General Question

eyeofnyc's avatar

if you found out that all animals are self aware, would you quit eating meat?

Asked by eyeofnyc (270 points ) March 11th, 2008 from iPhone

vegetarians: what if you found out that fruits and vegetables are sentient? Would you just start eating everything? Or just learn how to digest metal to prevent starvation?

Observing members: 0 Composing members: 0

95 Answers

ishotthesheriff's avatar

haha metal?
G-d gave us dominion over all plants and animals.
but i believe we indulge in meat too much.
i used to be a very strict vegetarian, but now i’ve begun eating meat a few times a month. everything in moderation.
this discussion could get into a lot of different depths, especially about factory farms and the harm done to the environment b/c of the meat industry.

squirbel's avatar

The thought of killing an animal is not the sole reason to not eat meat. Meat in excess (ie every meal or every day) is very unhealthy.

I abstain from meat eating for the most part because I feel heavy and disgusting after eating it; but because it tastes good -I may have it as often as once a week or as infrequently as once a month. If I visit a host’s party, I do not turn my nose at any dishes they provide unless they are pork or shellfish (luckily never happened yet).

I consider myself a liberal vegetarian. But if I were to learn animals were sentient, I would stop eating meat altogether. However, if plants were discovered to be sentient, I would continue with my current lifestyle.

Sounds like a double standard – but I am not a fool.

sfgirl's avatar

That’s a tough one…strangely enough, I have no problem eating beef or chicken, but I cringe at veal/lamb/rabbit…

If I found out animals were sentient I’d probably become a vegetarian…but I’m not 100% sure. I was a vegetarian for 5 years because I thought it would be healthier – but in the end it wasn’t (hey, cheese and sugar are just as bad as meat!!).

It’s a tough call – what if labs developed animals that were not sentient for meat purposes? I mean, we’re really stretching things here….but considering my love for animals as it is, I think it would be difficult to eat them knowing that they were sentient…but then again, survival is most important.

Sorry for the rambling answer…:-P

ishotthesheriff's avatar

why do people say if animals are sentient?

animals can and do feel pain, why do you think they scream and squirm when/until their throats are slit while they’re hanging from chains?

eyeofnyc's avatar

that’s a great angle, sfgirl! I had never thought of the idea of scientist developing non thinking, non-feeling lumps of flesh for our consumption. Think of all tv eased consciences!
@ishotthesherrif: the question was if animals were sentient. Meaning self-aware. NOT meaning able to feel pain.

ishotthesheriff's avatar

well then people shouldn’t replace “self aware” with “sentient”

squirbel's avatar

Regrettably, I would be among those who opposed the creation of life sans sentience – what do you remove to remove sentience? It would be an abomination, an unethical monster – and a precedent to create nonsentient humans for the sake of organ harvesting…

Which could lead to tiered societies… And more discriminations…

eyeofnyc's avatar

@ishotthesherrif:that’s what sentient means.

squirbel's avatar

Actually, the definition is debated. Some schools of thought agree with sheriff, other agree with you, eyeofnyc.

ishotthesheriff's avatar

sentient: “Sentience refers to possession of sensory organs, the ability to feel or perceive, not necessarily including the faculty of self-awareness”

what do you mean by self aware? if the animals knew they were being raised to be slaughtered for food?

bulbatron9's avatar

eyeofnyc needs to get a dictionary!

eyeofnyc's avatar

actually, take it as you will. And i will take back my attempt to refute you I would rather hear your answer than bicker over definitions.

eyeofnyc's avatar

that I do bulbatron. I had always only used the word in association with its definition of self awareness. My bad.

ishotthesheriff's avatar

why would you say that towards me? you’re acting like i attacked you when i was just trying to clarify what you had asked.

sfgirl's avatar

These are tough philosophical debates in my opinion…how extreme do we go? Do we bite our nose to spite our face? Protein is something we need and yes, there are alternatives to meat…but trying to change a society that has been raised on meat for thousands of years? Pretty unrealistic no matter how you put it…

ishotthesheriff's avatar

yeah it is. but i still think people should become aware of what they’re eating and the processes in the meat industry, especially if more and more people are becoming concerned with global warming as the cattle industry is a major cause.

