The Instigator
brian_eggleston
Pro (for)
Losing
0 Points
The Contender
FormAndTheFormless
Con (against)
Winning
51 Points

Cremations and burials should be made illegal

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Post Voting Period
The voting period for this debate has ended.
after 10 votes the winner is...
FormAndTheFormless
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 4/21/2010 Category: Health
Updated: 4 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 7,838 times Debate No: 11820
Debate Rounds (2)
Comments (14)
Votes (10)

 

brian_eggleston

Pro

Cremating dead bodies releases huge amounts of nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide, sulphur dioxide, particulate matter, mercury, hydrogen fluoride, hydrogen chloride, heavy metals and persistent organic pollutants into the atmosphere, thus making a significant contribution to global warming.

At the same time, burying corpses is no more environmentally friendly as this method of disposal results in vast quantities of hazardous embalming fluids leeching into the soil. Furthermore, entire forests are felled to obtain the hardwoods used to produce the coffins (caskets), which are never re-used and are instead just left to rot away in the ground. (1)

So if we can't burn or bury the deceased without damaging the environment how do we get rid of the corpses?

Well, if the undertakers were to butcher the cadavers and bag the body parts up, they could sell them to zoos and wildlife parks to feed carnivores such as lions, tigers, sharks and crocodiles – all of which consume huge quantities of meat and are known to have a taste for human flesh. (2)

The beauty of this scheme is that it is both environmentally friendly and economic as the money raised from the sale of the corpses can be used to offset the cost of the funerals. In addition, feeding time at the zoo will become far more entertaining for visitors and for all these reasons I affirm that cremations and burials should be made illegal.

Thank you.

(1) http://ezinearticles.com...
(2) http://en.wikipedia.org...
FormAndTheFormless

Con

The environmental problems with cremation:

Firstly, I would like to point out that my opponent's claim that cremation is a significant contributor to global warming is highly exaggerated. According to the EEA, human crematories account for around 0.2% of the global emissions of dioxins and furans worldwide+1.

The study I have cited below also explains how such emissions can be further reduced through proper procedure during cremation and how the "huge amounts" of many of these chemicals are actually quite negligible.

According to a study conducted in 2006 by the European Environment Agency+1:

"The contribution of this activity to national emissions is comparatively small for all pollutants except for Heavy Metals, especially mercury, in certain countries. Hydrogen chloride emissions can be significant, although the emissions of HCl from individual crematorium can vary considerably…"

The report also lists the emissions of the various toxins that my opponent has described; I will provide a few from the article:

"Nitrogen oxide emissions from crematories are low and are not of major concern. Control of nitrogen oxides can be achieved through temperature control and burner design."

"Sulphur dioxide is produced from the combustion of fossil fuels, container, and contents. The sulphur content of natural gas and human remains is low, but other fuels may contain a significant portion of sulphur."

The section concludes:

"Most contaminants except for the heavy metals, HF, and HCl can be minimized through the proper operation of the crematory in conjunction with adequate temperature and residence time in the secondary combustion chamber. Sulphur oxide may be minimized through the use of low sulphur fuels such as natural gas."

The study also states:

"Heavy metals except for mercury may be removed through particulate control devices."

"Emissions may be further reduced through the use of different types of containers such as fiberboard and cloth covered fiberboard instead of the traditional finished wood."

According to the report, the release of mercury and hydrogen chlorine/fluoride is considered problematic and difficult to control during the actual crematory process. I will illustrate why these chemicals are released during cremation and how the environmental contamination they cause can be avoided.

Why hydrogen chloride and hydrogen fluoride are emitted:

Both hydrogen fluoride and hydrogen chloride are produced when a certain type of chlorinated plastic is burned+2. The major contributors to such emissions are those who have at one time undergone surgery which requires the use of prostheses.

Why mercury is emitted:

Mercury is commonly used in conjunction with other metals during dental restoration. When teeth are burned along with the rest of the body, mercury is released into the surrounding environment+2.

The limitation of environmental contamination through regulatory practices:

Instead of outlawing cremation entirely as my opponent suggests, I propose that regulatory measures be presented that reduce emissions by:

-preventing those with prosthetics or other surgical implantations from receiving cremations.

-requiring the removal of all teeth before cremation.

-restricting incineration to the body alone.

-increasing emission standards for crematories.

My opponent's basis for outlawing cremation due to harmful emissions is unwarranted because such emissions are highly reducible through proper procedure and regulatory enforcement as previously outlined.

