The Instigator
UNOWN301
Pro (for)
The Contender
afroninja61104
Con (against)

Veganism is a moral obligation

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 6/26/2017 Category: Philosophy
Updated: 1 year ago Status: Debating Period
Viewed: 748 times Debate No: 103059
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (12)
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UNOWN301

Pro

Round 1: Debate Acceptance
Round 2: Opening arguments
Round 3: Rebuttal 1
Round 4: Rebuttal 2/Conclusion

Definitions:
Veganism - a way of living which seeks to exclude, as far as is possible and practicable, all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose.

Moral Obligation - something that we ought to do in order to be consistent with our moral beliefs

I will be arguing in favor of the proposition that veganism is a moral obligation.
afroninja61104

Con

I accept this challenge and will debate against the proposition that veganism is a moral obligation

I will provide ample evidence to back up each of my claims

Good luck to you.
Debate Round No. 1
UNOWN301

Pro

afroninja61104, thank you for accepting this debate. I hope we have a fruitful conversation.

The Argument

Premise 1: It is wrong to unnecessarily kill humans to eat their flesh.
Premise 2: One must be able to identify a difference between humans and animals that if present in both, would justify unnecessarily killing both for their flesh.
Conclusion: In the absence of naming such a difference, unnecessarily killing animals for their flesh is wrong.

Now, this argument is often misunderstood so I will do my best to explain the nuances of it in hopes that my opponent will not attempt to knock down a mere straw man. The first thing to notice about this argument is that there really are only two assumptions being made here.
Assumption 1: Humans are of moral value, and therefore it is wrong to kill humans for their flesh especially for unnecessary reasons. To be clear, it is often debated upon what it means for something to be necessary or unnecessary. Although I think defining what is absolutely necessary can be difficult, it can be agreed upon that anything to do with pleasure, convenience, or habit is indeed unnecessary. So anytime I use the term "unnecessary", this is what I'm referring to, and I think we can both agree on that.

Assemption 2: Logical consistency is important. This I think, is an assumption that needs no justification, for if you deny this, we have nothing to argue about.

Now, onto the actual argument.

P1. It is wrong to unnecessarily kill humans to eat their flesh.

One of the strong points about this argument is that it is not dependent on a subjective or objective view or morality. One can think morality is either and still accept this argument. As I stated in Assumption 1, all one has to do is accept that humans are valuable at all, subjectively or objectively, and as long as they also value logical consistency, the argument still works. I am going to assume that my opponent will accept this premise, and therefore no further justification needs to be made. If humans are valuable at all, killing them for unnecessary reasons is wrong. If it is unnecessary to eat their flesh, then killing them for that reason is therefore wrong and we are morally obligated not to do it.

P2. One must be able to identify a difference between humans and animals that if present in both, would justify unnecessarily killing both for their flesh.

This premise really is the crux of the argument, and generally the part that most people misunderstand. I am not trying to say here that there is no difference between non-human animals (ie. pigs, cows, chickens, etc - for now I will just use the term "animals") and humans. Rather, what I am saying is that if one is going to treat animals differently than humans, we must justify that difference in treatment. So what I am doing here is asking my opponent to identify a difference between humans and animals, that if present in both, would justify treating both in the same way. If we treat animals differently merely on the basis that they are different, and no actual "justifying" difference is given, then we are being inconsistent, and therefore hypocritical.

So, I challenge my opponent to name the trait or difference that is either present or lacking in animals that justifies unecessarily killing animals for food, but not humans. If my opponent believes he/she has found such a difference, the litmus test is to apply the difference to humans. When applied to humans, if the trait justifies killing humans uncessarily for food as well, then indeed my opponent will have succeeded. If, however, the trait does not work in the human context, then it is hypocritical to say it works in the animal's context - otherwise you are just appealing to mere difference without an actual justification.

I will provide a few possible examples for my opponent, in hopes to shoot down any possible justifications he/she will try to deploy.
Difference 1. Animals are not as intelligent as us.

Lets apply this difference to the human context and ask "if a human is not as intelligent, does that make it morally permissible to unnecessarily kill that human for their flesh?" We do, in fact, have many humans who are mentally disabled and have the cognitive capacities of sometimes less than a pig for example. Does this make it okay to kill those mentally disabled humans? The answer clearly is no, and therefore if it doesn't work in the human context, it clearly isn't a difference that justifies treating animals that way either. If we use this as a justification, we are being hypocritical and it would be a double standard.

Difference 2. Animals do not have the ability to understand social/moral contracts.

