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I gave up on this group once I found out you have to manually invite people in order for them to be able to post. You can't just make it public. I decided I didn't want to play gatekeeper.
Plus there didn't seem to be much interest.
Still, if you want, we can try pushing it again.
We don't need to kill animals for clothing. In fact most clothing is made from crops such as cotton, not from animal products.
We also don't need to eat meat to be healthy.
We know very well how suffering comes about -- our senses send signals to our brain which in turn creates the feeling. Plants don't have brains or any other means of cognition, therefore they cannot suffer.
There's no such thing as rights in the sense that you are using the term. We should simply do what we can to minimize suffering, both human and non-human.
I don't see this system as convoluted at all. To put it more simply: Animal suffering matters, although it matters less than human suffering. Even if it were convoluted I don't think that would be relevant because it would simply be reflecting the complicated nature of reality.
A good first step would be to stop breeding and slaughtering mammals and birds in factory farms. If you accept that animal suffering matters at all, factory farms are obviously a horrible thing.
I am most definitely not associating sentience in the broad sense with human level sentience. Again, I see a gradient of cognitive sophistication going from zero to human-level. As we move along this continuum, an organism accumulates moral weight. You can't really capture that idea in a single word, so I'm using "sentience", in the broad sense, as a rough approximation.
I agree with you that human sentience is greater that animal sentience. If we could quantify suffering (which we theoretically could), we might come up with a formula that looked something like this:
amount_of_suffering = damage_inflicted x capacity_for_pain
(the x signifies multiplication)
Where capacity_for_pain might be 1 for humans and .01 for cows and .000001 for shrimp.
"Since no animal has human sentience, or awareness, they are afforded no rights and may be eaten at will."
First, I don't think the concept of "rights" makes a lot of sense. I think all ethics must come from a Utilitarian perspective. And from here I see no such thing as absolute rights, human or otherwise. There is only maximization of overall quality of life; a concept which in turn is based on the simple miracle that organisms have evolved a capacity to feel good and bad. The only reason people generally have a "right" to life is because society could not function if we didn't harshly condemn murder. "Thou shalt not kill" is a good guideline for practical reasons; it is not a universal imperative (there are times when murder can serve the greater good).
But I digress. My key point is that suffering is bad and should therefore be minimized; killing animals causes suffering and is therefore bad; factory farming causes massive, widespread suffering and is therefore an abomination.
"You'd have to develop a moral system based entirely on animal sentience, and decide whether that moral system is equal to humans. To do THAT, you need objective criteria."
We have objective criteria, at least in theory: suffering in all forms is a result of neural activity. The firings of neurons can be measured and quantified. Of course we lack the technical sophistication to measure suffering, but we can come up with crude estimations. For example if I were to flick my finger against my arm, a few nerves would fire, a bit of neural activity would occur, and I would feel a very slight amount of pain. If I were to take a knife and plunge it into a cow's side repeatedly, quite a lot of nerves would fire strongly, massive neural activity would occur, and the cow would feel a great deal of pain. So there you go, objective suffering.
"animals have no morals and actions from or towards them cannot be judged on a moral scale"
From yes, towards no. Most animals are not capable of moral reasoning, therefore their actions can't be judged on a moral scale. However, it does not follow that us causing them harm is irrelevant.
"And my subjective sensations are different than yours."
Not at a basic level. It's safe to say we both experience roughly the same thing upon being hit in the head with a baseball bat, or upon having an orgasm. At the very least I hope we can agree that one of these is better than the other in both your case and mine.
Let's break out the dictionary.
Main Entry: sen·tient
Etymology: Latin sentient-, sentiens, present participle of sentire to perceive, feel
1 : responsive to or conscious of sense impressions
2 : aware
3 : finely sensitive in perception or feeling
I see see nothing in there about "abstract thoughts". I'd say capacity for pain fits definition 1 and possibly 2 and 3. Let the quibbling commence.
As for just what sorts of animals can feel pain, I don't think that is a settled question.
I will grant that eating clams and shrimp is probably roughly akin to eating plants from a moral perspective, and is therefore probably ok.
"So, the best you've got there is a ban on cows and most other mammals."
And possibly chickens and other birds.
"You can try out some moral mumbo-jumbo, but those are random value judgments which aren't based on anything objective."
Mumbo-jumbo? Pain is bad. It's that simple. Subjective sensations of good and bad are the foundation of any system of ethics.
You are of course right that we can't "half-eat" something. It's the same problem we face with abortion. We are forced to draw a line somewhere and say, "After it reaches this level of cognitive sophistication, killing this creature is unacceptable." I think capacity for pain is a reasonable place to draw that line. Cows and chickens are clearly well beyond that point.
As for the precise meaning of the word "sentient", I'm not interested in semantic quibbling. If you have a better term for "more cognitive capabilities than a rock" we can use that instead.
In reality sentience is not black and white. There is a gradient going from completely non-sentient to completely sentient. You have rocks on one end, and humans on the other. The farther along this spectrum an organism is, the more wrong it is to kill it.
As for how sentient the animals we eat are, well, that question is far from settled. I will say my judgment based on watching pigs, cows, etc, is that they are sufficiently sophisticated to make their slaughter wrong. You can watch them interact with one another. You can watch them exhibit fear. I think anyone who approaches this question from an unbiased perspective can't help but make the same call.
The debate description doesn't make much sense.
Especially this last sentence:
"If justice is immutable then justice cannot be subject to democracy and yet we assert that democracy is a just form of government."
You seem to think there's a contradiction there, but there isn't one. It's like saying:
"If apples are red then they cannot be blue and yet we assert that apples are tasty."
We can assert that democracy is just without implying that justice is mutable.
Also, is it really necessary to use obscure phrases like "de jure mutable"? Couldn't you phrase that in plain English? Maybe something like "If the legal concept of justice can change..."
Another thought: It's probably impossible to know about how things might have been different. Seems like even small changes could have had big impacts via the butterfly effect. The world is just too complex; it would be like trying to predict the value of the stock market a hundred years from now.