Pharyngula

That crazy Canadian news story

OK guys, LisaJ here again. This is going to be a quick one from me because I’m in the middle of hosting a BBQ, and I’m leaving all of the other helpers alone and feeling bad about it! From reading some of the replies to my earlier post I thought I should put up a quick post about the craziest and most horrific news story to hit Canada in quite some time.

I’m sure you’ve all heard of what happened to 22 year old Tim McLean on a Greyhound bus last week in Manitoba. If not, here’s a quick overview. Tim was stabbed repeatedly in the neck and chest and then beheaded by a crazy fellow passenger. Many awful things were reportedly then doen to his body. It’s an awful story, and just leaves me sickened every time I think about it. Well, to make matters worse, this poor young man’s funeral is being held this weekend and a couple of disgusting and despicable groups are threatening to picket his funeral.

First, PETA has attempted to place an ad in a major Canadian newspaper comparing Tim’s tragic beheading to the treatment of slaughtered animals. They are actually trying to use this horrific event to make us feel just as awful about the slaughter of animals. Sorry guys, it just doesn’t equate and it’s disgusting for you to try to use this story for your benefit. Especially on the eve of this poor boy’s funeral.

The second story that was brought to my attention is that a group of American fundamentalists from Westboro Baptist church are intending to picket Tim’s funeral based on the premise that this is god’s response for Canada’s policies that enable abortion, homosexuality, and adultery. What’s even more disgusting is that on their website they refer to Tim as the ‘headless Canadian’. This is just beyond disgusting, and I don’t think I have to say too much myself about how pathetic these individuals are… I know you’ll all paint the right picture. What a terrible world this is when the family and friends of someone who was murdered in such a brutal and public fashion have to worry about assholes like these interrupting their funeral.

I just have to say, I feel terrible for this man’s family and I hope that they can grieve in the peace that they deserve. I find it disgusting when groups such as PETA and these religious wackos have total disregard for what was done to this poor guy and try to use his death to their benefit. They should be very ashamed.

Comments

  1. #1 Nichole
    August 8, 2008

    Those Westboro church jerks need to be ignored. All they’re looking for is attention, and you just gave it to ‘em.

    On the bright side, they’re banned from Massachusetts.

  2. #2 Michael
    August 8, 2008

    Just goes to show that ultra-liberal or ultra-conservative, batshit crazy knows no partisanship.

    I wonder if Fred Phelps and his clan of banjo-picking barristers is even going to be let into Canada to protest, and whether some Canucks will remind him that the 1st Amendment isn’t as alive and well there as it is here.

  3. #3 phantomreader42
    August 8, 2008

    The Phelps cult are truly sick people. Living proof there is no god, as no god worthy of the name would allow himelf ot be represented by such psychopaths.

    How long until nutcases start to come out of the woodwork blaming this on atheism, even though the cannibal is known to be a regular churchgoer? Or has that already happened?

  4. #4 Comatoast
    August 8, 2008

    ewww… Hopefully all of those WBC scumbags will be stopped at the border and sent home.

  5. #5 phantomreader42
    August 8, 2008

    comatoast @ #4:

    ewww… Hopefully all of those WBC scumbags will be stopped at the border and sent home.

    I read somewhere, may have been on Dispatches From The Culture Wars, that Fred Phelps is not allowed to enter Canada. I’m not sure how to confirm this, but if true it’s another advantage for our neighbors to the north, eh? :)

  6. #6 Max Udargo
    August 8, 2008

    So does this mean that the members of Westboro Baptist Church think that guy who sawed off Tim McLean’s head is the good guy? A righteous avenger doing God’s holy work?

  7. #7 varlo
    August 8, 2008

    I grew up in Topeka, and back then I suspect that idiot and his adherents would have been ridden out of town on a rail, tar, feathers, and all. They are without doubt the most loathsome and disgusting degenerates in this country, and even most of the other wacko fundies cannot stand them.

    While I would not do it myself, nor suggest tht others do it either, if I were to read some day that the entire creepy bunch had been thrown into a tree shredder, I would feel elated. I suppose you are aware that the father of an Iraq war casualty won a sizeable judgment against them (still uncollected) for picketing his son’s funeral.

    While I despise fundies, I feel that alongside the Westboro bunch they are saints.

  8. #8 spyderkl
    August 8, 2008

    I would pay good, good money to see the YouTube video of Phelps and his traveling circus sideshow turned away at the border. It makes me smile just to write that.

    On the other hand…I can’t fathom what PETA thinks they will accomplish by this, other than once again getting their name in the paper. It just gives us non-meat eaters a bad, bad name. *sigh* Sorry about that.