Some will say that because animals cannot reciprocate social contracts (ie. I won't kill or harm you, and so you don't kill or harm me) then that makes it okay to unnecessarily kill animals for their flesh. However, if we apply this difference to the human context, it doesn't work. We have many examples of indigenous and uncontacted tribes in the amazon or other places around the world. They do not understand the social contracts of the modern world, and anytime we try to approach them, they throw spears and shoot arrows. They are, for all intents and purposes, unable to engage in a social/moral contract with us. Does this make it okay to unnecessarily kill them? The answer clearly is no, and therefore it doesn't work in the animal context.

Difference 3. Animals don't understand morality/abstract concepts.

If a human couldn't understand abstract concepts (and therefore morals), would that make it okay to kill them unnecessarily. The answer again, is no. We have many examples of this again with mentally disabled humans or infants/toddlers who cannot understand these concepts. If it is not okay to kill the disabled human or infant for lacking these traits, but it does work in the animal context, then we are holding a double standard and being inconsistent.

Although I won't go through them all, there are many other differences that one can name that don't work - morphology, concept formation (ie. self, past/future, desire to live), soul, etc). The main point is that if you can't justify killing a human for having the same difference that you use to justify killing the animal unecessarily, then you are holding a double standard and being hypocritical. If we value logical consistency, we must apply this rule.

This premise really can be summarized by the following:
"The catch is that any such characteristic that is possessed by all human beings will not be possessed only by human beings. For example, all human beings, but not only human beings, are capable of feeling pain; and while only human beings are capable of solving complex mathematical problems, not all humans can do this." [1]

The trait or difference that may indeed work is sentience or the ability to feel pain, which I think are deeply linked together. Sentience is the trait of having a self, or having a subjective experience of the world. Obviously, pain is an experience that can only be observed if indeed sentience exists. My opponent cannot use sentience as the difference however because almost all invertebrates, and some inverterbrates, have sentience. Are there grey areas in which it is unknown whether say insects or an oyster has sentience - yes, but grey areas do not invalidate my overall argument in the cases where sentience is quite clear.

Conclusion: In the absence of naming such a difference, unnecessarily killing animals for their flesh is wrong.

Therefore, in the absence of such a difference, it is hypocritical to unnecessarily kill (or harm I might add) animals for their flesh. Veganism is the a way of living which seeks to minimize or exclude such killing as far as possible and therefore if this argument succeeds, it is a moral obligation to be vegan.

Citations

[1] Singer, Peter. Animal Liberation. New York: HarperCollins, 2002. Print.

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Debate Round No. 2
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Debate Round No. 4
12 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by UNOWN301 1 year ago
UNOWN301
@TheUnexaminedLife
Firstly, I clearly defined veganism in the context of this debate - as the philosophy. You are trying to reframe my definition as merely a diet and therefore responding to something I am not trying to defend. Secondly, what you are saying essentially boils down to an ad populum fallacy - if enough people in a society judge something to be moral, then it is. This is obviously wrong and should be rejected as it leads to, as you admitted, the justification of slavery. I think most reasonable people will see the absurdity of your argument.
Posted by afroninja61104 1 year ago
afroninja61104
Hey, really upset I was unable to participate in this, I am truly angry at myself.
Posted by TheUnexaminedLife 1 year ago
TheUnexaminedLife
That is not the definition of veganism: veganism is abstaining from products which have derived from animals. Implicitly, your claim is that of animal suffrage where you claim that animals have a right to their bodies humans ought not to violate.

My response was to say that there are no 'moral facts' and that it is social judgements which decide what is permissible and what is not. Humans permit murder in war, capital punishment and so forth. In survival situations or in some tribes, cannibalism is permitted. The culture doesn't justify the action, the judgement does, supervening on the culture. Our society weighs its preferences with that of the mass suffering of animals and favours the former: practically, this is all that is needed to justify the practice, just like the beliefs of individual inferiority justified slavery for prior generations.
Posted by UNOWN301 1 year ago
UNOWN301
@Canis
Again, the definition of veganism means we are preventing harm or cruelty as much as practicable and possible. I'm his means that a survival situation where killing for meat is your only option still falls under veganism. There is nothing inconsistent here.
Posted by canis 1 year ago
canis
I would eat you when my only felt obligation was to stay alive..And there was nothing else to eat. ( you would eat me too or die).. Oblgations are relative felt feelings...
Posted by UNOWN301 1 year ago
UNOWN301
@TheUnexaminedLife
No, this argument logically leads to veganism as well. Remember, the definition of veganism is "a way of living which seeks to exclude, as far as is possible and practicable, all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose." Therefore, the argument applies in the same way to cruelty and exploitation of animals in that you would just ask "what is this difference between you and the animal that if present in both would justify exploiting or harming you?" In the absence of such a justifying difference, veganism logically follows.

