Monday, November 17, 2014
I Eat Meat
I know where this question comes from. Christians, and many other religious types, view humanity as categorically different from animals and assumes anyone who accepts evolution thinks they are on par with wildlife. Well, yes and no. I don’t believe man holds a special place in any mystical or supernatural way, nor do we have a unique link to the transcendent. Modern humans share a common ancestor with all animals, but that doesn’t mean we aren’t unique in several important ways.
Humans have a far greater potential for intelligence, reason, and self-awareness than animals. It’s hard to tell how far ahead of the second smartest animals we are in these regards, but it’s clear to me that we are far ahead. The apologist's question came up on a post about morality, so I will address the follow-up question in that context. I am not vegan. The moral distinction I make between killing animals and killing people, beyond the legality and public opinion of such actions, is this: humans have a far more awareness of self, of what happens to them, and of what will happen to them. Awareness for negative acts against oneself and the consequences thereof, paired with the actual sensation of pain, is suffering. I believe most animals can only feel the pain aspect, which doesn’t have to be a factor in humane deaths.
Painful deaths and torture of animals that feel pain is immoral, but the instant killing of animals that lack human-like awareness is not, at least according to my understanding of morality.
Here’s the rub. Since animals aren’t capable of language, it’s hard to tell how much awareness they perceive and how much pain they feel. There has to be a spectrum. Dolphins are likely more aware than chickens and chickens likely feel more pain than roaches. I wouldn’t eat animals I consider closer in the spectrum to humans and I try my best not to give business to companies that would painfully kill their livestock. I realize that being vegan would be more moral, but I also realize that not walking outside and potentially stepping on insects would also be more moral. And I also realize that this post could be, in part, a rationalization to justify not wanting to make a difficult lifestyle change, but I believe what I’m saying just the same. Humans are, by every account I’ve seen, at least an order of magnitude more aware than cows and chickens. I can do more to be moral, but the time spent seeking out how to help animals is better spent seeking out how to help my fellow man.