  9. #9 Brownian, OM
    August 8, 2008

    A CBC article (I think the one Jams posted in another thread) says they’re not allowed in Canada.

    http://www.cbc.ca/canada/manitoba/story/2008/08/08/westboro-protest.html

  10. #10 Comatoast
    August 8, 2008

    So does this mean that the members of Westboro Baptist Church think that guy who sawed off Tim McLean’s head is the good guy? A righteous avenger doing God’s holy work?

    I’m sure they don’t consider anyone “the good guy” and/or “righteous (except maybe themselves).

  11. #11 Lana
    August 8, 2008

    That is truly disgusting, to use a random act of whacko violence in support of any cause. Let’s either ignore them or giggle uncontrollably.

  12. #12 Deepsix
    August 8, 2008

    Extremism at opposite ends of the spectrum.

  13. #13 Doog
    August 8, 2008

    yep, we sure breed the retards down here in the states.

  14. #14 Hap
    August 8, 2008

    I think the copious previous experience of the Phelps ilk (and IMO of PETA) should have told you that shame is not an issue for them. “People are expendable, unless they’re like us” has been around a long time, though usually it’s not guaranteed to be put in such a way as to cause nausea (well, in those with working consciences).

  15. #15 SEF
    August 8, 2008

    That seems to be very much the sort of religiously nonsensical and offensive response to be expected from the Westboro Baptists. However, I would place it on the more extreme end of the range of behaviours to be expected from the “People Eating Tasty Animals” bunch. :-/

  16. #16 Major Tom
    August 8, 2008

    New development:

    Canadian Border Services has been instructed to turn these WBC wackos back at the border.

    http://www.cbc.ca/canada/manitoba/story/2008/08/08/westboro-protest.html

    BTW – Michael – Canada does not have a U.S. 1st amendment – We have our very own Constitution and Bill of Rights. We also have laws against hate-speech.

  17. #17 Farb
    August 8, 2008

    Formal party in the streets of north Topeka when Phred croaks.

    Full drag attire welcome. Wear dancing shoes.

    Poster suggestions:

    Satan, Your Job’s Been Outsourced.

    Phred, Tell Us If You Meet Anyone We Know

    Phred–Don’t Like The Heat? Sue God.

    Phred–You’ll need SPF Googleplex Down There!

    Turnabout IS Fair Play, WBC!

  18. #18 Epinephrine
    August 8, 2008

    So does this mean that the members of Westboro Baptist Church think that guy who sawed off Tim McLean’s head is the good guy? A righteous avenger doing God’s holy work?

    Yes, his wife says “We’re trying to get you to see that your rebellion against the standards of God, your disobedience to the commandments – your idols, your false gods, your filthy ways have brought wrath upon your head,” and Phelps himself apparently said that, “God is punishing Canada.”

    It seems that his sky daddy no longer turns people to salt, causes rains of frogs or the like, but to express his displeasure he causes one person to go insane and commit a crime that has no link whatsoever with any of the issues about which He is supposedly upset. These people are so far past moronic it isn’t funny.

  19. #19 Engr Tony
    August 8, 2008

    Canadian Border Services has been instructed to turn these WBC wackos back at the border.

    Too bad that the Canadian Border Services can’t simply pick these wackos up at the border and deposit them somewhere up in the Yukon wilderness without their vehicles and allow them to try and find their own way back.

  20. #20 Phaedrus
    August 8, 2008

    PETA and the WBC are powerful arguments for birth control.

  21. #21 Brownian, OM
    August 8, 2008

    If I were to read some day that the entire creepy bunch had been thrown into a tree shredder, I would feel elated.

    I wonder how the little clan of inbreds would spin that?

    From one of the deep, dark recesses of my mind, I must admit to enjoying the image I have right now of Steve Buscemi (yeah, I know, he was the one who got it in Fargo) shoving Freddie in and screaming in his best Mr. Pink voice, “Who does God hate now Chip, huh, WHO DOES GOD HATE NOW?!”

  22. #22 Epinephrine
    August 8, 2008

    Major Tom:

    Sure, we don’t have a 1st ammendment, but we do have freedom of expression. Just as the USA limits freedom of speech in their own ways (for example, in the USA obscenity isn’t protected) – we limit ours in a different set of ways (we don’t tolerate hate speech).

  23. #23 raven
    August 8, 2008

    Should be simple to deny entry to the Westboro bigots based on them being undesirable aliens.

    FWIW, the Phelps clan is broke. They owe $11 million to someone due to a civil suit for disrupting the funeral of an Iraqi vet.

