Thursday, July 31, 2008

another reply

Again I'll respond to Trevor in two posts but the other one may take a while to materialise.

I thought our empirical disagreement would be easily resolved, but that was overly optimistic.

I hope Trevor doesn't think the practices listed were exhaustive (I didn't even mention cows). I listed some standard practices rather than more extreme abuses that could be contested as activist propaganda. I thought that cutting bits off animals, depriving them of food and water and extreme overcrowding was obviously cruel (not much less extreme confinement than veal calves). It's not at all obvious to me that preventing muscle growth in calves is more cruel, or on a different order of magnitude.

But I don't really think it matters to definitively establish that veal calves suffer worse than a typical factory farmed animal, just that there is in fact a continuum of suffering. Trevor claims that there is some cruelty threshold above which he at least has some reservations about crossing. Veal is beyond the threshold and other factory farmed animals are not. We all have to make similar judgments about where we draw the line about what is acceptable and of course people will draw the line at different places. I understand higher thresholds than I choose and I also understand lower ones.

But Trevor understands choosing not to eat veal and doesn't understand choosing not to eat KFC (remember I've been concerned with Trevor's understanding of the choice not to eat meat, not convincing him that he's morally obliged to become a vegetarian). Where is the bright line between the practices?

Here are some things Trevor has said

I am opposed to cruelty which leads to unnecessary suffering...

I would guess we should also place a greater weight on capacity for pain than intelligence...

People do disapprove of cow torture, but a cow living a happy life and then being painlessly killed for meat? Problem?...

Farming is normally done in a more humane way? If not we can do it in a more humane way. In other words we can reduce pain and suffering to an absolute minimum. The suffering seems wrong, the death doesn't

Yet he is unfazed by evidence that suffering is not kept to an absolute minimum (something of an understatement!).

I find it impossible to conclude from these quotes that Trevor can be morally neutral between farming as it's practiced and animal farming as it could be practiced (even if it isn't at the high level that would spur him to change his behaviour). Yet he doesn't understand other people who alter their behaviour as expression of preference for the system that Trevor says he wants and a condemnation of the system we obviously have?

I don't get that!

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