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Why Moral Arguments for Vegetarianism/Veganism fail Part I

April 3, 2012

PART I

RIGHTS

 

A non-meat diet has some great health benefits. That’s not what this note is about. This note is about why all moral arguments for vegetarianism fail. I will examine some of the best arguments for vegetarianism I have heard thus far:

 

1. Animals have rights just like people and should be respected as such.

This argument hinges on the definition of Rights. In order to have any proper discussion, we must begin by speaking the same language – and defining what we mean by Rights:

 

What is a right?

[I’ll be quoting Rand extensively in Part I.] “A “right” is a moral principle defining and sanctioning a man’s freedom of action in a social context. “

 

Where do rights come from?

You have a few choices:

 

God-given

God doesn’t exist and books of scripture are chock-full of evil bullshit, not to mention so poorly-written, mistranslated, outmoded, and esoteric as to require a ceaseless procession of holy men to interpret “God’s commandments” by his own personal agenda and prejudices – hardly any standard of morality or rights, easily the weakest argument here, and certainly not objective.

 

Society-granted

Rights cannot be granted or revoked by any law or group of men (society) or they cease to be rights and are merely permissions. ” Rights are conditions of existence required by man’s nature for his proper survival.”  – any abrogation of said rights are wrong, even if sanctioned by a group of people. I.E. just because a group of us vote that you don’t deserve to live anymore, doesn’t make it “right” that we then murder you. Your rights are not subject to society’s whim, but rather subordinate society to your requirements of life as a human being.

 

“Innate”

this is so vague as to be almost meaningless – and easily refuted by the disparity in what various populations in various eras define as a right. You can’t even slide by with “everyone knows killing is wrong” because, sadly, that is also easily and demonstrably false even this day in age.

 

Objective/rational

Rights can be defined as a property of man by virtue of his identity: In order to live on earth, man must be free to think and act on his judgment. By nature of man’s identity and existence, he requires a right to live – a right not to be forced – and “Since Man has inalienable individual rights, this means that the same rights are held, individually, by every man, by all men, at all times. Therefore, the rights of one man cannot and must not violate the rights of another.” Men are not driven by instinct like animals and cannot survive without rational thought and long-range planning – this is our means of survival on earth and in order to live on earth, we must be free to think and act based on that thought.

 

So why don’t animals have the same rights as man? Are we really so different? After all, we feel pain and animals also feel pain.

 

How do we define “man”? How do we define anything?

 

A definition is an abbreviation of a concept – it is a shorthand phrase that distinguishes a concept from all other concepts. A definition distinguishes a concept by stating it’s distinguishing characteristics and from what category of things it was differentiated.

 

“For instance, in the definition of table (“An item of furniture, consisting of a flat, level surface and supports, intended to support other, smaller objects”), the specified shape is the differentia, which distinguishes tables from the other entities belonging to the same genus: furniture. In the definition of man (“A rational animal”), “rational” is the differentia, “animal” is the genus.” 

The definition of man as “rational animal” is not an exhaustive listing of all of man’s characteristics – it is a shorthand phrase stating the defining characteristic and from what things it was differentiated. The definition is contextual and subject to change – but with our current knowledge of the universe and its creatures, this definition is the most accurate definition of man.

 

Animals lack the defining characteristic of man – rationality. Animals survive based on instinct, and do not require a right to think or freedom from compulsion in order to live. Likewise, animals cannot and will not honor the rights of other individuals. By their nature and by definition of rights, animals do not have and cannot be defined as having rights.

 

The capacity to feel pain is not the standard by which man is defined nor the standard by which individual rights are defined. All other rights and social ethics that exist are derived from the fundamental (human) right to life (that is to say, the right to think and act without interference/force from others), which is inherent to man by definition of his nature as man.

 

But Let’s say you’re not convinced. You’ve discovered some novel way to define man or Rights…continue to Part II…

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