The environmental reasons against burying corpses:

Since my opponent has provided no definition for bury, I will assume that it is +3 "to place in the ground." Burial alone simply does not cause the environmental distress that my opponent has proposed. In fact, ecologically minded people in the United States have started to again practice the age-old tradition of burying corpses without embalming or using coffins at all+4.

I propose that burial should remain legal, but that the ecological issues that are associated with it be eliminated by:

-illegalizing the practice of embalming.

-illegalizing the production of coffins.

-restricting burial to the carcass alone.

As you can clearly see, burial does not need to be outlawed in order to end the environmental damages that are caused by coffins and embalming.

The presented alternative:

The alternative that my opponent has presented is neither efficient nor practical; here are my arguments:

1.) Animal meat and human meat are not easily distinguishable; human meat would undoubtedly enter the beef/meat market and contaminate foods meant for human consumption if carcasses were allowed to be slaughtered. Handling raw human flesh also increases the risk of contamination through open cuts or sores. The slaughtering of human carcasses presents issues that are usually negligible when methods are used that leave the body intact before disposal.

2.) Massive amounts of land are available which could easily contain human bodies (land can even be re-used as bodies decompose). Although crematories have a limited capacity, reaching such a capacity would not cause the accumulation of human carcasses if burial was to remain legal; bodies can be dealt with using the above methods even if death rates fluctuate dramatically.

The system in which my opponent has proposed simply isn't flexible enough to be used to dispose of human bodies. Populations of carnivorous animals would increase or decrease according to the amount of available nourishment. Populations may become too large or dwindle away because of the death rate within a given society.

A small population of animals would not be able to effectively dispose of a large sum of bodies. Conversely, a large sum of animals would starve if human deaths were to suddenly decrease after an extended period of high death rates.

Variability in human deaths would pose a significant problem for maintaining the carnivorous population. The effectiveness of the system in which my opponents proposes would be severely decreased by fluctuations in human death rates.

The hunger/health of the carnivores and a plethora of other factors would also reduce the rate at which bodies can be disposed of using this method.

3.) Burial grounds are extremely available; any area that is deep enough to contain human bodies can potentially be used as a burial ground. The massive construction of zoos, slaughterhouses and wildlife reserves is ridiculous when one considers that the minimum requirement for disposing of a human body is a hole that is deep enough to contain it. The infrastructures needed for cremation and burial are already available in a great enough quantity to effectively dispose of human bodies.

Concluding statements:

The environmental issues caused by cremations and burials are not significant enough to warrant the illegalization of such disposal techniques. Furthermore, I have presented alternative legal actions which almost entirely eliminate the environmental issues that my opponent has presented.

Cremation and burial are very effective and established ways in which to dispose of human bodies. Burial is especially effective due to both its extreme availability and the minimalistic nature of the process.

My opponent must present a justifiable reason for the illegalization of such techniques and he must also present an alternative method for the disposal of human bodies that is as effective and practical; neither has been given.

Sources cited:

+1 - http://www.eea.europa.eu......

+2 - http://www.pioneerburials.com......

+3 – (1)Bury - http://www.thefreedictionary.com...

+4 - http://www.aarp.org...
Debate Round No. 1
brian_eggleston

Pro

I thank FormAndTheFormless (hereinafter referred to as FATF) for his intelligent and eloquent contribution.

I do concede that undertakers are not the main driving force behind global warming, we all have to do our bit for the environment, so why shouldn't they?

Also, whilst I certainly agree that increased regulation of crematoria could, in theory, reduce the amount of pollutants released into the atmosphere, there is a major flaw in FATF's plan - that is that businesses resent and resist legislation that increase their costs and, wherever possible, will attempt to avoid conforming to regulations in order to gain a competitive advantage over their rivals.

That's why a blanket ban on cremations is required.

By the way, I think FATF's assertion that human flesh may enter the human food chain is overstated. I know we can't all afford to be connoisseurs of haute cuisine but even the type of person that dines at McDonald's should be able to distinguish between burgers made with lightly-seasoned beef and burgers made with rancid human flesh.

Moving on to burials, I am aware that some corpses are buried without being embalmed or being placed in a coffin in order to minimise their impact on the environment. However, this can and does lead to problems with scavengers.

In London, for example, people who cannot afford a private funeral are buried in paupers' graves – open pits into which dozens of corpses are thrown before being covered.

In the meantime, and even after these communal graves are closed, the stench of rotting flesh attracts scavengers such as foxes who dig up and carry off the bodies. (1)

Luckily, England has no large carnivores and foxes usually just make off with the carcases of stillborn babies, but what about people who live in other parts of Europe, or America?

