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How to justify a legal enforced veganism. A case of the Homo Carnivorous

Hausarbeit 2019 10 Seiten

Philosophie - Praktische (Ethik, Ästhetik, Kultur, Natur, Recht, ...)


Once upon a time, in some out of the way corner of that universe which is dispersed into numberless twinkling solar systems, there was a star upon which clever beasts invented knowing. That was the most arrogant and mendacious minute of "world history," but nevertheless, it was only a minute . . . [Humans regard their intellect] so solemnly - as though the worlds axis turned within it. But if we could communicate with the gnat, we would learn that he likewise flies through the air with the same solemnity, that he feels the flying center of the universe within himself. (Nietzsche)

I. Introduction

For almost 5000 years now, an anthropocentric world view has prevailed in large parts of the world. In general, this view claims that humanity is at the center of the world and enjoys a prominent position in nature. The common division of all living beings into humans and non-humans illustrates this fact. Also, the most religions (e.g. Christianity, Judaism, Islam) describes the human as the pride of creation. However, not only religions propagate this view. Humanism, too, attributes a unique position to mankind. A consequence of the view that the human being is placed higher, is the disparagement of other living beings. Therefore, since the beginning of anthropocentrism, non-human animals are objectified, exploited as slaves and consumed as food. It is called speciesism, more specific, carnism. Both a "subcategory" of anthropocentrism. However, this approach to the environment is neither ecologically sustainable nor morally justifiable.

Currently, more and more individuals are turning away from the consumption of animal products to vegetarianism and veganism. A global collective already exists, which propagates this way of life. The reasons of these individuals differ from ecological, ethical, moral to health reasons. Therefore, advocates of speciesism and carnism need to justify their actions with different arguments. Popular arguments are the three Ns: it is normal, natural and necessary. In this paper I will discuss the issue of the legal prohibition of eating animals and animal products on a normative level. How can a state justify banning the consumption of animal products by its citizens? Which reasons would be appropriate and why? In order to justify this, I will disprove the usual arguments of the advocates I have just mentioned. This topic is a matter of animal rights, political philosophy and moral consistence. Although the ecological dimension has a major impact on this issue, since factory farming is one of the biggest contributors to the greenhouse effect, I will focus primarily on the moral reasons for legally binding veganism and omitting the ecological dimension.

Firstly (section II), I will define the terms justificatory and public reasons and to whom these reasons need to be justified. Secondly (section III), I will argue for this state action by distinguishing between five different arguments of carnists which will be disproved.

1. Tradition (normal)
2. Hedonism
3. Health/Biological (necessary)
4. Difference in the worth of living beings?
5. How do humans see themselves in the world, between other living beings? (natural)

In addition (section IV), I will put the arguments (III. 1-5) in relation to each other and I will conclude why it follows from this reasoning that a legal enforced veganism would be reasonably justified. Next (section V), I will present a thought experiment in which humans find themselves in the role of animals to support the previous argumentation. Finally (section VI), I will summarize the main claims and explain which questions remain open.1

II. Defining reasons

In order to understand the following arguments, it is important to know the Public Justification Principle (PJP) which forms the premise for the reasoning below. It says:

"A coercive law L is justified in a public P if and only if each member i of P has sufficient reason(s) Rj to endorse L ". (Vallier 2018, 3)

Now it must be clarified who the public is, what reasons exactly they have to agree to in order to be justified and what are the conditions for reasons to be sufficient.

To be a part of the public citizens must be reasonable in the sense of Rawls. That means, they have to accept some political basic ideals and values (e.g. freedom and equality of every citizen, pluralistic society, etc.), "given the assurance that others will likewise do so" (Rawls 1996, 49). Also, according to Gaus, the "Members of the Public" (Quong 2013, 7) only become members if they are convinced that someone is justified in their opinion and if they have a substantial quantity of good reasonings to present (G. Gaus 2010, 250). Lastly, reasonable citizens have to accept the legitimacy of the power of a democratic and constitutional regime (Rawls 1996, 54). So, the conditions to be a member i of P are reasonableness, recognition of a conclusive reasoning and the acceptance of the corresponding regime.

To be sufficient, the reasons have to be public and justificatory. From the PJP it can be concluded that a reason is public as soon as it is accepted by the members of the public. According to Gaus, a justificatory reason has to be "stable in the face of acute and sustained criticism by others and new information" (1996, 31). Which means that no member has another sufficient reason to refute the first one(s) (Vallier 2018, 4). Literature argues about three types of justificatory reasons: intelligible (i), accessible (ii) and shareable (iii) reason.

(i) Intelligibility means that the mere understanding of the evaluative standard, which gives it a reason, suffices as acceptance (2018, 6).
(ii) Accessibility maintains that the evaluative standard has to be shared (2018, 7), but the reasons may vary. Therefore, it is stricter than (i).
(iii) The strictest one is shareability. It requires that the evaluative standards and the reasons have to be shared (2018, 7-8) The requirement for the arguments and reasons in this paper is accessibility (ii). Another condition for the acceptance of reasons is the convergence view. Unlike to the consensus view, the convergence does not require that a proposal has to be accepted by shared or the same reasons. It suffice if any reason is accepted by the public as long as one of them is accepted in order to justify a proposal (Quong 2013, 10).

The last question to be answered in this section is why veganism forced by the state or enforced by law is a question of public reason. A topic falls within the scope of public reason once coercive power is exercised by a regime over other individuals to influence their behavior (Quong 2013, 6). In this case coercive power is exercised on two levels. Firstly, if we also see animals as individuals, then the power exercised is the way we treat and keep them. And secondly, on the other level the power exerted is the fact that it is interfered in food habits of citizens by the state.

