A person wrote to me: “Does animals not eat other animals? Does carnivores or omnivores other than homo-sapiens refrain from making food out of other animals because thats morally wrong? Why are the rules so different for homo-sapiens. Thats what I call unjustified. “
Who said that there are different rules?
Who said that any species has a moral justification of harming and killing animals only for “palate” pleasure/convenience or tradition? Not me.
A more extensive answer:
Our conventional wisdom says that although animals matter morally, and we need to be able to justify imposing suffering and death on them, humans matter more because of characteristics like their ability to engage in moral reasoning and, in a situation of genuine conflict, animals lose and humans win. And when we are confronted with the fact that our eating animals can’t be justified
because there is no conflict and we eat animals and animal products simply because we enjoy the taste, we say: “but wait—animals eat each other so why can’t we eat them?” Some animals do, indeed, eat other animals.
That’s certainly true. But what relevance does that have to the issue of whether we should consume animal products?
That’s a rhetorical question; the answer is clear: it has no relevance. First, although some animals eat each other in the wild, many do not. Many animals are vegans.
Moreover, there is far more cooperation in nature than what we imagine as the “cruelty of nature.”
Second, whether animals eat other animals is beside the point. How is it relevant whether animals eat other animals? Some animals are carnivorous and cannot exist without eating meat. We do not fall into that category; we can get along fine without eating meat and other animal foods, and more and more people are taking the position that our health and environment would both benefit from a shift away from a diet of animal products.
Third, animals do all sorts of things that humans do not regard as morally appropriate. For example, dogs copulate and defecate in the street. Does that mean that we should follow their example or that humans are justified in engaging in the same behaviors? It is interesting that when it is convenient for us, we attempt to justify our exploitation of animals by resting on our supposed “superiority.” And when our supposed “superiority” gets in the way of what we want to do, we suddenly portray ourselves as nothing more than another species of wild animal,
as entitled as foxes to eat chickens.
In any event, this argument suffers from the problem that any argument encounters that is of the form, “Doing activity X is morally wrong. But person P is doing X. Therefore it is alright to do X.” You can substitute anything for X. Beating up your mother is morally wrong. But wait, John beats up his mother regularly. Therefore, beating up your mother is morally alright.”
See the problem?