There are some huge and dangerous predators that roam wild in those places – beasts such as wolves, bears and big cats – animals that would pose a real threat to society if they developed a taste for human flesh as a result of scavenging from graves.

That's why burials should be banned outright.

Now, to address the issues FATF raised regarding the variability of supply of human corpses and the disruption this might cause to the undertakers' zoological customers.

Actually, there really isn't a problem here. In times of reduced death rates, zoos would simply supplement their captive carnivores' diet with the low-grade meat they currently feed them.

Conversely, when people are dropping like flies because of AIDS, SARS, BSE or whatever the latest pandemic is, and there is too much human flesh for the animals to consume, dead bodies will have to be disposed of in other ways.

For example, the authorities in places like Hawaii and Iceland, where there is continual volcanic activity, could dispose of corpses by firing them out of canons into the craters of erupting volcanoes. The fluid in the bodies would be vaporised instantly while the pollutants would be entombed forever in the magma, thus posing no threat to the environment.

In other places, the corpses could be dropped into disused mines or they could be simply shot into a low orbit so that they burn up harmlessly upon re-entry into the Earth's atmosphere.

I haven't really put my mind to it, but I bet there are many other ecologically sound methods of disposing of dead bodies in addition to the one's outlined above.

In conclusion, the only reasons that I can see for burials and cremations relate to outmoded and discredited religions and they are not good enough to excuse the continued destruction of our planet.

Thank you.

(1) http://www.thisislondon.co.uk...
FormAndTheFormless

Con

The presented justification for the illegalization of cremation:

My opponent has proposed that an outright ban of crematories is required because, as profit-oriented entities, crematories and associated organizations would resist legislation that is harmful to potential profits.

Although it is true that such institutions would attempt to maximize profits within a market, environmental regulations do not inherently reduce profitability. In fact, by meeting environmental standards, crematories could potentially gain a higher share of business and thus increase profits through:

-the desirability within the market to dispose of human carcasses in an environmentally friendly way.

-the elimination of competitors who fail to meet environmental standards.

Legislative measures designed to reduce emissions are indeed profitable and would therefore be readily pursued by crematory institutions; the reduction of emissions through environmental enforcement is achievable and should be pursued over illegalization.

The presented justification for the illegalization of burial:

According to the article cited by the instigator, "some graves are kept open for up to two years, covered only by loose planks, leaving them exposed to scavenging animals." The issues associated with "pauper's graves" are undoubtedly caused by improper burial practices and would not occur if carcasses were buried at the appropriate depth of six to eight feet (from the highest body to the surface); at such depths animals such as bears, foxes and wildcats would not be able to access the carcasses, nor would the stench of rotting flesh penetrate the surface of the ground.

The problem of scavengers consuming deceased fetuses and children within the UK is not a valid reason to illegalize burial in its entirety because the problem is caused by partial and delayed burial of the body.

The presented alternatives:

1.) Again, I would like to assess the "carnivorous method" of disposal which my opponent has put forth.
The instigator claims that variability within the human death rate is not an issue because animals can be fed low-grade and inexpensive meats when death rates decrease.

While what my opponent proposes is true, the requirement of feeding massive amounts of even relatively cheap meat to a population of carnivorous animals so large as to be considered a viable option for the disposal of human carcasses again poses the problem of inefficiency (meat must still be purchased, transported and given to the animals by trained handlers).

The effectiveness of the proposed system would still be affected by changes within the death rates of the human populace.

My argument regarding the matter of constructing new infrastructures (elaborated in point 3) was not addressed by my opponent at all.

2.) My opponent has presented some new alternatives, which I will shortly address here and in my concluding arguments:

The "shooting of corpses into volcanoes via cannons" – the presented would require that such cannons not only be able to transport bodies at considerable distances in a way that both leaves them intact and successfully delivers them to the volcano, but is also ecologically friendly; this would pose a significant challenge for engineers.

The "descent of carcasses through low orbit" – the presented would require that bodies be brought up to an altitude high enough to ensure that they disintegrate into the atmosphere upon descent. This alternative would require huge amounts of fuel and resources to be needlessly expended just to dispose of human corpses.

The "dropping of corpses into disused mines" – the presented would require human beings to enter mines in order to place the carcass down a shaft that is deep enough to contain them. Abandoned mines commonly contain large quantities of asphyxiant gases which could potentially kill the people placing the bodies into the mines.

Concluding arguments:

Burial is a practical means of disposal:

The reason that the process of burial has been adopted across the vast majority of human societies throughout history is not because of some fleeting and universal religious sentiment; it is because it's massively accessible, extremely simplistic and unsurprisingly effective.

