- McSpotlight -

Pursuit of peace

Posted by: Stuart Gort ( USA ) on September 06, 1998 at 11:24:48:

In Reply to: The Pursuit of Ignorance posted by Kevin Dempsey on September 06, 1998 at 00:32:38:

: 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.

No sir, not quite. I'm saying that if the vast majority of historical and contemporaneous man eats meat (we are talking about the highest of percentages here Kevin) then those who don't eat it can be relegated to the category of aberrant and their claims of moral superiority are suspect. We need to seperate the act of eating meat from the issue of factory farming for the purposes of this moral argument. Factory farming is less defensible than eating meat in general. My points in the thread with Mike were perhaps not well understood because of this. My real contention is the moral condemnation of meat eating in general. It seems to me ludicrous to condemn a practice which has not been questioned (in the 6000 years of recorded history) until fairly recently and then only condemned by a very small percentage of the population who generally use unjustified morality as a weapon.

: 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.

Well, you've pointed out our primary point of contention. Only when
you don't believe in the hierarchies of life can you make the direct
comparison to the suffering of men and animals. I expect we understand
each other better now. I don't neccessarily believe in the hierarchy
of life as you may perceive me to. I believe man is dominant over all
created life. After that there is only the food chain. Suffering is
best when it is avoided. I don't support cruelty to anything but I'm
able to justify much of what the meat industry does. Those things which
are exessive must be evaluated one at a time with me. For instance, I'm
not so anthropomorphic as to believe that a cow contemplates his demise
to any meaningful degree. That is pure emotionalism. Some people at
this site do that and it makes me laugh actually. The practice of
stuffing calves in small quarters and depriving them of light to
bleach them is wrong.

: 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.)

Fair enough.

: 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.

I'm not buying the depth of this argument. Farmers have been driven
from their lands for every reason since the beginning of time Kevin. I
don't have the energy to feel bad for each one. No doubt there are many
anecdotal stories of tradgedy here. Do you lament the demise of the
buggy whip industry too? I bet not since it has little to do with meat
(unless you count the horses who ended up as dog food). I wonder if
those subsistence farmers are capable of doing anything else to care
for their families as the world changes around them. I also wonder why
I must be made to feel guilty for that constant change. To take this
to the extreme, we have to evaluate every single choice, action, and
step we make to determine its effect on the world around us. Of course,
you're not really living if you worry about everything all day. The
absolute extention of this line of reasoning is that humans have no
right to exist at all because of the suffering their presence creates
on the surface of the planet. So, to connect my meat eating with a
farmer losing his farm in Brazil is unreasonable to me.

: 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.)

First of all, the world is a biological system. If you cut every bit
of the rain forest down the resulting buildup of CO2 gas will stimulate
growth elsewhere and result in balance. This is not debatable Kevin.
As far as species depletion goes; If you shed one tear for every
extinct species since the beginning of time we would all drown. I don't
advocate the cutting down of the rain forest or species depletion but
I'm nowhere near valuing a species before a man's ability to make a
living. Of course my attitude about this has limits which fall into the
good stewardship category. Placing man at the top of the food chain
promotes a certain conservationist attitude which looks to man's best
interests. When it is completely apparent that these practices threaten
man's existence I'll have more to say about it. For now, the fact that
there are plenty of biologists out there who suggest that his whole
species depletion argument is way overblown causes me to sit and wait.
Finally, the suspicion that the green movement consists primarily of
displaced, disenfranchised socialists causes me to scrutinize claims
made by those groups and the sincerity of their mission.

: 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.)

I don't advocate the hastening of death. I do suggest that to
dedicate oneself to preventing it is misguided. I also suggest that
the world is finite and man should consider that and hold that in
perspective so that he turns his thoughts to God.

: 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.

