I became a vegetarian about 2 years ago, I believe it was May of 2008, after reading essays by philosopher Peter Singer (the book I read these essays in was Writing on an Ethical Life…if you happen to click on that link, you’ll understand why I ripped the cover off the book after I purchased it *shudder*). I’ve also attempted to be a vegan (with varying levels of success) for about a year. Now, I must qualify both of these descriptors of my diet, since I’m not really either, in the strict sense of never eating meat or animal products. For example, I will eat some kinds of animals without a second thought (most crustaceans, insects, some seafood…), and I will eat any animal (…except humans…I guess….) if I believe it has been raised humanely and slaughtered humanely (i.e. without due harm).
I don’t really feel like going through the whole logic of my decision, but if you are interested I would suggest you read the aforementioned book. However, a quick summary would probably go like so:
- some animals can suffer in, what I believe may be, a meaningful way.
- which animals can feel suffering, and to what degree, almost certainly depends on the complexity of their nervous systems (the organ that enables the feeling of pain).
- thus, if I were to line up animals on a blurry spectrum from animals that feel nothing to animals that have the potential to suffer the most, it would go as follows: insects < crustaceans < fish and small animals < cats, dogs, cows, pigs < humans and dolphins.
- the certainty I have that these creatures can feel pain decreases along that spectrum (from right to left obviously), and there comes a point where I’m sort of 50/50 as to whether or not the animal feels pain. That point is fish and small animals, and to be safe, I’ve tried not to eat any of those creatures.
- since most of the farm animals that are used for meat come from factory farm conditions, and slaugtherhouses that don’t try and reduce the animal’s pain, I decided to stop eating them (vegetarian).
that is: I can get along just fine without causing another creature pain just so that I can have a tastier meal (yes, I like the taste of meat. I still say that steak is my favourite food…)
- when I realized that the slaughtering part wasn’t the only point where an animal may suffer (terrible farming conditions), I decided to try and be a vegan.
How does this relate to the other blog posts I wrote? I guess I was trying to explain how consciousness is a weird thing, completely useless in terms of evolution, and probably only arises as a byproduct in animals (in different levels: dolphins and humans highest > primates > larger mammals > etc.) that have evolved complex brains used to deal with interpreting complex behaviour of other animals (predators, prey, friends and enemies). Hmmm, I guess I was giving some philosophy and science behind my vegetarian choice…
If anyone is a fan of Hofstradter, I would suggest reading I Am a Strange Loop….not because it’s as amazing as GEB, but because of his discussion of why he became a vegetarian (same reason as my own), and the way he dealt with the death of his wife (it’s very touching).
Here’s a presentation by Singer at Princeton titled The Ethics of What We Eat:
[note: This article seems unfinished to me…I may come back to it and edit it sometime in the future]