Saturday, April 23, 2005

Finger-lickin' Good

The recent Wendy's "finger in the chili" scandal brings an interesting question from the VegBlog. Why would people be so concerned about a finger in chili? They are eating meat anyway, what's the difference?

Of course I can understand that people would be angry to find something in their food that they did not expect to be there, even if it was just a piece of fish or something in Wendy's chili. The idea of eating a finger, though, shouldn't be perceptibly different from eating a cow, or a chicken.

I've explained before some good arguments to stop eating meat, but this issue reeks of speciesism. What is the difference between eating the flesh of a human or eating the flesh of an animal?

I had a debate with a friend on this very issue a few days ago, and he lodged all the regular objections. Animals are not rational, and it is rationality that makes humans human. Animals aren't worth as much as humans, so it is alright to eat them. Animals kill each other, so we can kill them. His objections were standard, and all failed to support his point. Every definition of human that he gave (rational, having a "soul," etc.) excluded some people who we would generally describe as human. His estimations of worth neglected the fact that animals do, in fact, suffer, even if they aren't worth anything, and that the suffering of animals is not different, objectively, from the suffering of humans. In the end, he admitted that his view was entirely dogmatic, but was unconcerned with this fact. After repeated attempts to explain why a dogmatic belief was not one worth holding, he simply decided that reason and logic weren't for him, and we dropped the subject.

I believe that the reason we are adverse to eating human flesh is simply due to our evolutionary psychology. Our ancestors in the EEA found that eating friends hindered their ability to survive, and this nature evolved in us a natural dislike of eating humans. Still, today, in our fantastically rational society, people can't get over this little evolutionary catch-all.


Anonymous Aaron Brown said...

Excellent points. I totally agree. I've always felt that one of the biggest perceptual errors in modern society is the inability to believe that humans are just animals. Sure, we're bipedal, tool-using, symbol-manipulating animals, but still animals. We're not ontologically all that different from other mammals and I would say not ontologically different at all from higher primates.

I think this insistance on lumping humans into a special, non-animal category leads to some pretty stupid and selfish behaviours on the part of our species, especially when it comes to the environment and the natural world in general. After all, why keep the rain forest around, when only animals live there? Sure, it sucks that millions of them will die, but it'll make us more comfortable in the short term, and our immediate comfort is way more important than the lives of lowly animals, . . . Etc.

3:57 AM  

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