Burial only requires a depth of soil great enough to contain a human carcass. Mine shafts do not exist unless some previous generation has excavated them in hopes of acquiring a precious resource or valuable gemstone/metal; they are not available where there is no reason for them to exist. Volcanoes are not accessible unless some very specific geological conditions are present.

Both are astronomically scarce compared to the vast availability of soil within human societies.

Furthermore, bodies do not need to be lifted beyond the stratosphere or shot out of cannons; the labor and mechanics involved in burial are relatively minimal yet achieve the function of disposing of the body without any extended efforts beyond ensuring that it is underneath the ground at the appropriate depth.

In defense of cremation:

Cremation is an established way in which to dispose of human bodies and institutions which specialize in it are readily available throughout Europe and the United States.

Although the involved infrastructures should indeed be refined in order to reduce emissions, the resources required to do so are minor compared to those that would have to be expended in order to dispose of human bodies via the methods in which my opponent has presented; the refinement of cremation through environmental regulation would not require the construction of spacecraft, or cannons, or wildlife reserves or the needless endangerments involved in feeding wild animals or placing carcasses into abandoned mines.

I would like to again remind the readers of this debate that:

1.) A justifiable reason for the illegalization of burial and cremation has not been offered.

I have presented regulatory measures which would effectively eliminate the environmental issues associated with burial and cremation. I have explained why the blanket illegalization of cremation is not justified for the reasons that my opponent has presented. I have also explained why the occurrences within the UK cited by my opponent do not justify the illegalization of burial.

My opponent's continued fixation on the supposed environmental unsoundness of burial and cremation is unfounded.

2.) The instigator has failed to present an alternative (singular or accumulative) for the disposal of human carcasses that would be effective if the traditional means of burial and cremation were to be illegalized.

My opponent claims that "there are surely more than the ones that I have presented," while proposing that the way in which society disposes of human bodies be forever altered like never before.

The affirmative does not seem to realize that the repercussions of illegalizing cremation and burial would require an effective means to dispose of human bodies in its place; the resolution is not justifiable without presenting such an alternative.

The resolution remains unwarranted as outlined; vote for con.
Debate Round No. 2
14 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by russianmaster999 4 years ago
russianmaster999
thats true lol and it would be funny
Posted by brian_eggleston 4 years ago
brian_eggleston
Thanks Rob, If I'd thought of those things (and perhaps done a bit of research) it would have been a better debate on my part.

Still, firing corpses out of canons into the craters of erupting volcanoes and the other solutions I thought would surely be more entertaining methods of disposing of the dead!
Posted by Rob1Billion 4 years ago
Rob1Billion
Actually I think feeding them to zoo animals is a remarkably sustainable idea. The energy present in the human body is wasted by conventional disposal methods, but feeding dead humans to animals would create a food source out of nowhere that would save us money and resources. Meat takes a lot of energy to make; we have to grow crops, and then feed them to animals, and then take the animals and feed them to people and other meat-eating animals. Every time you make a transition, you lose 90% of the energy you started with. The only real issue (other than ethical and religious arguments, neither of which hold much water) is that zoo animals don't actually consume that much meat to make a big difference. It would be interesting to visit the zoo after the animals have eaten as well, as we would all look like egg rolls to the lions.

Using human bodies as fuel in some fashion is an excellent idea. Burning them to produce heat for industrial processes or to add protein to animal feed may be in our near future after peak oil hits and we don't have limitless and cheap energy supplies.
Posted by Kinesis 4 years ago
Kinesis
Okay, seriously, could someone vote here - http://www.debate.org... ? Voting period's about to end, I really don't want a tie on my record.

Epic debate, guys.
Posted by FormAndTheFormless 4 years ago
FormAndTheFormless
I see that you're not going to let me go without taking my pride, haha.
Posted by russianmaster999 4 years ago
russianmaster999
well ya it was still wrong to say it tho
Posted by brian_eggleston 4 years ago
brian_eggleston
Well no, and can you imagine how the little kiddies at the zoo would react if they saw human arms, legs and other body parts being thrown to the lions?

I was kind of joking with that bit - well, most of it really!
Posted by russianmaster999 4 years ago
russianmaster999
little unethical about the feeding human parts to anmials...just think about it when i person dies do u want your relitives to be feed to anmials???
Posted by FormAndTheFormless 4 years ago
FormAndTheFormless
I would like to apologize. The links for sources +1 and +2 did not post correctly for some reason.

The URLs are actually:

+1 - http://www.eea.europa.eu...

+2 - http://www.pioneerburials.com...
Posted by brian_eggleston 4 years ago
brian_eggleston
Take your time...character limit is 8,000 words
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