djbuu's avatar

Once again this subject. I find it amusing that somehow its ok to slaughter plants for consumption based on the fact that we believe they aren’t self aware or sentient. So I guess by that same logic, abortion is ok because they aren’t developed enough to be self aware.

ishotthesheriff's avatar

at least plants get sunlight [;

eyeofnyc's avatar

I don’t know about abortion, but if we find out that plants are self aware, I’m gonna eat a baby!

squirbel's avatar

Hehe, djbuu, the idea of plants vs a fertilized human possibilty is a slippery slope (check your debate encyclopedia).

The major difference between a plant and the fertilized egg is the potential. The plant can only become a plant, and the egg can only become a human. Based on potential, killing the egg is less ethical than consuming the plant.

bulbatron9's avatar

I am never going to be a vegetarian, but I love vegetables. The only way I would stop eating meat is if my digestive system couldn’t handle it anymore. @eyeofnyc you stay away from my house, unless you are ready to meet god. Babyeater!

eyeofnyc's avatar

why? Does god have some especially tasty baby to offer me?

squirbel's avatar

Pretty sure he’ll sacrifice you, can’t take his firstborn without recourse! :)

bulbatron9's avatar

Tell ‘em squirbel!

eyeofnyc's avatar

yikes. If that’s true, how do you think he’ll react when I tell him I don’t believe in him?

squirbel's avatar

I once saw this quip that said:

“I’m not vegetarian because I love animals… Im vegetarian because I hate vegetables!!!”

Pwnage.

squirbel's avatar

Dead men tell no tales, what makes you different?

bulbatron9's avatar

eyeofnyc did you ever have trouble making friends?

eyeofnyc's avatar

Bulbatron, why? Because I don’t believe in god?

bulbatron9's avatar

You don’t seem to be making much of an effort to make friends on fluther. What you believe is your belief, who am I to judge that!

delirium's avatar

I don’t understand why self awareness has to do with it… We know that chimps are capable of self awareness.
We know that they feel pain. We know that they feel stress.
I don’t see why self awareness would change how we treat them if all these other things haven’t.

squirbel's avatar

So since we know chimps are sentient/self-aware, would you eat one? Or his banana? [The plant, people, the plant.]

:D

eyeofnyc's avatar

maybe, then Delirium, we need to further define self awareness. Is it consciousness? Is it ability to feel pleasure and pain? Is it knowlege of mortality? And furthermore, to rephrase the other part of my question, if we found out that, regardless of definition, plant life was sentient as well, do you think that those that are vegetarians for the sake of the animals would try to find a new way? Or just chuck it all, and head to Peter Luger’s?

delirium's avatar

I’d probably still eat plants. Or become a fruititarian.
I can’t kill anything. I couldn’t be responsible for death.

Self awareness is being able to recognize onesself in a mirror.

eyeofnyc's avatar

ok, so let’s say, d, that animals might not be self aware, but are aware of their mortality, what then?

eyeofnyc's avatar

GASP Squirbel you’re dirty! ;)

delirium's avatar

I think they are aware of their mortality. They don’t want to die, I think that counts as awareness. I don’t thing that them contemplating it philosophically would change the situation.

squirbel's avatar

Subtle is a better word. ^.~

An argument to deny plant sentience/self-awareness (if you recognize the source, post for a prize!):

• One without warmth, without actions, having no faculties like hearing, or any reaction to the sounds, such a one is not a living being, but a stationary being. [akin to rocks and water and soil]
• They are apart from desires and anger, knowing no fatigue in their body, without care for the reasonable and unreasonable. For this reason, there is no mental activity in plants.

Some would make the case that a sunflower’s ‘action’ of turning it’s face to follow the sun is “seeing”, but the rubble of iron also turns its face to the magnet.

eyeofnyc's avatar

I’ve got to disagree with you there, delirium. Not with any evidence, mind, but I’m still going to disagree. Could you give me some evidence of an animal recognizing its mortality? (my agnostic ways come screaming to the forefront)

delirium's avatar

They don’t want to die. I consider that awareness. Its why little creatures flee whenever people come near. They don’t want to be eaten.

