The Ethics of What we eat

“Today, I’m going for a Buffet!!!”

“Where?”

“Meat-feast! You know Carnivore?”

“How about Sashimi buffet?”

“OOOoooo, sounds good too!”

Recently, I overheard this conversation between two friends and it has certainly set me thinking, especially after watching a recent video on “The Ethics of What we eat” by Peter Sing, Prof of Bioethics at Princeton University. In the video, he advocates that human beings do have a moral responsibility towards non-human objects; animals in this case, and suggests the adoption of a vegetarian disposition. However, when it comes to ethical issues regarding what we consume, it is a tricky and controversial topic as it is difficult to arrive at a unanimous agreement due to differing scales of morality in each individual and views on what he/she considers as morally acceptable.

I mean come to think about it, how many of us do actually bother about how the food that we consume is derived and its preparation process? Indeed, there have been issues raised regarding unethical factory farming and slaughterhouses, but sad to say how many of us do actually stop to consider these issues before every meal that we eat (as we sink our teeth into those succulent chicken breasts?) Perhaps, this boils down to the key idea of Anthropocentrism as humans generally value their self-interest since we consider ourselves “above-all” other beings on earth. We are the “King” of the world. Hence, we automatically presume and take animals for granted as supported in many teachings, such as the Torah that “everything in the world was created to benefit man, who himself was created to serve the Creator”, which further justifies Immanuel Kant’s stand that “animals are not self-conscious and are there merely as a means to an end, That end is man.” I guess humans are innately selfish creatures as we are only  “genuinely” concern if it directly threatens our survival.

I believe that although what distinguishes an animal from a human being is our ability to rationalize and be capable of thought, it does not automatically grant us the authority to be hedonistic and mistreat animals at our disposal. The need for us to enjoy taste does not justify animal cruelty and suffering as it is immoral to build our happiness upon others’ sufferings. More often, we neglect the consequences that arise from our selfish actions, for instance how our incessant human consumption has led to land pollution (The population in America generates approximately 1.35 billion pounds of garbage every day) and other issues such as global warming. It is often a result of human’s mindless actions, our actions, which is the cause of massive destruction of our own environment. Yes, We, are the cause.

I believe that every living being has an intrinsic value and should be respected. Humans should be aware that animals are capable of pain just like us, as supported by scientific researches whereby scientists dissected the calf’s eyeball, only to find its retina reflecting the image of the pavements of the slaughter -house just before its death. Imagine the shock, trauma and fear it had to face. Perhaps, I believe the least we can do is to maximize the animals’ pleasure while we can before killing it by advocating better living habits and merciful killing so that they can live up to their maximum potential before serving our needs. (More than 100000 chickens live in cages that are so squeezy and incapable of mobility.)  Although there would definitely be many concerns such as scarcity for land and more money invested to building better farming facilities, leading to a snow-balling effect of a rise in prices of meat, (which I believe would face many objections), perhaps it could be beneficial to society to regulate and reduce meat intake. This will help in the general health aspects of the population as well.

But all being said, although my stand seems to approach a vegetarian disposition, I believe that it is not entirely feasible to opt for a strictly vegetarian diet. (So all you meat eaters out there stop hating and listen to me first!) Going entirely vegetarian does not necessarily guarantee the less killing of animals as current modern factory farms do not allow their animals to die of old age but instead kill them at whatever point the farm considers to be the most profit-maximizing. Hence, even if one replays their diet with eggs, “to get about 450 pounds (405,000 calories) worth of meat, you’d need to kill about 20 chickens to get enough eggs to match that number of calories”, rendering more deaths of chickens than before. Moreover, the entire eradication of meat in one’s diet would not be an easy overnight decision and the question of its sustainability is an issue as well. Hence, well I guess…..Going All-Vegetarian is not that good a choice as well.

I guess at the end of the day, it is difficult to discern a right or wrong approach to an issue that contains so many grey areas. But hey, perhaps we should start by adopting a more lenient approach, allowing slow changes to be made first right? If no one starts doing something, who will? So I guess the next time you walk into Macs and order a beef burger, would you think again? What are your thoughts?

This is the video link for those who are interested to watch the video on “The Ethics of What we eat” by Peter Sing:

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3 thoughts on “The Ethics of What we eat

  1. Pingback: My journey into not eating meat | Juni Desireé

  2. i reckon the part where you mentioned how the pain + trauma registesr onto the animal bio-physically is really quite interesting. i never thought about this point much, until i came upon this scene in a movie i was watching today (a clip of which may be viewed here: http://youtu.be/WwnUGKhCoFw)

    I guess as a society develops, more humane ways of doing things may creep, irrevocably, into our collective consciousness. But do people care enough (and perhaps tied to this – “long enough”) to evince & ultimately force thru a change? Policy makers often have many other issues (and dare i say pressing agendas) on their plate, hence a touch of cynicism in the present comment. Then again, never say never, for it often falls upon the activists to bring to attention and coalesce a critical mass for lasting, palpable cultural change. Most social movements/changes have begun this way, in small hopeful steps.

    On the side, here’s a clip (link: http://youtu.be/gVViICWs4dM) of Peter Singer from the documentary film “Examined Life” by Astra Taylor (2008), in case you’re interested to hear/see more of him.

    Puns aside, this is all pretty good food for thought.

    Like

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