Friday, March 05, 2010

Starting from Scratch

The majority of the comments and emails I've received in response to my previous post have been positive. However, between a couple (two, so far) disgruntled commentators and a small handful (three?) of indignant emails from a) vegetarians who are aghast that their consumption of animal products excluding animal flesh should be likened to the consumption of animal products including animal flesh, and b) vegans who either think that it's wrong to draw this comparison or feel that it's too demanding to ask humans who've stopped using some animal parts/products or species to make an honest effort to stop using all animal parts/products or species, I've decided to step back and offer up the following question(s) as a starting point for discussion:

  1. Why is (or isn't) it wrong to use or exploit nonhuman animals?
  2. When (if at all) is it ever acceptable to knowingly use or exploit nonhuman animals?

I'm looking forward to your responses.

(P.S. Edited to remove the second question, since it's not pertinent for the sake of this discussion. I'll revisit the second one in a blog post in the near-future.)


Vanilla Rose said...

At Xmas I got a thing for growing your own mini Xmas tree in elephant dung. And I think I have some paper made partly out of elephant dung (plant fibres therein). I don't mind that as the elephants clearly would egest faeces in the wild and because local people in Africa or India are making money out of the dung, they are less likely to see the elephants as a threat to their livelihoods.

Shoshanah said...

Except that a lot of that dung is collected from elephants which are used by humans in logging etc, not wild ones. So it's as if you are using the same 'by-product' argument that people use to justify themselves wearing leather. You're still giving people who oppress animals money for something that animal has produced, which will enable/encourage them to continue doing so.

Adam Kochanowicz said...

Eventually, we will hear comments on this article about the "necessity" to consume animals on a desert island--some example where our survival is dependent.

In advance, I'd like to bring up the difference between what is morally justifiable and morally defensible. Animal use is morally justifiable period.

Dan Cudahy said...

Adam, you might want to elaborate on your comment. Most people (like 99%) wouldn't have the slightest clue about what the difference could possibly be. (Note: I haven't read yesterdays' comments, so if it was addressed there, fine, but it still would be good to reference it.)

Mylène Ouellet said...

What Dan said.

Chastity Castro said...

I have to giggle because this sounds a lot like the discussion questions for my human rights class, which by the way, I eventually have to tend to...

Anyway. It's wrong to exploit nonhuman animals because they are forced to do things or become things they would never dream of becoming.

There is no mutual consent. We can assume that "they like it" and there is no giving them the benefit of the doubt.

Would any human being say yes to the following?

"I'm going to take your newborn son away because his body will feed a select few. And for you, your son isn't going to make money for us so we're going to have to throw him into a grinder right away."

"We are going to rub toxins into your eyes and on your skin to see how you react. You will not be paid and you will most likely die--if not by the chemicals, then by us."

"We're going to take your breastmilk. Your newborns are not going to receive it, though. Your child will be with us and we will say when he/she can stay and die. Meanwhile, others will be enjoying your milk."

"Tomorrow, we are going to transform your skin into a jacket and maybe shoes, if there's enough skin. You'll be alive when that happens but then you'll be killed anyway."

"You are not performing properly so I'm going to have to kick you and punch you until you get things right. And no, you don't deserve food until showtime. If you're good, I promise not to hurt you but I will only feed you when you get the trick right."

"We are going to continually impregnate you so we can sell and/or kill each one of your children. If you're tired or sick, you'll end up like your children."

No sane human being would ever agree to that yet we are so quick to volunteer others.

100%vegan said...

There is no way any living being can get entirely away from some sort of destruction,even the if you are a minimalist just by walking you could be killing the insects that are too small to see by the human eye.
Everyone has some hand in destruction,even the strongest and strictest of vegans HOWEVER that doesn't mean we should let it all go to shit and selfishly live eating and wearing and doing as we please at the cost of all non human animals.
We can as a few others on this blog site have chosen to do-do the least harm.Which means reading into every product you buy,consume, wear or support.
Choosing not to support the obvious ones such as dairy,meat,animal skins,the circus,zoos etc. and investigating the ones that are not blatant-what IS in that glue you are about to buy?what IS in that soil?even to NOT giving ratings to a tV show or film that exploits or supports harm to non human animals.
You have a safer chance of avoiding support of animal products if you buy from vegan owned businesses,It is unlikely that a Vegan owned business would "accidentally" slip a non vegan ingredient into your product however if you go to non vegan establishments you have only yourself to blame if a dairy or meat product slips in-in fact expect it-to a non vegan they won't see it as a big deal "if only a little cheese or butter" is in it and most people won't consciously worry about if it is cooked on the same grill that the "beef burger" was if they are not vegan.
I am a Vegan and ask about everything I buy,investigate and try to buy from Vegan owned businesses as much as possible.
I do live in a home which I am sure was built before my time with non vegan materials,I do shop at a grocery store that also sells dead bodies of non human animals but has a special section for Vegan food,but again it is easy & important to me to ask questions,slightly go out of my way to make sure what I buy,eat and wear or use or support is not animal cruelty.
In answer to your question it is never morally or ethically justifiable to knowingly be a part of harm to non human animals.That is why it is every human's responsibility to ASK what is in what we are buying and how did it get that way.

100%vegan said...

