Tag Archives: ethics

Why I Am A Vegan (Short Version)

A commenter asked me to make a post about why I am veg*n/think factory farming is immoral. I am planning to write a super long post on this topic in the future but that probably won’t be posted for ages so here is a quick rundown.

Firstly, suffering is bad. If a person is punched in the face chemicals will be released in their brain that is experienced from the inside as pain. They will also likely feel fear at being punched in the future and other negative emotions. This is bad and I don’t want it to happen. Although I don’t think the reduction of suffering is the only valuable thing I think it is really important. If I could press a button that would protect people from being punched in the face I would.

Secondly, discriminating against people based on irrelevant differences is wrong. I mean wrong in more of an epistemic sense than a moral one. An example of an irrelevant difference is distance . In general if someone is suffering physically near to you, you would feel a stronger desire to help them then if they were on  the other side of the planet or the universe. While this can be justified by practical arguments (e.g. it is easier to help people nearer to you than people who are further away), and it is possible to create a mind that does intrinsically devalue other minds as they are moved further away, I think most humans would on reflection not endorse valuing people differently based on the persons physical proximity. Other examples of irrelevant difference include gender, race, sexuality. Keep in mind that there are also relevant distinctions that can affect morality. For example rocks can’t experience pain, so punching a rock is not wrong

So let’s apply these two beliefs/concepts to animals. The questions we should be asking are one, do animals suffer, and two, is their any relevant difference between human and non human animals that can justify not caring about animal suffering?

Firstly, it seems obvious that animals in factory farms suffer. Some people I talk to actually don’t know this which I always find surprising because even when I ate meat I knew exactly the conditions that the animals were being kept in. If you are not aware of the suffering caused to animals by factory farming watch this video for a quick look.

Secondly,I don’t think any of the differences between human animals and non human animals mean that suffering to the latter group is not bad. The experience of pain is chemically identical in humans and pigs,. There is no reason not to think that the feeling you feel when you are punched in the face is any different from what a pig feels when it gets kicked.

A good thought experiment at this point is to imagine the person you love most being infected with a disease. The disease doesn’t kill them but does change them. There are many different strains of the disease and they all change the infected patients in different ways in different ways. Many of these changes don’t change the moral value of your loved one. For example if the disease changed the skin colour or sexuality of your loved one, it wouldn’t suddenly be okay to stop treating them and let them die.

But what if the disease took your loved one ability to speak? Not just their vocal cords but the part of their brain that can process complex language? Would that make it okay for me to to torture, kill and eat them? What if the disease lowered their intelligence to the level of a two year old human? Would that make it okay for me to torture kill and eat them? What if it changed their appearance so they no longer physical looked human? Would that make it okay for me to torture kill and eat them?

Obviously some changes would justify lowering the rights of you loved one (if they have an intelligence of a two year old they shouldn’t be able to vote) but I am not advocating for animals having equal rights to humans, just for us to not torture and kill them.

So to summarize, animals suffer just like humans do, and there is no reason to care about their suffering less, just like there is no reason to care about the lives of black people less than white people.

So after we decide that animals suffering is bad, how can we reduce it? Well one of the easiest ways is to stop buying animals products. By buying meat you are paying a group of people to breed, torture and kill animals and then deliver them to you so you can eat them. If you change your purchasing habits the amount of animals that they torture and kill will be lower.

Going vegan is much easier than most people think. You don’t need to make the transition right away. I would recommend first becoming a vegetarian for at least 6 months while you research and learn more about how to help animals and eat a healthy vegan diet. If going vegetarian seems like to much to start with 2 days a week of eating vegetarian, and then after a few weeks go to three days and so on. If you think “I could never go vegetarian because i love bacon to much” Why not try to cut out all meat except bacon? Giving up 90% of your meat intake is almost as good as giving up all meat.

So that is about all i have to say. In a future post I will go into much more detail and try to address all common counter arguments and give much more advice on the practical side of how to become vegan

“You shouldn’t feel guilty for being born with so much more than others”

A friend of mine once had a semi emotional breakdown about the fact that the world is so horrible, there are so many people suffering etc. In a way I was kind of insecure about this, because I consider myself to care more about that kind of thing than most people and I am doing more to help then she is, yet I don’t experience these negative emotions to the same degree she did. But then I reminded myself that 1) outwards burst of emotion like the one she had aren’t an accurate sign of a person’s emotional state and 2) it doesn’t matter how strongly I feel about something or how much I want something beyond how much that motivates me to act. What matters is what I actually do to steer the future in a better direction.

