The situation Trevor describes in his last post sounds pretty familiar to me. Throughout our discussion, Trevor has been very keen to focus on assertive animal rights types but in my experience what Trevor describes is far more common. The comments section over at Megan McArdle’s blog is about representative of people who actually care about the subject. There are a few passionate animal rights defenders, but mostly people who are positively irritated by the fact that McArdle blogs about it at all or thinks ethics is involved. They are not much soothed by her repeated assurance that she doesn’t think meat eaters are bad people.
Otherwise, I think it’s very strange that there’s such pressure on people not to stand up for what they honestly believe. I mean it’s not like people are shy about invoking morality when promoting their cause. Imagining that we’re bravely speaking truth to power is also popular. Seen An Inconvenient Truth or Wall-E? Spoken about the Iraq war?
Seriously, don’t we admire people who used moral arguments to battle slavery, apartheid, sexism etc etc? If we abstract away from any particular issue, don’t we think it’s desirable that people think carefully about the issues and then argue for what they think is right? Why should this be different in this case? Why should anybody care if it makes people feel uncomfortable?
Telling our kids that they should stand up for what they think is right isn’t the same as telling them to stand up for this list of things that I think is right. Surely the main reason people object in the case of animal rights is not because of principle but that they happen to disagree.
Effectively you are saying, I believe it is wrong to eat [farm-factory produced] meat and by eating it you are effectively endorsing cruelty to animalsUmm... isn’t this what’s actually happening? Or if not endorsing, saying that it’s okay. Doing business with a company is a sort of endorsement of its practices. We shouldn’t buy stock in "Confederated Slave Holdings" (a favourite of Mr Burns) and we shouldn’t sell arms to the Sudanese government. I don’t know Trevor’s position on this for sure, but I’d guess that he approved when people refused to do business with Apartheid South Africa. Whatever meat we choose to eat we’re essentially saying, “I am willing to tolerate this much [indicating size using hands] suffering for my enjoyment”. We should be explicit about this rather than pretending that meat grows on trees.