Religious bollocks against veganism, and rant about philosophers

Nearly all of the arguments against veganism are rooted in worldview shaped by Christian religion. The dogmas were formed precisely to relieve people from any responsibility towards animals, and potential moral discomfort caused by basic empathy. Yet, thanks to Darwin, modern society has grown to see similarities between humans, and non-human animals. The issue is, you cannot combine those two approaches, if you want to remain any logical consistency of your arguments. Now to prove that you can deconstruct just anything if you look at the root of the thought:

Lions hunt, this is the law of nature. Therefore humans can do whatever they want (?)

If we consider the religious point of view, humans differ from non-human animals, because they consist of two factors – the physical body that is merely a machine ruled by the laws of nature, and the spiritual mind, that is alike angels, and other spiritual, paranormal beings, in which religious folk believe. The spiritual mind is destined to continue to live forever, after the physical body dies. According to the religious teachings, the quality of the eternal life is determined by sacrifices, suffering, good actions, and lack of sinning in the mortal life. In fact, such things as indulgence in gluttony is considered one of the Seven Sins, while fasting is seen as proof of modesty, and adds up as the good deed.

Animals, according to the original religious teachings from Thomas de Aquino, are merely machines, stripped of any feelings, thoughts, and ability to experience things consciously, and eternal life. Their life is the only one they are given. Intuitively, killing and torturing animals seems like should be associated with gluttony, especially since we know well that they are not necessary for humans to survive in good health, which Thomas de Aquino must have known, since he has been aware of existence of religious cults that had forbidden animal consumption and abuse.

The less sense this argument makes, if humans are compared to lions. Even ignoring the obvious, which is the physiology of a carnivore versus physiology of a frugivore, humans are not considered machines in this context, hence they cannot be subjected to the same judgement, as a creature that supposedly cannot think, judge, control self, or feel. Comparing human to such is greatly against the whole idea that humans are created to resemble God, and their minds are like angels’.  There is no “law of nature” involved in this case. And the fact, that it is somewhat against human nature to withhold sympathy for animal suffering, was recognized by Cartesius, after all he was perfectly aware that all he is doing is to just make excuses for humans to feel better about astrocities they commit:

My stance is not cruel to animals, rather kind towards humans free from pitagorian superstition, for it relieves them of suspicion that they commit a crime when eating or killing animals.*

People have spent centuries trying to relieve the guilt. But seems like it stands rather against their religious values, which supposedly promotes virtues like kindness, empathy, sacrifice, self-control,  and altruism. In fact, many people in history have recognized this, and attempted to change the way the dogmas approach the issue. Luckily, many of them were successful, against the odds, yet there is still a long way to go, as in some aspects we have improved, but in others we got much worse. Regretfully, when the argument shifted from the religious dogma to naturalism, nothing changes:

I have been deeply bothered by regret regarding the disgusting horror of our meals, until upon deeper reflection I have concluded, that we have a right to it, on the power of the law of nature, first law being preying on the weaker. (Lord Chesterfield)*

Peter Singer, the author of Animal Liberation (2009) accurately commented on this statement:

It has not been noted if Chesterfield, following this claim, excused cannibalism as well.*

I am going to ignore for now the fact, that we know for a fact that nature is rarely cruel, and animals that are most alike to us (mammals, birds) show traits considered as noble, such as sympathy, sacrifice, altruism, and defending the weak. Herd strategy is based on defending the weak, and puts responsibility on the most fit. I do not want this rant to have infinite amount of pages, and intend to address just the basic arguments used against veganism, not go into deep analysis of biological facts, that have been mostly unknown to the people of earlier centuries (my point is not to prove that now we know better than them, but to show that they should have known better by the standards of their times, and that the excuse of lack of modern knowledge is irrelevant), so just to quote Principles of Moral and Political Philosophy by William Paley (1785):

It seems necessary to find a valid reason for the pain and loss that we inflict upon animals for the sake of our comfort and pleasure, taking their freedom, mutilating their bodies, and at the end, taking their lives from them (lives, that we suppose are the only ones they have).

To explain this practice […] they say that since various species of animals were created this way, so that one serves the other as prey, we can conclude by analogy that humans can find prey as well […] this analogy, however, is very flawed, for said animals have no other means to survive, while we do, because whole human species could survive consuming only fruits, seeds, herbs and roots, just like with many hindu tribes .

I suppose it’s difficult to defend this right with arguments of the law of nature, and that we have been given this right on the power of God, mentioned by the Holy Bible, Genesis.*

Personally, I cannot help but to view the often referenced, so called Big Thinkers (such as Aristotle, Cartesius, Thomas de Aquino, even Schopenhauer) as tiny, tiny men. After all, they rejected obvious truths, intuitive and natural to our kind, and the greatest products of their work were just frameworks designed to make excuses for their personal gains. They were unable to look past their subjective bias, and their mental gymnastics was mainly used just to create fictional, superficial, and illogical arguments to support their comfort, instead of challenging it. They catered to what I personally view as the traits of the lesser: narrow-mindness, bias, egoism, and refusal of taking responsibility for their actions and the effect they have on other living beings, while at the same time claiming to be something greater. At the end, they were no different than modern, confused commonfolk on the internet, who are not ready for the knowledge we have acquired as a society. As many sources show, they have been praised as the thought-leaders of their times, yet in reality, the ones who truly were outstanding, and thinking way ahead of their times, were their opposition, mostly remaining unrecognized.

The sources of the mindset that allows humans to excuse their crimes against animals show pretty well, that this is a house made of cards. There is no strong logical consequence to it, there is nothing of substance, just pure biased excuse motivated by emotions, or rather just guilt and responsibility avoidance. We should not rely on the inferior minds, and instead strive to be better than that. And the more capable intellectually the person is, the bigger offence it is to their faculties, for them to follow such flawed ways. The stupid cannot help their limitations, so it is on the thinkers to take the lead. Luckily, current trend of academic philosophy shows great promise, perhaps I will write about it another time.

*all marked quotes were loosely translated by me from a Polish source. This may vary from the original.

If you’re curious about the history of how people debated animal rights, this may interest you: Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Animal Consciousness, Animal Liberation (Peter Singer)

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