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  • Posted May 10th, 2020
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    Our policy on keeping animals & eating meat

    Our policy on keeping animals & eating meat

    Our topics include vegetarianism and veganism, but also keeping animals (for meat, dairy, eggs, honey, wool, leather, work etc); and also fishing and hunting animals in the wild. Is this incongruous? As a sustainability / new economy organisation, should we be promoting only veganism, rather than the keeping and/or eating of animals?

    We’ve had huge debates about this, and the first things we want to stress are that:

    1. We oppose industrial agriculture, large-scale industrial fishing and the shooting industry.
    2. We believe the scale of current meat production to be unsustainable, and would like to see a huge reduction in the consumption and production of meat. Vegetarianism and veganism contribute to this, which is why we support them.

    But we believe that in some circumstances, it’s acceptable to keep / eat animals. After thinking and debating about this for a long time, we think that the arguments can be condensed into three questions, the answers to which form our policy:

    • Can keeping or eating animals be ethical?
    • Can keeping or eating animals be sustainable?
    • Is it spiritually damaging to humans to keep or eat animals?

    Can keeping or eating animals be ethical?

    We believe that it can, or at least that the argument that it is unethical isn’t strong enough.

    Imagine that we could talk with pigs (for example), and explain to them that they have three options (bearing in mind that we’ve ruled out industrial agriculture):

    1. You can live in the wild. There’s a very large probability that you’ll die before you’re one year old (see note 1). You’ll almost certainly die by being torn apart by a predator or predators – probably when you’re very young, but also if you become old, infirm, or just unlucky; and as you’ve got thick skin, this could mean quite a long period of pain and torment (see note 2). If you get a disease or an injury, death could be much worse. If you’re an adult female, you’ll almost certainly see some of your children torn apart in front of you. You’ll never be sure of getting enough food or water, and you won’t have shelter in the winter, or any medical treatment.

    2. You can live on a farm. You’ll definitely live to one year old. You’ll live outdoors, ideally in woodland. You’ll die quickly. If you’re an adult female, you’ll never see your children die. You’ll be guaranteed food, water, shelter in the winter and medical treatment.

    3. You never exist at all.

    (There’s a fourth option – to be kept as a pet, but we haven’t included this one, because farmers won’t do it, but also because it’s unsustainable, as land would be required to feed them, but they would never produce meat, so extra land and resources would be required to produce human food that could have been provided by their meat.)

    We have no way of knowing which of these options the pigs would choose, and therefore there’s no sound basis for an argument that keeping or eating animals is unethical.

    Can keeping or eating animals be sustainable?

    We believe that it can, in two circumstances:

    1. On smallholdings, where

    • no animal feed is imported, unless from waste / by-products;
    • the total environmental impact of the animals (including emissions) is no greater than that of the wild populations that existed in the area before humans changed the landscape to exclude them.

    We want to help build a new economy, which involves switching from extractive, corporate production to mainly community-based, small-scale production, including food. We favour organic, mixed smallholdings rather than large-scale, industrial, monoculture agriculture. For example, a smallholder can run sheep under orchard trees, along with chickens and bees. The grass and weeds are kept down, the trees are fertilised and pollinated, chickens provide pest control – all for free, and the smallholder gets an income from meat, dairy, wool, sheepskins, eggs and honey. The smallholder is able to generate more food for local consumers, more nutritional value and more income from the same area of land.

    Life is hard for smallholders, and it’s very difficult to get small-scale farmers back on the land. Preventing them from keeping animals and selling animal products of any kind will make it much harder. However, as the vast majority of the world eats meat and/or animal products, meat consumption and production is not going to stop – let’s instead try to reduce it and to do it as sustainably as possible.

    2. The harvesting of non-endangered animal species from the wild.

    We can harvest some nutrition from wild land, and a large amount from the sea, so that less natural habitat has to be converted to agriculture.

    Is it damaging to humans to keep or eat animals?

    Is it psychologically (see note 3), or somehow ‘spiritually’ damaging? Maybe; but there’s no way to prove it (it would be impossible to collect any data, or to even agree on what was meant by spiritual). However:

    1. If your argument is that eating meat damages humans spiritually, then you must believe that the Inuit, Yanomami, Saan, Maasai etc., or any people living a hunter-gatherer or herder lifestyle, in harmony with nature, are damaging themselves spiritually by hunting. We don’t find this argument convincing.

    2. Hunting may be a skill that’s required for survival at some point, in case of societal collapse or being lost in the wilderness. Would we value the life of an animal over our own?

    3. If it’s acceptable for animals to be killed and eaten ‘in nature’, but not acceptable for humans to kill and eat animals, then humans are not part of nature – but we are, in terms of our DNA and evolutionary history, as well as our utter dependency. Alienation and disconnection from nature is a risky path to take – if we don’t feel connected to nature, we’ll feel less inclined to protect it.

    We believe that:

    • hunter-gatherer lifestyles are not spiritually damaging;
    • human life is more valuable than animal life (we would save a drowning child before a drowning animal, for example);
    • humans are part of nature.

    There are also health risks involved in eating meat (around eating too much of it, whilst living a sedentary life), but also in veganism (around not taking care to get enough protein and essential vitamins and minerals, whilst living a sedentary life). But if you want to argue against meat consumption (or veganism) on health grounds, then for consistency you’d also have to support the banning of cars, sugar, alcohol, tobacco, mountain climbing, chainsaws, wild swimming, horse riding, slaking lime, felling trees, picking wild mushrooms etc. Ultimately, the corporate economy and its effect on biodiversity is the biggest threat to humans; so it’s important not to handicap smallholders – the main alternative to the corporate sector when it comes to food production.

    ———————————————–

    For all the reasons outlined above, we believe that in some circumstances, keeping or eating animals can be ethical and sustainable, and is not spiritually damaging to humans. We promise that our policy will change if we’re presented with arguments that convince us that it needs to.

    The Lowimpact team.

    Notes

    1. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wild_boar#Social_behaviour_and_life_cycle. Wild boar maximum lifespan c. 12 years; but few live past 5 years. Females reach maturity at 1, average litter size is 5. So a sow with a lifespan of 5 years will have around 20-25 piglets in her lifetime. In a healthy ecosystem, wild boar numbers will remain relatively stable, so of those 20-25 piglets, on average, 2 will reach breeding age (one for each parent). Over 90% of wild boar piglets die before the age of 1.
    2. Please do not visit this link if you’re of a sensitive disposition. It’s one of many freely-available videos on YouTube showing the killing of wild pigs by predators – this time, a leopard. In a healthy ecosystem, this is the ultimate fate of almost all wild pigs. Pigs kept on organic smallholdings don’t suffer in this way. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0Fap8w8rZgA.
    3. We’re against industrial, corporate agriculture, and that goes for abbatoirs too. We don’t know of any evidence base for whether working in a small-scale abbatoir is psychologically damaging generally. To some it would be, but to others it may not. We’d like to find out if there have been any studies. We’ll try to interview someone who works in a small abbatoir, about their work and how it affects them. Not scientific, but interesting nonetheless. We wonder if most smallholders would prefer not to send animals to an abbatoir at all, but to slaughter them on the farm (separated from other animals, with a rifle, whilst eating. I’ve seen it done – they’re gone instantly). We’ll interview smallholders about this – would they prefer to do it this way? However, this does mean that smallholders wouldn’t be able to sell their meat (only people living on the smallholding would be able to consume it), which removes one of the main planks of our position – to support smallholders vs industrial ag. when it comes to meat production. But – if the meat is deemed fit for people on the smallholding to eat, then why is it not fit for anyone else to eat? We’re going to look into the regulations, and see if there are any campaigns to allow smallholders to sell the meat from animals slaughtered on the farm. We’d be happy to support a campaign like that. We’ll also contact the Humane Slaughter Association to arrange an interview about the likelihood that the regulations could change. We think it’s a case of organic smallholders being penalised by the bad practices inherent in industrial agriculture.

    The views expressed in our blog are those of the author and not necessarily lowimpact.org's


    106 Comments

    • 1annbeirneanimalwhisperert May 10th, 2020

      Eating meat is no longer ethical, there is no way round it, it seems a lot of people would not agree with your explanations, pigs in the wild may live longer that you think, this is to justify your take on it to salve your conscience. Animals have rights as sentient beings, the feel pain, they feel love if you for once watch carefully as animals take care of thier young, you cans see the love and caring, if we took your yard stick of the rights to eat meat, it should also apply to eating humans, would you really be happy to eat human flesh or be hunted kept in field for 1 year and then slaughtered to feed other human beings I think not, this is a completely spurious argument put forward by meat eaters for centuries please change the record.

    • 2Dave Darby May 10th, 2020

      annbeirneanimalwhisperert:

      ‘pigs in the wild may live longer that you think’. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wild_boar#Social_behaviour_and_life_cycle. Wild boar maximum lifespan c. 12 years; but few live past 5 years. Females reach maturity at 1, average litter size is 5. So a sow with a lifespan of 5 years will have around 20-25 piglets in her lifetime. In a healthy ecosystem, wild boar numbers will remain relatively stable, so of those 20-25 piglets, on average, 2 will reach breeding age (one for each parent). Over 90% of wild boar piglets die before the age of 1.

      ‘Animals have rights’. They don’t have the right not to be chased and torn apart slowly by predators in the wild. If they don’t have that right, any other rights they might be granted by humans (but by no other species) will be relatively trivial.

      ‘it should also apply to eating humans’. No, because humans don’t live in the same circumstances as described in point 1 under ‘Can keeping or eating animals be ethical’ (i.e. 90% of human babies don’t die before the age of one, humans don’t expect to be torn apart by predators etc.). Plus we can give humans the same options (with point 1 replaced with the circumstances in which they actually live), and receive an answer. That’s not possible with animals.

      ‘please change the record’ – as mentioned, if provided with evidence that our policy is wrong, we will change it.

    • 3satka kartar May 10th, 2020

      Unfortunatly not everyones can be vegan. I changed to a macrobiotic diet after being vegetarian for 20yrs with fish at the end of the week,twice. All My lyme symptoms vanished and then i went vegan for a few years and was ok but then started to get sick again…..My B12 and protein levels went down a lot & i needed more..despite what I had been told.I also have Lyme disease so we are always compromised re B12 , magnesium etc…knees were locking and joints,..my chronic inflammatory condition returned.. [ i introduced small amounts of fish & meat twice weekly my condition changed] At present i can t be vegetarian and thats the way it is…alternative was ending up in a wheelchair and im a yoga teacher. One does not need meat daily for sure

    • 4Dave Darby May 10th, 2020

      satka – just want to mention that our policy has nothing to say about whether everyone can be vegan or not (although not everyone is going to do it anyway). Some people can be healthy on a vegan diet. Our policy is not anti-vegan in any way.

    • 5Joshua Msika May 10th, 2020

      I generally agree with the thrust of your argument but I think that valuing human life above animal life is not necessary. From my understanding of hunter gatherers, that’s not really the way they think. It also gives credence to the false dichotomy between humans and nature.

    • 6Dave Darby May 10th, 2020

      Joshua – yep, we stress the dangers of placing humans outside of nature in section 3. But if you saw a human baby and a piglet drowning, and you could only save one, you’d save the human (wouldn’t you?).

    • 7itwisnaemoi May 10th, 2020

      If you believe that humanity is separate from the rest of Nature (and from each other) then, of course, you can do whatever you like, and justify it any way that you like – you can treat people, animals, planet with utter contempt if you like. If you believe that Humanity, Planet, Nature, all living beings are not separate, then whatever you do to another, you also do to yourself. It’s a personal choice.

    • 8Tracing Horizons May 10th, 2020

      I’ll post this as a direct quote as it stuck with me when reading it and was something I hadn’t considered (as an already vegan-turned vegetarian) and it seems relevant: “the argument that we should become vegetarian to ameliorate the world food shortage problem [is very suspect]. Only in home gardens is most of the vegetation edible for people; much of the earth is occupied by inedible vegetation. Deer, rabbits, sheep, and herbivorous fish are very useful to us, in that they convert this otherwise unusable herbage to acceptable human food. Animals represent a valid method of storing inedible vegetation as food. If we convert all vegetation to edible species, we assume a human priority that is unsustainable, and must destroy other plants and animals to do so.” Bill Mollison.

    • 9Malcolm Purvis May 10th, 2020

      Hi Dave et al,

      Blow me, you really have put your head in a barrel of bees here?

      As someone who very occasionally eats meat but runs a subsistence croft growing fruit and vegetables (with a pet horse for manure), I am interested in the arguments. One which doesn’t sit right for me is the statement that because we cant talk to animals …’we have no way of proving that keeping or eating animals is unethical’. This certainly does not prove that it is ethical either and so strikes me as a false statement, a false statement would also mean that it was unethical in many peoples view.

      Also, to intimate that Hunter gatherers are spiritually backwards because they eat animals and others are ‘spiritual’ because they do not is another statement that seems ‘off beam’. Many Believe that hunter gatherers are very spiritual as they are very much in tune with nature and the planet, our disconnect with nature is the basis of our malaise. It would also be very wrong to say that because someone does not eat meat that they are spiritual. So, the arguments here are not in line with proper logic. Of course, for 7 billion people, and rising, it would be a bit unrealistic for us all to be hunter gatherers? Even if that would be ideal and would probably align us well with nature and the natural world?

      The solutions are difficult, it is difficult enough to change ourselves let alone the majority of people who like/enjoy eating meat. That doesn’t mean it is impossible for us to survive and thrive by not eating meat and that may be the best for everyone overall in the long term, both spiritually and sustainability wise and maybe health wise?

      It might be that there are other priorities at the moment though?

      Keep up the good work!

    • 10Malcolm Purvis May 10th, 2020

      P.S. You might find that all species would save their own when danger occurs, so a pig would probably save their piglet first if a human and piglet were in danger at the same time. However, as conscious beings this does not give us an excuse to kill animals to save ourselves unless we were in a real ‘danger’ situation. Especially as we can survive without doing so.

    • 11Dave Darby May 10th, 2020

      Tracing Horizons – very interesting quote.

      Malcolm – ‘One which doesn’t sit right for me is the statement that because we cant talk to animals …’we have no way of proving that keeping or eating animals is unethical’. This certainly does not prove that it is ethical either’.
      So, I’ve changed the policy because of this. There’s no way to prove an ethical position, and so I’ve changed the statement to ‘therefore there’s no sound basis for an argument that keeping or eating animals is unethical.’

      David Hume said that you can’t get an ‘ought’ from an ‘is’. What he meant is that science can tell us things (whether ‘proof’ is the right word is a whole new subject) about the physical world – for example that the earth goes round the sun, and not the other way round. But science can’t tell us anything about ethics. You can’t ‘prove’ an ethical position. You can only argue your position, and hope that people subscribe to it. For example, is circumcision ethical? Some think it is, some think it isn’t. If enough people subscribe to the idea that it isn’t, it will stop, or at least become illegal in more places. At the moment, the argument against hasn’t persuaded enough people, and so the practice continues.