    And has anyone figured out why the Manitoba killer did what he did? Obviously it isn’t going to be anything sane but there are varieties of insanity.

  24. #24 brtkrbzhnv
    August 8, 2008

    I think you should just stop being such a wuss. Perhaps spending some time on 4chan and the other chans would toughen you up.

  25. #25 MAJeff, OM
    August 8, 2008

    From one of the deep, dark recesses of my mind, I must admit to enjoying the image I have right now of Steve Buscemi (yeah, I know, he was the one who got it in Fargo) shoving Freddie in and screaming in his best Mr. Pink voice, “Who does God hate now Chip, huh, WHO DOES GOD HATE NOW?!”

    That cracked me up.

  26. #26 Azdak
    August 8, 2008

    What can you say about the Phelps that hasn’t already been said? Best to deny them the publicity they crave. A Patriot Guard-style defence might be prudent, though, just in case a few slipped through. It’s a long border.

    PETA’s always bewildered me. It always seems to me as if they’re deliberately alienating as many people as possible — no one is that bad at marketing by accident. Do they just enjoy being a minority? They would be so much more effective as an organization for the cause they purport to advocate if they stopped acting like a bunch of raving loons.

  27. #27 AngryCdn
    August 8, 2008

    If they come up here they had better bring a jar for their teeth.

    Before traveling here the WBC folks might like to take note of Canada’s exceptionally low murder rate. It is low because Canada is so large that people don’t get murdered, they simply go missing. Perhaps some time in the Canadian bush would be a good “tourist” experience… eh?

  28. #28 Major Tom
    August 8, 2008

    Epinephrine #22

    Agreed.

    Even if the WBC ‘protest’ and the PETA advert are legal, they are morally repugnant to most, and in extremely bad taste.

    Sickens me the way some people use this man’s murder as a media platform for their agenda.

  29. #29 kmarissa
    August 8, 2008

    Actually, I’m kind of curious how Westboro knows which tragedies are messages from God, and which aren’t. The bus victim can’t have been the only person to die in Canada or the US in tragic and unexpected circumstances that day.

    Do they get a personalized memo from on high? Perhaps a “death of the day” email with fun fonts and clip-art? Or do they have a running Santa-style “naught/nice” list to keep track of who God is smiting on any given day?

  30. #30 Julian
    August 8, 2008

    Its off topic, but we’ve got a major international incident brewing in Eastern Europe http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/7548715.stm

  31. #31 Benjamin Geiger
    August 8, 2008

    Phaedrus@20:

    Retroactive birth control, in these particular cases.

  32. #32 Pierce R. Butler
    August 8, 2008

    While the cat’s away…

    Matthew C. Nisbet, the Vince Li of the Scienceblogs bus, has apparently decided the appropriate “frame” for atheists is acceptance by (I kid you not) the National Catholic Register, and is happily echoing their hatchet job against PZ at http://scienceblogs.com/framing-science/2008/08/two_images_of_atheism_hate_ver.php.

    Just thought folks here would like to know.

  33. #33 Spinoza
    August 8, 2008

    ‘Post hoc ergo propter hoc’ explains all of this quite well.

    Children should, along with comparative religion, at a young age, also be taught basic critical thinking skills. The general level of understanding of what makes a thought or an entailment a rational one is sorely lacking among theists and atheists, religious and non-religious alike… It’s just brutally stupid.

  34. #34 Rev. BigDumbChimp, KoT
    August 8, 2008

    Those Westboro church jerks need to be ignored. All they’re looking for is attention, and you just gave it to ‘em.

    So does PETA. Except for their support of terrorists. That should not be ignored.

  35. #35 Michelle
    August 8, 2008

    Excuse me for the upcoming rudeness:
    PETA ARE SHAMELESS FUCKERS. First the holocaust jews, now the poor guy? Back off, fuckers! Cows are COWS. They’re food! It’s gruesome images, yea, and the people that mistreat animals SUCK, but they are not humans!

    Fuck the religious quacks too! Heck… PETA… Religion… Sounds the same to me.

  36. #36 co
    August 8, 2008

    Yet another off-topic post, but it seems that Schlafly has finally sent his letter to PNAS regarding the Lenski affair. Can’t wait for the response (or lack of one)!

  37. #37 Barklikeadog
    August 8, 2008

    These people are truly disgusting. What’s wrong with Kansas that they can’t be shut down? Free speach gone too far. I feel there is little hope for humanity with those kinds of attitudes. It really makes me sick that these bigots use this horribile thing to promote their sick agenda.