Of course, this is an assertion based on the fact that original
manuscripts do not exist of the various texts. Speaking of only the
gospels for starters, the vast majority of scholars accept the
following as the dates of writing;

Matthew - 48-52 A.D. - primarily due to the references to the gospel
of Matthew included in the writings of Didache, Barnabus, Ignatius, and
Justin Martyr (time established writings). Add to that the testimony of
the early church and the idiosyncrasies of Matthew contained in the
book (he was a tax collector and referred to money more than the others
- for instance) and you have a logical case. No mention of the fall of
Jeruselam (70 A.D.) except as prophecy also sets the date prior to your
assertion - unless you claim that the whole thing was made up to look
younger than it was.

Mark - 67-70 A.D. - The church father Irenaeus writes that Mark
(Peter's latin interpreter) wrote his account of Christ after the
death of Peter in Rome (67 A.D.). Again, with no referrence to the
fall of Jeruselem (70 A.D.) in this account (or any other) the
deduction is made as to the date of writing. You suggest that this
is fraudulent?

Luke - 58-62 A.D. The trained observer notes that the same author wrote
the book of Luke and Acts. Same educated, literary style. Both were
written and submitted to Theophilus. Acts even suggests that its writer
has made a previous account of Christ to Theophilus (Acts 1:1). The
very abrupt ending of the gospel of Luke suggests that Luke (Paul's
good friend) quickly left Rome at the time of Paul's death (62 A.D.)
and sent his writings from Caesarea to Theophilus. The literary
style and situational timing of these books must have been subtely
injected into these great works of fraud for your premise to stand.

John - 80-90 A.D. John was the only disciple to die a natural death.
This happened in exile on the island of Patmos. There were fragments
of John's gospel found in Egypt which date very early in the second
century and require a late first century compositional dating. You
don't get to argue this one Kevin.

:: 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.)

Please eloborate with scriptural references or don't bother to
mention it. I'm not going to take your word on this stuff Kevin.

:: 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.)

References please. Your assertions will not suffice.

:: 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.

I brought up the Bible in the thread with Mike mainly as an example
of the historical record of meat consumption - not the destruction of
the planet. Furthermore, because I believe the Bible I can justify meat
eating as a normal and natural thing that God condones. I do not
characterize meat eating as the destruction of the planet. I find that
statement to be a way overblown emotional justification of a lifestyle

: 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?

I dismiss your destruction theories as an overeaction and don't
advocate torture. Your premise dies if the destruction component is
gone and the suffering component is marginalized. To address suffering
we must define the word. If you feel like writing back would you please
do that for me. In this area we run into subjective reasoning and argue
semantics without defining our terms. I have no problem with hunting
for food, for instance. I have no problem with responsible animal
husbandry to raise food. I have no problem with factory farming without
certain abuses. I don't advocate destruction and suffering and I don't
use the Bible to do it. It is any characterization of meat eating as
immoral, destructive, and torturous that I react to and disagree with.
The Bible, which offers only a chronicled listing of meat eating
activities, and offers some credence to the higher valuation of man vs.
animals in God's eyes was referenced to support that idea only.

: 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.)

True. Selfish people attempt to subordinate God to do their bidding
all the time. If we clear up the above argument this one will fall with

: 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.

Yes, but of course I was reacting to what you actually said which
was, "tonight, 10 people are likely going to go without food because
the grain they could have eaten was used to fatten the cow your dinner
came from". There Are 20 ways to refute an idea this ridiculous. Any
person spending a modicum of time thinking about his will do the same.
I'll just use the logical extention of this reasoning and suggest that
if your statement is true, there can be no justification for meat
eating at all. Combine that with the fact that I might have raised that
cow myself and fed him grass out of my field (which wouldn't be
desirable to any but the hungriest of third world poor) instead of your
mystically static grain supply and you're starting to look sophomoric
alright. Much as your guilt ridden heart desires it to be true Kevin,
third world starvation is not due to my dietary habits. It is
absolutely astounding to me that you wish me to bear the burden of
guilt for a third world country and its internal social problems.

:: 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

I thank you humbly for your arrogant pity Kevin. Perhaps you would
like to discuss those contradictions and opposing messages in the Bible
instead of dismissing them out of hand. As for your mother, have you
ever accused her of immorality, cruelty, or destructivness? Do you pity
her too?

Stuart Gort

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