A note to be made is that the argumentation operates exclusively at the secular level and does not refer to religious arguments.

III. Disproving carnist arguments

1. Tradition (normal)

A popular argument of carnists to justify their consumption of animals is on a traditional dimension. Because of the fact that humans first hunted animals and later bred them, meat consumption has become the norm. Weitzenfeld and Joy call it one of the three Ns: normal (2014, 23). They describe this process as an act of institutionalization and internalization over thousands of years. Therefore the "human-nonhuman relationship" (2014, 21) - defined through the act of eating animals - which still prevails today in large parts of the world, has arisen and has become normality. In political philosophy, however, arguments that operate on a traditional level are rarely tenable. The problem behind this kind of argument is the "is-ought problem" after David Hume, also called the "naturalistic fallacy" (Curry 2006, 237). It says that from an "is"-status does not follow a "ought". Applied to the carnism, this means that just because it has been practiced by many people for a long time, it is not necessarily morally correct. For example: Advocates of the slavery used the same type of argumentation but slavery cannot be morally justified, like many liberal philosophers argued (Rawls 2009). Also, Donaldson and Kymlicka argue that universality does not arise from a "particular cultural tradition or religious worldview, but as a global ethic, based on values or principles that are accessible" (2011, 44). It can therefore be concluded that the mere practice of an activity over a certain period of time, while having cultural value which cannot be denied, is not a justified and reasonable reason to legitimize an act.

2. Hedonism

Many advocates of carnism refer to their right of enjoyment. They consider "hedonism (pleasure, enjoying life) as a guiding principle in life" (Dreezens et al. 2005, 41). Therefore, they do not feel any guilt about enjoying the taste of meat. Apart from the fact that hedonism tends to be a selfish and unsustainable philosophy of life, it is difficult to sufficiently justify it. Because this assertion is unreliable on a normative level. For example: proponents of legal rape or murder would argue the same way. According to the logic of carnists, once someone enjoys raping or murdering people, it is legitimate to do so. Even if we remain on the nonhuman level there are sufficient reasons to refute the hedonistic argument. Imagine an animal torturer who feels joy to be cruel to animals. Just because he or she is a hedonist and finds it pleasing, does not mean he or she has the right to do it.

Further, Rawls claims, in A Theory of Justice that "it is wrong to be cruel to animals [...]. The capacity for feelings of pleasure and pain and for the forms of life of which animals are capable clearly impose duties of compassion and humanity in their care" (2009, 512). Just as animals have an interest in avoiding suffering, they also have an interest in continuing their lives. Therefore, if it is wrong to torture animals for hedonistic reasons, it is also logically wrong to eat them for hedonistic reasons.

3. Health/Biological

Although, this argumentation takes place on a normative level, a partly empirical digression is needed. Otherwise, the whole paper can be refuted very simple. Even if one should agree with previous and following arguments, many carnists refer to the biological or health dimension. They claim, that meat is an essential part of a healthy nutrition for human beings and that humans could not survive or live healthy without the ingredients of animal products. It is true, that in the history of the homo sapiens it was an important part, it has led to larger brains and therefore to the success of the human species (Klurfeld 2015), but many studies showed that it is not needed anymore. In the meanwhile it is even the case that the abstention from meat leads to the reduction of diseases such as high blood pressure, diabetes and many others (McEvoy, Temple, and Woodside 2012).

Also, these empirical facts lead to normative conclusions. As already mentioned, many religions and humanism see the human as an outstanding creature in the world. This implies that it is a justified demand on human beings to listen to scientific facts, to reconsider their eating habits and thus to refrain from consuming meat for their own benefit and for the benefit of other living beings. Weitzenfeld and Joy call these one of two ironies of humanism and therefore of carnism. The irony is that "the dogmatism of human exceptionalism contradicts humanism's commitment to truth based in human experience and empiricism" (2014, 6-7).

4. Difference in the worth of living beings?

If we ask a carnist, why the human species has the right to breed, to keep, to eat and to patronize nonhumans, they often argue with the mental superiority of the human being. According to this argumentation, there has to be a difference in the worth of humans and nonhumans. That difference is composed of several alleged facts that have long been common "knowledge" in human history. For centuries, it was long believed that the following abilities could only be attributed exclusively to human beings: "planning for a future, long-term memory, deception, a sense of fairness, abstract reasoning, tool use, material culture, agriculture, language use, self-recognition, and even a relationship with the dead" (Weitzenfeld and Joy 2014, 7). These assumptions shaped - albeit unconsciously - the worldviews of many religions and of humanism. Also, it led to speciesism and therefore to carnism, as well. Even though many studies have now found that some nonhumans possess these abilities - in some cases not as developed as humans - the view remains that humans have supremacy. If one brings all these abilities together under one concept, then one arrives at the concept of intelligence. Thus, we can hypothesize that carnists think that humans may consume, exploit, etc. nonhumans because humans have more worth because they dispose of more intelligence. This thesis leads to three problems in the view of carnists.

First, it creates a hierarchy based on the worth of living beings. John Stuart Mill once said, it is "better to be a human dissatisfied than a pig satisfied" (Mill 1863). Although this statement dates from another time when many facts were not yet known, it makes clear the assumption of an existing hierarchy between different species. However, Mill concludes in the next sentence ("better to be Socrates dissatisfied than a fool satisfied" (1863)) with the correct result: If there is a hierarchy between different species there is also one within a species.


1 For this paper, I will use the term "meat consumption", but it includes the consumption of any products and services that exist only through the use and exploitation of animals.


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case homo carnivorous



Titel: How to justify a legal enforced veganism. A case of the Homo Carnivorous