  38. #38 Mold
    August 8, 2008

    PETA are the troo beleevers left after the rest of us got jobs, kids, and houses. With an ideological litmus test about animals, they drive away those most closely aligned with their views. Hate to tell PETA this, but a few YouTube vids of actual slaughterhouse practices would do wonders for going vegan. Oh, now the factories won’t hire whites as they could all be -snort- “ecoterrorists”.

    Strange how the lightning only happens to strike when there is a financial problem. For those of a certain age, it used to be called “Jewish Lightning”. There was a propensity for it to strike during bankruptcy, divorce, labor negotiations, liquidity issues, and anything that could be solved with a quick infusion of insurance company cash.

  39. #39 John Robie
    August 8, 2008

    Fred Phelps is the worst person in the world. We can just be glad that he’s too much a cartoon character to attract much of a following.

  40. #40 Julian
    August 8, 2008

    Epinephrine: Obscenity not protected? Ever heard of Lenny Bruce, Triumph the Insult Comic Dog, Howard Stern? You do realize that the U.S. porn industry is the biggest in the world, don’t you? Obscenity is most certainly protected speech in the U.S.; the only thing I can think you might be referring to are the child pornography laws.

  41. #41 Qwerty
    August 8, 2008

    Using the recently deceased for one’s own political purposes is disgusting.

    The ones that disgust me are those who say we need to stay in Iraq or those who gave their lives there would have sacrificed their lives in vain. Yuch! Come up with better reasons for continuing this unnecessary and illegal war!

    That said, the WCB people are just plain NUTS! PETA isn’t far behind. I like how PETA thinks that having a pet cat or dog is somehow exploiting the animal. I don’t think so.

    This said, the next time I take a bus I’ll definitely check out my fellow passengers for any possible loonies.

  42. #42 Benjamin Franklin
    August 8, 2008

    This is off topic for this thread, but there should be a seperate post for this.

    Ray Comfort, when asked by several posters why he has yet to respond to PZ’s discussion on WDAY, offered this gem-

    You mean the guy who was a no-show at the last moment. He was supposed to debate me. I wonder why he didn’t show up? Do I smell chicken? Afraid of banana man :).

    I am too busy (working on the thrid seaon of our TV program).

    When another poster wrote that separating the debate into 2 shows was the station’s idea, Comforts response was-

    Sure

    Now Ray has written a post responding to PZ’s statements on the Jim & Ben show-

    took the time to listen to most of PZ Myers’ response to my interview on WDAY Radio. The highlight came when the host asked THE big question. It was the same question I would have asked him: “Now do you have any observed examples of evolution? I would like to get some actual science that would explain this. Something we could sink our teeth into. The common man…” He wanted some (any) observable scientific evidence for the theory of evolution.

    This was a wonderful opportunity to silence the critics. Professor PZ Meyers gave it his best shot. Here is his word-for-word answer:

    “One that was really spectacular just recently is the observation of divergence of species of lizards in the Mediterranean. There were a set of islands there that were kind of abandoned by a war on the Slavic’s on the Balkan Peninsula. What happened was that while they were abandoned there were these introduced species of lizards that were rapidly evolving to take advantage of new situations. So they were switching from a mostly insect lifestyle, where they were eating lots of insects, to one where they were also taking advantage of plant material. Not only have they observed changes (they can document them they can see the species shift), but they have also discovered that these lizards have evolved a new structure, a new little enfolding of the gut, to allow them to digest more food; plant material in particular. So you know it’s a combination of things. It’s actually observing a change in populations and it’s the observing the appearance of novel structures in the gut.”

    You could detect that the host was extremely under-whelmed by this observable scientific proof for the theory. He said, “Okay. Alright . . . ” Then he quickly changed the subject.

    So there you have it. The best observable scientific evidence for the theory tale of evolution is the really spectacular evidence of “a new little enfolding of the gut.” Wow.

    You can listen to the original interview on: http://www.areavoices.com/benandjim/?blog=31157

    And the professor’s response on: http://www.heathenz.com/2008/08/06/pz-myers-on-a-christian-radio-show/

  43. #43 Brownian, OM
    August 8, 2008

    Matthew C. Nisbet, the Vince Li of the Scienceblogs bus

    A cannibalistic beheader? Nisbet is the WBC of scienceblogs, always screaming for attention and receiving little unless it’s because he’s piggybacking on something PZ or Dawkins has said or done.

    This said, the next time I take a bus I’ll definitely check out my fellow passengers for any possible loonies.

