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Milligan on Vegetarianism

Philosopher friend George points me toward an article in The Philosopher's Magazine by Tony Milligan titled "Is It Ethical to Eat Meat?". It's a brisk, funny review of the New York Times's online essay competition for arguments on the omnivorous side of the aisle. Milligan is the author of Beyond Animal Rights: Food, Pets and Ethics, which joins the long queue of books I hope to read some day.

Admit it: I'm biased against unnecessary animal suffering. At mile 20 of the Marine Corps Marathon a few days ago, coincidentally, I sketched that position for a fellow runner and pointed out that it implies test-tube in vitro synthetic meat is fine to consume. Milligan highlights the same conclusion, and then takes pokes at two carni-theses: "first, that we need livestock for ecologically balanced systems of farming; second, that there is a reciprocal arrangement, variously described as 'cooperation', a 'deal', a 'relationship', and a 'partnership' between farmers and farm animals." His verdict is that the ecological case for agro-meat is factually incorrect. And as for the other argument, he observes:

There are two significantly different claims on offer here. The first is that the animals get protection and food in return for their lives. This strikes me as something of an unequal exchange. The second is that they get their lives in return for their lives. Without farming, the animals in question would not exist. On Tuesdays and Fridays I'm almost convinced that this is a plausible deal. But for the rest of the week I can't help thinking that we would never accept such an arrangement in the case of humans. We would never accept that it is permissible to kill humans because they have been bred to be killed and would not otherwise have come into existence. Breeding in order to kill is an action that looks hard to justify.

(cf. SufferTheAnimals (2000-06-11), RobertNozick (2002-02-02), CompassionateCarnivorism (2002-11-19), Franklin on Vegetarianism (2008-06-17), Omnivore's Dilemma (2009-05-16), No Simple Answers (2009-12-01), Philosophical Vegetarian Issues (2010-07-15), ...) - ^z - 2012-11-02

I like this!