Libertarian Wants Wolves To Stop Eating Rabbits & Lions To Become Vegans

The title is a joke, of a sort. It’s humor comes in its truth.

It is true a self-labeling libertarian named Andy Lamey wants people to stop eating animals. He says we are sentient and animals are also sentient, and so we shouldn’t eat animals.

It follows they shouldn’t eat us, either, though Lamey forgets to mention this. This will be good news to hikers in the deep dark woods.

As comforting as that result is, it also follows that sentient animals shouldn’t eat other sentient animals. If the sentient aren’t supposed to gnaw on each other then every beast must go vegan. This argument ought to please PETA. Although they’re going to have get started on growing tanker loads of kale to feed the soon-to-be starving animals of the world.

Only wrinkle is that some think that even plants are sentient! If that’s true, we, your dog and cat, elephants, lions, tigers, perch, even cockroaches are going to have to learn to eat plastic. At least we will have solved our recycling dilemma.

Say, I wonder if Lamey knows that the definition—the old schoolmen definition, anyway—of animals is sentience? It isn’t exactly breaking news that animals can sense their environment, move around in it, and make decisions on the road to making baby animals. Yet somehow we keep seeing Science-now-tells-us stories that present shocking discoveries animals aren’t plants.

Lamey does not seem to understand that what separates man from animals is not degree of sentience, because sentience is just sentience, but that man is rational and animals are not. We differ in kind, in essence. We are different things, as different as animals are from plants.

Unless you say man is somehow special, above all the other animals, and is therefore under some special burden to care for all other animals. But what makes us special? Our “degree” of sentience? Well, sentience is just sentience so that doesn’t work.

How about intelligence? We seem to be more intelligence than other animals. But what is intelligence? Calculators can calculate faster than we can. Computers can memorize more. Both can go on doing their duties without fatigue. Birds process visual information faster than we can. Turtles know where to lay eggs, and in general how to better turtles, better than we do. Intelligence, as loosely defined as this is, can’t be the separator. Unless maybe we tighten up the definition.

We’re led back to the difference between us and them being the nature of our thoughts, and that difference is rationality, the ability to see or grasp universals, a thing animals don’t possess. Of course, it doesn’t immediately follow that because we’re rational and they’re not that we can eat them. Bats aren’t rational and eating them does no good. Here enter other arguments, which we can skip, because we don’t want to ignore Lamey.

One defense of meat eating that is not a distraction appeals to the moral importance of species membership. The moral significance of being homo sapiens is sometimes mistakenly equated with the moral significance of personhood. The difference between the two is illustrated by again recalling human beings who never possess characteristics such as moral agency or full rationality. They are homo sapiens but not persons in the philosophical sense.

He never defines what he means by “rationality”, but it appears to be consciousness, maybe “intelligence”, or even mere sentience. In our definition, a person is still rational even asleep or declared “brain dead” (which is not dead-dead). Rational is not what you’re doing at the moment, it’s what you are period. We shouldn’t eat our own kind—though it has been known.

Lamey discusses and dismisses other arguments, such as “avoiding meat would deny animals”, like cows and chickens, a decent living, or the difference between “humane” and other kinds of slaughter, or that the “popularity of meat eating is in large part a result of social conformity”. We can ignore these.

He can’t escape his commitment to sentience, and he doesn’t grade it: “hierarchy is morally and empirically shakier than people think.” And “There are no principled grounds on which to exclude animals from the protection of morality without also excluding many human beings.” If sentience is used as the eating criteria.

Say, how can we bring Jews and blacks into this?

People have at times “declared some group—Jews, kulaks, African-Americans, women—as unworthy of the same concern bestowed on ‘Aryans’ or some other favoured in-group.” Same thing we’re doing to animals now. So…only Nazis barbecue?

The case for not eating animals ultimately depends not on values of the political fringe, but on a minimal commitment to unbiased moral consideration that now finds proponents within every respectable political philosophy. Future generations may wonder why it took not just libertarians, but all of us, so long to recognize this.

Just goes to show you how far wrong you can go when you abandon traditional metaphysics.

Plus—and I must insist on this—how Lamey missed that his argument implies no animal could not morally eat any other animal, since all animals are the same, is astonishing.

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Categories: Philosophy

12 replies »

  1. Animals are not sapient. Humans are.
    Animals are not people.
    Calling a tail a leg leaves you without a leg to stand on.

    There is a reason why so many zen koans end with a punch to the face.

