- McSpotlight -

The Pursuit of Ignorance

Posted by: Kevin Dempsey ( Student, Canada ) on September 06, 1998 at 00:32:38:

In Reply to: Yet to be answered... posted by Stuart Gort on September 05, 1998 at 15:31:42:

An example of an argument: I assert that eating chocolate is right BECAUSE my mother does it. You come along and say that the basis of my argument (namely that it rests on the fact that my mother does it so it's right) is not a valid justification. You proceed to point out that if things were right BECAUSE my mother did them, then by extension, the fact that my mother also poisons little children on Hallowe'en is also right. I say,"Gosh, I never realized how foolish my argument was, since it is based on an unreasonable justification. Thanks for pointing that out." I don't grumble about degrees of right and wrong, because I see the validity of the argument that my assertion is ill-founded, regardless of its reputed moral significance.

I don't care if you find my questioning of your assumptions repugnant, you merely discredit yourself by trying to make it look like I'm comparing two issues which I am not doing. (To satisfy your curiosity, although I have never been enslaved, and though I have never been forced off my land to make room for a cattle ranch, and though I have never been a tortured animal, and though I have never been robbed of my habitat by rain forest destruction, I DO believe that the many manifestations of pain and suffering that arrise because of factory farming are certainly as great (if such a thing is quantifiable) as those which come about because of slavery. I recognize that this will land me in some hot water, but I do not believe in hierarchies of Life, and I DO believe (unlike you) that humans are animals. These are my beliefs, and though they may lead me to argue, I will try not to rely on them as absolute truths. We agree that suffering is best when avoided, that is enough.

As for meat-eating being a "natural dietary compulsion", certainly throughout history, humans have maintained an omnivorous diet, but never has meat made up as high a percentage of our caloric and protein intake as it does currently in north america. Furthermore, in most other cultures today (speaking of course of people who aren't starving to death) animal protein intake is only a fraction of that found in north american diets, and certainly far less than half the total protein intake. The same cannot be said of north american diets. I won't quote specific stats today, since the library is closed today, and I would (for your benefit) prefer to provide refernces. (I will get back to you however, if you don't want to research it yourself.)

As for legality replacing morality when there is an absence of sufficient moral argument, I can only reiterate the information I know, which is as follows (and if this is not morally persuasive, then I don't know what is): As a DIRECT consequence of factory farming (which relies on north american meat eaters such as yourself to prosper) "many" animals are suffering "rather a lot" (understated for the benefit of your conservative sensibilities). As a further consequence, thousands (likely millions, but hey, let's keep understating) of subsistence farmers have been driven from their lands without compensation (i.e. they can no longer farm to survive) to make room for cattle ranches.

As a further consequence, rather complex ecosystems (such as rain forests, where thousands of species of insects can live under the canopy of a single tree) are destroyed (i.e. gone forever) to make room for cattle grazing. (Curious, isn't it, that tropical rain forests exist on a soil base so thin that only a system so intricate can thrive on it, and the quality and duration of grazing crops grown there barely make it worth the time and effort it takes to cut down the trees.)

Another consequence: habitat and ecosystem destruction contribute dozens (probably more, but let's still understate) of species to the list of exctinctions every year. Imagine that! Entire species wiped out forever. Research in the past decades show we are in the midst of one of the greatest mass extinctions know in geologic time. The amazing thing is, instead of occurring over tens of thousands of years, it can be measured by the span of just a few human generations. And we're responsible (except, of course, for Stuart.)

You are right, the planet has been dying since day one, and all creatures are dying from the day of their birth. I agree (for once.) I've been dying since day one, so have you. Is it therefore right for someone to come along and hurry up that process? Say you and I are out for coffee, chatting about biblical scholastics, and someone decides to come along and shoot us both. Well, she/he is entirely justified though, since, well we were both already dying. (I know, another of those types of arguments you so despise, but this time I'm not worried that you'll question whether I value my life or yours less than the Life of the entire planet. I do.)

Now we get to my favourite part: talking about the bible. Stuart, I have done my fair share of academic reading concerning the bible, as it was required for me to obtain my history/relion degree. Now, I may be a little rusty, but I'll give it a shot. All it would take is for you to attend a handful of lectures or read a handful of academic works to realize my "blanket assertion" about biblical scholars is true. The religion department I studied at was made up of numerous academics, mostly christians (too bad, 'cause I would have liked a few choices of topic), all of whom stressed the importance of recognizing the agendas and biases of biblical writers, translators, and interpreters. It's always the first question in an academic inquiry. You want a few names?: Peter Berger's "The Sacred Canopy" (he was a devout catholic), Rosemary Radford Ruether, Carol P. Christ, Elizabeth Schussler-Fiorenza, John Dominic Crossan, Albert Schweizer,...

Now for your three points. The majority of the new testament was written long after the apostles were supposed to have died. It was written by many people FOR many people, and the writers had agendas. They were promoting the religion, seeking converts. They also tried to maintain certain aspects of the status quo (each synoptic gospel has differing views regarding divorce for example, reflecting the beliefs of the three authors.) Furthermore, as it was translated and compiled, the new testament was manipulated to serve people's interests, hence we have letters attributed to Paul, but written by someone else. (Paul clearly respected women and believed to a degree in their rights to preach etc, yet pseudo-pauline letters contain clear mysogynist messages.)

The point is, the bible is and always has been used to further people's interests, which brings me to my earlier assertion: TODAY, the bible is turned to as a justification for our destruction of the planet and consumption of meat (you have repeatedly used it for this purpose yourself.) I am merely saying it is an unreliable justification.

Point two: If the bible teaches that destruction and suffering are the result of human sin, why do you persist on using it to justify the destruction and suffering which arrises because of factory farming?

Point three: The bible does not make life simple, it is USED as a tool by people to justify the consequences of their actions. When these consequences are justified, people no longer feel the need to feel guilty, thereby making their lives "simpler" (as in easier, as in less guilt-ridden.)

Lame and sophomoric and crude, eh? I'm glad you can sum up globalized starvation in three words like that. My beliefs are not based on the idle ramblings of disgruntled hippies, Stuart. I have read. I have read quite a bit. I have checked the sources and footnotes of the academic articles I have read. The above ARE the consequences of factory farming Stuart, not the concocted conspiracy theory of some drooling lunatics. Before you deny the credibility of my statements read a few books and articles on the beef industry, factory farming, and the impact of human society on the planet. Names? Jeremy Rifkin, Marvin Harris, C. David Coates, John A. Livingston... Stop mincing words about absolute truth. I only meant that when you bring indisputable beliefs into it (such as faith), there is no room for dialogue. The necessity of maintaining the beef industry is disputable. Factory farming is not divine, not yet anyways. It can be scrutinized.

It saddens me that you are so evidently proud of the stand you take in defence of factory farming. I don't find it "a bummer" that people remain (wilfully or otherwise) ignorant about the consequences of their choices, I find it outrageous and sickening and I will fight it until the day I die.

Incidentally, my mother, whom I love very much, is a meat-eating christian, and brought me to church throughout my childhood. So, yes, scholastics aside, I have read the bible, and it was long, long ago that I realized it was rife with contradictions and opposing messages. I pity someone who insists on using it as the only document to support their arguments, instead of opting to do a little research. Kevin

P.S.Clarification: My mom, to my knowledge, never poisoned a single trick-or-treater. K.

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