    Won’t help much here in Canada. It’s rare that you’ll find any of us without a few loonies or toonies in our pockets.

  44. #44 GirBoBytons
    August 8, 2008

    Jesus Christ on a cracker I am so tired of hearing about these asshats! Infact, I just watched a documentory about them last night and it makes me sick just thinking about how deluded and far gone that family is. To #17 you know what I think thats a great idea! They want to mess up other families funerals for their loved ones then we should do the same for them. See how they like it and maybe they can realize how callous and disrespectful they have been all these years to people who died in the war and 9/11. They probably wont but I would take part in something like that just to cause them grief. I feel mostly sorry for the children. In the film I watched the 7 year old and the 8 year old were holding these signs and had no idea what they meant. Their minds have just been filled with filth and hatred and they stand by it not knowing what it means. Bleh it angers me just thinking about it. The film was just done so well I couldn’t stop watching it even though it was really hard to swallow people really believed this crap and lived their lives this way. Something is going to stop them one of these days I am sure. I don’t beleive in karma but you will find there is no mystical inner workings to a bunch of A holes having a lot of bad stuff happen to them. All of their lies and hatred will catch up to them one of these days.

  45. #45 gg
    August 8, 2008

    “a group of American fundamentalists from Westboro Baptist church are intending to picket Tim’s funeral based on the premise that this is god’s response for Canada’s policies that enable abortion, homosexuality, and adultery.”

    Someone needs to stage a counter-protest of the Phelps clan, with signs that read, “God burned your garage because you’re such a bunch of pricks!”

  46. #46 Jacques
    August 8, 2008

    I hope those fsckers will be dealt a little down home hockey stick justice. If I were in Winnipeg I’d gladly join in the game.

  47. #47 Rev. BigDumbChimp, KoT
    August 8, 2008

    The commenters are taking him to task pretty well. However in classic Ray style he’ll make some crocoduck style quip and brush this off.

    I’ve avoided engaging him on his blog recently other than to ask him to respond to PZ because it’s not worth it.

    He is an idiot. And I mean that in the truest sense of the word. His arguments are not arguments. They are the regurgitations of an person with a deficient mental capacity.

  48. #48 Qwerty
    August 8, 2008

    One more thought.

    The WBC did have one interesting protest a few years ago. It seems that they picketed Focus on the Family (or, as PZ calls them Focus on the Patriachy). Their reasoning: Focus on the Family tells its people to love their homosexual family members and the WDB thought this wrong.

    Of course, the love Focus talked about was that “conditional” love where you are expected to overcome your same-sex attractions by attending their Love Won Out conferences. Followed by continual therapy and counseling ala Ted Haggard. Simpler put: go back into that closet Blanche!

    Homophobes picketing a homophobic organization. The nuts picketing the nutty! How pathetic.

  49. #49 JBlilie
    August 8, 2008

    “A counter-protest against the church’s picket plans was launched on the social networking site Facebook on Thursday. More than 700 people have since joined the group; postings indicate they plan to form a “human wall” around the family to shield them from the church protest, if it takes place.” (from the cbc)

    This is a great show of support for the grieving family. Good show, people.

    I think they should feel free to physically move/handle/rough-up these scum as well if they show up. These WBC (what adjectives are vile enough for these scum?) s#!tbags make me ill and ashamed to be an American.

    And they certainly have no right to come into Canada to protest something that is none of their business.

  50. #50 jamie
    August 8, 2008

    Yesterday when I heard this news I had lost my love for humanity. How could people do this to a person who was the victim of a brutal crime. No one deserves this especially after being taken from the world in such a terrible way. But this morning when I read that these brainless fundamentalist ass-holes were being stopped at the border, I had never felt so proud of being Canadian. And the best was that the MP that ordered them to be stopped, said that these people were just as bad as the murderer himself. Well said.

  51. #51 Escuerd
    August 8, 2008

    Major Tom @ #16:

    BTW – Michael – Canada does not have a U.S. 1st amendment – We have our very own Constitution and Bill of Rights. We also have laws against hate-speech.

    Just for the record, I think that was Michael’s point. It seemed like euphemism when he said the 1st Amendment “isn’t as alive and well [in Canada] as it is [in the U.S.].”

  52. #52 Michelle
    August 8, 2008

    @Major Tom:

    Terrific news. We have enough wackos to deal with, we don’t need the american wackos to come join in.

    Good job, custom guards!…for once.

  53. #53 True Bob
    August 8, 2008

    Michelle, those are Merkin Wackos.

