As a vegetarian, I am often interested in arguments both for and against eating meat. A recent link I read started a chain of fascinating resources arguing in either direction. Spoiler: my opinion hasn’t changed, yay.
It started with this post in 3quarksdaily in defense of eating meat that got me annoyed. It is fairly obvious that animals feel pain, and are intelligent to varying degrees. Saying that the pain of an animal is of a different degree that we cannot fully comprehend is a pretty weak argument. Another gaping hole is in arguing that the non-existence of a cow is somehow worse than the horror it goes through in a farm or slaughterhouse.
I also ended up reading the utilitarian Peter Singer’s ‘All Animals Are Equal‘ paper, and loved it for its clarity. The entire piece is well worth a read for the problems it anticipates, and the thought experiments it proposes.
The truth is that the appeal to the intrinsic dignity of human beings appears to solve the egalitarian’s problems only as long as it goes unchallenged. Once we ask why it should be that all humans—including infants, mental defectives, psychopaths, Hitler, Stalin, and the rest—have some kind of dignity or worth that no elephant, pig, or chimpanzee can ever achieve, we see that this question is as difficult to answer as our original request for some relevant fact that justifies the inequality of humans and other animals.
In another few decades, I won’t be surprised if animal rights acquire the same level of seriousness in public discourse as race, caste and gender equality have in the past few generations.
P.S. This also lead me on an unrelated but interesting overview of Singer’s utilitarian ideas.