Reflecting on what another responder mentioned: if i was on a remote island and my own chance of survival was eating a non human animal I would starve.I am not going to knowingly do harm or murder a non human animal for my survival.I don't do it in a situation where is it easy not to such a city and I would not do it on a remote island,if god forbid myself or a loved one was very sick
and a doctor wanted to test on an non human animal or kill a non human animal to make my "medicine" I would not allow it.
Every where there is a choice and 99% of situations have a vegan option I am going to choose the Vegan option.There are many things and situations that I choose to not have or be a part of but I am not I am missing out or depraved-seriously we live in 2010 there is so many vegan options and alternatives from basic and inexpensive to fancy and expensive for all lifestyles.
Lastly in response to what another responder asked yesterday about how they should respond to new "vegetarians" and that they find it difficult to not be happy for them- if you from the beginning introduce VEGANISIM and not vegetarianism you will have a higher rate of people going Vegan.My husband came from a foreign country where no one even speaks of Veganisim.Because he was introduced to Veganisim straight of the bat he became a Vegan not a vegetarian.
When I meet or hear of people being vegetarian I let them know the truth that just as many animals are tortured or die from Dairy.vegetarinisim dances around the issues just as attempting to make "better" conditions to kill non human animals in.
One of the biggest contributers to mass confusion is PETA.They do some good but a plethora of their campaigns are counter productive and harmful to the plight of non human animals.They send a multitude of mixed messages.I am angered by PETA more than I would be the day to day person who has not yet been shown the facts as PETA HAS been shown the facts-they put out a lot of the facts themselves they know better!
Being a Vegan and a living member of a non vegan society is easy.Once you know the facts there is no situation that knowingly harming a non human animal would be okay unless you are being viciously attacked & it is used as a last resort and if it is in the case of the water prison sea world than they humans deserve it as they have imprisoned what should be a free non human animal.
You may not always have the ability to stop others from harming animals such as stopping your grocery store from selling dead non human animals or people buying them but YOU yourself can choose to not give money to any dead animals in that store therefore not contributing to the supply and demand of dead animals.And maybe you can not stop your ignorant building manager from using an "exterminator" but you can speak up against it and sabotage any mouse death trap you see.And maybe you won't aide in helping the entire world to realize the facts that all non human animals have feelings and form family bonds and desire freedom and love and shelter and care just as much as a human does but you may aide a few people to realize this and at the very least you yourself know this and do all you can for non human animals.Weather other humans realize, accept or respect that non human animals have rights that doesn't change the fact that they DO and that YOU can always choose to support that in endless amounts of many ways.No one should allow such a dysfunctional society that is plagued with racism,speciesism, sexisim or homophobia determine weather your own individual actions should be just or moral.The masses are asses don't be one of them-it's easy not to.Loosing your own self respect is far more detrimental than loosing the shallow approval of society.

veganethos said...

Adam, did you misspeak?
> Animal use is morally justifiable period.

In think that should be "not justifiable", based on your other writing.

Personally, I don't believe we have an ethical right to use other sentient beings.

The basis of that is that we have no more right to be here than they do, and they have their own lives, goals, and so on. I don't think we have a right to exploit human animals either, though I do think, since humans can agree or disagree, that it is ok to make bargains with them. However, I don't believe there can be true consent without freedom from coercion. A lot of human "bargains" are unjust, because people are forced into them.


Philip Steir said...

It's seems that most humans would agree that it's morally wrong to exploit other humans.

If this is the case...than it's wrong as well to exploit non humans because we are no different than non human animals.

We humans imagine we are different but in the big scheme of things (the way the universe views us, treats us) we are all the same.

None of us are masters of our own fate.

We will all be born into bodies we never chose, we will seek food, mates and then we will all die. No exceptions.
We humans evolved from other animals.
There is a real circle that links us all to one another from the beginning of time.
Darwin's idea that species are only currents in the drift of genes has been proven true.
In reality there are no species.
We divide ourselves into different races and species yet our intermediates (the animals who connect us) are merely extinct. They once lived as we do now.

The way our minds divide us all is not only horribly deceptive but brings about prejudice and suffering.

We humans are only a tiny...tiny part of a great chain and we are all linked to one another.

We could stand hand in hand in unbroken unity with every other animal who has ever lived before.

Vincent said...

There is a difference between morally justifiable and morally excusable (and this is part of what Adam is referring to). For example, most of us would agree that self defense is morally justifiable (that is, we might agree that it is morally right to defend ourselves). For example, if someone attacks you a lifeboat and your defend yourself, that is generally considered to be morally justifiable.

Morally excusable simply means that while we do not agree that your actions were right, they are wrong but understandable in light of the specific circumstances. For example, if you kill and eat the person who has attacked you in the lifeboat because it may be weeks until you are rescued, most people would agree that that is morally excusable.

Questions about what someone ought/ought not to do often arise when try to determine what is legitimately excusable and what is not. Some of you may find this article useful to thinking about what is excusable vs. what is justifiable worth reading:

Adam Kochanowicz said...

Yes, I meant to say "animal use is NOT morally justifiable." Thank you for extending the principle of charity.

Vanilla Rose said...

Thank you for that point, Shoshana.

Vanilla Rose said...

I've thought about Shoshanah's comment (and I am sorry about spelling her name wrong yesterday). I think she is right on more points than me.

* The use of elephants in logging is wrong.
* Logging itself could probably appear in a dictionary to illustrate the term "unsustainable". Logging is also wrong.
However, I politely disagree with the view that dung is comparable to leather. Anyone who wants to make something useful out of my faeces is welcome to do so.