Although one could easily call that instinct, I would rebut that they instinctual don’t want to die. That’s still not wanting to die.

Mtl_zack's avatar

i would eat meat becausehumans are part of the food chain and we are omnivores, who eat meat and vegetables. but i also stick to kashrut because im jewish.

ishotthesheriff's avatar

omnivores? actually. . .
hah.
:X

djbuu's avatar

@squirbel, the fundamental flaw in the potential argument is we are historically bad at understanding our world. Science continually proves itself wrong. Life itself is very hard to understand and its presumptuous to think that we know enough about it to make these judgements. Our basic understanding of “self awareness” and “potential” can be shattered with 1 new finding. Then we’ll all starve.

squirbel's avatar

If a shrew is rooting through a log, what do the insects do? Run. For what reason? To prevent themselves from dying. The basic rule of evolution – survival of the fittest.

If the shrew scurries through the brush, and a leopard takes notice, and gives chase, what does the shrew do? He evades, runs, or hides. For what reason? To prevent himself from dying. The basic rule of evolution – survival of the fittest.

What does it mean to survive? Does it take effort? Mustn’t you be aware to the instinct that tells you dying is not an option – make the best effort?

It is because animals make an effort to survive that they are aware of death. One who does not know what death is senses no danger.

How can you sense danger in what you do not believe exists?

squirbel's avatar

Hard, or Difficult ≠ Impossible

eyeofnyc's avatar

if I’m walking down the street, and Godzilla comes walking down my street, I’m going to do one of two things. Stand completely still whilst experiencing a pants wetness level the likes of which I’ve never known, or run screaming like a girl. Either way, the response is automatic, as delirium posited, one of instinct.
What I was referring to before was a conscious knowlege. You know, the one that’s been with you since time immemorial and looms closer day by day. You know, the thing Robert Frost wrote about all the damned time. Do we have any proof that there are other species that live with this the way we do?

squirbel's avatar

I am arguing that instinct is as valid a mechanism for proving self-awareness [read self preservation] as is active consciousness of a danger.

aaronblohowiak's avatar

there’s a food chain, we’re on the top of it. i don’t think we should divest ourselves of our historical & biological nature because we have compassion. If anything, our compassion should inform how we raise and slaughter our food. Only plants, some kinds of fungus and some kinds of worms get the pleasure of life without taking it from something else.

Deforestation, nuclear war, trash disposal (look into the pacific gyrus).. these things potentially destroy the world for all creatures and are much higher causes for concern.

squirbel's avatar

Has it always been our nature to eat meat? Are you honestly going to argue that every civilization has had meat as its primary diet since the beginning?

You must be one of those who believes vegetarianism is a fad, and not a long held belief passed down for aeons.

ishotthesheriff's avatar

i’m with squirbel once again. fact.

Zaku's avatar

All animals are self-aware, and no.

I also don’t see a moral problem with chucking some particularly fat-headed fast food customers into the McMysteryMeatMulcher.

If fruits and vegetables are self-aware, I imagine they fundamentally enjoy being eaten.

delirium's avatar

Swoooon!

As to say… I concur.

aaronblohowiak's avatar

@squirbel, no. I think we are omnivores. If you look at dentition, archeological evidence, the lack of a fermenting vat (that nearly all herbivores have.) You can find more about humans being omnivorous from this pro-vegetarian site that claims we should be vegetarian for moral reasons because we are “opportunistic eaters” and do not require meat in our diet.

“Are you honestly going to argue that every civilization has had meat as its primary diet since the beginning?” No, in fact, I would argue that meat is not and never will be the primary source of calories in the human diet.

Vegetarianism is probably at least as old as language in some cultures. That doesn’t make it old in an evolutionary perspective, nor does its antiquity lend it any credence in my book.

Personally, I tend to be an ovo-pescatarian.

delirium's avatar

I’m a pescatarian, technically, but am Soooo picky about the fish that i’m willing to eat. They have to be farm grown and organic. I could kill a fish. Fish are delish.