      So this policy explains our ethical position, and why we take it. When it comes to sustainability, a more proof-based position can be arrived at, but this doesn’t work for ethics. So, there are no ‘false statements’ in ethics, just arguments that you subscribe to or not.

      ‘to intimate that Hunter gatherers are spiritually backwards’ – you misunderstood that one. We’re saying the opposite – ‘We believe that: hunter-gatherer lifestyles are not spiritually backward’

      ‘Of course, for 7 billion people, and rising, it would be a bit unrealistic for us all to be hunter gatherers’ – agreed. We’re not suggesting that.

    • 12Dave Darby May 10th, 2020

      itwisnaemoi – ‘If you believe that Humanity, Planet, Nature, all living beings are not separate, then whatever you do to another, you also do to yourself.’ – That’s true in the bigger picture – i.e. if humans damage nature overall, we’ll be damaging ourselves. But it’s palpably not true for specific acts. So, for example, a lion and a zebra are part of nature, but if the lion kills and eats the zebra, it’s not killing itself, it’s keeping itself alive.

    • 13Jan May 10th, 2020

      Without keeping animals it is very hard to put enough nutrients back in to the soil to produce enough to feed us. The alternative is to use chemicals. On that basis alone I believe there is justification in keeping animals for meat.

    • 14Dave Darby May 10th, 2020

      Jan – you could be right, but we believe that it is possible to do this, even without chemicals. However, we think it will make life more difficult for organic smallholders, and for a sustainable (not to mention democratic) future society, we believe food production has to be based on organic smallholdings rather than on industrial-scale, non-organic monocultures. Building a sustainable society should be the priority right now, ioho.

    • 15Malcolm Purvis May 10th, 2020

      Hi Dave, thanks for the reply and change of policy. A very good discussion.

      I did understood what you meant about hunter gatherers but the statement is almost identical in theory to the policy you have changed. If you say that “if so, …a hunter gatherer…..are spiritually backward’, to prove your argument, it doesn’t mean that because they are hunter gatherers that they are spiritual either. So, although I agree with your statement that you can’t necessarily ‘prove’ ethics, you also cant prove that because people are not one thing (spiritual for instance) they must be the other.

      It is for this reason that people might feel that the argument in this case is not fair?

    • 16Dave Darby May 10th, 2020

      Malcolm – again, we can’t prove whether one way of life is ‘spiritual’ or not, and in fact, we can’t say anything definitive about ‘spirituality’ at all (including whether there is such a thing) – only what the concept means to us. What we’re trying to point out in the argument is that if someone claims that it damages humans spiritually to eat meat, then they’re arguing that hunter-gatherers are damaging themselves spiritually by hunting. We don’t think that this argument is convincing.
      And again, I’ve changed the wording of the policy to reflect this.

    • 17Simon JM May 10th, 2020

      Hi Dave,

      Have you guys talked with any vegan farmers or vegan ag researchers?

      Anyway.

      “Animals have rights’. They don’t have the right not to be chased and torn apart slowly by predators in the wild. If they don’t have that right, any other rights they might be granted by humans (but by no other species) will be relatively trivial.”

      Suffering in the wild is a topic vegans debate but I do think while a valid concern this references to the Naturalistic Fallacy. We cannot morally justify something solely on the fact that something happens in nature. Nor even if we think it is ‘wrong’ it makes little sense morally to actually make things worse by doing more of it. If you want to raise then its a matter of consistency that could be the Tu quoque fallacy. If one was to bite the bullet it could then be like sure the suffering is unfortunate but it isn’t practicable to stop in nature whereas humans have the choice as to how domesticated animals are treated. & we could take a utilitarian approach to something like stopping wolves eating deer but then end up making it worse for the ecosystem as a whole.

      I would note while some vegans object others think you could incorporate animals into farming if they were treated in a similar way to companion animals who are considered part of the family.

      “No, because humans don’t live in the same circumstances as described in point 1 under ‘Can keeping or eating animals be ethical’ (i.e. 90% of human babies don’t die before the age of one, humans don’t expect to be torn apart by predators etc.). Plus we can give humans the same options (with point 1 replaced with the circumstances in which they actually live), and receive an answer. That’s not possible with animals.”

      annbeirneanimalwhisperert Here is raising what what moral/ physical trait allows similar creatures to be treated differently morally?And as Bentham points out“The question is not, “Can they reason?” nor, “Can they talk?” but “Can they suffer?” These individuals have sentient lives and base type individual desires very similar to our own. They can form relationships, value companions and family, and mourn their loss.We value many aspects of our lives on similar desires so why not grant similar consideration here?

      Also once upon a time certain humans devalued other humans due to irrelevant differences If it a matter of cognitive sophistication then some animals are more advanced then babies but we don’t choose to treat them as disposable lives to be used. I often see people argue that abortion is preferable for unwanted children and especially so for ones that would grow up abused or in severe poverty. Many lives could be saved if unwanted babies or those from poor families where used for the benefit of humanity in some way similar to animals of similar cognitive ability. Would it matter if it was done humanely or organically? One would think not. But we are humans? Belonging to the same species is no more morally relevant than belonging to the same skin color or economic class that is just group preferencing. Darwin thought we were different by degree and not in kind and I agree.

      Lastly on the point about traditional cultures some also found spiritual meaning in cannibalism and human sacrifice. I tend to think we have proved we can have spirituality without archaic traditions that harm others.

    • 18Malcolm Purvis May 10th, 2020

      Dave, many thanks for that.

      I don’t want to drag this thread out beyond it’s usefulness but although I agree with you that hunter gatherers are ‘probably’ not damaging themselves spiritually by killing animals, it is a long stretch to say eating meat does not damage any of us spiritually. Having had to kill a chicken of ours a few years ago I can say categorically that I was damaged spiritually and was upset for some time afterwards. I would also find it impossible to believe that anyone who works in an abattoir is not (at least initially, when they start) spiritually damaged. It is of course very possible that they are damaged spiritually all the time, or at least numbed to their true self. This is our system of meat consumption for the very vast majority of people and the killing of animals by humans for meat is very seldom a pleasant experience spiritually or ethically, and of course is the opposite for many as it is for me.

      IMHO I believe that the trouble we have with the policy is that it is a scientifically written statement that does not align well with spirituality or ethics. This is not a criticism only an opinion.

    • 19Dave Darby May 10th, 2020

      Simon:

      ‘Have you guys talked with any vegan farmers or vegan ag researchers?’
      We have for the production of topic intros, but we didn’t talk to any farmers or researchers about this policy – vegan or otherwise. We didn’t want to be swayed either way – we wanted to state our policy in philosophical terms.

      ‘Nor even if we think it is ‘wrong’ it makes little sense morally to actually make things worse by doing more of it.’
      But we don’t think it’s ‘wrong’ – that’s the whole point of the policy. Herbivore predation is required for healthy ecosystems, and if we tried to stop it, as you say, we’d ‘end up making it worse for the ecosystem as a whole’. If we thought it was wrong, then we wouldn’t be advocating the keeping of animals at all. But we don’t know whether, given the choice, animals would prefer to live on farms or to never have been born. (it seems extremely unlikely that farmers would keep animals as pets, but we wouldn’t advocate that anyway, as it’s unsustainable – as mentioned in the policy).

      ‘They can form relationships, value companions and family, and mourn their loss.We value many aspects of our lives on similar desires so why not grant similar consideration here? … etc.’
      Because humans are in control of their own reproduction, and farm animals aren’t. It’s not a question of whether we treat them in the same way that we treat other humans – because if there were no value in them for farmers, they just wouldn’t exist.

      ‘Also once upon a time …. etc.’
      As mentioned above, it can be argued that, as most wild herbivores don’t reach breeding age, most breeding females see plenty of their offspring killed by predators, they have no guarantee of food and water, and no help if they’re sick or injured, farms improve life for herbivores – on average they will live longer, in greater comfort, better fed, suffer less pain, and so on. This isn’t the case for humans, who generally don’t suffer in this way ‘in the wild’.

      ‘Lastly on the point about traditional cultures … etc.’
      Are you arguing that hunter-gatherers are damaging themselves spiritually by hunting wild animals? If so, do you think that the Inuit, Saan etc. should be removed from their traditional lands to be settled into ‘modern’ society, for their own sake?

    • 20Dave Darby May 10th, 2020

      Malcolm:

      (most importantly) ‘This is our system of meat consumption for the very vast majority of people’
      We are not advocating the current system – far from it.

      ‘I can say categorically that I was damaged spiritually and was upset for some time afterwards’
      We’re not equating ‘spiritually damaged’ with ‘upset’. Some people are not upset by killing chickens. We’re talking about something bigger – something that can hinder human progress. But then we’d have to define progress, and work out whether certain activities hinder it. Very difficult. However, at this point, we think that there are much, much bigger barriers in the way of human progress, or even survival, than smallholders killing animals (as long as the sustainability of which, in terms of numbers, is a given).

      ‘the trouble we have with the policy is that it is a scientifically written statement’
      I can’t see any scientific writing in there at all – only philosophical.

    • 21Malcolm Purvis May 10th, 2020

      Hi Dave,

      I’m not sure if you are aware but it is illegal for a smallholder (or anyone else) to sell meat unless it has been killed by a licensed abattoir. I, like you are against this sort of meat system that we currently have but the question is does killing meat to eat (apart from hunter gatherers) spiritually damage the slaughterer? My overwhelming assertion is that it does.

      Again I know that you will have seen this sort of stuff before but I give the following link regarding a slaughterhouse worker and defy anyone to say that the people there were not spiritually damaged by the job of killing animals. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/stories-50986683

      I’m not sure what you mean by “hindering human progress” but again from the link given above many peoples view would surely be that this persons progress as a human being was severely damaged by working at the abattoir, and it seems from reading it she was not alone in that? If we look at this: Collins dictionary says, “Spiritual means relating to people’s thoughts and beliefs, rather than to their bodies and physical surroundings.” Again the article above clearly shows that more than one persons thoughts were seriously affected by the killing of animals and many people would say that most killing of animals (apart from hunter gatherers) would elicit a similar response (thoughts) from a lot of people. Many people would surely concur that this is spiritually damaging, if ever there was a ‘broken spirit’ it was surely in this worker (and others) at the slaughterhouse?

      In summary, we surely cannot justify that killing animals to be eaten by others is not spiritually damaging to the killer. If this is so then the act of eating that animal cannot be justified in terms of ‘it is not spiritually damaging’.

    • 22Anthony Hay May 10th, 2020

      Dave, Thank you for an interesting post. I think you are saying there is no justification for believing it is wrong to exploit animals. But the reasons you give seemed circular to me. I think you are saying:

      – It’s ok for people to eat an animal if the people caused the animal to be born, treated it well and killed it painlessly.

      – It’s ok for people to eat an animal if they do it carefully, without destroying the planet in the process.

      – It’s ok for people to eat an animal because some groups of people eat animals.

      Also, I don’t really understand the argument that X happens in nature, people are in nature, so it’s fine for people to choose to do X, because you don’t have to look far in the wild before finding behaviour you would not want people to imitate.

      Veganism is a complex and sensitive subject about which I know nothing, which is why I felt able to comment.

    • 23Annie Leymarie May 10th, 2020

      I won’t enter into any debate now – but just want to say I am glad that the situation has evolved since I last debated here at length, triggered by the statement I had read on this website that for the sake of sustainability we should all be eating *more* meat (written by beef farmer Rob Rose, who is a tuitor here)

    • 24Dave Darby May 10th, 2020

      Hi Malcolm:
      ‘I’m not sure what you mean by “hindering human progress”’
      Neither am I – which is why I added ‘But then we’d have to define progress, and work out whether certain activities hinder it. Very difficult.’
      But yes, maybe the killing of animals is something that’s spiritually damaging if you do it all day. There’s also a good argument that live animals should not be transported to abbatoirs, and should be killed individually on-farm, separated from other animals. I’ve seen it done – seen a pig brought in for food, alone, and shot in the brain whilst feeding. Death was instant. No pain, no fear, no knowledge of what was happening.
      If this is done rarely, on-farm, for consumption by the farmer and people living on the farm, then I don’t think any of the issues mentioned in your article apply. But without abbatoirs, it does mean ‘you eat it, you kill it’, which would certainly vastly reduce meat-eating, and the ability to sell the meat from animals you raise.
      But yes, maybe we need something in the policy about abbatoirs, and whether there should be a change in the law to allow the sale of meat killed on-farm.

      Hi Anthony:
      ‘I think you are saying .. etc.’
      No, we’re saying what’s in the policy. Best to quote it rather than interpret.
      ‘I don’t really understand the argument that X happens in nature, people are in nature, so it’s fine for people to choose to do X, because you don’t have to look far in the wild before finding behaviour you would not want people to imitate.’
      We’re not making that argument. We’re only talking about the killing of an animal. We don’t accept the argument that it’s fine for herbivores to be food for any species except humans, especially considering the options mentioned in part 1.

      Hi Annie:
      Rob isn’t a tutor. He’s our advisor for people interested in keeping cattle. I think he was talking about sustainably-produced meat, but in any case, it was his personal opinion, not ours. I’ve debated with him on the blog, in fact. Our position has always been that the production and consumption of meat should be vastly reduced, and that industrial farming practices be halted asap.

    • 25Malcolm Purvis May 11th, 2020

      Hi Dave,

      Good debate.

      Thanks for your considered reply and the agreement that killing animals all day is spiritually damaging.

      However, if this is the case then if a slaughterer was going around farms all day, doing as you suggest, they would be damaged spiritually as well. Also, if a smallholder was set up as a meat producer, and there are many, they would not be able to pay the slaughterer or indeed gain a living if they worked on the basis of ‘you eat it you kill it’.

      You don’t seem to be saying that we should stop commercial meat production, but also there seems no real alternative to having people slaughtering animals all day (as a job), even if it is done on farm. So, either we only kill what we eat or we buy meat where someone who kills it is spiritually damaged. I fail to see an alternative to these two situations unless we do not have a commercial meat system/market?

      If this is the case we can no longer say that eating meat that is produced commercially is not spiritually damaging, whether killed ‘on farm’ or at an abattoir.

