Monday, August 15, 2005

Back On the Subject of Date-Raping Cows

Steve Gilliard thinks PETA is racist. And I think, "neato," I don't have any particular love for PETA. After all, I really really fucking hate animals. I really really do. I don't like touching 'em. Don't like looking at 'em. Don't even really like thinking about 'em. I like eating them, but that's about it. So I read Gilliard's post, and damn, not only did he fail to convince me that PETA was racist, but his PETA quotes convinced me that there isn't really a compelling reason to privilege human suffering over animal suffering. Can anyone tell me why I should privilege human suffering over animal suffering? I know I have oodles and oodles of professional philosophers reading this blog who I imagine can help me out on this. So please explain that one to me in words I can understand.

Not that this knowledge is really going to change my eating habits anyway. To my way of thinking, morality stems from the tension between obligations to relieve the suffering of others and our desire for our own comforts. I'm going to continue to eat meat, and I'm going to continue to eat meat in restaurants and bought from grocery stores that came from cows that suffered unnecessarily. That is selfish and hypocritical, I admit, but it's an honest hypocrisy and I don't mean to dismiss it glibly, as in, this is horrible but I don't care. I make my sacrifices and chose my comforts in a way that I feel is on balance guided toward making the world a better place. Others may do better than me and they may stand in judgement, but yes, not only am I physically lazy, I am morally lazy as well. I'll cop to it, but not indifferently.

I say it's honest, in comparison to so many others who just refuse to deal with the arguments of groups like PETA. People who aren't stupid, and who can't accept that their selfish; people who don't believe that they are the kind of person who could acknowledge an injustice and then continue to be a part of its perpetuation. They really don't want to start walking down that line for convenience's sake, so they do whatever they can to prevent themselves from acknowledging that injustice. And that may mean complaining about unnecessarily provocative tactics and accusing them of things like racism. Again, I don't think eating animals is wrong, just the unnecessary suffering of the animals that we eat.

I suppose I'll admit, I'm not acutely aware of the pain felt by the history of the comparison of black people to animals, so I'm not saying Gilliard is vile due to this particular post, though he is fairly vile. But PETA wasn't comparing black people to animals. They were comparing human suffering, and systemic human suffering at that, to the systemic suffering of animals. So again, we're back to the question, what makes human suffering worse than animal suffering? I spent a long part of my life pretending like that question was ridiculous. I would have loved to have a good answer, but in the back of my mind I was always aware that I hadn't come across a good one. Whelp, anyway, time for lunch.

UPDATE: Upon reading theMajikthise take on the subject, some clarification is order. I certainly do not put animals on the same moral plane as humans, in the sense that I think it's okay to kill an animal to eat it, but I do not think it is okay to kill a human to eat it, as a necessary societal construction. Nevertheless, if the topic is abstract suffering, I have a hard time getting the argument that systemic human suffering is worse than systemic animal suffering. That is, the suffering of humans does not seem to me more immoral, merely because humans should not be eaten. The immorality of suffering is independant of the societal value and of the ultimate destiny of the sufferer, I think. I don't know if we have to re-create the universe for my position to make sense; but I think if we destroyed it, it would make sense, and I'm pretty sure it's defensible enough even if we don't. I know my position does not totally conform to PETA's on this. Hell maybe it doesn't make sense at all, I don't know. I'd be able to figure it out if someone would slap me around a bit.