<.< I also <3 fishies. I collect fishie tattoos. They’re all darling.

Poser's avatar

I don’t see how one can deny the existence of a greater force than nature, then claim that humans—having evolved from nature—are somehow separate from nature, and therefore don’t belong at the top of the food chain. Bears, sharks, lizards—whatever. They don’t worry about the feelings and the self-awareness of their food. Why do humans, if we are ultimately nothing more than the most successful animal on the planet?

You can’t have it both ways.

delirium's avatar

I don’t think we shouldn’t be at the top of the food chain. I just don’t think we Have to, so I don’t. I couldn’t kill something even if I tried. shrug

aaronblohowiak's avatar

@Poser: morality does not presuppose religion.

Poser's avatar

I didn’t say anything about religion.

Zaku's avatar

@Poser – I don’t see humans as the most successful animal at survival. In one sense, they’re the worst, since they cause so much death, suffering and extinction. Only civilized humans, through flawed thinking, try to dominate, control, and consume as much as possible. Animals and pre-civilized (and some civilized) humans, only consume what they need.

Poser's avatar

I guess it depends on your definition of success as it relates to the animal kingdom. I was referring to our position at the top of the food chain and our numbers and overall survival rates.

aaronblohowiak's avatar

“the existence of a greater force than nature” == religion.

also, cockroaches are the most successful.

squirbel's avatar

religion ≠ god

That is the most annoying and most oft jumped to conclusion. G-d does not exist because of religion, he exists before religion.

squirbel's avatar

But before this becomes a fight about G-d and religion, get back to the topic of animals/veggies and self-awareness.

Zaku's avatar

Civilized humans are the only animals who think of the food chain, or of total numbers, as a contest to win. And by evaluating it in the present, rather than in the future, we are actually losing, by destroying the planet which gives us life.

Imagine ten shipwreck survivors on a fragile but stable raft in the ocean. They have enough food and water to have a great chance of rescue, but one guy starts obsessing about survival and trying to win for himself in the present instead of cooperating to win for everyone in the future, consuming as much food and water as he can, playing mind games to turn people against each other, resulting in fights which damage the raft. If he causes the raft to fall apart or the fresh water to spill into the sea, he might seem like the most successful survivor to himself for a short time, but in the end he’s endangering everyone’s survival.

Similarly, we have a huge population of humans now… but it’s way too many for our planet’s resources, especially while we’re creating the desire for more and more consumption for everyone. Counting the population and even consumption levels as success is the problem – it leads to us continuing to overpopulate and overconsume, making us a disastrous threat to the planet and ourselves, and blinding us from seeing what we can do to try to turn things around.

squirbel's avatar

Humans are no longer subject to the hard and fast rule of “survival of the fittest”. Everyone lives.

Poser's avatar

@squirbel—Doesn’t that weaken the species, overall?

squirbel's avatar

I think it does. That’s logic talking though. It’s hypocritical and inhumane to suggest that the weakest, slowest, and unfit should be separated like chafe.

Poser's avatar

Depends on how you define “humane.” If we’re just glorified apes, then the idea of ethics, morality and fairness would seem detrimental to the future of the species. From a strictly “survival of the fittest” standpoint.

eyeofnyc's avatar

there will always be an argument about what to do to keep our species going. But eventually we will die out. Everything that live, dies. And try as we might to “save the planet” (meaning ourselves), we will fail in the end, because destroying the planet is what we are here to do. We are consumers! That’s what we do. We take in everything around us. We look at it, touch it, taste it. The world comes to us in so many ways, and we eat it up, because that’s what we do. That’s what we’re here, in nature for. Everything else is distraction.

