The Society gathered for the seventh time this semester to discuss: Resolved: Eating meat is unethical. Keynoting on the affirmation are Mr. Michael Mouch (SFS ’15) of Texas, and making his induction, Mr. Navneet Vishwanathan (SFS ’18) of New York. Keynoting on the negation are Mr. Daniel Kendrick (COL ’15) of Alabama, and making his induction, Mr. Richard Mullaney (COL ’18) of Florida.
Framing a definitive moral standard into this debate, Mr. Vishwanathan aimed to prove his vegetarian ethical code universal in the context of modern meat industry. He saw the cruelty of raising animals in poor environment for kill, citing the force-feeding production process of foie gras. He also pointed to the absurdity in justifying violence towards some animals while sparing cats and dogs as “man’s best friends.” Hailing the Five Freedom of animal rights, he urged us not to make animals “victims of our greed” simply because “bacon just tastes so good.” Oblivious to the huge wave of Huzzah from bacon-lovers in the Society, he asserted that vegetarians can also subsist on their diet.
Having some beef with his friend’s well-done argument, Mr. Mullaney opened his speech with a bold sex analogy. Just as eating meat, humans have sex with natural urges at the risk of diseases and even develop modern technology for safer procreation. But just as this New World Order against having sex is ridiculous, so the practice of eating meat as a whole is ethical though the way to eat meat could become safer and healthier. After a brief commercial time for Chipotle, Mr. Mullaney promoted sustainable farming as the ideal solution with a market demand for meat and regretted the absence of vegetarians in this solution. He left the podium with a multitude of thoughts awaiting further discussion.
Mr. Mouch quickly rebuked the sex analogy as false because animals are not asked of their consent. He was also repelled by the factory farming that pumps antibiotics into the meat we eat and the hypocritical pardoning of innocent turkeys. Under the “Don’t be a Jerk” and “Us Doing Better” principles, he illustrated how meat industry polluted the air with methane and wasted calories. Appealing to emotions, he also conjured up a world in which super rational animals create factory farm of humans, make us into fertilizers, forcedly impregnate our kids and lead us into slaughterhouses. Dismissing organic farming as a mere label, he asked the floor to think of the environment and the ethics.
Establishing a dichotomy between human and animal interests, Mr. Kendrick introduced Aristotle’s standard of good as flourishing life for each kind. All human beings have interests of in harmony, united by their rational nature. But irrational animals, unable to consent, have no united interests. Thus human interests justify animal suffering. Mr. Kendrick also took on the alien example, arguing that humans and animals have different mental capacities, not in degree, but in kind. Rational humans can trade and cooperate with aliens by art of persuasion while irrational animals cannot persuade humans. Furthermore, Asceticism aside, meat just brings us pleasure. Mr. Kendrick urged us to negate “In the name of human good and human freedom.”
Delighted to speak amid another GUSA election, Mr. Rosenberger suggested that we “move past ethical problems” and enjoy life’s “pleasure on the edges” – “Have some meat and laugh”. Mr. Greco admitted the horrible and wasteful conditions of factory farming and condemned the production of bad meat. But “sucking out the Marrow of this debate,” he proposed an “ideal kill” for this historical practice — an instant death without pain just as hunting. Mr. Fletcher contested that eating meat is inherently linked to factory farming. Through each chicken Burrito consumed at dinner, we are sustaining an inefficient and harmful system. Speaking against two mentees, President Whelan claimed that “humanely raised meat is a thing” on Virginia farms. He furthered asked if we can “go out with an ax and chop a chicken’s head off” ourselves. With the answer “Yes, we can,” he found eating meat ethical.
But “I just couldn’t do it,” Mr. Dinneen disagreed after acknowledging the American classic The Jungle. While he speculated that he would still consume chicken wings and “put this nasty business behind [him],” he paid due tribute to religious traditions and cultures. Sgt. Willis directed our attention to the cows that live in symbiotic relationship with humans. “Large, slow, fat animals” with their enormous weight as the only self-defense, “cows would not exist were it not for humans to take care of it” – “We receive meat. They receive life.” But willing to do without cows, Ms. Hernick identified a difference between supplementary meat-eating and the meat-eating with no ethical basis “in the context of modern U.S.” Were it not for nuts allergies and alleged laziness, she would have become a vegetarian.
Ever the proud Bostonian, Mr. Joseph Laposata (COL ’16) recounted his Vermont vacation, where he witnessed a pig led away to “a farm upstate” – the deadly New Jersey. But he saw “cloned pork” as an ethical way of eating meat without unethical killing. But Ms. Mallory Vial (COL ’18) cited the evolution theory, arguing that “we were animals with less intellectual abilities” and that our compassion should evolve with rationality. Targeting the killing-by-oneself argument, Mr. Weiner analogized eating meat to living in a house built by others. Defining morality as universal, he posited that “morality does not change with technology.”