    • 26Dave Darby May 11th, 2020

      Hi Malcolm:
      That’s a really good point. We’ve had some internal conversations about it, and we’re going to look into several things.
      1. We’re against industrial, corporate agriculture, and that goes for abbatoirs too. We don’t know of any evidence base for whether working in a small-scale abbatoir is psychologically damaging generally (as opposed to spiritually damaging, for which it would be impossible to collect any data, or to even agree on what was meant by spiritual). To some it would be, but to others it may not. We’d like to find out if there have been any studies. Sophie is going to try to interview someone who works in a small abbatoir, about their work and how it affects them. Not scientific, but interesting nonetheless.
      2. We wonder if most smallholders would prefer not to send animals to an abbatoir at all, but to slaughter them on the farm (separated from other animals, with a rifle, whilst eating. I’ve seen it done – they’re gone instantly). Sophie will also try to interview smallholders about this – would they prefer to do it this way?
      3. However, this does mean that smallholders wouldn’t be able to sell their meat (only people living on the smallholding would be able to consume it), which removes one of the main planks of our position – to support smallholders vs industrial ag. when it comes to meat production. But – if the meat is deemed fit for people on the smallholding to eat, then why is it not fit for anyone else to eat? We’re going to look into the regulations, and see if there are any campaigns to allow smallholders to sell the meat from animals slaughtered on the farm. We’d be happy to support a campaign like that. To this end, I’m going to contact the Humane Slaughter Association to see if I can interview someone about the likelihood that the regulations could change. We think it’s a case of organic smallholders being penalised by the bad practices inherent in industrial agriculture.
      4. But you’ve forced us to change the policy again!

    • 27Ray Ayers May 11th, 2020

      Hi, have you heard of a concept called ‘Speciesism’? it was a term that an American philosopher invented to represent the way animals are treated differently to humans. It’s very similar to ‘Racism’ in which of course, some people believe themselves to be ‘superior’ to other races of people.The argument that it may be ‘ok’ to eat animals thereby translates into it may be ok to see ones self as superior to a member of another race.
      Peronally, I don’t believe that I have the right to eat animals anymore than I have the right to ‘own’ another human from another race to do whatever I
      so wish with them, i.e. enslave them.
      On the subject of spirituality. I’ts my belief that we are here on earth to be the best possible versions of ourselves in human form. If I view other creatures as inferior to myself,then I have failed.

    • 28Jan May 11th, 2020

      It is totally mad that as a stalker I can kill a deer on the farm and with the correct inspection and certification put it in the food chain. But not a sheep.
      I think there needs to be some form of tracking to reduce risks of Stolen or poorly killed meat getting in to the food chain, but that shouldn’t be too hard.
      Also I think there should be more support for small local abattoirs which have almost been legislated out of existence in recent years and are far more humane with our local one being just 20 minutes away and animals slaughtered and inspected within a few minutes of arrival.

    • 29Dave Darby May 11th, 2020

      Ray – if you saw a human child and a piglet drowning, and you only had the opportunity to save one of them – wouldn’t you choose the human child, absolutely every time?

      Jan – genuine question: when you say ‘put it in the food chain’, do you mean eat it yourself, or could you, with the right certification, sell it to a butcher?
      And no, it shouldn’t be too hard. The big food scares always come from the practices of industrial agriculture, not organic smallholders, who are usually much more careful.

    • 30Jan May 11th, 2020

      Dave yes most venison in a butchers shop that is from uk will probably have been killed by a qualified stalker who will have checked and tagged the carcass as before selling it to a butcher.
      Smaller game doesn’t require this but can still be sold to a butcher.
      The real anomaly is wild bore for which there is no certification at present but the volumes going through butchers would be very small.

    • 31Malcolm Purvis May 11th, 2020

      Hi Dave,

      Thank you very much for your magnanimous reply, it really is much appreciated! I also appreciate all the work that you are doing to try to get a workable solution to the policy. I would also be more than happy to contribute in any way possible with this if it was deemed helpful?

      One of the difficulties is with the spirituality element as presented in the policy. The scientific view (as you say) is that you cannot measure or prove ‘spirituality’. Although that maybe the case in a hard lined (Cartesian) view, most everyone has at some time or another ‘felt’ a certain kind of spirituality, even if it is just the ‘atmosphere’ in a room, there are of course many other instances of ‘knowing’ this sort of feeling. However, I still say that if anyone has ever killed an animal (I have) that they will have experienced an emotion. Some maybe stronger than others but I defy anyone to say they were untouched, especially the first time. This affects the spirit, even if only for a short period of time. You may not have been able to measure it but you would certainly have ‘felt’ it and you would ‘know’ you had been affected. If we were to use the ‘beyond all reasonable doubt’ basis of judgement there would be no argument about this killing affecting our spirit IMHO.

      You may well have looked at the links in my previous posting but just in case I enclose one here: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4841092/. This clearly shows the psychological damage (I would say spiritual also) done in slaughterhouses and highlights also the incidents of PTSD and ‘Perpetrator-induced Traumatic Syndrome (PITS) which is related particularly to slaughterhouses. It would be nice to think that smaller slaughterhouses or ‘On Farm’ slaughter was better for workers (and animals) but many people would believe that what you do to others you do to yourself, no matter how many times you do it. or what the ‘scale’ of it is. So, you might be very hard pressed to convince people that small abattoirs are the answer, even if they are slightly better. Killing is killing after all!

      On the rules of home killed meat being OK for the killer and their family/people on the farm, and why it should not be fit for anyone else. I would guess that it would be very hard for anyone to stop you eating anything at your home that was not sold to you by a retail business, whether that be wild game, road kill, slugs, caterpillars or many other such things, impossible to police as well? It would come under consumer protection law that if you bought any of these things you should be protected from harm and inspection of premises and regulations etc would apply.

      Mind you, it would be interesting on your ‘open credit’ or similar exchange networks, that are not in the money system as such, as to whether those rules would apply to the supply of meat? No doubt the loophole would be closed fairly quickly though?

      Anyway, thanks again for all your honesty, fair mindedness and the excellent work you all do.

      Warm regards.

    • 32Dave Darby May 12th, 2020

      Jan
      That’s an absurd law don’t you think? A wild deer can be killed by an individual and sold to the public, but a sheep on a farm can’t.

      Malcolm
      You’ve already helped. Not magnanimous – just want to come up with the right policy, that doesn’t support industrial agriculture, but doesn’t condemn smallholders with animals either.
      Sure, I think people are affected. There are many references out there (https://www.theclassroom.com/cherokee-hunting-traditions-12963618.html etc.) to hunter-gatherers ‘asking the gods for forgiveness’ after killing an animal. I guess that’s the problem with abbatoirs (even small ones, as you say) – it’s the commonplace nature of death that might be damaging. There’s no ‘asking for forgiveness’ from something bigger than ourselves, because they do it so many times.
      Inspection of premises – sure, but a) no inspection required for a deer shot by an individual in the wild, that may have sat around in the hunter’s garage, and b) the regulations tend to punish small producers. I’m a trustee of an organic farm / stone age centre in Wales. They make beautiful cheddar cheeses, but can only eat the cheese themselves, and give it to visitors, volunteers etc. – they can’t sell it unless they spend tens of thousands of pounds on acres of stainless steel. The regulators are fearful of outbreaks of diseases caused by the practices of industrial agriculture – but it’s the small farmers who suffer. Complying with regulations requires a larger percentage of their income.

    • 33Malcolm Purvis May 12th, 2020

      Hi Dave,

      Thanks again for your comments.

      Thanks also for the very interesting article regarding the Cherokee!

      From what I understand from reading the following https://www.bestdeercall.co.uk/sale-of-venison-and-where-you-stand/ I don’t think that a stalker/hunter could really leave a carcass in the garage and then sell it to a butcher/game dealer. There does seem to be an exemption clause when selling direct to the customer but in that case it must be ‘in fur/feather’, which would involve the customer doing the butchering etc. So, a very small and local market which might be suitable for some smallholders if the rules could be opened out for other meat? But it doesn’t seem as though the rules are that lax as to allow anything more than a very limited trade of ‘unchecked’ meat, and even then the hunter could probably be found liable if disease occurred?

      With regards to the regulators being fearful of outbreaks caused by the practices of industrial agriculture. From what I can understand Covid-19 is reported to have originated from a ‘wet market’ in Wuhan selling wild game? I might be wrong but that doesn’t sound like industrial agriculture to me? Again, like you I am against big ag’ but it surely would be daft to have a policy that does not protect the public rigorously from slipshod practices and minimal regulation, from a product that can have truly devastating effects, individually and globally?

    • 34Dave Darby May 12th, 2020

      Malcolm – I was talking more about things like foot and mouth, BSE etc. Plus not meaning remove all regulation, just not add unnecessary and expensive burdens onto organic smallholders when that’s not where the problems came from.
      ‘small and local market which might be suitable for some smallholders if the rules could be opened out for other meat’ – yes, that sort of thing.

    • 35Caro May 13th, 2020

      Humans ‘can’ talk. Of the three options given to the pig, which one would you choose for yourself?

      At least a year of ‘easy living’ and then a painless death? Or…
      Take your chances living ‘free’ knowing you will experience both joy and pain? Or…
      Not exist at all?

      Food for thought.

    • 36Mike Pinard May 13th, 2020

      Let’s play devils advocate.

      Your system being imposed would make meat a luxury only the rich could afford. Sounds a bit medieval to me.

    • 37Dave Darby May 13th, 2020

      Caro

      The second option also includes a less than 10% chance of making it to one year, no guarantee of food or water, no medical treatment, no shelter, constant fear of predators, if you make it to one year, you’ll almost certainly see your children and friends killed by predators, and no guarantee of ‘joy’, but definitely pain.
      I just wanted to point out that ‘suffering’ probably applies more to wild animals than farm animals (not including industrial agriculture here).

      Mike Pinard

      Very interesting (and I’ve got a bit carried away with this response)

      1. We don’t have a system, and we’re not talking about imposing anything – just highlighting the ways of keeping animals / providing meat that we support and that we don’t.
      2. If you look at the rest of the topics on our site, and our vision for a new economy – if implemented there wouldn’t necessarily be any ‘rich’ or ‘poor’.
      3. We don’t believe that something should be produced with cruelty, or unsustainably (i.e. the conditions and practices of industrial agriculture) just to keep the price down. Sustainability is the most important, imho, as ‘unsustainable’ means that, by definition it can’t continue into the future, so if we live unustainably (as we do), we can’t continue to exist – nature won’t let us.
      4. This final point is more difficult to explain, but the kind of activities we advocate almost always end up with things being more expensive (although not unsustainable or cruel, and not involving wealth concentration, child labour etc.) – so artisan craft produce, local, organic food, natural building – even growing your own food (makes more economic sense to work for those hours, then buy your food from a supermarket).
      But – if you’re both a producer and a consumer, the higher prices cancel each other out. We’re advocating a new kind of economy, based on local, sustainable, small-scale production.
      This is from a proposal for a project that we might be involved in – with community-building via local producers creating clubs that commit to purchase from each other:

      “A local, hand-made, natural laundry basket (for example) might cost £50. Or local, co-operative, factory-made, £25; or plastic, from a supermarket, made in China, £10. But with the plastic basket, money leaves the community; probably utilises child labour, or at least slave labour; the plastic industry is toxic; and it has to be transported from the other side of the world. £50 might sound crazy, but more money stays in the community, more likely to be spent on other local businesses in the community; high-quality products; craft skills retained; interesting jobs; etc. etc.
      This could be a springboard for local beer, bread, cheese, pottery, natural builders, renewable energy installers, organic fruit and veg, natural soaps and shampoos, wine, leather goods, glass, furniture, clothes, textiles, candles etc. Plus, local fixers and menders – electrical goods, computers, etc. and hairdressers, salsa teachers, landscape gardeners, dog walkers – anything. A trading club that commits to purchase from each other is essential. Producers will be charging higher prices than supermarkets, but also committing to pay higher prices to other members of the network. Higher prices charged and paid cancel each other out, and it’s not a race to the bottom. Everyone gets quality goods and becomes better off.”

      More here – https://www.lowimpact.org/how-much-should-a-loaf-of-bread-cost/ (it’s about bread, but it could apply just as well to meat or anything else).

      And here – https://www.lowimpact.org/who-can-afford-artisan-goods-for-a-truly-green-business-we-have-to-kick-the-money-habit/

      [Just as an aside, inequality wasn’t necessarily greater in the Middle Ages than today, and people had a guaranteed means of living, roof over their head and social safety net. This isn’t the case today for most of the world. The second responder here – https://history.stackexchange.com/questions/42496/what-was-income-disparity-like-in-the-middle-ages-of-europe – has made a heroic effort, calculating the difference between the third wealthiest person recorded in the Middle Ages (William the Conqueror, apparently), and the third wealthiest individual now (Bill Gates). Calculations have to be extremely rough, obviously, but they came up with a 200,000x disparity between wealthiest and poorest in the Middle Ages, and 600,000 now. I’ve seen figures before that indicate that wealth disparity is higher now than it’s ever been – and rising.]

    • 38Robin Greenwood May 13th, 2020

      I have been vegan for 10 years and vegetarian for the prevous 30. When I read this, I simply know that I don’t want to be around people who eat meat and rear animals for their consumption. I don’t want to argue with you as you have come up with views that support your lifestyle and I’m sure you believe in them, just as I do in mine. I have no idea where to go with this. Makes me want to crawl into my hole, put up barriers, and have nothing to do with the outside animal and human killing world! Fortunately my hole is 22 acres of beautiful countryside in Herefordshire, on which I am creating a vegan, off-grid community, where sadly, two of the participants have dogs, but did so before they knew of us, and one is not a resident and the other will not get another dog when this one passes away. Life is so complicated!

    • 39Dave Darby May 13th, 2020

      Robin – you’re right, it’s complicated, and I really support your decisions (the more vegans, the better, afaic – we produce and consume far too much meat).
      I support your off-grid community too, but I just want to point out that there’s carnage happening on your 22 acres all the time. You may prevent humans from killing animals there, but not foxes, owls, spiders, hedgehogs, weasels, shrews, bats, centipedes, ladybirds, blue tits, blackbirds, badgers etc.
      You’re host to lots of killers, and of animals that will be slaughtered much more horribly than those raised on organic smallholdings.
      Nature is cruel and life is very complicated.
      I wish you well.

    • 40Robin Greenwood May 13th, 2020

      The fact that foxes, owls etc may be killing on the land that I am stewarding as its current owner does not in any way suggest it’s inappropriate for me to minimise the amount of killing that I am personally responsible for!

    • 41Dave Darby May 13th, 2020

      Robin – of course not, but that’s because of the way it makes you feel, not the overall effect it has on animal welfare. I support veganism, because humans produce and eat unsustainable amounts of meat, but veganism doesn’t actually reduce animal suffering, because animal welfare is greater on organic smallholdings (not industrial agriculture) than it is in the wild, and vegan smallholdings mean that (domesticated) animals are not allowed to exist there at all (unless as pets, which is a waste of resources).

    • 42Robin Greenwood May 13th, 2020

      Please Dave, don’t insist that you know better than me. It ends up making me feel I’m not being heard and that unless I agree with you, I’m not ok, and in the end it just winds me up. You keep to your belief and I’ll keep to mine … better that way …

    • 43Dave Darby May 13th, 2020

      Robin
      I’m not insisting that I know better than you. I’m engaging in a debate. I’m not going to pretend that I agree with you when I don’t.
      I heard you, and I responded. I invite people to show me where they think I’ve gone wrong, as some people have (and I’ve changed the policy); but I have no control over, or interest in, how it makes you feel.

