Friday, August 7, 2009

Episode 49 Liars for Jesus with guest Chris Rodda

Chris Rodda, MRFF researcher and author of Liars for Jesus, joins us on the show. She exposes the right wing theocrats who are rewriting history claiming America was founded to be a Christian nation. The NCBCPS Bible as Literature curriculum has already introduced these fictions into public schools across the nation. Making things worse, the Texas Board of Education has hired historical revisionist David Barton to review the state's social studies curriculum. Rodda explains what this could mean for textbook publishers in the United States. Also in this episode: the doubtcasters answer email criticizing their case for vegetarianism.

To download this or any previous Reasonable Doubts episodes click here. Find the episode you want and right click the "play now" link and select "save target as..."


Jeremy said...

Note to listeners:

The NCBPSC has released a revised edition of their bible as lit text that has corrected some of the mistakes mentioned on this episode.

I will give a short update on the next show.

ImagineATeapot said...

It may be a good idea for Atheists to have a homeschool logic course for their kids so they critically review the revisionist nonsense slopped at them in public school. Use educational resources provided by Atheist and Skeptic society groups.

tinyfrog said...

Regarding vegetarianism:

I remember someone making the comment a few podcasts ago that when they want to eat meat, then think about what it would be like to eat their cat, and how their cat would feel about it.

My thought on the issue was that (1) you have an emotional bond to your cat, so are less likely to be willing to harm it. (2) A cow has a lot more meat than a cat. I wouldn't kill a cat for meat because you'd get 1/2 pound of meat after killing one animal. A cow, on the other hand, gives you hundreds of pounds of meat for one animal's suffering. I have to wonder if all my beef consumption in my whole life adds up to just one cow's death. If so, I think I'd be willing to kill one cow in order to eat beef for the rest of my life. In fact, based on that, eating fish might cause a lot more suffering than eating beef. You have to kill hundreds of fish (that's hundreds of times as many living creatures experiencing suffering) to add up to one cow's death. A google search I did turned up claims that one cow yields 300-600 pounds of meat. Maybe, if we want to reduce suffering, we should think about eating large, dumb animals rather than small, smart ones - just to give us the best "pounds of meat per unit of suffering". :)

Also, I didn't really buy your argument about plants needing us to eat them to procreate. Or, the related claim that hemp benefits because we smoke it (and therefore plant it). Afterall, you could make the same claim about animals - the fact that we eat meat means that we raise animals, which means we take an active role in helping them procreate and become numerous. Isn't it Wyoming that has more cows than humans? Can anyone seriously claim that those cows would exist if we weren't raising them for meat? If you accept the "hemp benefits from us smoking it" argument, I don't understand why you can't use the same argument for raising/killing cattle. Yes, cattle might suffer in death, but I'm just saying "they get procreation out of the deal" works for both plants and domesticated animals.

David Burchall ( said...


As a skeptic I question the validity of you argument in support of vegetarianism on the basis of reducing harm or suffering (they are not the same thing). It seems you fail to understand what pain is and therefore don't recognize it's analog in the plant kingdom.

It is known that EVERY organism has mechanism that notifies it of injury so as to trigger a response aimed at reducing/avoiding the injury to itself and/or others of its kind. In humans we call this "pain". Because we recognize someone of ourself in non-human animsal (they have nervous sytems and are closer to us on the evolutionary tree than other lifeforms) we've extended the word "pain" to them.

However, is it has been known for some time that plants too to have injury avoidance systems. Some plants react to external threats by releasing chemicals into their own bodies that turn them bitter to make it less likely that the animal chomping on their poor little leaves will continue. Some of these plants even release chemicals into the air to notify others of its species around them of the injury. In response the others receiving these signals will embitter their own bodies. (A quick search online will confirm that.)

This is not much different from what happens with us. Something injurs us and the almost automatic response is to emit vibrations into the air (make a noise). Why do you think we do that? For the same plants reason plant emit the chemicals into the air. To notify others of our kind in the vacinity that there is a threat.

Knowing this, can you honestly say that plants don't feel pain? Saying they have no nervous system to experience what that "pain" is unsatisfactory and arbitrary. They are acting, in as much as they have evolved to be able to, in their own interest to continue life and reproduce. Some people have the rare condition of feeling no pain. If "feeling pain" or being consciously aware of it in a nervous system is the criterion applied for what we should eat, it should be okay to eat those people. Why not? They don't don't suffer pain.

