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Re: Striking a blow against the predatory guilds

I get the negative reaction to this from scientists (and, well, just about everyone), and I don't agree with it either, but I think it's only fair to point out that it rests on two commonly held assumptions:

 a. reducing suffering is a moral good or obligation
 b. animals suffer

If we believe that both these fairly reasonable assumptions are true, it seems entirely logical to me that we should be attempting to reduce the suffering of animals, wherever they may be. This is just a natural fleshing out of utilitarian ethics with a modern understanding of animal's mental states. The practicaities of doing that could be debated, but you'd still end up with something like it being good to eliminate predation and parasitism wherever possible.

Now, I think the problem lies with the assumption that reducing suffering is a moral good, and I personally believe that morality is more of a social contract (and I have no tacit agreement with some zebra for mutual protection from lions). However, this has it's own problems and might give up something about morality which we feel is important.

I don't think anything about any of the positions would argue that we have to hide the _fact_ of predation and suffering, and I don't think Jeff McMahan is arguing that either.



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On 20/09/2010 13:27, Dan Chure wrote:
Doctor of Philosophy Jeff McMahan, of Rutger's University has penned
what has to be one of the most absurd opinion pieces ever published in
the New York Times. In this on-line commentary, entitled The Meat
Eaters, Dr. McMahan argues that there is a case to be made for guiding
all carnivorous species to extinction and replacing them with
herbivorous ones. While a bit long, the last paragraph serves as a
useful summary of his "thoughts":

"Here then is where the matter stands thus far. It would be good to
prevent the the vast suffering and countless violent deaths caused by
predation. There is therefore one reason to think that it would be
instrumentally good if predatory animal species were to become extinct
and replaced by new herbivorous species, provided that this could occur
without ecological upheaval involving more harm than would be prevented
by the end of predation. The claim that existing animal species are
sacred or irreplaceable is subverted by the moral irrelevance of the
criteria for individuating animal species. I am therefore inclined to
embrace the heretical conclusion that we have reason to desire the
extinction of all carnivorous species, and I await the usual fate of
heretics when this article is open to comment."

The full fairy tale can be read at
<http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/09/19/the-meat-eaters/?hp> It
does not appear to be a very clever piece of satire.

And what about the children? Presumably we should also get rid of
exhibits of fossil carnivores, ranging from Smilodon to Tyrannosaurus,
because such exhibits merely exalt the carnivorous lifestyle and are
among the most popular of museum exhibits. What if the kids see them?