintain, it's kind of silly to pretend that there aren't cultures out there mass-killing dolphins and selling the remains for profit. The main difference, really, is that we're talking about hunting rather than farming. In that case, plenty of people are fine with eating deer meat but would never eat dolphin.
I wouldn't think tuna is exotic, no. It's my understanding that tuna's pretty easy to fish in bulk, plus you get a lot of meat off it (big fish) which probably explains its ubiquity.
I think all your points concerning animals-as-food taboos are absolutely correct. I think most of it boils down to how many "human" qualities we ascribe to animals, which usually depends on how closely we associate with them. Look at how we portray dogs and horses in media, for instance. There certainly wasn't any overblown saccharine "War Cow" movie released during the holiday season.
Right, because cows aren't identical to horses. It's sort of silly to expect that we would have the same ethical relationship to every animal as if "animal" is some homogenous category of life-form. We're animals. It's not just how closely we associate with them or the human qualities we ascribe to them, there are very real differences in various species. We're not just projecting a quality of loyalty on dogs (for example) because they're cuddly and we like them.
I don't have any problem with that at all, because I believe that the reason a cow exists is to be used by humans. Killing a cow indiscriminately, like just walking up and shooting it in the head and leaving it to rot on the side of the road - that's a waste of resources, and it's wrong and it offends me. But I have absolutely no issue with raising livestock for eventual slaughter.
I have, however, been thinking a lot lately about unnecessary cruelty in the treatment of livestock. I disagree, for instance, with the force-feeding of geese to produce fois gras. Fois gras by its very nature is a stupid luxury and really should fall into the same category as "crush" videos - you're causing extreme trauma and harm to an animal for a want, not a need.
That seems completely legit to me. I mean, yeah, the mercury issue should be addressed and if it's a serious problem then something should be done. But I don't ascribe any special "touch-men-not" status to dolphins. The methods used during the hunt seem to have changed over time to be more humane (the method of killing the dolphins, for instance) although it could probably still be improved.
I'm going to go ahead and wager that the use of the horse in that movie had more to do with the lack of utility a cow possesses on the battlefield.
Which is part of the point - we have more of an emotional attachment to horses than cows because of the specific circumstances in which we interact with them. Horses, by and large, are dealt with on an individual basis whereas a cow is just one of a herd. Horses are work animals, a source of transportation and labor, we've evolved this symbiosis with them over thousands of years because they're probably the most efficient animal at doing what we use them for. In the same vein, a cow is very good at what its purpose is - food and leather. Their purpose is to convert grass into meat and then be converted themselves into steaks and baseball gloves. From the time it's born, a cow is on a ticking clock that we want to speed up as much as possible - whereas a horse is something we want to keep around as long as possible.
I wonder if that's a major source of the taboo, and if in cultures where eating horsemeat is more accepted, if it's not because horses are less useful there or there's just more of them. There's probably a cultural reason for eating a perfectly good horse.
This is a very interesting conversation. But these are not random thoughts.
However, I can't decide whether to start a new thread on:
- the different philosophical frameworks for societies
- nutty things people say or believe
- WHY YOU SHOULD FEEL BAD FOR KEEPING A PET BUDGIE
Says the man who is exploiting a kitten in his avatar. FOR SHAME.
I find it interesting that your system of morality seems to be based primarily around what the things around you can do for you.
I am the kitten.
That's pretty accurate. I believe, like I said, that things and people have value based on their usefulness, not inherent qualities. A lot of that is due to cynicism and a disillusionment with what I see as the lie of inherent value. If people or object had value independent of their utility, I think we'd treat each other differently. But since we don't, I stick to my belief that if you're useful, you're valuable. If you're not, then you're likely to be expendable.
The same process used for catching tuna can be used for catching dolphin and both are large animals that would yield approximately the same amount of meat thus making their efficiency comparable. Yet we consider killing and eating dolphin unacceptable while tuna is quite common.
Basically I'm pointing out that there are reasons other than efficiency that people choose to consume one animal over another. This is the logical inconsistency mentioned above.
I don't see it as a logical inconsistency in that case. There's a threshold of intelligence beyond which most people (in the first world, anyway; I admit that this kind of choosiness is a luxury) no longer consider an animal to be an acceptable foodstuff. It's a hazy distinction but dolphins and apes are very clearly on the "don't eat" side of the line. As to horses, dogs, etc, that's where the logical inconsistency comes into play if you like.
