The Heterodox

The Heterodox


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Are you a Specieist?

November 8, 2010 , , , , , ,

Today I thought I would put forth a little more of my ethical philosophy that I had previously delineated on this blog a couple of months ago. For those of you who are curious about that prior essay, it is titled the Ethics of Uncertainty. In that essay I lay out the structure of philosophy that I use when in consideration of any ethical proposition. For historical grounding I start with Spinoza, then move through the eighteenth century into the nineteenth which leaves me discussing Utilitarianism. It is from this vantage point that I move into our milieu and site the regnant influence of the ethical philosopher Peter Singer, who has had the most marked ascendancy on my ethical thought process. I tout him as the greatest ethicist living today as well as consider him the only moral philosopher to have come out of academia who possesses any rhetorical heft. His importance in this regard issues from his positing of a long neglected aspect of ethical inquiry, that being the need for the considerations of all animals in deciding on any ethical proposition that their existence is involved in and not just the considerations involving members of one’s own species.

Dr. Singer is best known for his seminal book, Animal Liberation, which is rightly regarded as initiating the modern animal rights movement upon its publication in 1975. But it is his essays from this point on through to the nineties which I see as being the ultimate and most efficacious applications of utilitarianism, at least in the modern era. As stated in my previous essay, his erudition is best exemplified in his use of Jeremy Bentham’s maxim of the equal consideration of interest. He also astutely recognized that if we are to be able to use this maxim in our daily ethical concerns, then the only delineator one can reliably use is the concept of sentience. Singer defines sentience in the simplest, therefore most efficient, terms which reduce sentience to the capacity of a being to suffer or experience enjoyment or happiness. His philosophical caveat here is that this definition is the only tenable boundary for the concern of the considerations of others. With this foundation laid out, he then illustrates that the mentality one has to fight against to be able to include all animals in moral considerations is to be found within the antediluvian thought processes of Aristotle and Judaism. These two systems combined would eventuate into the philosophic underpinnings of Christianity in this regard. Aristotle put forth the idea of a hierarchy of life in which the upper echelons were justified in exploiting the lower ones. With the arrival of monotheism, the idea of man’s (by man I mean male and not just human) inherent dominion over all life appears giving divine sanction to animal exploitation, not to mention the denigration of women and the excoriation of homosexuals.

To those familiar with my thoughts on theism (which can be found throughout this blog), it should be plain as to where my critique will next move to. As with so much of the world’s immiserations, it is monotheism and to some degree polytheism which continues to malign our planet along with our very existence on it. In the previous essay I give my reasons for asserting that no ethics can be created our argued about without the consideration of other animals, the ones that are not human animals. Within this article I can now expand that assertion to include an antitheistic purview as well. In this light, one’s vegetarianism is a powerful non serviam to the religious and one that also intrinsically helps the planet and one’s own corporeality.

Every year it becomes more and more puerile to deny that flesh eating is the root of nearly every insalubrious malefaction. The USDA, the AMA, ASCO all concur with this verity. The National Cancer Institute estimates that 1/3 of all cancer deaths in this country and 8/10 of the most common cancers are related to diet, and yet our society continues to berate smokers as social pariahs and not flesh eaters. When you combine this with the increased rates in heart disease, type two diabetes, gout and obesity, all of which are direct corollaries to a flesh diet, it becomes impossible to repudiate the empirical reality of our bodies. Look at the curved shape of our intestine and bowel, our flat teeth, the chemical makeup of our saliva, they all point to an evolutionarily adapted body designed and acclimated to a vegetarian diet and not a carnivorous one. To test this assertion, just examine any carnivorous animal’s anatomy, say any member of the feline species, for contrast. Their intestine and bowel are short and straight, requiring no fiber for movement of waste. Their teeth are not flat in any way but quite patently sharp and pointed for the lacerating of flesh and their saliva has a enzymatic makeup specialized for the pre-digestion of flesh as well.

As a teenager (in the inchoate days of my vegetarianism) coming to terms with these realities and the reality of the factory farm, I was much more militant and absolutist in my philosophy which is to be expected in the idealistic fervor of youth. Now that I am imbued with a more leathery cynicism, my arguments are more realistic but no less acerbic. With the modern movement of so-called humane farming, a steady reproach of factory farming is emerging. Not fast enough for me by any means, but it is interesting to notice more and more vegetarian commercials appearing on television along with PSAs that tout the health benefits of a flesh free diet. This was unthinkable twenty years ago. Nonetheless, our health and ethics are not the sole considerations in this argument. The environmental impact of flesh eating is much more pressing now that global warming is finally being taken seriously. I encourage all to research the internet and to become more cognizant of the fact that factory farms are the most egregious emitters of green house gas as well as being the most deleterious polluters of our ground water. People still do not seem to get that there is no sewer system set up for these farms, and as the appetite for flesh increases so does the rate of pollution. This reality is one that Al Gore needs to be confronted with. As a flagrant flesh eater himself, he is in no position to tell me about any inconvenient truth until he has answered for this indiscretion.

My peroration will solely consist of acknowledging that if one wishes to be baleful to their own body while defending the invidious flesh industry with all of its crimes against humanity and the planet, go right ahead, give it a try. My only contention with that stance is that in the face of all the evidence that I have laid out (and I could give copious amounts more) be aware that there is no way to assert an ethics while negating the consideration and rights of other sentient beings. Ethics must include the concern for the right to exist without being forced to endure needless pain and torture, especially for those who do not happen to belong to our species and can not speak for themselves. Just like the arguments of religion, all arguments for the legitimacy of flesh eating are spurious and furtive at best and will forever leave you in a state of turpitude with rivers of blood to answer for. QED

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