    • 44Malcolm Purvis May 13th, 2020

      A very fascinating subject and some excellent points by many people.

      The questions presented are:

      1. Is it ethical to keep animals?

      2. Is it sustainable to keep animals?

      3. Is it spiritually damaging to keep or eat animals?

      M’ Webster’s dictionary states that ethical realities to morality – fair, honest, decent, just. If animals were kept in good conditions, given treatment when needed and lived for a reasonable number of years (dependent on the type of animal) and were not of course maltreated in any way then this would surely be ethical. Organic farmers are mostly already in this situation so this is almost a given?

      Sustainable can be defined as: being able to continue for a long time (indefinitely?) and causing no damage to the environment. Most arguments on this look at the unsustainablilty relating to slaughter for meat. However, there are of course other reasons for keeping animals that we all know about; wool, milk, cheese, manure, biodiversity, pasture management regarding parasites and there are probably others, none of which requires the animal to be killed and can provide income and balance for the Smallholding. Strip grazing and Silvopasture https://www.agroforestry.co.uk/about-agroforestry/silvopasture/ can all be utilised for this.

      After a natural life there are then other products such as leather, feather, bone, and meat that could be utilised if the smallholder were so inclined and they were not vegan or vegetarian. It could be possible to slaughter the animals with appropriate ritual for this (as highlighted by Dave Darby), to reduce the stress and harm done by the slaughter process. This meat could be eaten on farm or put into a credit commons system of exchange. [In this way, if a smallholder were really intent on keeping just (predominantly) livestock they could take advantage of the new ritual type system of slaughter to reduce the effect of post traumatic stress disorder to the slaughter process. It would of course be done ‘on farm’]. Reproduction would be mostly natural and any vast surplus of males could be culled if deemed necessary although of course cattle slaughter is banned in most of India and somehow seems to work?

      Bearing in mind that 70% of food is grown by small farmers on less than 25% of the land https://www.grain.org/article/entries/4929-hungry-for-land-small-farmers-feed-the-world-with-less-than-a-quarter-of-all-farmland , this should be sustainable.

      One of the points here is that people could keep animals as people keep horses now (if they wanted to). Many people also keep goats, sheep, chickens and a wide variety of other animals (that are routinely eaten generally) with no intention of ever eating them.

      The spiritually damaging aspect of slaughter has been covered and hopefully the treatment of this covered here and highlighted by Dave (ritual) would help to greatly reduce the harm caused by this aspect of eating meat and disposing of animals after a full life?

      So, we are talking of a future where we have an economic system (such as credit commons) where it is viable economically (sustainable) to keep animals for a variety of reasons, dependant on the individual. Single farm payments would not exist and this would level the playing field for market gardens and also hopefully level it for small producers of meat.

      All of the above would obviously be done on an Organic basis. We would then have a system whereby meat production would be reduced as the huge farms that rely on the single farm payments, the commodities market and supermarkets (these would almost automatically die out in a credit commons system?) would not survive and farming produce would achieve its real value, so too would farmers. Food miles would be minimal.

      As the Permaculture guru Patrick Whitefield said ‘ it is not a case of whether organic farming can feed the world, it is a case of can our current farming system feed the world into the future? The answer is an emphatic No’.

      We now have one of the best opportunities in human history to change our systems, it is up to us? This answer has to be Yes!

    • 45Dave Darby May 13th, 2020

      Malcolm
      I’d vote for you (if I wasn’t an anarchist).

    • 46Robin Greenwood May 13th, 2020

      Dave, You are not seeing that your way of “debating” is irresponsible and aggressive. You say, for example “that’s because of the way it makes you feel” and then go on to debate with some version of yourself you project onto me because you believe that you know how i feel, which you don’t. There is a lack of sensitivity in you, which I note in many meat eaters. I’m actually not here to debate with you – this isn’t about right and wrong or whether you or I agree with each other – this is, to me, about what is nourishing and respectful to ourselves and to the animal kingdom … I am someone who doesn’t believe in killing under any circumstances, whether it’s human beings or animals. That’s a stand I take, not something I have any wish to debate with anyone. Best. Robin.

    • 47Dave Darby May 13th, 2020

      Robin.
      I don’t agree that my way of debating is irresponsible or aggressive.
      You explained how you feel – that’s how I know.
      “When I read this, I simply know that I don’t want to be around people who eat meat and rear animals for their consumption. I don’t want to argue with you as you have come up with views that support your lifestyle and I’m sure you believe in them, just as I do in mine. I have no idea where to go with this. Makes me want to crawl into my hole, put up barriers, and have nothing to do with the outside animal and human killing world!”
      There are no arguments in there – only feelings.
      I’ve shown no aggression or unkindness you or anyone else here (although you have – “There is a lack of sensitivity in you”).
      If you don’t want to debate, that’s absolutely fine, but people are free to comment on your posts.

    • 48Robin Greenwood May 13th, 2020

      It’s ok Dave. I see that I need to keep my distance from you as your way provokes me too much for me to feel at ease around you. I’ll unsubscribe from Low Impact Org. It’s clear that my way is not yours and that’s fine. I don’t think it works for me to ally with people who choose to kill animals. Good luck. Robin.

    • 49Dave Darby May 13th, 2020

      It’s an interesting one. I’m never sure whether it’s a good idea to engage with people who, if I stopped to think about it, are possibly intending to vent rather than to debate – especially with emotive subjects such as this one. Disclosure: I’m Aspergic, so it’s sometimes difficult for me to gauge. But generally, it seems to me that dialogue is always better than no dialogue, as it leads to greater understanding. I lived on an intentional community for 15 years, and have been part of a philosophy club for the last 7, and I’ve been known to change my position completely when presented with a good argument. It often surprises people, but I don’t understand why anyone wouldn’t – but again, that’s likely to be my Aspergers (which might also be why I came across as insensitive to Robin, above, whereas my wife thinks I’m over-sensitive). But in the end, I think respectful dialogue is best – and I’ve had some great discussions with people who had views that are the polar opposite of mine – in community, during philosophical debates, on this blog and in the pub. It rarely ends with a falling-out, as long as both parties are respectful. I certainly try to be.

    • 50Simon JM May 14th, 2020

      Dave Sorry for the delay for some reason I confused this thread with one that notifies replies.

      ‘Nor even if we think it is ‘wrong’ it makes little sense morally to actually make things worse by doing more of it.’
      But we don’t think it’s ‘wrong’ – that’s the whole point of the policy. Herbivore predation is required for healthy ecosystems, and if we tried to stop it, as you say, we’d ‘end up making it worse for the ecosystem as a whole’. If we thought it was wrong, then we wouldn’t be advocating the keeping of animals at all. But we don’t know whether, given the choice, animals would prefer to live on farms or to never have been born. (it seems extremely unlikely that farmers would keep animals as pets, but we wouldn’t advocate that anyway, as it’s unsustainable – as mentioned in the policy).

      If someone decided it was legal to farm severely retarded humans or infants and treat them as we do medical and food stock is the only question whether it is morally permissible is whether they would if cognizant object? Or say a population of humans were kidnapped by aliens to be bred on their world as we bred lower animals for food and experimentation and the head alien pulled you aside and said look it was having second thoughts. One the one hand sure the last few moments of your life as food stock is pretty horrendous but you live on organic farms for your 21years before slaughter so it isn’t all that bad. Especially compared to the experimentation stock that suffer terribly in labs. You have a choice they will stop breeding humans on your say so but humans on that planet will go extinct or continue as things are. What will you say?

      ‘They can form relationships, value companions and family, and mourn their loss.We value many aspects of our lives on similar desires so why not grant similar consideration here? … etc.’
      Because humans are in control of their own reproduction, and farm animals aren’t. It’s not a question of whether we treat them in the same way that we treat other humans – because if there were no value in them for farmers, they just wouldn’t exist.

      And? See above. One can easily use that argument to advocate for slavery and experimentation on humans.

      ‘Also once upon a time …. etc.’
      As mentioned above, it can be argued that, as most wild herbivores don’t reach breeding age, most breeding females see plenty of their offspring killed by predators, they have no guarantee of food and water, and no help if they’re sick or injured, farms improve life for herbivores – on average they will live longer, in greater comfort, better fed, suffer less pain, and so on. This isn’t the case for humans, who generally don’t suffer in this way ‘in the wild’.

      Dave you are missing the point of the comparison; if we had an indigenous tribe living precarious lives we don’t get to make slaves of them because you could at a stretch argue well we will make their lives better. Now I shouldn’t have to point out similar arguments were actually used during the colonial period. If someone found a pack of wild genetically retarded humans similar of Victor of Aveyron and he said they are in fact true human animals therefore its permissible to farm and bred them for experimentation or body parts to save lives, he can use your exact arguments to continue to do so.

      ‘Lastly on the point about traditional cultures … etc.’
      Are you arguing that hunter-gatherers are damaging themselves spiritually by hunting wild animals? If so, do you think that the Inuit, Saan etc. should be removed from their traditional lands to be settled into ‘modern’ society, for their own sake?

      Damage? I don’t think it’s as overt. People can easily sleep sound at night if they have been socialized to see the extreme harm they do as normal and socially acceptable. Slavery and torture an easy example. Now there were tribes in Papua New Guinea that practiced head hunting and I think a few even cannibalism. It wasn’t necessary to remove them from their land to stop that practice. If the Inuit, Saan were practicing cannibalism to survive would you say well that’s a traditional lifestyle maybe they cannot live any other way therefore we will allow them to continue? You wouldn’t look to arrange alternatives?

    • 51Simon JM May 14th, 2020

      BTW Dave if you are interested there is a philosophical topic called the Non-identity Problem concerning present day pollution causing societal and environmental collapse but nonetheless is the reason suffering future humans exist in the future. In that light similar to your argument a person from that future like in Terminator comes back and tries to stop that collapse. But the polluter says well regardless of the harm or suffering caused by my pollution you exist because of my pollution therefore why seek to stop it? All those suffering future humans will cease to exist isn’t that also bad?

      Ps I see it does in fact notify and I thought I had ticked it, so don’t know what happened.

    • 52Brit May 14th, 2020

      Hi Dave,

      Thanks for your article.

      I agree with the question you have posed a couple of times – that most people would save a drowning baby over a piglet. This is our natural instinct. I wonder which you would save if it were between a piglet and a puppy?

      I find your argument that farmed animals live much longer lives than if they were in the wild really interesting, and this is something I have not thought enough about. Given your philosophy, would you be willing to kill and eat a cat or dog once they were no longer able to fulfill their purpose on the farm (blind, senile, incontinent, etc)? Following the idea that the animals raised by a farmer live longer and healthier lives than they would have lived otherwise, then the idea of killing and eating an animal, regardless whether it is a dog or a pig, should be consistent. I no longer eat meat, but I have eaten farmed dog previously as I do not differentiate between the two mammals in terms of sentience and intelligence. So I wonder whether you would be comfortable for farmers to kill and eat dogs once they become too old or of little use? And if not, why?

    • 53Dave Darby May 14th, 2020

      Hi Simon

      There’s a tick box under the ‘post comment’ button – ‘Notify me of new comments’

      The comparison with farming animals vs farming humans doesn’t work, because the alternative for humans is not the same as for wild animals – i.e. 90% of humans don’t die before the age of 14, and they don’t end up getting torn apart by predators etc. The point is that animal welfare is improved on organic smallholdings (but not in industrial agriculture) – welfare wouldn’t be improved for humans. (To answer your question about the aliens – which of course isn’t comparable – I’d opt for extinction).

      ‘Dave you are missing the point of the comparison; if we had an indigenous tribe living precarious lives we don’t get to make slaves of them because you could at a stretch argue well we will make their lives better.’
      That’s really not a good comparison. In my twenties, travelling in Africa, I met someone who had just come from living with a pygmy tribe in the Congo for several months. They get up in the morning. The men go hunting (irony here), the women go to collect fruit, nuts, roots etc. They always come back with lots of food because the forest is teeming. They light a fire, roast the animal and the roots, and have a magnificent feast of roast meat and roots, and tropical fruits. Then they chat, sing, dance, smoke the cannabis plants that they’ve planted around their camp, have sex and fall asleep. The next morning, they eat the leftovers for breakfast and do the same thing all over again. Nothing you’d really call ‘work’. He said he had trouble leaving – they live lives that only multi-millionaires can afford in the West.
      But sorry, I digress. Again, indigenous humans don’t don’t live the same kinds of lives as wild animals – which is why human women don’t have ‘litters’ of 10 offspring – and humans almost never end up being torn apart by predators, unless they’re very unlucky. It’s the fate for virtually all wild herbivores. We’re an intelligent, social species, and we look after each other.

      ‘People can easily sleep sound at night if they have been socialized to see the extreme harm they do as normal’
      But hunter-gatherer tribes don’t cause extreme harm. They live in harmony with their environments. It’s modern, industrial society that causes extreme harm.
      As for the cannibalism argument – cannibalism isn’t necessary for a healthy ecosystem. The killing and eating of herbivores is – to keep their numbers stable. Which particular species is doing the predating is irrelevant to the herbivores that are eaten, and it’s irrelevant to the ecosystem as a whole.

    • 54Dave Darby May 14th, 2020

      Simon

      I’ll look that up.

      Ah, I see you found the notification box.

    • 55Dave Darby May 14th, 2020

      Hi Simon

      Here’s a question for you now:

      If there was something very simple and quick that you could do (like pressing a button, for example) that would prevent the extreme suffering of perhaps hundreds of animals, would you do it?

    • 56Dave Darby May 14th, 2020

      Hi Brit

      ‘between a piglet and a puppy?’
      I guess the one I was closest to.

      Dogs and cats are put down all the time when they’re senile, incontinent etc. But eating them? I guess the argument against eating carnivores is that they’re higher up the food chain, and therefore would require herbivores to be kept and killed too, too feed them. It would be wasteful in terms of resources. But that’s not what you asked (and dogs are kept as pets, which requires herbivores to be kept and killed too). You asked what I’d feel about them being killed and eaten when / if they were put down because of old age. Personally, I wouldn’t fancy it – but not for any rational reason. If anyone else wanted to, so be it (but I don’t think there would be many takers, in reality).

    • 57Malcolm Purvis May 14th, 2020

      Hi Simon,

      You make some very interesting points, some of which seem valid to me ie ‘most wild herbivores don’t reach breeding age’, ‘mothers see their children killed’ etc.

      However, I have to question some of your other statements. ‘Keeping animals as ‘pets’ is unsustainable’, many horses are kept as pets on a commercial basis (horse riding, racing, showing, jumping). It may not work to ride cattle for commercial reasons, although of course they seem to in America, but many animals can be kept for fur etc (without killing them) as mentioned on my post above.

      ‘You have a choice they will stop breeding humans on your say so but humans on that planet will go extinct or continue as things are. What would you say?’ Many people might say (me included) that if you are going to keep me only to exploit me for your own ends I would rather be extinct because what you are doing is not ethical, fair or reasonable and I do not want to be a part of that system in any way. Where would that leave you with the policy?