Zaku's avatar

eyeofnyc, that’s exactly the kind of thinking that’s the problem. Fortunately, it’s NOT what all humans do. Only the ones that are stuck in that way of thinking. We can either wise up or die, but it is up to us. So please wise up.

eyeofnyc's avatar

zaku, how can you deny that you and everyone else spends every single day consuming? It’s what our entire civilization (especially America) is based on. As a culture, as a species, as life form, our imperative is to take it in and shit it out. Look at the human race macroscopically, as if you were a giant, and we (the human race) were so small to you that you had to view us through a microscope. If you could do that, what do you think you would see? A life form that conserves by nature, or one that consumes? We have this grand grand idea that we are live outside of nature, and that as we do so, we are lords of it. But we are not. We exist to serve a purpose, and when we have done so, we’ll die off (because everything dies) until a creature like us is needed again in nature, and will be created again.

Zaku's avatar

eyeofnyc, I’m not denying that practically all living things consume something constantly. I’m also pointing out that yes, “civilization” and especially America, is consumption-oriented.

What I’m also pointing out is that it is unnecessary and fatally destructive to the planet to consume and damage irresponsibly, and the attitude your post exemplifies how pervasive and self-blinding the typical consumerist mode of thought is.

It’s NOT necessary to kill ourselves off this way.

eyeofnyc's avatar

But even if we do save ourselves from this crisis, we will eventually die off. And Zaku, I am speaking from a scientific perspective, not a philosophical or sociological one. I’d like for us to continue on, safely, so my children and theirs may experience life on this earth, and I do contribute. I’m not using my scientific ideas to justify laziness, I’m merely sharing them so that others may see a perspective they might not have considered, which is why I come to fluther, to broaden my horizons and craft the longest run-on sentences in creation.

Zaku's avatar

How does that idea affect how you live your life?

How would you live your life differently if science convinced you you could live forever and humanity could and would migrate to other planets?

eyeofnyc's avatar

That’s a hypothetical, and very rarely do I engage myself in hypotheticals. How would I act if someone pulled a gun on me? I’d like to think that I’d act heroically, and disarm my assailant with words or actions. I also very well might sob loudly, shit in my pants, and beg for my life. The individual’s truth of these situations really only come to the fore when experienced, not hypothesized. As far as how the idea affects my life? I guess the same way anything in nature affects my life. I try to find the beauty in it.

Zaku's avatar

Do you not find beauty in the cycle of life? Why harm it, when we have a choice?

It sounds to me like you’ve convinced yourself that it’s a known fact humanity is going to perish, we have no choice but to destroy nature, so we may as well resign ourselves and get it over with in an indulgent way. Sounds to me metaphorically similar to the logic of a heroin or meth addict towards their addiction.

eyeofnyc's avatar

zaku, I’m really enjoying our conversation, but you have to stop putting words in my mouth. I’m not saying, “since we’re acting this way, and causing these things, let’s just keep acting this way. Hell, let’s behave worse!” I’m saying, “we can try all we’d like, and we should, but in the end it doesn’t matter, because that’s nature.” And I’ve known a few addicts in my life who don’t think that way at all.

eyeofnyc's avatar

(and by “that way,” I refer to your description of “addict rationalization)

Zaku's avatar

Thanks for explaining. I was asking and saying how you sounded to me, because I wasn’t clear what your thinking was like.

In nature, consumption is not the same thing as annihilation. Individuals kill individuals, and eventually die, but not even man was never an annihilator until he got himself stuck in his own thoughts (e.g. conquest of nature, perpetual economic growth). All it would take is development of thinking and cooperation for humans to stop overconsuming, overpopulation, needlessly wiping out species, eliminating habitat, etc.

Perhaps humanity as you describe it is ready to die, but perhaps what will replace it can be a humanity which sees conservation and renewable health for the whole planet as possible and necessary.

eyeofnyc's avatar

it is always good to hear a hopeful voice. I, too, am hopeful, but I believe that our purpose here is to consume, and when finished, we shall become obsolete. I know it sounds defeatist, but I do not look at it that way. I’d rather see it as living with my eyes open.

Zaku's avatar

I believe we are designed to consume, and that we enjoy consumption, but that collectively, we’re being really fatally stupid, and it’s up to those of us who see the problem to show it to the others before we kill ourselves off. It’s a valid message even to consumer-oriented people, if they value consumption over time, and not just maximum instantaneous rate of consumption.