  54. #54 jamie
    August 8, 2008

    Well it seems that some did cross the border (the ones who couldn’t be spotted for they lacked the signs and pamphlets) and are now having said signs and pamphlets couriered to them. This is disgusting, no other word for it, just disgusting.

  55. #55 Phantom Hugger
    August 8, 2008

    Is anyone aware of an advocacy group that cares for the lives of domestic animals (regardless of they being raised for food), that are not of the “four legs good, two legs bad” ilk?

    PETA stink.

  56. #56 Blondin
    August 8, 2008

    Stockwell Day to the rescue! Well, almost. He only told the border guards to block anyone carrying WBC signs or placards. At least one bunch got through by mailing their material to themselves via courier.

    It is a bit ironic that Stockwell Day should take offense at the antics of the WBC considering that he is all for discrimination against gays, himself.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stockwell_Day

    As much as I dislike Stephan Harper I am so thankful Stockwell Day didn’t remain leader of the Conservatives.

  57. #57 Hap
    August 8, 2008

    I don’t think Nisbet could be the Sb WBC – he doesn’t seem that willling to do anything other than complain. More like the useless Sb coffee shop whiner.

    He’s sort of like a movie critic who proclaims his knowledge and ability to make movies but hasn’t made one or even started one. Not even Valley of the Dolls.

  58. #58 IceFarmer
    August 8, 2008

    The Westboro nut jobs don’t suprise me. They’re a bunch of attention seeking wackos. I wouldn’t be suprised if their protest sparks some sort of incident. Let’s hope they cross the line and get incarcerated, or perhaps we could be lucky and they could be denied entry at the border based on their intended actions.

    PETA drives me F’ing NUTS. I’m all for animal rights to an extent (I’m a happy generalized omnivore) but these guys are more detrimental to the animal rights movement than they realize.

    The McLean family has suffered enough already. Having discussion based on his death is one thing. Trying to use it in a tasteless fashion for political gain is pathetic and disgusting. I’ll make an extra effort to sneer at these guys and make sure that they lose support where I can. My mother in law gives to PETA monthly. I don’t think she will after this. As for Westboro, we can only hope they don’t have too many kids.

  59. #59 Paul
    August 8, 2008

    At least we have learned that these two groups are indeed cut from the same cloth. Extreme left and right coincide at the edge of the universe. The only thing they really disagree on is how to slaughter a lamb.

  60. #60 Growling in Toronto
    August 8, 2008

    They got in:
    http://www.nationalpost.com/story.html?id=710385
    “Members of a U.S. fringe group crossed the border into Canada overnight and are hiding somewhere in Manitoba.”
    Wishing I was in Winnipeg… Grrrrrr

  61. #61 leki
    August 8, 2008

    The beheader was undoubtedly suffering from severe mental illness, and there are suggestions that he was an undiagnosed, untreated paranoid schizophrenic to the nth degree. He fell through the cracks as a recent immigrant with few resources available to him. I’m certainly not condoning his act (egads! it’s freaking outrageously horrific!), but he wasn’t necessarily just a ‘cold blooded killer’. He was absolutely stark-raving, foam-at-the-mouth CRAZY. In one of his initial court appearances, he quietly said “kill me now”.

    http://www.canada.com/calgaryherald/news/story.html?id=5ba3e33e-dea0-4ddd-8353-382ef9b1fda5

    As for the Westboro gang…here’s an update:
    http://www.ctv.ca/servlet/ArticleNews/story/CTVNews/20080807/funeral_folo_080808/20080808?hub=Canada

    Apparently, they made it across the border.

  62. #62 kmarissa
    August 8, 2008

    TrueBob,

    On perusing a book of forgotten English words, several friends and I decided that the old word “merkin” needed to to be pushed back into circulation, perferably as a generic insult. As in, “he’s such a merkin.” Although I realize your use of Merkin is somewhat different in original meaning than mine, I am nonetheless delighted to hear someone call Westboro, “Merkin Wackos”. I will now foreverafter associate WBC with merkins.

    Thanks ;)

  63. #63 AJ Milne
    August 8, 2008

    While I can’t shed a tear specifically about Phelps & co. being denied another opportunity to be asshats at someone’s funeral, I do have to say the government’s rationale for blocking them does make me a bit uncomfortable. Standard ‘there are limits to freedom of speech boilerplate’, but what are those limits going to be? This really isn’t yelling fire in a crowded theatre stuff. This is just being a huge jerk. And I’m pretty sure there’s nothing specifically in the bill of rights that says your right to free speech may be rescinded purely on the basis that you’re a huge jerk.