      ‘If animals were of no value to farmers they wouldn’t exist’. This obviously cannot be true as they existed before we decided to farm them and as mentioned in the earlier post cattle are generally not allowed to be killed in India, ditto horses here. Also, as mentioned earlier they can have a value that is realised without killing them.

      ‘Herbivore predation is required for healthy ecosystems’. This may be true but we are not predators as farmers. If we were hunter gatherers this would apply but we are artificially managing our ecosystems and we have not done this sustainably. This is why we are in the complete mess that we have now.

      ‘Damage? I don’t think it’s overt….torture an easy example’ The research does not back up this statement (please see earlier links in posts) also the following regarding torture, scroll down to perpetrator. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Psychology_of_torture#The_perpetrator_of_torture

      So, although as an occasional meat eater I agree with the statement that ‘In some circumstances it is acceptable to keep/eat animals’. My assertion is that the arguments for this are not correct in the answers to the 3 questions.

    • 58homeminderuk May 14th, 2020

      Phew! Having read just about all the input on this thread, my head is spinning. I (think I) agree with the policy as written. However, Ray’s (27) comment made me screech to a stop (although same pov is mistakenly expressed by others elsewhere) insomuch as [quote]’..other races of people.The argument that it may be ‘ok’ to eat animals thereby translates into it may be ok to see ones self as superior to a member of another race.
      Peronally, I don’t believe that I have the right to eat animals anymore than I have the right to ‘own’ another human from another race to do whatever I..'[end quote]
      Can I respectfully point out that there is only ONE human race. It’s called the human race (singular) for a reason. That reason being there is only one.
      The rest is a matter of pigmentation, geographical location and a myriad of diverse other. The penchant for alluding to ‘other racial groups’ is a throwback to the redundancy of Darwin (but, o my! we mustn’t go there, must we!)

    • 59Dave Darby May 15th, 2020

      Hi Martin
      Some of those comments were mine – Simon was quoting me.
      The situation is different for humans, because 90% of human offspring don’t die before they reach maturity, and they don’t tend to be torn apart by predators very often.
      So organic smallholdings improve animals’ welfare compared to the wild, which isn’t the case with humans.
      Not sure I completely understand your other points.

      But……………….
      Having thought a lot about animal welfare on organic smallholdings vs in the wild, I’ve now got to the point where I find the argument that keeping animals on organic smallholdings (calf-at-foot dairy, no battery sheds etc.) involves ‘suffering’ absurd.
      This is suffering (and I’d usually say don’t watch these if you’re of a sensitive disposition, but actually, I DO want people to watch them):
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JxHmTRpoUHM
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uBW-JJiImCQ
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vslc42q8ViM
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=llCh8o9a-G0
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RTNRnHHFw1s
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YipewEkakzA
      This one is in Yellowstone Park, and there seems to be some sort of viewing platform. Watching beautiful, innocent animals eaten alive is entertainment for some people, it seems.
      And worst of all, this
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PcnH_TOqi3I&has_verified=1
      This last one is beyond belief. Unimaginable suffering (I have to admit that this particular video affected me to the extent that if I heard that baboons had become extinct, I really don’t think I’d care).

      And if the environmental effect of animals on smallholdings is no greater than the herds of herbivores that used to inhabit the previously wild habitat that is now farmland, then of course keeping animals on organic smallholdings can be sustainable.

      If it’s animal welfare and sustainability we’re concerned about, let’s campaign to dismantle industrial animal agriculture, which will require a massive reduction in meat consumption. To that end, the more vegans the better, as far as we’re concerned.

      But there’s something else to be discussed I think. This is never enough for many vegans, who insist that humans should not be meat-eaters. But why, if animals suffer much less on organic smallholdings than they do in the wild, and we reduce meat consumption to sustainable levels? Is eating meat somehow detrimental to our evolution? Something we need to leave behind if we’re to move on?

      Now that’s a much more interesting conversation – one for another time maybe.

    • 60Dave Darby May 15th, 2020

      And here’s a question for people who are vegan because of a concern for animal welfare.
      Here’s the bear video again – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YipewEkakzA
      The bear has done that hundreds of times, and will probably do it hundreds of times more.
      Imagine you’re in the position of the person filming, but instead of a camera, you have a rifle with telescopic sights.
      If your concern is animal welfare, do you take out the bear?
      If not, why not? You could prevent unimaginable suffering for perhaps hundreds of baby deer.

    • 61Simon JM May 15th, 2020

      Hi Dave, I ticked the boxes but still not getting notifications.

      “The comparison with farming animals vs farming humans doesn’t work, because the alternative for humans is not the same as for wild animals – i.e. 90% of humans don’t die before the age of 14, and they don’t end up getting torn apart by predators etc. The point is that animal welfare is improved on organic smallholdings (but not in industrial agriculture) – welfare wouldn’t be improved for humans.”

      As things stand but we are looking for a justification that differentiates between humans and other similar sentient beings. Again ‘by itself’ what happens in nature or situational circumstances cannot be used as a justification it’s bad argumentation called an Appeal to nature.

      (To answer your question about the aliens – which of course isn’t comparable – I’d opt for extinction).

      It aligns with the general principles.& that is my point it doesn’t in itself matter if a group goes extinct or animals are treated better than those in the wild because that reasoning lends itself to treating human subgroups in similar ways.

      “That’s really not a good comparison.”

      It’s a thought experiment, it’s not supposed to reference to any current example. & in fact as I said those types of arguments were indeed used during colonial times. One looks at the general principles and then you can play with those principles in novel situations. It doesn’t matter if its aliens or robots that don’t exist if the general principle hold so does the argument.

      “But hunter-gatherer tribes don’t cause extreme harm. They live in harmony with their environments. It’s modern, industrial society that causes extreme harm.

      As for the cannibalism argument – cannibalism isn’t necessary for a healthy ecosystem. The killing and eating of herbivores is – to keep their numbers stable. Which particular species is doing the predating is irrelevant to the herbivores that are eaten, and it’s irrelevant to the ecosystem as a whole.”

      The sort of harm I’m talking about is the sort of harm done by dominant groups to others be it slaves other tribes etc. The point being in Roman society the harms they did to their slaves had been socialized to the point that the overwhelming number of citizens saw no problem in rape torture or the killing of slaves and in fact you were thought deviant if you thought otherwise. & Marital rape laws were only relatively recently taken off the books and that and similar harms against women was considered normal for hundreds of years. Now if one could make the argument that that tribe was an apex predator and was required for the health of that larger ecosystem maybe just maybe that could be justified. I need a lot more info on that but I’d be surprised if that was still the case or that there would be other predators like Polar Bears, Lions etc that would fill the niche

      Lastly If one is using a moral system it requires consistency and treating like things alike. Some vegans play a game called Name the Trait and ask for a trait between humans and non human animals that justifies different treatment. Even if it delves into hypothetical thought experiments like alien abductions or wild humans being farmed we are both sentient entities that on a basic level desire similar things. We wouldn’t want to be treated the same way by aliens nor want members of our own species who aren’t cognitive persons like babies to be treated like we treat animals so I see no reason why we would do it to other sentient beings.

    • 62Simon JM May 15th, 2020

      Malcolm Purvis I was quoting Dave.

    • 63Simon JM May 15th, 2020

      Hi Dave

      “If there was something very simple and quick that you could do (like pressing a button, for example) that would prevent the extreme suffering of perhaps hundreds of animals, would you do it?”

      By killing them painlessly? Or what if it stopped all non human animal suffering because they all ceased to exist?

      I’d refrain. Similar to humans if by pushing the button all human suffering stopped because we ceased to exist. To exist and enjoy what there is to enjoy as a sentient being the risk of suffering is part of life. But even if suffering is part of human life I’m not about to add to it by directly causing more to humans or other sentient beings.

      Regarding that video ofc that is most distressing and I know of some vegans who feel at least for drought and similar natural disasters we should definitely intervene. But again you have run into the You Too fallacy. Say it was objectively wrong to allow that deer to be eaten alive, it still won’t help you as you then get trapped by the You too fallacy and you don’t get to eat animals. Even if vegans are inconsistent in not intervening it doesn’t mean you also get to morally transgress. Similar to John is against humans rights abuses and therefore is against the War in Yemen. But John also beats his wife which is also abuse. Because he is a moral hypocrite doesn’t mean that his objections against the war in Yemen are invalid. It just means he is a hypocrite and nothing more.

      Now vegans would point out to stop natural suffering in nature on that scale would itself cause greater harm, whereas stopping eating meat and the use of animals would in fact alleviate a lot of suffering, so it wouldn’t be a matter of inconsistency. Similar to being against human suffering but still not pushing that button to end all human suffering via ending all human life, I think we would both agree not pushing the button isn’t inconsistent with being against human suffering.

    • 64Malcolm Purvis May 15th, 2020

      Hi Dave,

      Yes, pretty gruesome bear, (and the other) video/s, not pleasant to watch! Mind you, if we agree that ‘herbivore predation is required for healthy ecosystems’ then that might answer the question you raise about ‘taking out the bear’? I agree with you that keeping animals on a small scale organic holding is not something that causes undue ‘suffering’, as long of course that the slaughter is humanely/quickly carried out and they are allowed to have a decent lifespan.

      We should also bear (no pun intended) in mind that humans have acted far far worse and on a far larger scale than any of these animals. Maybe the vegan focus should be on that a little more? Even though I can understand the vegan point of view regarding the treatment of animals in industrial ag’, which I guess you would also agree with.

      A very interesting debate!

    • 65Amanda James May 22nd, 2020

      Sorry I am trying to read and grasp everything, but it takes days (years). Are you saying that we need to support smallholders with animals because it is important as a transition phase because we are such a long way away from a vegan society at this time? If this is the case, why are B corps not a stage between vampire corporations and mutual credit?

      Mixed smallholdings were an important provider of food in the past and intensive agriculture has taken over from this. Is it not time now to support a different future from the past we have already had. Mutual credit seems to be a very different possible future as does Iain Tolhurst’s veganic growing of fruit and veg.

      When I became vegetarian in 1993, it was an easy transition because I left the culture of eating animals behind on a day to day basis. It was not accepted by my family and I was even told I split the family up by becoming a vegetarian. It took about 3 years between my being told about vegetarianism and making the change because it was socially unacceptable in my family circles. It took another 23 years to become a vegan, in diet at least, because I couldn’t cope with the barriers of abnormality I faced and learning to cook new meals and not eat cows’ milk cheese. I support my local co-operative (Lembas) and other small organisations, like Hodmedods, now whilst cooking my plant-based diet from scratch (including vegan cheese from cashew nuts). I also work in the countryside. My only regret is not becoming a vegan soon after I became a vegetarian.

      I only learnt of Iain Tolhurst’s veganic methods just over a year ago from someone I met on a permaculture design course. We have had many generations of people supporting animal agriculture on a small scale and I think that there needs to be support for alternative systems so people have local examples to turn to for support. It is easy to find small animal agricultural systems still and it is what I was brought up with in story books. The norm in this society is to eat non-human animals and only in very recent years has veganism become fashionable.

      I think it is possible to talk your way into believing anything is acceptable and this is what humans have done throughout their existence, be it slavery or Hitler’s persecution of jews, gypsies or those with disabilities. Why not have rich, male, human animals pay poor, human, female animals to have kids in exchange for their milk. I am sure a decent deal could be arranged in this capitalist society – say they have 4 kids and £50,000 a year for life in exchange for their milk. Or take it a step further – £100,000 a year up to the age of 55 and then you give your organs to rich people who need transplants. Someone could live a very comfortable life for quite a long time, as long as they didn’t mind having to sacrifice their life. A poor, zero hours contract person sleeping in a garage could be really empowered. Does it really matter if they die at the end of it if they have had a good life? This may sound ridiculous and it is against the law (at least in the UK), but things are slowly changing for the vegans who have, for a long time time, also been viewed as ridiculous. Now ethical veganism is a protected characteristic under the Equality Act 2010.

      P.S. I don’t really get the drowning thing. If the choice was to save you or my partner, I would save my partner; or you and my pet dog when I was a kid – the dog; you and a psychopath – I’d save you; you and a random horse – you again. I don’t get your point – you choose a child to start with – always a greater chance of innocence than a damaged adult. I guess the law comes into most people’s thinking anyway – if I save my pet dog over you then I could end up in prison, which might be a deterrent. Anyway my pet dog is dead and I would miss your engaging debates.

    • 66Dave Darby May 23rd, 2020

      Simon

      (sorry for the delay – been swamped this week).

      Sorry, let me be more specific about ‘pushing the button’. Would you shoot a bear who was carrying off a baby deer to tear apart while it was still alive (something it had done many times, and would do many times again)?
      If not, why not, if you’re interested in alleviating animal suffering?
      (I’ll talk more about this below, soon).

      (I’m not using the ‘you too’ fallacy, because unlike the bear, humans don’t tend to eat animals alive. Instant death is not suffering, compared to the horrors animals go through in the wild).

      “stopping eating meat and the use of animals would in fact alleviate a lot of suffering”
      Remember, we are against industrial agriculture, and so we’re only talking about keeping animals on organic smallholdings. Animals don’t suffer on organic smallholdings (whereas they suffer greatly in the wild). So under those circumstances, we wouldn’t be alleviating suffering, we’d just be ensuring that those animals never get to exist.

    • 67Dave Darby May 23rd, 2020

      Hi Amanda
      OK, here’s a summary of our position, after the debate above (and many others, previously):

      1. We’re against industrial agriculture, for reasons of cruelty and unsustainability.

      2. Meat production and consumption should be reduced dramatically – which is why we support veganism (although we appreciate that not everyone will do it).

      3. We only support calf-at-foot dairying, as removing calves from mothers prematurely is cruel.

      4. Animals do not ‘suffer’ on organic smallholdings.

      5. Animals suffer terribly in the wild (see the videos above).

      6. Keeping animals is sustainable if the environmental impact of animals on smallholdings is no greater than the herds of herbivores that used to inhabit the previously wild habitat that is now farmland.

      7. There’s a market for meat, so we’d prefer if it to be served by organic smallholders rather than industrial agriculture, for reasons of sustainability and decentralisation of wealth and power.

      8. Harvesting nuts, berries, meat and fish from the wild is the most sustainable way there is to get food, because it requires no removal of wild habitat to grow crops – although due to our numbers, not everyone can do it.

      9. We reject the comparisons that we often get between animals and humans, because ‘in nature’, humans are not chased and torn apart by predators (unless extremely unlucky) – which is the normal fate of wild herbivores. If this happened to humans, our predators would be exterminated, or confined to zoos or widlife parks, because humans are simply more important than other animals (which is why anyone who saves a drowning animal and allows a human to drown would be punished, and rightly so).

      10. Hunter-gatherer lifestyles (more prevalent in the past, and may come to be prevalent again) are sustainable, and ethical because wild herbivore populations need to be kept in check by predators – the species of predator is irrelevant.

