Animals eat each other, so why shouldn’t we eat them?

People criticise and mock vegetarians quite a lot. I’m always happy to be laughed at and I’ve taught my kids that this is a good thing because it means you are making someone else happy and there’s nothing bad about that. However I get annoyed when people say silly things or incorrect things. Maybe I just like to be laughed at on my own terms or I’m not as good at being laughed at as I would like. Sometimes I feel like the person in this cartoon.

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There are a lot of myths that vegetarians hear and after a while they get a bit tiresome. They are things like “but lions eat animals” and “but you won’t get sufficient protein” and “but if we didn’t eat animals they’d all go extinct” and “lettuces have feelings too” and “vegetarians are hippy types who don’t vaccinate their kids”. No-one has actually said that last one to me but I’ve had people ask me in a tone that is expecting my reply to be against vaccination simply because I’m vegan. I’m always happy to see their disappointment when I say I’m pro-vaccination and to shatter the stereotype. I’m 100% pro-science and pro-vaccination. I’m also pro-nuclear and pro-GM foods.

I thought I’d address the “but lions eat animals” argument because it seems to be quite common. Some people justify eating non-human animals because some of those non-human animals eat other animals. It’s true that there are animals who eat each other but it seems a strange thing to look to lions and other carnivores with answers to moral questions. Some animals eat their babies. Is that justification for eating babies?

Peter Singer addresses this argument much more eloquently than me in his book, Practical Ethics, which I think should be compulsory reading in high school. It is used as the text book in some introductory ethics courses and I’d love to see ethics taught in schools. Here’s an excerpt from it:

For a start, most animals who kill for food would not be able to survive if they did not, whereas we have no need to eat animal flesh. Next, it is odd that humans, who normally think of the behaviour of animals as ‘beastly’ should, when it suits them, use an argument that implies that we ought to look to animals for moral guidance. The most decisive point, however, is that nonhuman animals are not capable of considering the alternatives open to them or of reflecting on the ethics of their diet. Hence it is impossible to hold the animals responsible for what they do, or to judge that because of their killing they ‘deserve’ to be treated in a similar way. Those who read these lines, on the other hand, must consider the justifiability of their dietary habits. You cannot evade responsibility by imitating beings who are incapable of making this choice.

He also goes on to address the argument that we’ve evolved to eat meat and it’s “natural”. There’s nothing evolved or natural about industrial factory farming. Women have also evolved to give birth every couple of years from puberty to menopause but most of us do not and most of us would agree that not doing so is an improvement over what is “natural”.

10 Comments

  1. Vegan, but I have noticed a change in attitude over the many years I’ve had as a non-meat eater. I do eat fish though. It used to be a lot of these very weird comments but now days people seem a lot more used to it. A fuller range of food is now available cafes and restaurants too.

    1. The UK is very good for vegetarians and vegans and I don’t hear many comments like that now. Australia, at least the Australia I remember, is not quite so good.

  2. Great blog post Rachel! I’m not a vegetarian, but I have been writing an ethics blog for my PR degree, and I wrote a blog about how we need to protect animals more and slowly start to weed out meat, especially red meat! I have discovered a real passion for the environment and it is people like you who take a stand and show their children there are better ways that will change the world one day!
    Check out my post if you want to take a read 🙂
    https://ethicsprblog.wordpress.com/2017/04/06/animal-protection/

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