  2. “People have at times “declared some group—Jews, kulaks, African-Americans, women—as unworthy of the same concern bestowed on ‘Aryans’ or some other favoured in-group.”” As have progressives declared conservatives not human and unworthy of concern. So we’re still doing it with people, why not animals?

    He ignore the reality of animals eating each other. It does not help his ludicris argument.

    Eating bats is a perfectly good use for them. Proper preparation may be needed, but the eating of bats is no different than the eating of cheese, which I have been told the Chinese find disgusting. It’s no different than kimchi, which I find disgusting.

    Evolution says we are part of the evolutionary chain and evolution CANNOT explain morality. Therefore, if you believe in evolution, morality does not exist. If there are moral arguments, we either special and made by God or we’re aliens. So pick one—special, alien, or complete animals. The venn diagrams do not overlap so don’t think of going there……

  3. But you will still be able to kill these animals, no? Because the problem is in eating them afterwards.

    But if you can also not kill them, then a child in the womb is less than an animal, as they can still be killed, one assumes, because that is health care.

    So, the solution is to eat unborn animals.

  4. Shakespeare was no vegan…
    “Not where he eats, but where he is eaten. A certain convocation of politic worms are e’en at him. Your worm is your only emperor for diet. We fat all creatures else to fat us, and we fat ourselves for maggots. Your fat king and your lean beggar is but variable service—two dishes, but to one table.
    A man may fish with the worm that hath eat of a king, and eat of the fish that hath fed of that worm.”

  5. William,
    What accounts for us having one of the warmest winters ever?
    I live in Wisconsin and January 2020 rarely dipped lower than 33 degrees. Now it’s February and it’s exactly the same: much warmer than usual.

    What is the non-human caused global warming answer to this?

    Even last winter was warm here. This winter is warmer yet.

    I’d like to consider the idea that it isn’t human caused gloom and doom. But I rarely hear that.
    And these last two winters don’t give me much hope that there isn’t real warming occurring.

    Thank you

  6. Universal morality is nonsense; morality is a reciprocal affair. In exchange for respecting your rights, I expect you to respect mine. (We must of course agree upon a moral code that specifies exactly what those rights are). Wolves, polar bears, and Africans will never respect any of my rights, not even my right to exist, so I have no moral obligation to ensure their survival. In fact, I have a moral obligation to kill them if they pose a danger to my kin.

    Sentience is only relevant because a sentient enemy is more dangerous, devious, and unpredictable than a non-sentient one.

  7. Timea –
    Two winters do not a climate make. Nor even ten.

    Riddle me this – what is the optimal temperature of the Earth? Show your work, and all assumptions.

  8. Dear Timea,
    What’s wrong with a little warmth? Maybe you can grow a ripe tomato this year. Would that be so awful?

    Back when the dinosaurs ruled, Wisconsin was tropical. There were palm trees and crocodiles right where you live today. That warmth lasted a mere 250,000,000 years, from the beginning of the Jurassic to the end of the Miocene. Today we live in the Ice Age, the coldest era since the Permian. What may seem normal to you is not normal for Planet Earth.

    Why be such a pill about a tiny bit of warmth? You could always move to Antarctica if you’re uncomfortable when the weather is above freezing. It never gets above freezing there. That’s why Antarctica has no plants, not even tundra lichen. Ice is death to plants. Wisconsin used to be covered in ice two miles deep. That was less than 20,000 years ago. Nothing grew in Wisconsin then; no plants, no animals, no people. Is that what you want?

    I don’t understand the paranoia about warmth. Warmer is better. I pray for warmth. I hope God listening — to me, not you.

  9. My post wasn’t meant to be rude.
    I really want to see this from the other end.
    All one hears is that it’s all man-made. That the winters in Wisconsin (and elsewhere I assume) have been getting warmer because of the activity of man. A specific kind of activity.

    I would have no problem admitting that there appears to be an almost religious level devotion to the idea that human’s irresponsible activity is making the earth warmer. That’s why I want to see what someone like William M Briggs has to say.

  10. I don’t see how our ability to think rationally removes any onus on us to avoid inflicting unnecessary suffering on other animals just because they aren’t rational. If anything, I would have thought the reverse would be the case. A tiger can’t decide to eat a vegetarian diet, but we can, so maybe we should. This isn’t exactly rocket science, even though it’s apparently beyond the reach of “traditional metaphysics” (by which I think you mean post-hoc justifications for ancient myths).

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