If the objection to that is that those people have interest that they work to protect, so does the plant. It's evidenced by their ability to respond to injury. In any event, "interest" isn't a satisfactory argument either. It could be argued that someone in a coma has no decernable interest either. We all still would consider eating them immoral.

At some point, you MUST accept that it is entirely satifactory to act in the interest of humans simply because you are human. Other forms of life then will not be given the same right to life and pain-free existence. Every lifeform has evolved to protect ITSELF. Those putting forth moral arguments to change our evolutionary heritage may indeed upset the natural balance in a way that become injurous to humans.

The best solutions I can think of if we cannot give up these silly moral arguments over food is to put our efforts into creating food that requires no injury to plant or animal. Such research is being done...although for the purposes of cloning body parts for medical use. Think of the possibility to grow nutrition in that way. We could also do research to figure out how to raise plants and animals that do not have any injury response systems thus avoiding causing any pain to anything we kill to eat.

I'm really interested in your response to this.

Brooks said...

Of course I agree we need to have more humane regulations of places like farms and whatnot, but if I'm understanding this argument correctly, we should not eat meat because we don't want to cause harm to other humans, so since animals also feel pain like humans, we should not eat animals to be consistent? But since dead human bodies don't feel pain, is it ok to eat dead bodies?

David Burchall said...

I also wanted to point out that it is believed that meat eating was a major contributing factor that allowed our very ancient ancestors to begin to grow these large brains making consciousness possible. Had our herbivorous predessors not began to eat animals, we probably wouldn't even exist.

The problem with vegetarianism for large portions of human populations is that we aren't designed to eat only plant foods. There is good reason why the few groups of people who have turned to strick veganism are small and experience failure to thrive in childhood often, and have low muscle mass and bone density.

We rich people (those of us living in industrial nations) can afford to manufacture and buy enough artificial foods from plants giving us adequate proteins. Yet we continue to find out the dangers of these food.

They come with high consumption of carbohydrates which we have not yet as a species evolved to handle without ill effect. They also come with naturally occuring chemical constitutes that disrupt the endocrine system. In the case of soy, estrogen-like plant hormones cause problems for people by throwing off our endogenous hormonal balance. Soy also comes with anti-nutrients which bind with nutrients we need thus lower the absorption of essential nutrients. The reason people in asian cultures haven't suffered these effect so much is that most soy consumed by them is fermented thus looses much of the things that are bad for us. Unfermented soy is eating in small amounts. And they don't eat soy to the exclusion of meat. The third problem with these invented foods are the high incidents of allergies to proteins we aren't designed to eat in significant amounts. That goes for soy and other legumes and grasses (wheat, etc.).

So, if we are to abandon animal foods in an effort to be more moral, we first need to figure out how to get adequate protein for thriving without also hurting ourselves. It is immoral to require that humans give up animal foods in light of the potential harm it can do to humans (physically and psychologically when they can't hold to that vegetarianism).

Michael said...

On the topic of vegetarianism (particularly in eastern Asia), you might be interested in The China Study by T. Colin Campbell.

Excellent podcast today, guys. Keep up the great work!

Tedster said...

The reason why I am a vegetarian is because I think we have too many people on this planet to sustain a meat diet. Cows for example require 1000 gallons of water for each pound. Cows also require 20x as much land for crops needed to feed then the same about a veggies eaten directly.

Brandon T. Bisceglia said...

Okay. I've been vegan for quite a few years. I draw my line at animals with a central nervous system. Although David Burchall makes a good point that all living things exhibit some kind of avoidance behavior towards negative stimuli, animals with central nervous systems are the only ones that we know experience "pain" in a similar manner as we do.

As the boys said, though, there doesn't have to be a strict line here. It's about avoiding as much pain to others as you can.

I totally disagree with the "evolutionary heritage" argument. Slavery and rape have also long been a part of our heritage, and have often served the long-term interests of those in power. That doesn't mean we should continue doing it.

If this were 100 years ago, I probably wouldn't consider being vegan, because it would be difficult to get the proper nutrients. But they're available today. You can live quite well without meat. The stereotype of the withered vegetarian simply isn't true. I've known quite a few over the course of my life, and they range everywhere from skinny to fat.

There's another misconception about vegetarianism related to this. Some people still think veg's are all sickly (though these days people seem to assume that I'm "super-healthy more often). Understand: vegetarianism can be healthy or unhealthy. Oreos are vegetarian. Eating healthy is eating healthy.

