Now we're getting somewhere! Trevor's numbered points are far more digestible than my unwieldy ones.
- I read Trevor's point as being a simple response to the facts on the ground. Cruelty is bad so Trevor gave up veal. Basically I think that Trevor massively underestimates the cruelty widespread in factory farming. Giving up veal is great but most factory farming involves a similar level of cruelty, why hasn't he given up that as well?
- I don't understand Trevor's incomprehension over status and the answer is implicit in his point. What do whales and dogs have that insects lack? Wales are intelligent and have highly developed nervous systems (which means they can experience intense suffering) and insects are dumb and don't suffer. The very word cruelty has moral content and involves giving animals moral status. It being wrong to be cruel is essentially a definition for having what it means to have moral status, so I disagree that cows have no moral status in the West, most people would disapprove of cow torture.
But I want to turn this around on Trevor. What is it that gives humans moral status? I really mean this. We're very comfortable with giving different humans different rights. I don't think it's just because we're human, I think it comes from our inherent capacities to suffer, experience joy etc.
- I wanna invoke some basic philosophy here. One of the most common slogans is that you can't derive an "ought" from an "is". In other words the fact that animals kill each other has nothing to do with the morality of killing animals. The males of many species rape females, similar logic suggests that rape is ok. More generally we're constantly battling against what is natural, in fact I'd suggest that moral progress has a lot to do with realising that natural things may be wrong.
And again, if we're just animals and animals kill each other and in point two you don't understand what gives animals moral status, what exactly gives us moral status? Surely you want to claim that we're different.
- I agree here basically. I don't really think that animal issues should be a big concern for many people, because they really have more pressing issues to occupy them (though gratuitous cruelty is still a no no).
Finally I want to focus on something that Trevor said earlier in his post, "At the moment, I must admit that I have a very poor understanding of why vegetarians don't eat meat. Rather, I don't find any of the arguments convincing." But these are very different things and I think the distinction is important.
I think driving more carefully is more moral than driving less carefully. I could drive more carefully but I don't wanna be late and I get bored etc. I may not believe I am morally required to drive more carefully, but I understand other people who make the more careful choice.
Similarly, Trevor isn't convinced but he shouldn't be perplexed by the decision not to eat meat.