      11. There’s a much more interesting discussion to be had – as to whether meat-eating is somehow detrimental to human development / evolution. Will future humans (if we survive) look back on meat-eating in the same way that we now look back on witch-burning or slavery? I don’t know – but I’m open to persuasion.

    • 68Dave Darby May 23rd, 2020

      Simon, Amanda, Martin

      So I’d like to put forward an argument to vegans. It’s not my position – I’d just like to put it forward to see what people think.

      But first, this is my position – that animal welfare is far, far greater on organic smallholdings than in the wild.
      Here’s my evidence:
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JxHmTRpoUHM
      and this
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AEwqMkGVE_M
      and this
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vslc42q8ViM
      and this
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=llCh8o9a-G0
      and this
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RTNRnHHFw1s
      and this
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YipewEkakzA
      This is in Yellowstone Park, and there seems to be some sort of viewing platform. Watching beautiful, innocent animals eaten alive is entertainment for some people, it seems.
      And worst of all, this
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PcnH_TOqi3I&has_verified=1
      This last one is beyond belief. Unimaginable suffering (I have to admit that this particular video made me think that if I heard that baboons had become extinct, I really don’t think I’d care very much).

      These predators have probably done this sort of thing hundreds of times, and will do it hundreds of times more. Imagine having a gun in any of those situations, just before the gore starts. What do you do? If you don’t shoot the predator, then what exactly is your position on animal suffering?

      This isn’t the normal ‘trolley problem’ (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trolley_problem) because in the trolley problem, the person you would kill if you diverted the trolley was not intending to torture and murder the 5 you save. If that were the case, then the trolley problem wouldn’t be difficult (for me, anyway).

      If you insist that animals ‘suffer’ on organic smallholdings, but are content with the above happening because ‘it’s just nature’, then I’d like to suggest that your position is not at all about animal suffering. How could it be?

      If aliens landed, saw the videos above, and asked us why we allowed such unbelievable suffering to happen on our planet, what should be our response? That it’s ‘just nature’, and that somehow makes it OK?

      Now, this is the argument I’d like to put forward. I’m not saying that it’s my position, but if we are genuinely concerned with reducing animal suffering, then let’s at least think about it.

      Let’s think the unthinkable. How would it be if we culled all wild predators of large herbivores and moved them to parks, where they would be bred in captivity, but wouldn’t be allowed to cause the suffering in the videos above?

      Maybe you think that we’re not capable of managing a balanced ecology without predators, and that herbivore populations would spiral out of control and they would annihilate new trees and vegetation and then suffer death by mass starvation? But maybe we could. Maybe we could cull weak individuals (to maintain the health of the gene pool), quickly and painlessly – a bullet in the head, so that they never even know what’s happened. We could end the farming of herbivores, and just cull meat painlessly from the wild (they would have to be culled, and I suggest that shooting would vastly reduce overall suffering).

      When humans arrived in North America they very sensibly took out all the extremely dangerous sabre-toothed tigers and giant cave bears, and the ecology of North America got on just fine without them. Humans took over the role of keeping numbers of deer and bison in check (but without decimating them like European settlers). They removed the apex predators, and took over the role of controlling herbivore populations. Why couldn’t we do that now, but instantly and painlessly?

      This is more or less what’s happened in Scotland with red deer. Red deer have no predators in Scotland now that wolves and bears are gone, but it hasn’t caused total ecological collapse. So Red deer are never chased to exhaustion and torn apart in Scotland. That’s got to be a win for animal welfare hasn’t it? So what do vegans think about plans to reintroduce wolves to Scotland? Without wolves of course red deer have to be hunted and culled to keep numbers down to sustainable levels, but it doesn’t involve the horror and pain of being chased and torn apart.

      It would involve much, much less suffering for the herbivores than currently, and maybe we could phase out animal farming, as there would be enough meat from the necessary herbivore culls – especially with vastly reduced meat consumption overall. Herbivores are beautiful (OK, maybe not warthogs), innocent creatures. To have them living side by side with animals that do these horrific things is to condone terrible animal suffering.

      If you insist that the problem is with humans doing the killing, fine, let’s talk about that, but don’t claim that it’s about reducing animal suffering – not if you’re happy for the scenes above to happen, over and over again.

    • 69Dave Darby May 23rd, 2020

      Another angle:

      I’m more of a political animal, but there’s something fundamental in the ‘eating animals’ question that I keep coming back to. I’m convinced that meat eating can be ethical and sustainable in the right circumstances. For example, the welfare of animals on organic smallholdings is far higher than in the wild – where over 90% of pigs (for example) never even make it to one year old, and if they do, they’ll never be guaranteed food or water, have no shelter in winter or medical treatment, and at some point will almost definitely suffer a horrendous death, being torn apart slowly by predators (see videos above).

      And if the effect of animals on smallholdings is no greater than the herds of herbivores that used to inhabit the previously wild habitat that is now farmland, then of course keeping animals can be sustainable.

      So if we’re concerned about animal welfare, surely it’s better to campaign for those ‘right circumstances’, rather than aim for the purity of never eating animals. Let’s dismantle industrial animal agriculture, in other words, which will require a massive reduction in meat consumption. So the more vegans the better, as far as we’re concerned.

      But there’s something else to be discussed I think. This is never enough for some vegans, who insist that humans should not be meat-eaters. But why, if animals suffer much less on organic smallholdings, and we reduce meat consumption to sustainable levels? Is eating meat somehow detrimental to our evolution? Something we need to leave behind if we’re to move on?

      Now that’s an interesting discussion – and a much more philosophical one. So as long as we agree that industrial agriculture has to go and meat consumption has to fall dramatically, then let’s stop talking about the ethical, animal welfare or sustainability aspects of meat-eating, when animals are suffering enormously in the wild, and our entire economy is destroying global ecology. Let’s instead talk about human development and evolution.

      What is it about meat-eating that you think holds us back? Some people are so traumatised by the fact that humans kill animals that they’re unable to have the conversation at all. But I know that some are. So what is it, exactly?

    • 70Simon JM May 25th, 2020

      NP Dave I’ve been deal with a family issue so all good.

      “Would you shoot a bear who was carrying off a baby deer to tear apart while it was still alive (something it had done many times, and would do many times again)?
      If not, why not, if you’re interested in alleviating animal suffering?”

      No i wouldn’t. What we are differentiating between acts of nature of non moral actors, with ourselves as moral actors. So its obvious that we cannot ascribe ‘evil’ notions to such behaviour, but we then look at your question as why we would allow such suffering?

      First for these animals this is part of what it is to exist. We cannot micromanage them and they are independent lives in their own right. (I would also note to interfere there would then arguably entail intervening in every instance of one animal eating another where it suffers. So its not just that one instance.)

      Related to this in general we are responsible for harms we cause and arguable are only obligated to intervene and stop other extreme harms when the cost isn’t high. E.G. Its good to stop world hunger but to sell everything I own to help some starving kids would be harmful to me and ultimately ineffective overall. Also say that is a mother bear and by stopping it feeding her cubs also suffer so you can cause suffering even by stopping that other instance. In other words that suffering is tied up with the whole fabric of the existence of most sentient animal life so while it is unfortunate, to intervene would be a huge cost to ourselves and also cause untold problems for them overall.

      “Remember, we are against industrial agriculture, and so we’re only talking about keeping animals on organic smallholdings. Animals don’t suffer on organic smallholdings (whereas they suffer greatly in the wild). So under those circumstances, we wouldn’t be alleviating suffering, we’d just be ensuring that those animals never get to exist.”

      Ok you would rightly ask how is that different from domesticated food animals? I think the point would be that if you cause a situation where sentient life is created or is dependent on you for care you bear responsibility for that welfare. If a family gets a companion dog they understand its sentient, has welfare needs and can suffer. Being sentient ourselves we know that that feels like to be mistreated. So you have a moral responsibility to make sure your dog has food and water but not for the local fox in a nearby field.

      But vegans also think its hypocritical and arbitrary to not extend the larger concept of inherent value to all animals as we do to ourselves. They are also sentient like us, value and have similar basic interests. Again if the cognitive sophistication of persons is the bar that separates full moral value from things that don’t have it then babies and infants up to around 18 months and many severely retarded humans don’t pass the mirror test and are cognitively more like lower animals. We aren’t prepared to use them humanely no matter how much benefit that would bring as we see them as having lives of inherent value even if they don’t know it themselves or have lives as rich as ours. Many dog people have deep relationships with and certainly see their fur baby as an animal with inherent value, but vegans have come to realized just as humans once arbitrarily denied people of colour inherent moral worth, we as a species are also now arbitrarily granting and denying that to other sentient animals.

      LOL did that with a throbbing headache will look at the rest tomorrow. Still not getting any message saying there was a reply.

    • 71Dave Darby May 26th, 2020

      Simon

      I’m not saying that the bear is evil, just that the deer suffers greatly. And if vegans are concerned about animal welfare, then animals suffering greatly should be a problem for them. The deer doesn’t care whether the bear is evil or not, just that it’s suffering.

      I don’t agree with this:

      “But vegans also think its hypocritical and arbitrary to not extend the larger concept of inherent value to all animals as we do to ourselves.”

      The reason I say that is because, as you said, you wouldn’t shoot a bear if you saw it carrying off a young deer to eat alive. But you would if it was carrying off a young human (of whatever colour) – at least I hope you would.

      So there are 2 things I want to keep stressing.

      First, the comparison with humans (or baby humans, who will grow into adult humans) doesn’t work – at all – because humans don’t get torn apart by predators in the wild. Other animals do, which is why, compared to the wild, organic smallholdings absolutely don’t involve suffering – quite the opposite.
      Plus, humans ARE different from other animals – even if that’s just because we’re human. It’s not the same as the difference between human ethnic groups. You wouldn’t decide whether to shoot a dangerous animal that’s about to kill a human based on the human’s skin colour – at least I hope you wouldn’t. But you would decide whether to shoot a dangerous animal about to kill another creature based on species – i.e. you would if the creature was human, but not if was a deer.

      Second, if vegans are content (not sure what the right word is here, but you know what I mean – they wouldn’t want to stop it) for bears to tear apart animals slowly and painfully, but not happy for humans to kill animals quickly and painlessly, then that can’t possibly be anything to do with animal welfare or minimising suffering. Can it, really?

      So when you talk about morals, what’s your moral position here? That it would be a stain on your ‘soul’, that it would be a moral transgression, to kill an animal quickly and painlessly, in order to eat it, but that it would be no such stain, no such transgression, to stand and watch a bear slowly and agonisingly tear apart another animal, if you could stop it. If so, I don’t share your moral position.

      For me, if only one of those scenarios is wrong, I’d go for the bear.

      Here’s a real-world example:

      You said “I would also note to interfere there would then arguably entail intervening in every instance of one animal eating another where it suffers. So its not just that one instance.”
      Which is exactly what’s happened in Scotland. Humans have intervened to remove bears and wolves from the equation.

      You also said: “to intervene would be a huge cost to ourselves and also cause untold problems for them overall”
      What cost to ourselves, and what problems for herbivores, have been caused by the removal of wolves and bears from Scotland?

      Wolves and bears no longer exist in the wild in Scotland. So red deer are never chased to exhaustion and torn apart. So the fact that red deer have no natural predators in Scotland means that:
      a) animal suffering is hugely reduced (there’s no suffering of bear cubs whose mothers aren’t bringing them food – because there aren’t any bears)
      b) red deer numbers have to be controlled, or they will breed until they devastate the vegetation they rely on, and their numbers will fall due to starvation – which would mean a huge increase in their suffering.

      So if their numbers need to be controlled, what’s the best (morally speaking) way to do that:
      1. by reintroducing bears and wolves, which will increase animal suffering?
      2. to cull them by shooting, which will mean less suffering for the deer, and meat harvested from the wild for humans, which will require less natural habitat turned into agricultural land?

      It seems to me that for reasons of animal welfare and sustainability, the second option is best. But I’m guessing that most vegans would disagree – for the sole reason that it’s humans doing the killing. To me, that makes no sense whatsoever.

    • 72Malcolm Purvis May 26th, 2020

      Hi Dave,

      It’s getting very interesting here!

      When you say “What is it about meat-eating that you think holds us back? Some people are so traumatised by the fact that humans kill animals that they’re unable to have the conversation at all. But I know that some are. So what is it, exactly?”.

      Although I’m not a vegan it is a bit unfair of me to comment but, I would say that not all vegans would necessarily have the same view about others eating meat. My view would be that many vegans, having seen how most (virtually all) meat is slaughtered and how the majority of animals are kept (not on organic holdings) do not want to have any part of it but, are not necessarily against others eating meat. I have vegan friends who take this view.

      However, the other issue is that the majority of people (IMO) do not have much respect at all for the meat/animal that they are eating. We know that many indigenous tribes have sophisticated rituals not only when they slaughter animals but also when they eat them, in order to show respect fro the animal. This has (mostly) long since gone in our culture, hence the fact that in the UK we waste 570,000 tonnes of meat a year and globally we waste 12 billion animals every year. https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2014/mar/19/meat-dairy-waste It would seem that meat is as disposable as plastic?

      This all relates to our disconnect with nature and something that since our hunter gatherer days we have grown further and further from but, we have still been hunter gatherers for the vast majority of our existence on earth. Therefore, to say that ‘In nature humans are not chased and torn apart by predators…’ is not strictly true, for the majority of our life on earth we probably have been. If we add that ‘humans are more important than other animals’ we are getting into speciesism and the sort of rhetoric we see in the bible where we are told that ‘man shall have dominion over fish…birds..and cattle and over all of the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth’. It then becomes easier to see how we got into the position that we are now in where we have destroyed the nature that we rely on for absolutely everything? We have also been told (and I’m not an atheist) that God created heaven and earth in 5 days and man on the 6th, this separates man from earth/nature once again, and once we separate ourselves from nature we believe we are above it and despoil it for our own needs and greeds, with little respect for animals or nature itself.

      We are of course evolving again at this moment in time ‘the great turning’ as Joanna Macy calls it. So, maybe we can rewild some of our land and set many of our domestic animals ‘free’? We could then (those of us who want to) eat meat that is humanely raised, ethically slaughtered and given greater reverence and respect when it is eaten? More importantly though; surely we need to acknowledge that we are not separate from each other or nature and that we need to harmonise with both if we are to have any chance of survival at all?

    • 73Dave Darby May 28th, 2020

      Martin

      Sure – we’re against industrial agriculture, and would like to see meat consumption drastically reduced.

      “Therefore, to say that ‘In nature humans are not chased and torn apart by predators…’ is not strictly true, for the majority of our life on earth we probably have been.”

      I don’t think this is true. Hunter-gatherers today don’t tend to be prey for any other animals apart from in unusual circumstances (an individual, unarmed, alone, surprised by an animal, running away etc. – but not regular prey). Predators tend to stay clear of bands of clever primates with fire and pointy sticks.

