Tuesday, January 29, 2008

It’s only 10am and I’ve already learned something new

Let's say you want to protect the environment, and you are going to eat some meat, should you eat cows or pigs?  Pigs.  Let's say you care about animal cruelty.  Pigs are smarter and more social than cows.  A pig (or chicken) also seems to yield less meat per unit of animal suffering.  That would imply it is better for animal welfare to eat cows rather than pigs.  The conflict between environmental goals and animal welfare goals is one of the most significant underreported stories in this area.

I wonder how many people know that the best way to reduce your carbon footprint it to give up animal stuff, anecdotally I'd guess not many. Fortunately, I'm covered either way on this score. Unfortunately, I'm still rather attached to my dairy products.

Here are the two relevant links.


Tracy said...

I've noticed that it no longer seems respectable to consider the welfare of animals in a serious discussion. Everything must have an anthropocentric focus. So even if everything we are talking about relates to animals, our use of animals, the use of their habitat, you cannot ask, but what about the value of the animals for their own sake?!

stuart said...

no longer? are things really getting worse in this regard?

Swart Donkey said...

Speaking as one of the guilty.

I think this goes along with the other posts about reading things you disagree with. I plan on reading some of your suggested `animal' ethics books (post suggestions here)... but this is counter intuitive or rather, I don't think many people who think what I think will do the same.

So you have a uphill battle if you think any discussion will be other than anthropocentric.

I am also surprised by your feeling Trace (hope Canada is going well and thanks for the bday message) that you think people are getting less accepting of that type of logic?

Tracy said...

hi Trevor and Stu

You're right, I can't really make a comparison to what it was like because I don't really know.

But i've noticed in my class, Ecosystem Management, and in papers I've read that it is totally anthropocentric even though we're talking about other living creatures.

Tracy said...

Trevor, it would be great if you would read one of the animal ethics books. We should all try to get different persepctives on issues. Talking to people you disagree with helps too. That's why Stuart and I learn so much from each other, besides animal issues, we pretty much disagree about everything! :)
Thanks to Stu I think I understand the value of free market economics much more, although I'm not sure if I've influenced Stuart's opinion about the environment at all!

Stuart said...

"animal liberation" by peter singer is the classic book that started it all. I haven't read it and I'm not sure I'd recommend it.

I think "animal rights: A very short introduction" is about as close to ideal as I can imagine.

I have changed my view on the environment!! I'm much more hardline now, kill it!! Humans must continue to expand for its own sake!!

Erika said...

Through all this discussion I am still unsure of what your 'position' is on animal rights?
Do those who consume meat not value animals for their own sake?

I'm a bit concerned about these statements that accuse others of not caring about the environment because they choose not show concern in the way you have chosen.

I am of the opinion that the wellbeing people comes first.
I seriously doubt that it is for purely anthropocentric reasons that environmental destruction and animal cruelty exists.

Firstly one does have to examine the motives behind the choices that are for the so called greater good of mankind...
Looking at the miserable state of Africa alone I hardly think we can can blame anthropocentrism, by definition, for where we are today.

mutt said...

I think your comment was directed mostly at Tracy? I'll respond anyway.

My position is that going vegetarian, vegan or eating humanely raised animal products are good ways of reducing animal suffering. I try not to speculate what meat eaters think about animals.

Personally, I wouldn't go vegetarian for climate change reasons, but I think that lots of people might be tempted. Maybe everybody already knows about environmental impact of raising meat, but in my limited experience, most people don't know.

I don't think tracy's saying that anthropocentrism is to blame for the worlds ills. Just that, often in discourse, the main reasons for being nicer to animals are that it will also benefit humans. Common arguments include vegetarianism is healty, good for the environment, that we'll be less likely to be creul to humans etc. But it needn't benefit humans for us to change our attitudes.

There's nothing in the thread to suggest that humans are not more important.

Erika said...

You did raise the issue of becoming vegetarian for the positive impact it would have on climate change whilst trying to raise some points on the 'suffering' of animals. So essentially you are speculating on the opinions meat eaters...

'Lets say you want to protect the environment and you also feel that slaughtering animals is cruel. You think you've covered your bases and that if everyone followed this example we would all probably be nicer, healthier people?'

I'm just curious...?

Stuart said...

You're right, I do have views on the opinion of meat eaters, and I believe they are very diverse. I should have been more specific, I try not to make any judgement on whether meat eaters value animals for their own sake (though my default is that most do).

I don't think going vegetarian will make people nicer, but many people would become healthier (some would become less healthy).

But at the end of the day, I do think the world would be a better place if everyone were vegetarian (even better if everyone were vegan).

what are your views?

Erika said...

Ok, glad that's cleared up :)

My views are as follows:

While I see the environmental impacts of vegetarinism/veganism are hugely beneficial I really don't think I would be happy if meat disappeared from our lives.

1)I am one of those who gets very ill if I cut out meat and dairy completely.

2)There is a whole cultures of celebratory cooking that would be lost. This is very important.

3)'while there are a vast number of vegetables you simply don't have the same permutations of taste, texture, flavour you get out of one cut of meat'

4)Most of the really good vegetarian foodstuffs are not locally produced yet and the price of organic foods is still very high and not affordable to the masses.

5)I don't have a problem with slaughtering animals as such as long as it's done 'properly' I think that if we all had to make the effort to kill what we need we'd waste less and only eat meat when necessary.

So while I think vegetarianism or veganism is not practical for everyone I do think that being a flexi-vegetarian is most beneficial. And taking into consideration local environments is important. Eskimos can't grow wheat, and mono-agriculture is also terribly destructive to the environment.

Also I don't believe not consuming animal products will make people nicer. It might change some behaviours but then people have always found inventive means for causing each other misery.

Do you know how many indigenous creatures your domestic cat alone kills in a year? Domestic cats are responsible for the near extinction of many lizzards and birds?
But I love cats just as much as you and Tracy do, I just don't have one cause I'm allergic.

I have many views, I don't like animal cruelty but I think the solutions to environmental problems are very complex.