The east coast tuna are a great example. With an abundant resource like that, it can remain abundant if you don’t overconsume it, or you can overconsume it for a few years and wipe it completely off the face of the planet, which by now has (I gather) already resulted in less consumption up to this point that we would have had if we’d backed off when the abundance started to drop. It’s not a very sophisticated change in perspective, doesn’t require changing the goals of people who want maximum consumption, and the actions to take are clear. It just takes clear communication and cooperation.

eyeofnyc's avatar

how do you do this effectively in a world where the population is growing exponentially? It’s not just a question of change, which I think we both agree is necessary, but a question of possibility and futility. Not “it doesn’t matter, so let’s just eat everything,” but “do we matter? Is the survival of the species the best thing for nature?” because we’re not talking about saving the planet when we talk about saving the planet. We’re talking about saving ourselves. Because we are just some bacteria on the planets skin, and when she gets tired of everything we’ve done to her, she will shake us off as easily as we shake off a cold. That’s why we are experiencing global warming. (my cockamamie theory) the planet is just starting to “run a fever” to try and shake us off. And if my theory is true, then eventually, she’ll send white blood cells after us. And I do not want to see what those muthas are going to look like. In the end, z, I just have to stick by my original argument. How do you know we weren’t put here to eat all the tuna?

Zaku's avatar

We do it by transforming the way people think, starting with the way we think. We define much of what’s possible by what we think we know. If we convince ourselves something is futile or impossible, we won’t even try.

BTW, I tend to agree with you that in many ways nature is reacting to humans and if we don’t change, we’ll be finished off in various nasty fashions. Nature shows us the possibility of symbiotic parasites, though, and we’re clever once we see something as being in our own interests. Personally, my interests include saving other species and their habitats as well, and not just for our own species’ sake.

trainerboy's avatar

No. That is why we have slaughter houses so by the time it gets on ur plates, they are not aware of anything.
Now, I hope aliens from outer space don’t think the way I do and leave their experiments to the probing. Even though we would be very self aware of that, we could live to tell about it.

OnceCalledFelix's avatar

Probably not, but I do try to know where my meat comes from and support efforts to promote humane husbandry/slaughter practices.

winblowzxp's avatar

“I don’t think we shouldn’t be at the top of the food chain. I just don’t think we Have to, so I don’t. I couldn’t kill something even if I tried”—except fish and cucumbers…

I do think that vegetation does in some ways feel pain. Transplanting plants while they’re not dormant puts them in shock. To anthropormophize it, it would be like severing an appendage from the body.

Comparing a plant facing the sun and iron to a magnet isn’t really a good analogy. Iron is not a living, breathing being…it’s frikkin’ iron.

Are plants/animals sentient? I’d say that they somewhat are. Sure they feel pain, but are they really concious and aware of themselves, aside from the need to eat, sleep and poop? I don’t think so.

PIXEL's avatar

Just wondering why do some users write God like G-d?

winblowzxp's avatar

They like to be politically correct, and not to offend anyone.

squirbel's avatar

It is out of reverence, and to avoid writing his name on anything that can be destroyed [in this case, the database that stores these questions and responses.]

tyrantxseries's avatar

what if cows could talk and they want to be eaten?

Vincentt's avatar

@tyrantxseries – hah, you read the Hitchhiker’s Guide ^.^

Actually, I found that an excellent part – not only hilarious, but also making a fine statement. I still haven’t figured out what I’d do.

paganwinter's avatar

I am a vegetarian myself. Have been from childhood. Except for having eggs.
Stopped that too couple of years back.
I really don’t have a reason for being a vegetarian, except for the fact that I was born a Hindu and we aren’t supposed to eat meat.
But if I found out plants are sentient, I doubt if I’d give up eating altogether :)
The reason being that if I deny myself any food, then I’d be killing myself. And that’s wrong too, don’t you think…?

evil2's avatar

if god didnt want us to eat animals he wouldnt have made them outta meat…..

Answer this question

Login

or

Join

to answer.

This question is in the General Section. Responses must be helpful and on-topic.

Your answer will be saved while you login or join.

Have a question? Ask Fluther!

What do you know more about?
or
Knowledge Networking @ Fluther