An Argument for Vegetarianism Essay

An Argument for Vegetarianism Essay

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An Argument for Vegetarianism

ABSTRACT: In this paper I propose to answer the age-old reductio against vegetarianism, which is usually presented in the form of a sarcastic question ( e.g., "How do you justify killing and eating plants?"). Addressing the question takes on special significance in the light of arguments which seem to show that even nonsentient life is intrinsically valuable. Thus, I suggest that we rephrase the question in the following manner: When beings (who are biological and thus dependent on the destruction of other forms of life in order to sustain their own) evolve into societies of moral agents are they entitled merely to assume that they retain their license to destroy other life in order to sustain their own? I answer in the negative. I argue that such societies must continually earn that right by engaging in activity that makes up for and augments the values that they destroy. Unlike other biological beings, humans have complete control over what they eat, whether they eat, and whether they reproduce. Hence, the appeals to necessity that are ubiquitous in justifications of both vegetarian and non-vegetarian diets are inauthentic and must be accordingly forsaken. We will have to appeal instead to the value of particular human activities that are fueled by our consumption of other lives.

'So you don't eat animals, but you do eat plants. Plants, like animals, are living things how do you justify killing and eating them?'

The mock indignation and air of self-congratulation which invariably accompany this question make it plain that the speaker does not expect the requested information but rather believes that he or she has delivered an original and decisive reductio ad absurdum against vegetariani...

... middle of paper ...

...sort of axiology that last-person arguments are meant to establish. All creatures imaginable are valued and are attributed with at least one sense, from human beings (five-sensed) to leeches (two-sensed) to clods of earth (one-sensed). Any intentional act of violence against any of these is considered sinful, even an act done for a good cause (e.g., to feed human beings). It is odd, then, that Jainism is merely dismissed in environmentalist literature (Nash 1989, 70; Kalupahana 1989, 248; Curtin 1992, 141 n. 12).

(3) My complaint here is against the deliberate ascetic. When people lead meager lives on the edge of physical exhaustion and starvation because of the inequities of economic distribution, it is not they but their oppressors who do an injustice to the environment, using the latter to fill their bellies and their wallets through acts of social injustice.

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