    And re ‘hate speech’, note that plenty of religious types are awfully quick to yell out ‘hate speech’ the moment anyone criticizes their particular delusion. Which is no help to those of us who’d like to call ‘em on said BS. And note that considering this issue, Stockwell Day is so *not* the guy I’d want calling the shots on what is and isn’t acceptable speech.

    Note also: it was my understanding the Phelps clan made some of the money they once had by sueing in cases in which they felt they could argue they were unfairly being denied a right to protest. So I damned well hope the ministers giving these directives have thought this through. Seeing as they’re not citizens, I guess, probably there’s not a lot of legal levers they can pull, but still, it’s not a game I’d want to get involved in.

    Pains me to say it, but much as it’s nice the family is going to be able to have a decent, quiet funeral without those asshole opportunists using the venue to get their publicity, I’d rather the government stayed out of their way, here.

  64. #64 Rey Fox
    August 8, 2008

    “So there you have it. The best observable scientific evidence for the theory tale of evolution is the really spectacular evidence of “a new little enfolding of the gut.” Wow.”

    We could devote a thread to this guy, and flame his blog until kingdom come (heh), but I just don’t see the point. It could only lead to madness. His is the most shallow mind in the universe (next to Ben Stein’s, anyway). Let him live in middle school forever. He will always have a market among the 29%ers, there’s nothing that can be done.

    Oh yes, and Fred Phelps is a prick and PETA are loonies. Of course. See, this is what I could call “alienating” or even, in a loose rhetorical sense, “militant”. What’s the worst that atheists have done? Staked a cracker. Doesn’t exactly compare, does it? I mean, except in the mind of Peter Rooke.

    “Homophobes picketing a homophobic organization. ”

    They deserve each other. I wish that could have turned into some epic slapfight, would have been great fun for everyone else.

  65. #65 Trent1492
    August 8, 2008

    P.Z is the “dark underbelly of atheism., so says Matt Nisbet. Nisbet blames a hit piece on P.Z and atheist in general by the National Catholic Register, not on the shoddy reporter, but on the new atheist and their “ideological porn”.

  66. #66 Evolving Squid
    August 8, 2008

    Fred Phelps has been denied entry into Canada in the past, IIRC. The WBC message about gays would be one that is likely to get them arrested in some parts of Canada.

  67. #68 Qwerty
    August 8, 2008

    Typo!! And I proofed it! WDB should be WBC!

  68. #69 Blondin
    August 8, 2008

    AJ Milne, you summed up my sentiments very well. Stockwell (Doris) Day lecturing anyone about hate speech is like the proverbial pot calling the kettle black.

  69. #70 Epinephrine
    August 8, 2008

    Epinephrine: Obscenity not protected? Ever heard of Lenny Bruce, Triumph the Insult Comic Dog, Howard Stern? You do realize that the U.S. porn industry is the biggest in the world, don’t you? Obscenity is most certainly protected speech in the U.S.; the only thing I can think you might be referring to are the child pornography laws.

    Look up the Miller test for obscenity (Miller v. California, 413 U.S. 15 (1973)), it’s a legal way to limit freedom of speech that is regarded as obscene.

    I was pointingit out as it’s legally true. Just as one can’t utter death threats, phone in a fake bomb threat, or various other (reasonable) limitations on freedom of speech, there is a limit on obscenity in the USA.

  70. #71 DaveX
    August 8, 2008

    Honestly, even as a committed vegetarian, I’d sooner give money to help the ALF burn down an empty McDonald’s than I would ever support PETA. They’re some real a**holes, for sure.

  71. #72 Jason Failes
    August 8, 2008

    The psycho in question (the fellow on the bus, I mean, rather than Phelps or PETA) was a regular church-goer. I believe he even worked at the church.

    Now I’m not saying religion makes you crazy, though I would like to see more research in this area, but I absolutely cannot see how it could be any good for someone already experiencing mental illness to be surrounded by people who think your symptoms represent either communion with God or possession by the devil.

  72. #73 Growling in Toronto
    August 8, 2008

    Sorry Blondin (for the old news), somehow I didn’t register your post. Must be the adrenalin. [bites corner off desk]

  73. #74 Dustin
    August 8, 2008

    Honestly, even as a committed vegetarian, I’d sooner give money to help the ALF burn down an empty McDonald’s than I would ever support PETA. They’re some real a**holes, for sure.

    There is nothing assholish about the ALF at all. After all, firebombing researchers for killing a hapless drosophila is both reasonable and polite.

  74. #75 Blondin
    August 8, 2008

    FWIW I also feel that the WBC has already achieved exactly what they wanted. Why picket this particular funeral? Because they know there will be news cameras. Why publicize their intentions? Because they know it will provoke a reaction and get them in the news.