You say the difference is the normative judgement. So if someone wanted to kill and eat you because it was normal in their culture, would you accept that fate for yourself? No, of course not. And so you are deploying a double standard when applying it to the animal. You say it is a source of protein that is ingrained into our society and culture. Does culture and tradition really justify things? No, of course not. We used to have a tradition of slavery. Furthermore, if someone wanted to kill you for food because it was in their culture to eat humans would you accept that? Nope. I call double standard.
Posted by TheUnexaminedLife 1 year ago
TheUnexaminedLife
@UNOWN Firstly, your argument would only justify vegetarianism and not 'veganism' as you advocate in your last paragraph and would certainly not take on the form of a 'moral obligation'. Cannibalism is a social taboo; abstaining from it is not a moral necessity, evident in some cultures and situations where it is permissible to eat the flesh of other humans. If we judge all difference, then it is up to us as a society to decide what foods to eat based on the certain data available to us and the emotions these trigger, whether cultural, factual or situational (etc.). By such categories, humans judge it permissible to eat some animals whilst other animals are discerned as being too 'cute', too human, or too rare for their consumption to be popularly acceptable. The sufficient difference you are asking for is precisely this normative judgement. Deemed a necessary source of protein, vital to our diet and ingrained within our social psyche and acceptance, the consumption of some animals is permitted on the grounds that our society is accustomed to it, derive pleasure from it, and deem it useful given the data around the issue. The real question is whether we should re-evaluate our diet as a western culture because other alternative food sources are available to us that do not cause mass suffering in their harvest, or whether we value of our palate over the suffering of animals. However, regardless of which, this would still permit the consumption of meat in some situations, namely where it is necessary for survival with other food sources unavailable.
Posted by TheUnexaminedLife 1 year ago
TheUnexaminedLife
@UNOWN Firstly, your argument would only justify vegetarianism and not 'veganism' as you advocate in your last paragraph and would certainly not take on the form of a 'moral obligation'. Cannibalism is a social taboo; abstaining from it is not a moral necessity, evident in some cultures and situations where it is permissible to eat the flesh of other humans. If we judge all difference, then it is up to us as a society to decide what foods to eat based on the certain data available to us and the emotions these trigger, whether cultural, factual or situational (etc.). By such categories, humans judge it permissible to eat some animals whilst other animals are discerned as being too 'cute', too human, or too rare for their consumption to be popularly acceptable. The sufficient difference you are asking for is precisely this normative judgement. Deemed a necessary source of protein, vital to our diet and ingrained within our social psyche and acceptance, the consumption of some animals is permitted on the grounds that our society is accustomed to it, derive pleasure from it, and deem it useful given the data around the issue. The real question is whether we should re-evaluate our diet as a western culture because other alternative food sources are available to us that do not cause mass suffering in their harvest, or whether we value of our palate over the suffering of animals. However, regardless of which, this would still permit the consumption of meat in some situations, namely where it is necessary for survival with other food sources unavailable.
Posted by TheUnexaminedLife 1 year ago
TheUnexaminedLife
@UNOWN Firstly, your argument would only justify vegetarianism and not 'veganism' as you advocate in your last paragraph and would certainly not take on the form of a 'moral obligation'. Cannibalism is a social taboo; abstaining from it is not a moral necessity, evident in some cultures and situations where it is permissible to eat the flesh of other humans. If we judge all difference, then it is up to us as a society to decide what foods to eat based on the certain data available to us and the emotions these trigger, whether cultural, factual or situational (etc.). By such categories, humans judge it permissible to eat some animals whilst other animals are discerned as being too 'cute', too human, or too rare for their consumption to be popularly acceptable. The sufficient difference you are asking for is precisely this normative judgement. Deemed a necessary source of protein, vital to our diet and ingrained within our social psyche and acceptance, the consumption of some animals is permitted on the grounds that our society is accustomed to it, derive pleasure from it, and deem it useful given the data around the issue. The real question is whether we should re-evaluate our diet as a western culture because other alternative food sources are available to us that do not cause mass suffering in their harvest, or whether we value of our palate over the suffering of animals. However, regardless of which, this would still permit the consumption of meat in some situations, namely where it is necessary for survival with other food sources unavailable.
Posted by canis 1 year ago
canis
I have no moral obligation to kill judes.. Or cristians.. Or whatever..I do not recognize Your idea.
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