2009-02-26

A Lesson for PETA in Biology and Ethics

PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals), and others of their ilk, claim to be concerned about the ethical treatment of animals.

Let us talk about science. Animals can be classed as carnivores, herbivores or omnivores. It is natural for carnivores to eat meat, herbivores plants, and omnivores both.

People are animals. To be more specific, people are primates, mammals and omnivores.

Let us talk about ethics. It is highly unethical to try to make an animal go against it's own nature. For example, to try to force feed a herbivore meat or a carnivore plants. It is equally as unethical to try to coerce people into going against their own nature and eat only plant matter, and extremely unethical to suggest that it is immoral for people to act in a perfectly natural way, as the omnivores that they are.

And while I may enjoy PETA's rather sexist topless protests I find it rather odd to see the “I'd rather go naked than wear fur” protesters dressed in high “leather looking” boots. I can only assume that they are synthetic and that PETA, who try to claim to be environmentalists, believe it is better to wear boots made from petrochemicals from the tar sands, than wear boots made from natural renewable animal products.

We need to send PETA, and their followers, back to school for some basic lessons in biology and ethics. I have selected a few sources that might help them understand.

Omnivores - Kid's Corner - Sheppard Software

Carnivore, Herbivore, or Omnivore?

What is an omnivore?

8 comments:

300baud said...

We are omnivores, but we are not obligate omnivores. So your argument becomes, because we CAN do something, we SHOULD do something. That is not logical.

However, let us assume that we SHOULD eat meat. It does not follow that we SHOULD torture animals to get it. And we do.

Gene said...

From Voiceless.

300baud said...

I should say, we are no longer obligate omnivores. Meat is now a choice, thanks to B12 having become widely available from non-animal sources.

Humans can eat humans. Does that make it ethical?

300baud said...

Sorry but there's so much that could be said about your article. I'd also like to address your appeal to nature. That it is not ethical to force an animal (ie, a human) to go against its nature.

I don't know if you've noticed or not, but "human nature" is not a wonderful thing. Its always struck me as queer that we refer to so many of our base and primitive impulses -- to lie, take advantage of one another, murder, make war -- as human nature. Ethics are a tool that help us overcome our nature. To say that it is unethical to force an animal (ie, a human) to act contrary to its nature is to ignore the basis of civilization.

So many terrible things can be justified by saying, "I was built to do this," or, "I have a genetic imperative to do this." One might as well just say, "It's okay; God says so."

I'm an organism, but I'm also a mind. There is a conflict in that duality. As an organism I am interested in killing anything that might be a threat, and propagating my genes at any expense (preferably someone else's). As a mind I find that behaviour abhorrent. As a mind, I am interested in minimizing the suffering of all minds.

You must at one time or another have looked at your plate and felt that conflict, if only when you first learned where meat came from. Minds are suffering needlessly and unwillingly for our enjoyment and convenience. That is not right, and being an organism with eyes in a certain place, teeth in a certain shape and a gut of a certain length does not make it right.

rww said...

Well one tactic people always use when they cannot use reason to argue is to set up a false assumption to argue from.

The fact that some people refer to what you call "negative impulses" sometimes exhibited by people as "human nature" does not make it so. And basing your whole argument on that destroys any credibility you may have had.

The scientific fact is that people are omnivores and it is natural for them to eat both meat and plants. That is an irrefutable scientific fact.

Other animals kill animals for food all the time, often in more gruesome ways than people do (and I certainly support standards for humane treatment and killing of animals, that is not the point), and PETA seems to have no problem with that.

I have no problem with people that decide to be vegetarians. There is nothing unethical about a person being a vegetarian.

But I am highly offended when PETA, and others of their ilk label me as immoral for doing what is completely natural for human beings to do.

Actually I am offended by just about everything PETA does - they are the poster girls for unethical.

300baud said...

I think its unfair and disrespectful that you dismissed all of my arguments by saying that bad impulses don't count as nature. Our nature is often at odds with what we know is "right". Our nature is often what destroys us. We suffer from fear, addiction, sadism, and tribalism. We are petty and vindictive. We are selfish and can easily turn off our ability for empathy when it is to our advantage. You can't just say, "well that part doesn't count".

If I am larger and stronger than everyone else, it does not become right for me to physically dominate them, even though "other animals do it." Nature does not make right! This is your key assumption upon which all your arguments are based. When I provide you with counterexamples, you dismiss them and say my assumptions are flawed. And you insult my ability to reason for good measure. Are you being truly honest?

I'm going to assume that you think human cannibalism is wrong, but eating a fruit that a tree produced so that its seeds would be disseminated is not wrong. Everything in between is going to be somewhat gray. Is it okay to eat a species in danger of extinction? How does the scientific fact that we can eat meat apply to humans or endangered species?

I am not a vegetarian. But nor do I buy cultivated meat from the supermarket, or prepared foods containing animal flesh. My reasons are mercy and compassion, and responsibility. The whole world cannot eat meat like we do. There just is not enough meat, enough land, enough water, enough food. I still eat meat, but it is a rare and conscious choice to do so. I simply try to behave such that if everyone behaved as I did, we would survive, and suffering would be minimized.

PETA is obviously a straw man, and I think you are using their caricatured position to justify doing what you want to do rather than what your better nature would have you do.

rww said...

The fact that human beings are omnivores is an established scientific fact. It has not been established that all the bad things people do are the result of human nature. Indeed, the fact that not all people do bad things disproves that.

My post was not using PETA as a straw man but was directly aimed at their moralistic argument that it is evil to eat meat because it comes from animals. There is certainly an argument to be made that we should reduce our meat consumption because of resource issues, not because it is immoral to eat meat but, because there is not enough to go around and it's production uses scarce resources.

Throwing cannibalism into the debate simply diminishes your credibility.

300baud said...

Okay, I don't really feel that you're interested in engaging me honestly. But I am satisfied with what I have said, so I'll leave it there.