Helen of Marlowe's Blog

To Justify the Ways of God to Man (and to other animals as well)

Posted in Ecology, Planet Care by helenofmarlowe on September 24, 2010

Introduction:  Our grandson sent email to my husband and me with a link to a New York Times OpEd, and the message, “Your thoughts?”

Here is the link that he sent us,

http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/09/19/the-meat-eaters/

and here is my reply:

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Bob and I finally — finally! — got the last of our tax documents off to the accountant late last night,
and so we both printed a copy of this to read.

Bob was reading it when I fell asleep, so he will likely send you comments today too, comments more philosophically sophisticated than mine.  The article is interesting for sure,  and some of his comments about animal cruelty at the hands of humans seem, surprisingly, new to me.   Surprisingly because when I read them they seem obvious.

I do not believe the author is serious in his suggestion that we might try to eliminate carnivores from the planet.
So why does he explore the idea? I guess to explore the outer limits of the observation that

Our own form of predation is of course more refined than those of other meat-eaters,
who must capture their prey and tear it apart as it struggles to escape.  We instead employ
professionals to breed our prey in captivity and prepare their bodies for us behind a veil of
propriety, so that our sensibilities are spared the recognition that we too are predators…

I think he cannot be serious, not because it would be “playing God” (his second response to that
accusation is good enough for me) but because it simply makes no practical sense.  (I can speak more to
that upon request but my guess is that you agree.)

Or maybe he explores the idea of eliminating carnivorous species as a way of mocking the arguments that I do take seriously,
The main one (to me) being

The reality behind the veil is, however, far worse than that in the natural world.  Our factory
farms, which supply most of the meat and eggs consumed in developed societies, inflict a lifetime
of misery and torment on our prey, in contrast to the relatively brief agonies endured by the victims
of predators in the wild.  From the moral perspective, there is nothing that can plausibly be said in
defense of this practice.

And this, for me, is the crux of the matter.  We cannot eliminate suffering from the world, but we should not contribute to it unnecessarily.   And factory farming is unnecessary.  (I would go further and say eating animals is unnecessary, but that argument is not necessary for this particular point and might lead us toward than infamous tangent.)

Your thoughts?

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