To get another utilitarian viewpoint killing and eating animals is allowed because raising animals for meat brings creatures capable of feeling pleasure into the world, creatures that would not exist had we not planned on eating them. Since these animals have no concept of being raised for slaughter their fated death doesn't cause them any suffering in itself. A cow in the field does not know it is going to die, and so it cannot suffer from that knowledge.
As long as the creatures' suffering during it's life, including the moment when it is killed, is less than the pleasure it experienced from life then on balance we are right to eat it. If we had not eaten the cow there would not be a cow to begin with, because we don't raise cows to stand around and graze for no useful (human economic) purpose.
Of course, by making this argument one could also wonder if we aren't morally obligated to maximise the number of cows in the world, as long as their quality of life makes up for any suffering. But I'm not gonna go down that argument. I just wanted to say that Singer, while influential, is not the only word on utilitarianism.
So basically you treat the present reality as if it were the zombie apocalypse. Got it.
It's not just me, that's how the world works. People value each other solely based on what they can get out of them. That's the truth of it.
I've been out of the workforce for several
years due to illness that shows no sign of improving. I have not reproduced, nor will I. I receive disability benefits. I produce nothing of tangible value. I am currently only a drain on society's resources.
Am I expendable?
This is part of the conflict I see in what Nute claims is utility and his stance on the elephant scenario.
Questions of what utility means from an actually utilitarian point of view aside, the examples of utility Elyscape and Ingmar listed are for the benefit of the elephants, not for people. While Species Survival Plans and awareness of plight could be used in an argument to justify keeping elephants in zoos, this doesn't fit with Nute's conception of utility as a solely "for human" endeavor. (Tourism might be a justification, but then we again enter the discussion of whether human pleasure is outweighed by the animals' suffering).
Men with beards like yours are never expendable.
Thoro is worth more than the sum of his facial hair.
I wouldn't say so - I gain enjoyment from conversing with you and find you pleasant and interesting, thus you have value to me. That's an entirely legitimate raison d'etre - emotional connections and personal relationships.
See my above explanation to Thoro - elephants provide no tangible benefit to humanity aside from ivory and aesthetics. But both of those, I think, are valid reasons to preserve them.
But how exactly do you plan to get ivory from elephants in zoos? As far as I know, there is no elephant farming program or ivory collection program in zoos - that's what poachers are for. Zoos are not justified by a demand for ivory.
Even outside of the realm of animal emotion, utilitarianism can still apply to this case. The cost of maintaining the aesthetic appeal of keeping elephants in zoos could be better put into other programs or services that directly provide a tangible benefit to humanity (managing certain cattle or horses which you seem to think provide more benefits, although we are certainly not limited to animals here).
I'll agree, but from the perspective of value/morality being determined strictly from utility it is an inconsistency. He said dolphin was "exotic" (meaning less efficient than other forms of sustenance from his other posts) but tuna isn't. I'm saying this is an inconsistent view from his moral perspective as both dolphin and tuna have similar utilitarian efficiency.
Zoos have proven utility - people go to them. QED.
Oh. Sorry, I got confused. Given that (wrong imo) parameter, yes, it is logically inconsistent. Basically, that line of thinking has a ton of problems with it and you just have to fudge the meaning of the word "utility" so much that it ends up being a big mess instead of the neat, orderly equation that probably attracted
Nute to it in the first place.
Sorry, perhaps I misspoke - I consider dolphin to be "exotic" in that it isn't a normal foodstuff. If there were dolphin farms/fisheries that produced dolphin steaks or whatnot in the same way we have commercial tuna fisheries? I'd be completely fine with that. I think the only reason we don't is the concept that for some reason it's okay to eat tuna but not dolphin.
All you've done is to justify your view of utility as the sole motivator for human action by assuming people only act based on your conception of utility and then examining zoos. It's a big circular loop (using your original claim to justify your original claim). This doesn't prove squat.
It also doesn't resolve the odd sense of utilitarianism you seem to have as you use it here: that just because zoos provide some utility, that that somehow outweighs all the other possible alternative options that convey equal or greater utility that don't involve keeping elephants in captivity.
Separate names with a comma.