The last thing I want to say is that one needn't look to moral arguments outside of humanity to understand why at least reducing our meat intake would have all kinds of benefits to humans. We're talking of everything from less pollution to feeding the world's hungry to reducing improving health to opening more land in the USA to uses besides cattle and their feed.

And the protein argument simply doesn't fly with me. In a January 27, 2008 article for The New York Times titled “Rethinking the Meat Guzzler,” reporter Mark Bittman pointed out that Americans account for only 5% of the world’s population, yet we process more than 15% percent of the world’s livestock.

“Americans are downing close to 200 pounds of meat, poultry and fish per capita per year (dairy and eggs are separate, and hardly insignificant), an increase of 50 pounds per person from 50 years ago,” wrote Bittman. "We each consume something like 110 grams of protein a day, about twice the federal government’s recommended allowance; of that, about 75 grams come from animal protein.”

I never preach to anyone as an individual that they "should" become a vegetarian. I don't believe in forcing my lifestyle on others, and I know that there are legitimate cases where certain people simply can't have a completely meatless diet. But I also don't think there's any strong factual case against it.

And there's absolutely no argument for eating the quantities of meat that Americans eat.

geekyatheist said...

Looks like some other people are already jumping on this. I admit that I would like to reduce suffering, but I don't think that cutting out meat does any better than moving towards more humanely run producers. I think a key thing for people that are interested in this is to look into where the meat they're buying really comes from. I think it's a wrong goal to say that we want to eliminate suffering -- that's an impossible goal to acheive, but if we only talk about limiting or reducing, there are many more means to the end goal.

I'd like to go ahead and link to just a recent study that suggests some plants are indeed self aware:

We already know that plants can respond to "attacks" by various means, but this study is particularly interesting. Researchers at UC Davis cloned these sagebrush seeds and planted them nearby each other. They then clipped one plant's branch, and found that nearby neighbors to the clipped plants (no direct physical contact by roots or branches) actually boosted their defenses and had less leaf damage through the season than did neighbors to unclipped plants.

I think that by attempting to define what suffering is leaves out (no pun intended) an entire class of creatures that either we already know about or have yet to discover. For example, what if a creature evolved on another planet to not even have what we would recognize as a central nervous system? Would it then be ethical to eat them?

I know that speaks in hypotheticals, but that shows how if we try to define what "suffering" is, we will only serve to arbitrarily restrict our definition based on what we actually need to survive. I think that if we honestly define suffering, it would include many plants as well.

My personal philosophy is only buy and eat what you need, try to minimize wasted food of any kind, and buy responsibly when possible (ie, investigate where things are coming from). Plants and animals share a common ancestry and intertwined past. We fall prey too often to feeling like certain animals are more human than others. Once you realize this is a false distinction, where do you draw the line? Nervous system? Well, we can show that creatures without a nervous system directly respond to attacks and up its own defense mechanisms. While we can show for sure that technically this isn't pain as we feel it, I argue that it is what they would call pain if they were sentient. What is pain to us? It's a reaction to a stimulus that the body thinks is harmful that provides hormonal adjustments (adrenaline, for example) to attempt to help get out of the painful situation. What is a plant doing when it boosts its defenses in reaction to a nearby plant being clipped? It's adjusting its own chemical balances to better ward off attackers. I don't see how this is truly that different.

I'm rambling now. It's an interesting topic to discuss, but I think the conclusion is taken too far sometimes.

tinyfrog said...

While I am a meat-eater, I did want to respond to the posts claiming that plants react to being cut or damaged. I actually disagree with that line of argument. The fact that an organism reacts in self-preserving ways to damage does not make it directly parallel to the experience of pain. It just means that they have evolved to release chemical signals when damaged which causes the plant to react in various self-preserving ways.

To put it another way: I write software. One of my jobs is to write AIs (artificial intelligence). Now this AI that I write isn't "sentient" or "conscious". It does react to what humans do, however. The mere fact that it reacts does not mean that it experiences pain. I know where all the bits and bytes are going inside the software. It's very deterministic, and I can't see any place where "consciousness" or "experience" could exist within the system. One could make the comparison to plants - the fact that they react does not mean that they experience pain. They don't seem to possess any kind of consciousness (though, we *could* be wrong about that). Animals, on the other hand, have a recognizable brain and mind. I think it's reasonable to suggest that they also possess consciousness (like humans).

There are, of course, medieval people who claimed that animals were mere automatons who reacted *as if* they were experiencing pain, but were mere puppets. This was the justification for vivisection of animals.

