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Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Philosophizing about Veganism: A Third Installment

Surprisingly, I managed to sit down and write a third installment today. This one has some actual quotes for me to go off of, a primary source document to recommend, and an approved philosopher to reference.
My friend Blondie sent me this article thinking I would find it interesting and could use it in my continued fight against speciesism. She was correct.

The document I will reference is an essay titled “All Animals Are Equal,” written by Australian philosopher Peter Singer. Singer is currently a professor of bioethics and Princeton and has written several books on the sanctity of life, both human and otherwise, with titles such as The Life You Can Save, The Lives of Animals, Animal Liberation, and The Ethics of What We Eat: Why Our Food Choices Matter.

For a taste of Singer’s work, check out his TED talk on effective altruism:

What I’ve decided to do from this post is to take three quotes from “All Animals Are Equal” to discuss in depth because the essay itself is so tight that it’s really necessary to read the whole thing to comprehend most excerpts except these three. I will post a link to the full essay at the end of this post. For now, let’s start with quotes.

1. “The racist violates the principle of equality by giving greater weight to the interests of members of his own race, when there is a clash between their interests and the interests of those of another race. Similarly the speciesist allows the interests of his own species to override the greater interests of members of other species.” (Singer, 5).

This is the simplest point that can be made about Veganism. All lives are equal, no matter what race, sexuality, gender, or species. If you believe in equality for all, you should believe in equality for ALL.

2. “We regard their [animal] life and well-being as subordinate to our taste for a particular kind of dish. l say "taste" deliberately—this is purely a matter of pleasing our palate. There can be no defense of eating flesh in terms of satisfying nutritional needs, since it has been established beyond doubt that we could satisfy our need for protein and other essential nutrients far more efficiently with a diet that replaced animal flesh by soy beans, or products derived from soy beans, and other high-protein vegetable products.” (Singer, 5).

I have made this point in several posts before this one. One does not need to eat animal products to obtain the necessary nutrients to survive. Animal products are pleasing to the palate and easily accessible. That is an inevitable truth. But really think about this: we as humans inflict pain on other beings because they taste yummy. We cause suffering for our pleasure. For our convenience. For our cheeseburgers and ice cream and dumplings and meatballs and pizza and spaghetti and shampoos and fancy cars and bad-ass jackets and entertainment and Valentine’s Day presents. But do we need any of it? No. And when you put yourself in the place of the once living product you are using, you don’t really want to want it anyway.

3. “But what is this capacity to enjoy the good life which all humans have, but no other animals? Other animals have emotions and desires and appear to be capable of enjoying a good life. We may doubt that they can think—although the behavior of some apes, dolphins, and even dogs suggests that some of them can—but what is the relevance of thinking?” (Singer, 7).

The point is that what we eat and use can feel. Animals have lives and families, even if these lives and families do not seem to be as advanced as ours. They experience pleasure, fear, anger and pain just as we do. Why would we want to intentionally cause pain when pain is preventable?

Expect the fourth installment next week.

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