      Have a look at this – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y3MTDFNf71I. Even lions give us a wide berth. I wonder what vegans (those who think it’s fine for lions to eat meat, but not humans) think of this kind of high-risk meat-eating.

      Plus hunter-gatherers made sabre-toothed tigers and giant cave bears extinct when they entered N America. Humans have always been absolutely top of the food chain, I think.

      I’m unashamedly ‘speciesist’, in that I’d always save a human child before a young animal (wouldn’t you?). Note that I said ‘humans are more important than other animals’, not that ‘humans are separate from nature’. In fact I said that it’s very dangerous to think that we’re separate from nature, earlier in the thread.

      Not being separate from nature means (to me) that we are part of a natural food chain, so that believing that a bear eating an animal (slowly and painfully) is fine, because ‘that’s nature’, but a human shooting a deer (to eat it), quickly and painlessly, is not fine, makes no sense to me, unless we’re not seen as part of nature.

    • 74Sue Gardner May 28th, 2020

      Nature is extremely diverse, complex and unimaginably awesome and for sure it’s best not to meddle, which we of course have done BIG TIME. The natural world has meat eating flowers,insects and mammals, the carcass goes back in the ground to fertilize. This is the cycle of life and death and watching wildlife documentaries is impossible for many of us as its harsh (starvation and dehydration let alone savagely hunted down and extremely maimed or killed. and yet we eat meat from industrially farmed mammals who have a worse life.Low impact is the answer. I love it. Living lightly and sustainably.thank you Lowimpact.org I want to know more !

    • 75Simon JM May 29th, 2020

      Dave I’ve steal-maned your argument and put it to other vegans but still going over their replies. In one way though this harks back to my alien abduction thought experiment. If these humans were the only ones that still existed as they destroyed the Earth to make sure there was no reprisals would you feel justified in making the call of intervening to end their suffering but also causing the extinction of the human species? I have my doubt now I would.

      But to me even if we wiped out all carnivores I’m pretty sure many ecosystems would either collapse through overpopulation or given enough time carnivores would evolve again and you would in reality need to end all animal life to end suffering. A imperfect solution is to just allow them their existence and not add to that suffering or denial of agency or inherent worth for creatures we place in our care.

    • 76Dave Darby May 29th, 2020

      Thanks Sue. I’ll email you a link to something I’ve been working on for our soon-to-be-upgraded website, plus for a couple of other projects I’m working on. I’ll blog it soon, when others have commented.

    • 77Dave Darby May 29th, 2020

      Simon

      What’s ‘steal-maned’?

      Sorry, I’d need the alien argument summarised again.

      “But to me even if we wiped out all carnivores I’m pretty sure many ecosystems would either collapse through overpopulation”

      That hasn’t happened in Scotland, because, as I said, humans keep red deer populations in check via hunting for venison.
      And wolves and bears aren’t going to evolve in Scotland again if we don’t let them.
      (Bearing in mind that I’m not suggesting this, it’s just a thought experiment for people interested in genuinely reducing animal suffering – rather than criticising organic smallholdings, where there is just about as little suffering as it’s possible to imagine for an animal).

      Didn’t understand your last sentence.

    • 78Amanda James June 2nd, 2020

      Why not feed the wild animals you selectively kill to the predators you keep in parks, rather than to the human animals?

      Re your point 11 in number 67, Dave, I do think eating animals is detrimental to human development. I think (as Simon Amstell’s Carnage does) that we will look back in horror at our past eating of non-human animals (as most people do with slavery). I look back in horror at my past and can’t understand why I behaved as I did for so long. Culture has a massive part to play and what is considered acceptable by the people around you. It is the norm for a lot of us (not all) to be educated to believe that killing human animals is wrong. Along with that comes laws and imprisonment to deter us somewhat. I can imagine a time when there are those same rights for the animals we now eat as a matter of course. And if those animals no longer ultimately exist as a result of that, then I do not see that as a bad thing.

      I do not think humans are better than other species or more worthy of living. I think we think we are better, but we are merely different – as an elephant is different from a robin. I think I have been educated to believe humans are more important and I should treat them so, but I believe that in the future humans will develop a much less domineering approach. If I am the rich woman who pays your wife £100,000 a year to then take her organs (paragraph 5 of 65) – for myself or my sick son or granddaughter – when she reaches the age of 55, is that okay for you? You have had a great and comfortable life together. I’ll make sure she is humanely killed.

      I used to think (when I first became vegetarian) that it was ok to eat animals as long as they didn’t suffer during their lives and were killed quickly. That was my approach to humans who ate animals, but I wasn’t prepared to do it myself. After a few years I realised I had no right to take another animal’s life. Or at least why should I distinguish between taking a human life and a non-human life.

      I clicked on the links to your videos of wild animals killing other wild animals, but only watched the first as it holds no point to watch them for me. I think some humans ‘get off on’ watching stuff like that and so that is why it is filmed. I don’t think all wild animals kill like that, just as I don’t think all police officers kneel on a suspect’s neck until they end up dying. I believe there are different reasons not to eat animals – the avoidance of suffering is only a part. I don’t try to go around with a gun removing all the humans who commit gruesome acts and putting them in parks, nor do I intend to try to stop other predators from committing gruesome acts. I guess in the long run it needs enough people to rise up in protest (as happened with slavery) to change the law. And just as slavery isn’t over and humans killing humans isn’t over, humans eating non-human animals won’t be over, but it won’t be the norm.

    • 79Dave Darby June 3rd, 2020

      Hi Amanda,

      “Why not feed the wild animals you selectively kill to the predators you keep in parks”

      Yes, that would have to happen (bearing in mind that I’m not advocating this – just throwing it open for discussion) – it would be much kinder to herbivores than having predators chase them and tear them apart.

      “rather than to the human animals”

      The cull would have to be much larger than just for predators in parks, to keep numbers of herbivores in ecological equilibrium. Remember that 90% of piglets die before breeding age. Then we’d be left with the choice of either eating them, or letting them rot. If we let them rot, that would be a waste of food, and we’d have to clear more natural habitat to create farmland to replace the wasted food, which is not the best idea in terms of ecology.

      “Re your point 11 in number 67, Dave, I do think eating animals is detrimental to human development.”

      OK – but how is it detrimental? You don’t explain this in your post – only that you don’t like the idea of it. If we put (large) predators in parks and culled (large) herbivores, that would massively reduce animal suffering in the world. Why wouldn’t you support something that reduced animal suffering? When the culled herbivores are dead, it’s then irrelevant which other species eats them.

      “I do not think humans are better than other species or more worthy of living.”

      Then you’re in a tiny minority. In an emergency situation, pretty much everyone would save the life of a human before that of a different species. Wouldn’t you? I can’t imagine how someone would explain to parents that they failed to save their child because they chose to save a non-human animal instead.

      “If I am the rich woman who pays your wife £100,000 a year to then take her organs (paragraph 5 of 65) – for myself or my sick son or granddaughter – when she reaches the age of 55, is that okay for you?”

      No, that’s not okay for me, because as I said, I believe that human life is more important than the life of any other species on this planet. I’d prefer to help build a system that doesn’t concentrate wealth to the point that this scenario is even possible. And also, as I’ve said before, the default position for humans is not to be chased and torn apart by predators, but that is precisely the default position for wild herbivores. And therefore life on a smallholding can improve an animal’s life, but not a human’s.

      “I used to think (when I first became vegetarian) that it was ok to eat animals as long as they didn’t suffer during their lives and were killed quickly.”

      Why did you change? Isn’t this the ideal scenario for a herbivore (and actually, for predators too, as they’re also predated when they become old / sick)? Would you prefer that they suffer during their lives and are killed slowly?

      “I don’t think all wild animals kill like that”

      Not exactly like that, no – but they do chase or ambush herbivores and tear them apart. In almost all cases it will involve much more suffering than is experienced by animals on smallholdings.

      “I believe there are different reasons not to eat animals – the avoidance of suffering is only a part.”

      But how can it be about the avoidance of suffering, when you think about the way herbivores die in the wild? This is where the focus should be for those concerned with the avoidance of animal suffering, surely. Animals don’t ‘suffer’ on organic smallholdings. If they do, then something’s gone wrong, and the smallholders should be fined, or get some jail time, and be prevented from keeping animals again.

      “nor do I intend to try to stop other predators from committing gruesome acts”

      Then why say that it’s about the avoidance of animal suffering?

      “I guess in the long run it needs enough people to rise up in protest (as happened with slavery) to change the law.”

      Yes, that’s exactly how it would have to happen. People who believe that it should be illegal to eat meat would have to win the philosophical argument. I think that’s highly unlikely. It would work for me if someone could show me how it’s detrimental to human development (the ‘animal suffering’ argument doesn’t work for me, for the reasons I’ve outlined above). But I haven’t come across an argument that does that.

    • 80Malcolm Purvis June 6th, 2020

      Hi Dave,

      I thought that we had established that humans killing animals was detrimental to human development from a psychological point of view (31/32)? I know that there are a few people who would kill wild or farmed animals and butcher/eat them but I really cant see that there would be many at all. Those that tried it anew might also find that the novelty and unpleasantness made it pale very quickly as well.

      We are nowhere near a situation where we have more than a handful of organic smallholding’s who can slaughter their own meat on farm and sell it, and I don’t know of any? The vast majority of people have no idea of the horrors of killing and butchering an animal, let alone then eating it. We seem to be missing a whole side to this issue here? So, we are not in a situation where we are avoiding animal or human suffering when it comes to slaughter.

      The argument about humans being more important than any other life on the planet seems a spurious one. Surely if it were possible any animal would say the same about their species? A bear would almost certainly save their own species if a human and bear were both in trouble (next to each other) and that would then seem to suggest that it would only be the human species that thought they were ‘the most important’? Which, bearing in mind there are more animal species than human would tend to suggest that we are not the ‘most important’? (Assuming of course all the animals thought the same ?)This superiority is ingrained in our DNA almost, because we have been of the misguided opinion for millennia that we are superior, so the idea is hard to break down.

      Also, if we are ‘part of nature’ then we are ‘part’ of it, not above it or better than it. And this really is where we have gone wrong as a species, we are part of the ‘Uni-verse’ – we are all one! We are all connected! Until we realise and understand this we are in serious trouble, if not it will also be more than detrimental to human development IMHO.

    • 81Dave Darby June 7th, 2020

      Hi Malcolm
      A couple things before I respond to your points. My interest is in political philosophy, but I keep returning to this topic, because I think there’s something fundamental about it. Do we accept the horrors that nature delivers to the creatures of this planet, and accept that nature is beautiful but mercilessly cruel, or do we move towards the God-like postion of trying to control it? Do we have dominion / stewardship over nature on this planet, and what does that look like? In reality, we are changing the ecology of the planet so dramatically that we now have no idea whether or for how long it will be able to support us in future – certainly not ‘in the way we’re accustomed’.

      We’re a sustainability organisation, so focusing on sustainability: do I think that a world in which we don’t eat animals, but chase perpetual GDP growth can be sustainable? No. Do I think that a world in which we eat animals but stabilise global GDP can be sustainable? Yes.
      And in terms of animal suffering – we should, I believe, remove the blight of industrial, corporate agriculture from the face of the planet, which will involve eating much, much less meat. But wild nature involves extreme suffering for all but a tiny number of very lucky animals who never see their offspring killed, are never short of food or water, avoid injury and die quickly. Organic smallholdings don’t involve suffering for all but a tiny number of unlucky animals (who escape and are predated or injured by a car and die slowly?).

      Which brings us to its effect on humans. Personally, I could be easily convinced that even small abattoirs should be phased out, and meat should be produced on-farm or harvested from the wild, because of the psychological effect of working in an abattoir. But – I think that lots of jobs in modern capitalism are psychologically damaging – remember the nets around Apple/Foxconn sweatshops in China to prevent suicides? (but yes, I’d like to phase those out as well). And we’re so far from that now, that I’d prefer to focus on helping organic smallholders gain market share, to promote both sustainability and animal welfare.

      What I meant by humans being more ‘important’ is exactly as you describe it – more important to humans; and anyone reading this is human.

      “we are all one! We are all connected! Until we realise and understand this we are in serious trouble” – couldn’t agree more.

    • 82Malcolm Purvis June 7th, 2020

      Hi Dave,

      MALCOLM here. I agree with much of what you say but I’m not sure that you 100% understand what I’m saying, maybe I didn’t explain it well enough?

      To have a ‘God-like’ position where we control nature is frightening. We cant even control ourselves and look at the horrors that we have inflicted on nature, and I repeat my earlier comments that humans act far far worse than any animals have ever done. Until we can get our own house in order there is no way we can condemn what animals do in nature, let alone try and control them or it. My point here is that as a philosophy, political or otherwise, we would do well to concentrate on human horrors before we look to ‘control’ anything whatsoever, especially nature. Even then to go down the control route would, in my opinion, be a disaster.

      When I say ‘we are all one, we are all connected’ I mean all of nature/the universe, not just humans. Also, if as you say ‘humans are more important to humans’, what does this really mean? More important and therefore able to have ‘dominion/stewardship over nature’? If this is the case, and it has been up to now, we continue to be in serious trouble. We need harmony not domination, we need to find a way to live alongside nature without harming it, and therefore ourselves.

      Following on from this is the point about animals saving their own before us, as we would do for ourselves. The point here is that this is natural but it doesn’t mean we, or they, are more important and also does not prove that point. My feeling is that you seem to intimate that this proves the importance of a species, my point is that it does not. There are no species more important than another, only to the fact that they would save their own species first, quite naturally, and this includes humans.

      Good debate!

    • 83Malcolm Purvis June 7th, 2020

      Hi Dave,

      Sorry, just realised that you got my name right this last time. You referred to me as Martin the last few times.

    • 84Dave Darby June 7th, 2020

      Hi Malcolm (sorry about the Martin thing!)

      Not saying that we should control predators (it was just a thought experiment, but an interesting one, I think). Just saying that in terms of animal suffering, nature beats organic smallholdings hands down. So if animal suffering is what we’re opposed to, wild nature is where we should be looking. But I don’t think it’s animal suffering that’s the issue here – I think the issue is humans killing animals. Not bears, wolves or lions – just humans. That’s my point.

      “Even then to go down the control route would, in my opinion, be a disaster.”

      We are already a long, long way down the control route. And yes, it’s a disaster. Agriculture itself is a form of control, vegan or otherwise. Unless we want to revert to hunter-gatherers, there has to be some control. But there are clever ways to control and crazy ways to control – and imho, we’re hurtling down the crazy route – attempting to achieve perpetual GDP growth on a finite planet being the craziest.

      “When I say ‘we are all one, we are all connected’ I mean all of nature/the universe, not just humans.”

      Me too. Pure Brahman.

      “Also, if as you say ‘humans are more important to humans’, what does this really mean?”

      I would save a human before I save a non-human. I hope you would too. Nothing more philosophical than this (as you say in your final paragraph – agreed).

      “We need harmony not domination, we need to find a way to live alongside nature without harming it, and therefore ourselves.”