A friend of hers told her (paraphrased obviously):

“You should feel guilty about the fact that you have so much more than other people. You didn’t choose to be more in to a rich country with well off parents etc.”

(Her emotions at the time seemed to be more of the form of “I have so much, others have so little, I feel guilty” whereas mine are usually closer to “others have so little, actually, no one really has anything compared to the ideal situation, I need to do everything I can to make it better”)

When she told me about this I disagreed. Firstly I don’t have a guilt based moral system, but even if I did this argument wouldn’t completely resolve me of my hypothetical guilt. The example I gave was to imagine that everyone is created in a box, all able to see each others boxes but unable to leave our them. Also each box is a different size and has different amounts of food and other resources delivered to the box each day. In this scenario it would indeed be pointless to feel guilty for being created in a larger, more resource filled box that others that you can observe.

But if the scenario was changed so that you could divert resources from your box to other boxes and chose not to, than clearly you should feel guilty because you are choosing for them to not have the resources they need more than you.

Clearly we happen to be in the universe where you can divert resources from your box to others.

But I added, to help her through the emotional negatives she was going through, the way I get around thoughts of “oh god I’m not doing enough I’m bad arrrg self loathing” is to remind myself that I am much more motivated by positive emotions rather than negative emotions.

Example when I was in high school and I had an assignment, if it was behind schedule and I was worried I wouldn’t finish it on time I would hide in my room under my covers and not do anything. but if I think I can achieve my goal of completing the assignment I am much more likely to try and actually do it. In the same way if every time I thought about EA stuff I felt bad for not doing more I would just not dor EA stuff or not think about EA stuff.

There is a part of me that is worried that this isn’t true and that I am just rationalizing to avoid going down the unpleasant path of guilt as a motivator even if that path does more good. I guess we we’ll see what happens.

Thoughts on Antinatalism Part 1: Introduction + Strong and Weak Antinatalism

This is the first of several posts I will be making about Antinatalism. First this post will be introducing Antinatalism and my position towards it, then in late posts I will be directly engaging with Antinatalism arguments and finally presenting a way that Antinatalism doesn’t have to lead to a controversial conclusion

Antinatalism is the ethical position that the creation of new (usually human) life is morally wrong. Before arguing against this belief I would like to make a distinction between two different types of Antinatalism. It may be a distinction that already exists or it may not (I don’t remember seeing someone make a formal distinction between them), and I’m not sure how Antinatalists would feel me making it, but I think it will assist in our conceptual analysis of Antinatalism.

I am going to define Weak Antinatalism as the position that creating new life in our “current situation” is immoral but that it is not immoral in principle and there could be situations in the future where it would not be immoral to create new people. On the other hand, strong Antinatalism is the position that creating new life in principle is immoral regardless of the circumstances.

A Weak Antinatalist may use arguments such as “we currently have overpopulation so more children would be bad right now” or “the resources you use to raise one child could be used to help hundreds of children that already exist” and is more likely to identify with consequentialist moral framework. A Strong Antinatalist may use, along with the previously mentioned arguments used by Weak Antinatalists, arguments such as “a non-existent person can’t consent to being created, so by creating them you are violating their rights” or “it is always morally wrong to create harm and we can never guarantee that a person will not experience harm during their life time, therefore creating new people is immoral” and are more likely to identify with a deontological framework.

(Note: an Antinatalist doesn’t necessarily think that it is never the best available option to create new life such as in situation where someone says “make a baby or ill torture the whole human population for a million years” Antinatalists might see creating new life as a negative that can be outweighed by more negative but just that they would never see it as a positive in itself)

I make this distinction partly because I think it is a real distinction that relates to different groups of arguments and different underlying ethical frameworks and partly because I agree quite strongly with Weak Antinatalism and disagree quite strongly with Strong Antinatalism. I think that in the current situation that I am in (and that people like me are in) it is extremely selfish and immoral to have children and I will be making posts defending this position in the future. But I think that there are certain circumstances (that I hope will one day exist) where creating new humans would have extremely positive value.

The Antinatalist arguments I will be arguing against in the future posts are all Strong Antinatalism and I will usually refer to them as just Antinatalists. But when it is a relevant distinction to make I will make it and after arguing against Strong Antinatalism I will make posts arguing for Weak Natalism that will cause disagreement with Antinatalists and Natalists alike.