Originally Posted by Cato
If [...] you believe it is wrong to eat oysters then you should explain why that is. I thought maybe someone would come up with a reason to avoid eating oysters even if it was proven beyond any reasonable doubt that they are non-sentient. So far no one has given any such reason.
Now you're just lying. We have in fact given reasons not to eat oysters, regardless of whether or not they feel pain. You've conveniently chosen to ignore all the reasons we've offered. I myself said:
Even without nerves, there are good reasons not to eat oysters:
- They're one of the foods most likely to give you food poisoning
- They're high in cholesterol
- They're gross and slimy
Originally Posted by Cato
The distinction should not be plant vs animal. It should rather be sentient vs non-sentient! Sentient beings should be respected and treated with consideration whereas non-sentient “beings” need not be treated with respect or consideration as it would benefit no one to do so. I find that to be a very attractive principle. Any principle aiming to draw a moral difference between animals and plants would have to award respect and consideration based on biological or chemical characteristics and composition rather than what really matters, ability to suffer and appreciate consideration (as opposed to lacking ability to think or feel or suffer.) The second principle completely misses the mark and is an utterly corrupt and useless form of empathy. I might as well show love and consideration to my fridge or my table or my sci-fi DVD collection (not that I hadn’t considered the latter.)
Would you grant that there is no consensus about what it means to be sentient?
Will you grant that the closest we've come, as a society, to understanding whether or not a being feels pain is the presense of nerves?
You yourself referenced the oyster's lack of a brain to indicate lack of pain sensation - that was what you wrote in the first post here in this thread. So you already look to the presense of biological or chemical chracateristics when deciding whether or not something is likely to feel pain.
And won't you grant that something that has nerves is more likely to feel pain than something that hasn't got nerves?
The scientific distinction between plant and animal is not merely based on random physical or chemical characteristics. It is based in part on the animal's ability to feel pain, eg, the animal's motility, nerves, reactions to things that cause other animals pain. Google "what is an animal" and you will find the dictionary definition that google cites says this:
- A living organism that feeds on organic matter, typically having specialized sense organs and nervous system and able to respond rapidly to stimuli
The clear demarcation between sentient and nonsentient beings simply doesn't yet exist. As a society, we've done countless cruel experiements trying to determine whether or not certain animals feel pain and there's still no clear consensus that immediate reaction to stimuli is the only clear indicator of pain. Many scientists will grant that even animals who don't appear to react may still feel pain because of the presense of nerves. And we're learning more and more everyday, realizing that many of the animals we previously assumed did not feel pain do in fact feel pain.
What we do have is a clear demarcation between plant and animal. And that demarcation is not only very clear and easily understood by anyone who has a basic grasp of biology, it's also useful in determining which beings are most likely to feel pain versus which are least likely to feel pain. This existing demarcation is a perfectly rational place to draw the line between what is vegan and what isn't. Moreover, it's more rational than the distinction between sentient and nonsentient because we simply cannot know for certain what another being experiences.
Let me give you an implausible hypothetical to ponder: say mad scientists created a species of cow that reacted to pain in a manner that indicated to humans that they enjoyed the pain. Of course, we could never know for sure if they actually felt pain or joy, but they appeared to feel joy while being mutilated without anesthesia, beaten, confined, and killed. Would it be vegan to eat those animals? Or might it make more sense to remember that we humans are not omnicient and cannot know whether or not these animals actually feel joy? Might it make sense to simply refrain from eating those cows because the possibility that they actually feel pain is greater than the possibility that plants feel pain? Wouldn't it be perfectly morally acceptable, for an average person, to simply decide not to eat those cows for any reason whatsoever, be it health, environmental, or pure disgust?
Edited by ElaineV - 6/25/12 at 9:05am