In my opinion, the "animals possess consciousness" and "other humans possess consciousness" arguments are persuasive, but the "plants possess consciousness" argument to be wrong. Merely pointing out the fact that plants react does not mean that they have consciousness of pain. We may be wrong about that, of course, but that's the way it seems to me.

Lostie said...

As a counter to Tinyfrog (August 8, 2009 11:28 AM) I would suggest that it comes down to empathy.

Of course, as humans, we associate the 'alarm system' of our body with the feelings of discomfort we associate with it. The amount of discomfort is directly proportional to the seriousness of the threat that triggered the alarm (compare to a fire alarm with different levels of noise for "prepare to exacuate" and "evacuate"). A mosquito bite is a mild discomfort while the bite of a dog would certainly not be minor, and the 'alarm' for a cut, or is different to the 'alarm' for a the tearing of a bite.

When we see that same event occurring to a being with which we can empathise, we assume that they are feeling the same way as we would from that event. We are incapable know knowing exactly how it 'feels' to the victim.

The perfect example is a dislocated finger. As someone who is fairly active in a sport where I dislocate fingers a couple of times during the year (say 5 or 6 times in a season). I've never found the discomfort of such a dislocation enough to stop me playing the game (nor going to work the next day). Now I do little more than pop it back in and keep playing. To another person that sees that injury they will empathise with me, and assume that I am feeling the same discomfort as they would feel in the same case. They have no way of know how it actually feels to me, only the value to which they imagine it would hurt if they suffered the same thing.

That feeling of discomfort will advise me of the damage done to my hand. It will initiate default responses such as releasing chemicals to dull my senses, swelling to immobilise the area and cause the area to be sensitive to further damage (an alarm that is greater that it would be if there were no existing injury).

Now if that injury is done to an animal we can empathise with the reaction of the animal (such as a dog limping after jumping over something) and as such we assume 'suffering' equal to the discomfort that we would be suffering to display those symptoms (swelling, in ability to support weight etc).

With plants we do not have this same empathy because we have no manner in which to compare the 'discomfort' (if any) suffered by a tree with a broken branch as compared to a broken leg in a dog.

If we compare that to another living thing (as opposed to a lifeless computer system) with with we have little to no empathy, it is impossible to imagine 'discomfort' that we would experience. For example lizards that are capable of dropping their tails if they are threatened or attacked by a bird (we have no way of empathising with the loss of a tail) or the shedding of a skin by a snake.

I appreciate that a tree and an animal have fundamental differences, but the point remains that just because we don't empathise with the tree does not mean that it does not feel and equivalent level of suffering. In injury we equate 'discomfort' with suffering, however, I would argue that the absence of 'discomfort' as we know it does not mean the absence of suffering.

Having said all of that, I dontr know if trees feel pain, but I can tell you this. I'm happy to take my pruning shears to a tree and lop off a few of it's extremities but I certainly would not be willing to do the same to my dog (although the way it whines and squeals and thrashes about when I'm trimming it's nails, you could be forgiven for thinking otherwise).

While I have no idea whether the plant suffers, I do know that it's in my best interest that the shrub looks exactly the way I want it to, and the shrub (usually) is able to live with that.

Anyhow, I'm off to have a meat pie for lunch - I hope my lunch died as quickly, and with as little discomfort, as possible (the wheat in the pastry included).

Brandon T. Bisceglia said...

Trying to define the difference between animals' and plants' experience really isn't going to get us anywhere. I also happen to believe that plants have some basic level of consciousness. There was an interesting article that suggested this in the last issue of Scientific American Mind. Here's a link:

The fact remains, however, that not eating meat does reduce suffering. Every animal we eat must eat tons of plants to grow to the point where we can eat them. Each steak you eat has also caused "suffering" to countless plants just to get to your plate.

From a simple energy standpoint, eating meat is a waste of resources.

All that aside, if there was a way not to eat anything living and survive, I'd gladly adopt that option. However, no such diet exists yet. That doesn't justify eating meat in the meantime, though, since we have do have the ability to cut at least that much suffering out of our world. Just because one door is closed doesn't mean we shouldn't walk through any of the open ones.

Jason said...

Hey guys, great show.

On the animal ethics debate, we have had the same issues raised lately on our podcast and blog at the Young Australian Skeptics. Check out this post plus the comments; Is meat the Skeptics cryptonite?

Skepoet said...

I am a pescetarian for health reasons and ethical ones, but it appears you guys opened a can of worms here on the dietary issues.

But the other issues in this show are vital, and we use the Bible as literature cir. state wide in Georgia, BUT most counties don't use it because we luckily we don't have the money to push the issue.

