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cyris8400's Avatar Jump to comment 28 by cyris8400

To add to the veg discussion, I'm currently trying to become a vegetarian myself, primarily because I read Singer's arguments about it in his book "Practical Ethics". I have been reading into vegetarian nutrition and some animal rights.

I had a discussion with a friend of mine, who's also an atheist (but unlike me, he does not believe in objective morality). He proposed the reciprocity argument for omnivorism, which boils down to "we do not have moral obligations to animals because they cannot reason and/or keep a social contract with us."

I found this argument very weak. Reciprocity is a probable explanation of the evolution of morality, but that does not justify reasoning on reciprocity alone. The social contract seems like it has the same problem as religion we you use it as a basis of normative ethics: it becomes either ridiculous or superfluous.

When we pass strangers on the street we not expect them to attack us, even though there is no written agreement between us. And we help strangers even if we know we will never see them again and won't be repaid.

Additionally, insofar as it matters, animals can reciprocate. Even though some would attack out of nervousness or hunger, others ignore us as much as strangers on the street, and our pets love us and generally avoid doing things they know we do not like or cause us pain.

The concept that unnecessary suffering is bad is a simple argument for vegetarianism, because it is not necessary (except for rare cases, perhaps) to kill animals to get adequate nutrition or calories.

The all-or-nothing argument for omnivorism also does not stand up to scrutiny. It essentially asks where the line can be drawn, suggesting that either it is immoral to kill any animal or it is okay to kill any animal. The latter option is favored because it is easiest. That argument uses the same logical fallacies as pro-lifers who say that killing an embryo is morally equivalent to killing a baby. As a simple starting point: if you think it would be immoral for someone to shoot your dog or smash your hamster or put your cat in a microwave (and not simply because you own them and they amuse you but because you care for their well-being as individuals) then it follows that creatures at least as sentient and sensitive as dogs and hamsters should not be killed unless it is shown to be necessary for human survival (like killing a wild animal which poses an immediate threat or animal experimentation to develop vaccines against epidemics).

Wed, 15 Apr 2009 13:26:00 UTC | #348387