A vegetarian all her life, Vice President Thanki distinguished ethics from the pleasure of “how good Bacon tastes.” Finding meat-eating unnecessary for survival, she ruled the denial of “a good and satisfying life” for animals and the end goal “to derive pleasure” unethical. The ethics lies exactly in our moral anguish in taking a life.
After the floor was asked to imagine being raised by caring humans in a field and being chopped into half in a splash of light, Ms. Egan pulled us back to reality: “I’m talking about an onion.” She informed us that industrially farmed plants are similar to animals and asked “Where do we draw that line?” Mr. Edgar answered that “we get to choose” between conceptualizing animals as humans or as plants but we subjectively want to live in a world with more lives. He recounted the moment of epiphany understanding his dog’s dependence upon him like a child and demanded for animals “dignity of a child.”
Ms. Christensen, however, questioned if we want to be like animals. Living in a city environment, we are alienated both from the animal kingdom and from an understanding of what animals mean for us. Having actually watched a chicken slaughtered, she reconciled with the “greater system that we are a part of” and approved of eating animals as long as they receive respect during their lifetime.
But according to Ms. Coccia, the poor can subsist on a vegetarian diet. Drawing the line between plants and animals, she argued that “Animals don’t just feel pain. They feel fear.” By killing intelligent pigs, fish and birds while keeping dogs as pets, we are exemplifying the maxim “some animals are more equal than others” and rejecting a constant system of ethics. It is simply unethical to bring life to an animal “just to cut it short.”
Calling attention to vegetarians’ leather boots, Mr. Hallisey found only the Capitalist law of supply and demand congruent with ethics (to the disappointment of this pseudo-Marxist). He then laid out Aristotle’s theory of the mean and called organic farming “the best that we can do.” Mr. Wilson rebuked that the mean differs from the average. While human interests lie in killing animals, human flourishing means “more than maximizing our happy points.” According to him, “Not a single meat product … isn’t systematic torture” and all organic labels are lies. Thus, he admired the vegetarians who lead the charge against both eating meat and factory farming.
Mr. Young admitted the systematic torture of animals as a reality. But he found the framing of factory farming as unethical somewhat a trap because it implies the possibility of harvesting meat at your ethical standard. Chancellor DiMisa pursued ethics as a vision for the future and for “the person you want to be”. Thus, he “drew the line to save the plants” because “killing is bad ultimately.”
Mr. Kendrick responded in exasperation “What we are supposed to eat?” He warned us of the danger in establishing an unpractical morality distant from people’s lives because “Morality is … for flourishing and your ultimate happiness.” He also considered pleasure a moral good and reiterated the difference in kind between humans and animals. In the end, he responded to the Marginal Humans Argument by stressing the uniqueness of existing or potential reason in humans. Acknowledging the long-term interests satisfied by moral codes, he concluded that “morality is not against human interests.”
Having congratulated the two stunning inductees, Mr. Mouch asked us to become much more conscientious even though plant protection is “above and beyond affirmation.” He noted the floor’s acceptance of animal suffering and pollution as facts. And addressing the quote-generator Aristotle, he expressed his confusion about human nature: “What are we, Aristotle?” So taking on John Rawls’ Veil of Ignorance instead, he questioned what we would do if we were not humans, the “Mitt Romney of the Animal Kingdom.”
Mr. Mullaney remarked that “humans are truly amazing creatures” because we condemn our own natural practice as completely unethical. We should be hunting, fishing and eating meat without removing ourselves from the world. Regarding the “fuzzy, fuzzy line” between animals and plants, he pushed the logical chain to its absurd conclusion that “we should die.” He ended on a reflection of Catholicism and the recent Ash Wednesday, reminding us that “To eat meat is to thrive” and that we are one with the world as dust.
Mr. Vishwanathan then enthralled the floor with the “achievement of the humble chicken” which did end up in a “farm upstate” – but as a “prize-winning show chicken in a chicken contest.” He also saw animal torture as the source of plant torture that needs to be cut. Citing Aristotle, he lamented the chicken’s loss of potential in contemporary factory farming – it could have won the blue ribbon!
After a lively debate, the Society voted to award Merrick points to the six most eloquent speakers that night due to a remarkable tie at the third place:
- Vishwanathan, Mr. Wilson, Ms. Christensen and Mr. Mouch – 3 points
- Edgar – 4 points
- Coccia – 5 points
And this brings the Merrick totals to:
- Coccia – 20 points
- Wilson – 14 points
- Christensen – 10 points
- Egan – 8 points
- Edgar – 7 points
- Dinneen& Mr. Mouch – 5 points
- Mazzara & Mr. Perez-Reyes & Mr. Vishwanathan – 3 points
- Patrick Musgrave– 2 points
- Young – 1 point
With a vote of 41-30, this resolution was affirmed. I heartily congratulate our two brilliant inductees who brought remarkable insight into this topic!