This is a great episode. Linking to it.

David said...

I would just like to make one point about the Christian nation vs secular nation debate. One fact I see as a supporting argument from the secularists is citing of the 1796 Treaty of Tripoli. I think the use of this treaty as support for the secular nation thesis is flawed in that it is can be so easily brushed aside. First, the treaty came 9 years after the Constitution was written. Second, a motive for misrepresentation can be alleged because the US had an interest in denying itself as a Christian nation and not hostile to Muslims as an attempt to broker a peace deal. Finally, it seems to be an obscure fact to bring up. The Contitution, Decleration, and the writings of the author's of the Constitution seem to me to be more reputable and relvant sources of evidence.

I should note that I do agree with the view that we were founded as a secular nation, and that I am not well learned with this period of American history. I just have always felt that when trying to defend the secular nation view and I hear defenders cite this Treaty right after they cite the first amendment, I cringe at the citation so early on in their case. I think this Treaty as a major support is on shacky ground and can be easily attacked by the opposition. My suggestion would be to list stronger pieces of evidence first and use the Treaty much later.

jasonb said...

It's remarkable how Vegans/Vegetarians (VVs) are so quick to pooh-pooh the thought that plants be given the same consideration as animals when it comes to suffering. Unfortunately, science (the Max Planck Institute no less) has shown otherwise:

VVs want others to go do research and learn about the tragedy of farm-raised animals and the harm to the environment. Yet, they won't reciprocate and do the research about plants. Why? Because, as one host put it, "Well, we've got to eat something." That hardly gives one the right to treat plants differently from animals. Plant farming has a huge carbon footprint, and yet VVs load up their grocery cart without batting an eye.

I was a VV until I ran across research about plants and their ability to feel pain. I’m not interested in doing harm to any life and this information forced me to reevaluate my position. Taking the life of any living thing should be frowned upon.

How is it possible that VV’s perspectives are ultimately kept from aligning with the beliefs of Jansim? A Jane would just shake their head upon listening to the diet of a vegan. Even Singer acknowledges this a major shortcoming of VVs.

One can survive on water and jugular blood from a bovine (which is done without killing the animal). I suggest stepping up to the plate. Doing anything less than this obviously brings one's morals into question.

jasonb said...

Posted wrong URL. Should be:

Other correction: Jainism (Jain)

Brandon T. Bisceglia said...

Even if you could survive on the jugular blood of a bovine for long periods of time, that bovine would still need to eat plants - more plants than you would, in fact.

I'll reiterate: as a vegan, I never said that plants don't suffer at all. What I said was that eating only plants REDUCES the total amount of suffering by cutting wasteful "energy middlemen" out of the picture.

By not eating meat, you reduce the number of animals killed AND the number of plants killed. Until we can develop a completely inorganic source of nutrition, we have to be satisfied with that much.

What doesn't make any sense to me is the argument that plants suffer, too, and therefore that justifies eating animals.

David Burchall said...

To the poster that equated our evolutionary heritage to slavery, I take special offense to as a black American. We came to be through evolution. And our natural diet is omnivorous with the high protein content of meat a large factor in the development of these big brains we have. That has nothing to do with slavery which is a cultural artifact.

This argument is no different that a religious argument over morality. Create an artificial morality that serves only to divide people - 'us' the more moral herbivors and 'them' the less moral omnivors. Discount any science not supporting your view.

Oh did you know that if you apply aspirin to a bruised/cut plant part is causes the same kind of electro-chemical cascade to block cellular pain response as it does in humans? ( Why would a lifeform's biology create painkillers if it could not feel pain?

"We have too many people on this planet to sustain a meat diet" is a strawman. No one here proposed eating a meat diet. Humans are omnivors that, barring cultural influences, only turn to exclusive plant eating when meat is unavailable and meat when plant food in unavailable.

It can also be said that we have too many people on this planet to sustain a plant diet - just ask a farmer in a developing nation. Today we produce multiple times the tonage of plant food, largely due to chemicals, bioengineering, and mechanical technology than the land can produce without these things. Most environmentalist would say that those three things that have been responsible for feeding billions of humans are damaging the environment. Without them, it takes quite a bit of land to provide all the nutrients from plant foods that a human family would need.

However, if we are going to have a mono-diet, it makes just as much or more sense to have a strictly meat diet. As someone already said, you can eat for a long time from just one cow especially if you eat organ meats and marrow like our ancestors did.