      Amen.

    • 85Malcolm Purvis June 7th, 2020

      Well, it looks like we are in virtually perfect agreement! That’s good. ?

    • 86Dave Darby June 7th, 2020

      Apart from your name, on some occasions (sorry).

    • 87Amanda James June 7th, 2020

      How is killing/eating animals detrimental to our evolution/learning?

      Where do I think our learning and evolution are going?

      In summary: Connection/Balance

      I think that our learning and evolution needs to head in a direction of connection – with ourselves, with each other and with the rest of nature and the planet. We are not in balance with planet ocean or planet earth and we need to head away from ecological disaster. On a day to day basis this includes a multitude of different things such as restorative agriculture e.g. permaculture and agroforestry, the teachings of the taoist philosophy, cradle-to-cradle/circular economy systems, mutual credit systems, natural building – Baubiologie, design for deconstruction – , yoga, co-operatives, local futures, renewable energy and Energy Local …

      How is killing and eating animals detrimental to our learning and evolution?

      I believe it disrupts that connection and balance. Why? I believe as we have greater understanding and connection we will move away from distrust, anger, violence, inequality/inequity and killing to honesty with self and each other and an awareness of most of what is going on around us on a local scale. We have developed the ability to live without eating other animals, so it has become a luxury not a necessity to eat them. Other species are not in that position and I don’t think that taking a ‘god’ position helps in our development because it is always a dictatorship, however benevolent. No-one reacts well to being dictated to and the planet certainly won’t react well to it – it is far too complicated for us.

      I also believe that those people who abuse others abuse themselves, which is why self-love and self-compassion need to come first. I think killing all animals is an abuse. I think those people who treat others in abusive (physically, emotionally, sexually) ways have had something happen to them for them to end up like that; they weren’t born like that. These are wicked problems and on a sliding scale: after all, we are all capable of abusive acts. It takes wicked solutions to not fall into the culture you are exposed to (the abused becomes the abuser). Connection and balance are an important part of avoiding abuse.

      I don’t think taking a hierarchical attitude helps us develop positively in any way. The Great Ape Project aims to get rights (including the right to life) for the non-human apes because of their similarity to us. I think that animals should have rights in their own right, not just because of their similarity to us. I don’t think we are the best thing on this planet, we are just a species on this planet that seems to have dominated it far too much. Why do you think human animals are more important than non-human animals?

      You comment that if baboons went extinct you wouldn’t care (I watched about 30 seconds of the video), but humans commit equal acts of violence leading to suffering and you don’t wish them extinct?

      Now I have read what everyone else has written I seem to agree with Malcolm (at least in 82), but then he says he is in agreement with you, Dave, and I am not. I just can’t keep up.

    • 88Dave Darby June 7th, 2020

      Hi Amanda

      there were almost 300 comments on the last meat eating post, most with several links, and I couldn’t keep up either. I’ve managed to keep up with this one.

      We’ve discussed a lot of things in your post before, but if you don’t mind, let me just focus on one point. You say:

      “I think that animals should have rights in their own right”

      What rights, exactly? If they don’t have the right not to be chased and torn apart alive by other animals, what use is any other right to them?

    • 89Amanda James June 7th, 2020

      I don’t think we have the power (nor should have) to control what animals living in the wild do to each other. My statement purely refers to how humans directly treat non-human animals be they in the wild or in captivity. Rights such as the right to life and the prohibition of torture.

    • 90Dave Darby June 7th, 2020

      Hi Amanda.

      The right to life for a herbivore is impossible – either they get killed in the wild, or they don’t get to exist at all. Herbivorous animals are born into a food chain. In other words, they’re born to be food. It’s essential in fact, to keep an ecological balance. To the herbivores, the species that eats them is irrelevant – apart from the issue of their suffering. Animals suffer least when killed by humans, because the death is quick (if it’s not, it should be prevented, and industrial agriculture would be closed down tomorrow if I had my way).

      But you’re saying that humans should be prevented from being part of that food chain, but bears, wolves and lions shouldn’t. And yet you’ve also said that we should have a connection with nature – but apart from one specific connection that we’ve had for 200,000 years. I think you’ve said that it’s because we don’t need to eat other animals to survive, but bears, wolves and lions do. But what possible difference does that make to the herbivores themselves? Really, try to imagine yourself as a deer, and you have to choose – eaten alive from the groin by a baboon, or shot in the brain by a human?

      It’s not making sense to me Amanda, honestly. I’m just hearing ‘I don’t think humans should kill animals, because I don’t like how it makes me feel. But bears taking baby deer from their frantic mothers, carrying them for 20 minutes until they find a comfortable spot, then tearing them apart, still alive – that doesn’t bother me.’ And I’m stumped. There’s a barrier there that I just can’t see around. The latter affects me much more than the former, for reasons of compassion – those poor animals. And I just don’t get why you feel differently about that.

    • 91Amanda James June 7th, 2020

      I agree with your first paragraph – killing performed by a human can be very quick. Herbivores will always potentially face a gruesome death. I don’t want that or like it, but I don’t see any way around it that would not be ecologically disastrous and impossible to achieve. I just think humans are capable of better things and with learning can change. We have killed each other for 100s of thousands of years too and continue to do so. Why stop that now? What is the point in stopping killing each other? Where does that lead? That is just as much a part of nature as every other cycle. I just guess that you think we are different and special and should be a special case different from all other animals; and I don’t.

    • 92Dave Darby June 7th, 2020

      I don’t think it would be impossible to achieve (bearing in mind that I’m not proposing it, just pointing out that it wouldn’t be impossible for larger herbivores). When humans reached North America, they quickly made giant cave bears and sabre-toothed tigers extinct. the ecology of N America hasn’t collapsed. Same for Scotland. Wolves and bears removed, ecology didn’t collapse – although we now have to cull red deer.

      I’m not sure we’ve killed each other for 100s of thousands of years. definitely sure that we have for the last 10,000 years, since the agricultural revolution, since Empires were invented – but I don’t think it’s ‘natural’ for humans. Before 10k years, Murray Bookchin believes that humans lived in extended family clans and largely kept to their own territory to avoid skirmishes. Yes, humans killed each other, but it was the exception rather than the rule. This is from Bookchin’s Ecology of Freedom. There may be other theories.

      From the above posts, it seems to me that you’re the one saying that humans should be a special case, different from other animals, in that we should be the only species not allowed to eat the herbivores, even though we kill them more quickly. I’m saying the exact opposite. It’s that part I don’t understand.

    • 93Amanda James June 7th, 2020

      Perhaps not complete collapse, but I don’t think Scotland, Wales or England’s ecology is in a great place. If it is not “natural’ for humans to kill each other, we have got it down to a pretty fine art. I think we are different in that we have the ability to stop our worst violence because we can feed ourselves in other ways.

    • 94Dave Darby June 8th, 2020

      Granted, but the ecological damage is for other reasons – growth, agriculture per se, removal of trees, pesticides, fossil fuels, roads, concrete etc. etc. North American ecology was pristine when the Europeans arrived, but without its previously top predators (still want to stress that this is a thought experiment – but I think it’s possible).

      Yes, humans have learned to kill each other in the service of Empire / nationality, but I don’t believe those things are ultimately necessary. I don’t think most people like war – they’re dragged into them by people who have no intention of fighting in them.

      So you think that killing animals might contribute to our violence to each other? Don’t know how it could be proven, but that’s interesting. However, I have to tell you that I’ve killed chickens, whilst living at Redfield community. At night, they never woke up, and they had the best lives possible for chickens. And it didn’t cause me to be violent to other humans. So it’s not inevitable. But I’m still saying that aliens could condemn us by happily living on a planet where animals are tortured daily – not by us, but by other animals (and again, I have to keep saying this, organic smallholdings don’t involve suffering); and they might well question why we only focus on the quick deaths for animals on smallholdings, when, if they could speak, wild herbivores might be pleading with us to confine bears to parks.

    • 95Amanda James June 14th, 2020

      Yes all those things you list contribute to ecological damage. I think lack of predators does too (and I don’t think we make up for a lack of predators).

      I don’t think most people do like war and I believe they are dragged in by those with no intention of risking their lives fighting in them. But by fighting in those wars we are playing our part – Hitler could not fight alone – and so we have to move in a different direction in some way to end the violence. We are still responsible by playing our part, even if it is under the command of another. We always have a choice even if it is our own death or prison.

      Yes I think that killing animals might contribute to our violence to each other, but perhaps not in such a clear cut way as you propose. In the same way that slave owners were given money as reparation for their slaves being freed, and some of that money went into buying land and this contributes more to inequality – aristocracy own much land and the poor can’t afford to buy a house. There was no reparation for slaves and so many black people are in low paid jobs ‘on the front line’ (e.g. now facing and dying from Covid-19 rather than being furloughed at home). I think killing animals builds upon our attitude of domination and that takes away from our connection with and understanding of all others, and in that way contributes to the development of violence.

      If I am a dictator and round you and other non-human animal eaters up and put you in a park, I don’t think that is a way of learning that I want to encourage. You learn that I let you out of the park if you don’t eat animals, but you don’t change your attitude and you will probably just go under cover with your behaviour. If I say I will round up all the people who cause death and suffering of human animals, just to stop it all, it may seem a great solution, but I don’t think underneath it really is – even if I don’t understand all the reasons why. I think prison or threat of death changes behaviour and not beliefs. I think humans have a level of consciousness that means beliefs can be changed and humans can communicate with each other and do that. I cannot communicate with non-human animals to try to convince them not to eat each other. The bottom line is that we only have control over ourselves and need to focus on ensuring our own behaviour is in keeping with our beliefs. An alien can hold me responsible for my behaviour towards others, but not the behaviours of others (non-human or otherwise). So an alien can condemn me for allowing suffering on this planet, but I only accept responsibility for that which is caused by me. I am also sure there is a lot of suffering still caused by me that I have not made myself aware of yet.

    • 96Dave Darby June 14th, 2020

      We’re getting into territory where no evidence can be brought into the conversation. That’s not to say they’re not interesting conversations, but nothing conclusive can be gained from them. We’d just be swapping opinions based on hunches or emotions.

      But your last paragraph is interesting – i.e. the torture and death of millions of animals is not your concern, because you’re not doing it. That brings two things to mind.

      First: that means that the issue can’t possibly be animal suffering. Can it, really?

      Second: it’s a new take on the trolley problem (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trolley_problem). In the classic example, you have to choose to either do nothing, which would result in the death of (say) 5 people, or pull a lever, which will result in the death of one person. Your inactivity means the death of more people, but at least you didn’t do it. Your conscience is clear. Or is it? Should you have pulled the lever to save 4 lives overall, but, in effect, murder the one person who would have survived if you’d done nothing? Is it like that with killing animals? Do nothing about the torture and death of millions of animals, as long as you don’t pull the lever on just one animal yourself? Is that fair to say?

    • 97Amanda James June 14th, 2020

      Agreed.

      I don’t say the torture and death of millions of animals is not my concern. I say that if I think there is a way that I believe is acceptable to my beliefs then I will do it – be it my own direct impact or how I verbally try to impact on others. I do not want to cause animal suffering and I want to change the things that I do so I don’t cause animal suffering.

      I am glad you put it as you have and I think yes it is fair to say. In reality I don’t know what would happen if I faced that situation but, given the concise and clear way you have put it here, I believe the choice I would make would be to let 5 people die and not murder the other.

    • 98Amanda James June 14th, 2020

      Don’t make it any worse and now say it is 5 million to 1 please.

    • 99Dave Darby June 14th, 2020

      So it’s about you causing it, rather than the fact that it happens? It’s an internal thing, rather than an external suffering thing?

      As for the trolley problem, well, yes, that’s the point. Where’s your line?

    • 100Amanda James June 14th, 2020

      It is about both, but I don’t hold myself responsible for what others do unless it is in my name.

      I guess I don’t have a line and where is the situation where that would happen in reality?

    • 101Dave Darby June 14th, 2020

      OK, to be really clear. The point I’m making is that it’s not about animal suffering, is it? If it’s in the wild, and you’re not causing it, you don’t want to stop it – right?
      You were consistent in your position with the trolley problem and with wild animals.
      The situation where that is happening is right here, right now. It’s not about minimising the number of people that die (the trolley problem), or minimising the number of animals that suffer (all over the world, 24-7), as long as you don’t cause it?
      So it’s not about animal suffering, it’s about your … (insert word of choice here – soul? I don’t know.).

    • 102Amanda James June 16th, 2020

      I think there is something that takes precedence above animal suffering for me – something like ‘choice’ for humans and ‘necessity’ for non-human animals. Don’t get me wrong: if I saw someone torturing an animal I am just as likely to attempt to kill the torturer as the next person (with 50% of the population behind me and 50% wanting to kill me); but I don’t think that is a helpful way to proceed and if I did behave like that it wouldn’t be in keeping with my belief system.

      I don’t want to see animals suffering in the wild, but I can’t conceive of a way to change things that makes any sense to me. I can with human animals – that way is conversation, debate, bringing awareness. It is not about force or imprisonment to achieve the end of animal suffering, it is about enlightenment or a paradigm shift.

      I don’t use the word ‘soul’ because I don’t really understand what is meant by it – some sort of energy of us that goes on after our body dies – and I can’t conceive of how it manifests? It is a word like ‘spiritual’ that I always associated with religion. I don’t agree with religion (and its hierarchical nature) and so I avoid those words. However I understand that there are people who use the terms who aren’t religious. If spiritual means connectedness (as someone told me the other day) then connection and oneness seem better words. Soul…?

    • 103Dave Darby June 17th, 2020

      Amanda
      I think this thread might be winding up. Nothing to disagree with in what you said in your last comment. I know that when I’m debating with vegans, I’m (almost always) debating with good people, with good intentions. But I genuinely don’t think it damages us to kill and eat animals. Herbivores are born into food chains. They’re food. Killing and eating herbivores is (imho) not only not wrong – it’s what they’re born for. Humans are part of nature, and it’s dangerous to forget that, or to behave as if we aren’t. Hunted venison (for example) is, for me, a far more ethical and sustainable source of nutrition than imported bananas or rice. I hope that at least some vegans can believe that people who take that position can be good people with good intentions too.

    • 104Amanda James June 24th, 2020

      Agreed – it is done.

      Agree to disagree.

      I am sure that some slave owners were good (whatever that means) people. Within that belief system some would have treated their slaves in a much better manner than others. They would have been good to their friends and family and other white associates. But there has been a paradigm shift and for the great majority of people slavery is no longer considered acceptable.

      I think many people set off with good intentions, but I suppose it is difficult to make your intentions good for everything. I have friends and family who are ardent animal eaters – who am I to say if they are good or bad. All I can do is to try to live by my beliefs and learn from others who are passionate about the things in which I believe (and debate with those who aren’t).

    • 105Dave Darby June 24th, 2020

      Amanda. Amen. Really.

    • 106George January 21st, 2021

      amazing debate!

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