I have an email question from a member ofthe studio audience.
I have been reading you blog for over a year now but and maybe I have missed it. But do you have any writings about vegetarianism and the moral implications of both or either side?
One thing that I have written is an article called The Predator Problem.
It concerns a question that animal rights advocates need to answer about the legitimacy of a predator - such as a lion - killing and eating a prey animal. If it is wrong for a human to kill another animal, then it is also wrong for one animal to kill another animal - and for humans to sit back and do nothing while this wrong is committed.
The standard animal rights response to this objection is to say that predators such as lions are not moral agents. As such, they cannot be blamed for what they do. They lack the capacity to know or to act based on their knowledge of right and wrong.
However, this response does not work.
First, the fact that the predator is not a moral agent does not imply that we should do nothing if an animal should try to kill and eat a human being. Our moral obligations still compell us to go to the rescue of any human being attacked by an animal.
If we add to this obligation the proposition that animals have rights, then we have the same duty to prevent an attack on another animal as we do to prevent an attack on another human being. The assertion that the attacker is not a moral agent turns out to be irrelevant. The assertion that the attacker is not a moral agent does not imply that we should do nothing while non-moral agents inflict pain and suffering on others.
Second, I am not talking about the morality of the animal's actions. I am talking about the morality of our actions insofar as we act to prevent or to allw the predatory acts of predatory animals. I am writing about our acts, as moral agents, to interfere or to permit this behavior on the part of non-moral arguments. The question does not concern the moral legitimacy of the animal's actions as non-moral agents. The question concrs the moral legitimacy of our behavior with respect to allowing or or preventing predator attacks on other animals, particularly in light of the death and suffering that prey animal.
So, we could take the predators of the universe and kill them all to keep them from killing the prey. However, this fundamentally goes against the proposition that animals have a basic right to stay alive. We could keep the predators alive, but the killing of the prey animals contradicts the proposition that animals have a right to stay alive as well.
The article mentioned above goes into more detail. Ultimately, I argue that animals do not have an aversion to death (a being can have an aversion only to those things one can comprehend), and that animals do not have the capacity to comprehend death. Therefore, the can have no aversion to death.
They can (and do) have an aversion to pain, but not to death.
So, killing them cannot (at least directly) thwart the desires of an animal by killing it. The desire utilitarian needs to come up with a different reason not to kill animals - if there is another reason to be had.