Humans can survive on animals to the exclusion of plants quite nicely. (We don't see any examples of populations doing so well on only plant foods.) In fact, we can tell the kind of diets people ate in the past by their teeth and bones. The less dense and healthy the bones the more carbohydrate was present in their diet and the less meat. More bone density and healthy dentation the more animal foods and less carbohydrate they ate. We see this trend in populations even today.

Yes you can get adequate protein from plant foods, but only through artificially processing plants. Curdling legumes (i.e. tofu) requires chemicals which can be damaging to the environment. Our other major source of concentrated plant proteins is gluten from grasses like wheat. The problem is the allergies to these are high and they are health risks for many people.

In order to eat enough calories from plant food, you have to eat very large amounts of carbohydrates which drive up cholestrol and disposes humans to diabetes. (Any wonder that diabetes has become more prevelant the more carbohydrate humans eat?) And what about the essential nutrients that are hard to get from plants alone (iron, calcium, vitamin D, vitamin B12, zinc). Often these nutrients require the presence of fats and proteins not so easily found in plants to be used well by the body.

Human health should be more important to us than the suffering of other animals and plants. The argument would be better focused on how we reform our food industries to be gentle on the environment and reduce harm as much as possible while still providing what we need to thrive.

We are the only animal (that we know of) that creates moral qualms about diet. Let's remember not to get lost in our heads creating divisions among ourselves with what amounts to nothing but our own thoughts.

Sarah said...

A study related to your comments re: religious beliefs and environmental behaviour. This is about individuals, not countries, but interesting nonetheless:

Cris Waller said...

It pains me to read this and see people entirely misinterpreting scientific studies to attempt to show that plants feel pain. There seems to be a lack of understanding that the presence of certain biochemical features in plants does not equal pain perception as felt by vertebrates.

The aspirin study in no way implied that the plants used the reaction to block a "cellular pain response." Instead, it discussed the reactions involving the plant cell protein cytochrom P450 and was quite clear that plants had a very different salycilate breakdown path than animals do. Again, the article makes clear that this is a cellular signaling pathway; there's no intent to state that plants actually feel pain.

The second link to "They Bleed Green" wasn't even a work of science. In fact, the author describes himself as "a gifted psychic, magickian, prophet, advanced stage remote viewer, healer and spiritual teacher of the 21st Century."The article has no citations and gives no reasons at all to be taken seriously.

Pain serves an evolutionary purpose. Motile organisms will move away from sources of pain and learn to avoid them. Animals with painful extremities will use them less and thus let them heal. The usefulness of pain as a stimulus depends on being able to do something about the source of pain. Thus, the sensation of pain would serve no evolutionary purpose for a plant, which cannot move away from a source of pain.

There is no credible scientific evidence that plants feel pain, and there is no rational reason to believe that they do. We have ample evidence that other animals- in particular, vertebrates- do feel pain, and that their perception of pain is very like our own.

Trevor said...

On vegetarianism, can I question the suggestion that it is "species-ist" to accept eating non-human animals.

It is surely important to focus on the relevant factors for why we don't eat humans:
1. Pain: We don't want to cause pain
2. Grief: We don't want to make anyone grieve over someone's death.
3. Trauma: We don't want to cause the living to fear that they could be killed in the same way.

Now, I do believe we should treat other species the same, but not by (falsely) assuming that they'd be equally affected by these three factors.

In reverse order, (3. Trauma) not all animals are intelligent enough to learn that their older friends have been killed for food. Pigs and dogs maybe, but cows? surely not.

Next, (2. Grief) not all animals form strong enough bonds to miss their colleagues. Even if they do, this factor could be negated by sending whole herds/flocks/etc. to the abbatoir simultaneously.

Finally, (1.) pain is clearly a common factor relevant to most of the species we eat, but that shouldn't stop us eating meat: it should only lead us to minimise pain through a humane death. Terrible though an abbatoir is, we should forget that it might be a less painful death than a natural death.

In conclusion, there are very good reasons not to eat humans that just don't apply (or apply to a lesser extent) to other animals.

The existence of a pain mechanism is irrelevant if pain is minimised; the existence of a central nervous system seems like an arbitrary concern.

I realise that I may be missing some factors, and that their application to different animals could generate a lot of debate, but surely it is better to procede in a principled fashion rather than merely generalising a pseudo-religious rule of thumb that killing is wrong.

Stan said...

Love your podcasts, all the way from Tasmania down under. With respect to vegetarianism, I can't help but ask if you know the following:

What sort of meat can a Catholic Priest eat on Fridays?


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