    If everyone had totally ignored them then, when they do picket the funeral, there might have been a spontaneous snot-pounding of picketers which would have been perfectly understandable. As it is they have already gotten their hate-filled message into the media yet again, Shirley Phelps-Roper has gotten another 10 or 15 minutes airtime on CNN, Fox or both and the Winnipeg police are now obliged to protect these vile assholes when they show up with their “God hates fags” signs and pamphlets.

  75. #76 G. Williams
    August 8, 2008

    It might’ve been posted here already and I missed it, but several years ago I ran across this article on Phelps. It’s morbidly fascinating reading, and at the end of it I concluded that whatever one’s opinion of religion and god, Phelps’s activities have about as much religious motivation as a buzzard’s in scooping up roadkill. At least the buzzard fills an ecological niche. I still haven’t figured out what use Phelps serves, aside from to give the rest of us an example of human behavior to boggle at.

  76. #77 Grimalkin
    August 8, 2008

    I work for an animal rights organization and we’re just as disgusted as you are about the PETA ad (probably all the more so because every time PETA pulls a stunt like this, we take some of the backlash, despite not being associated with them in any way).

    I just really hope that everyone realizes that this is PETA, they are completely nuts. They are disgusting people who, at least their upper administration, care more about publicity and money than about animals. Taking advantage of someone’s pain to advance your own agenda is an awful thing to do. Please understand that this is just PETA and that they don’t speak for all animal rights organizations and they certainly don’t speak for animals.

  77. #78 SteveM
    August 8, 2008

    While I can’t shed a tear specifically about Phelps & co. being denied another opportunity to be asshats at someone’s funeral, I do have to say the government’s rationale for blocking them does make me a bit uncomfortable.

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but I think a nation can deny entry to non-citizens for just about any reason they want.
    Your ‘murican 1st amendment doesn’t apply in Canada, and the Canadian right of free expression applies only to Canadians. If you knock on Canada’s door saying “I want to protest at a funeral”, I don’t see anything wrong with Canada saying “No, go away”.

  78. #79 Brownian, OM
    August 8, 2008

    From the National Catholic Reporter article Trent1492 linked to:

    As I talked with Myers I was struck by an irony: For a scientist whose job it is to observe cause and effect, he has a poor understanding of the cause, Catholicism, and its effects on world culture. He does not see Christianity as an elevating force in the world, but rather as a strange superstition–akin to banging a pot to scare away the moon.

    As I read this piece, I was struck by an irony, too. If PZ had broken a statue of Ganesh, would this lackwit have criticised PZ for not seeing Hinduism “as an elevating force in the world, but rather as a strange superstition–akin to banging a pot to scare away the moon”?

  79. #80 WhenDanSaysJump
    August 8, 2008

    PETA’s always bewildered me. It always seems to me as if they’re deliberately alienating as many people as possible — no one is that bad at marketing by accident. Do they just enjoy being a minority? They would be so much more effective as an organization for the cause they purport to advocate if they stopped acting like a bunch of raving loons.

    Interestingly, I used to work for PETA Europe. The duties of the European arm of PETA mainly consist of 1) encouraging people to adopt as cruelty-free a lifestyle as possible, tailoring this to a European, and particularly UK-centric audience where any of the more infamous campaigns would have spelled instant doom, and 2) damage limitation on the kooky shit coming from head office in the US, which is to all intents and purposes the epicentre of the cult of personality surrounding Ingrid Newkirk. In my dealings with her I found her… disquieting.

    Needless to say, many a Picard-esque facepalm occurred in the job. And there’s another one occurring now. I’m a staunch vegan, yet despite subsisting on a diet of lentils, cardboard, sawdust and self-righteousness, I’m smart enough to know the difference between, say, factory farming and repeatedly knifing the life out of someone on a bus. I find both reprehensible in their own way : I also know I’d be retarded to attempt to draw parallels.

  80. #81 DaveX
    August 8, 2008

    #74– Don’t get too indignant, I was just making an exaggerated comparison.

    In reality, my vegetarian efforts are confined to my diet, and cheering on mad cow disease.

  81. #82 Steven Dunlap
    August 8, 2008

    Just a quick FYI on the Phelps clan and Westboro:

    I do not remember the exact number but 4 or 5 of Phelps’ grown children are lawyers (I don’t think they have passed the bar, or if passed, they have long since been dis-barred). Their trick is to provoke people into screaming insults at them and then they sue for defamation. It’s all a nuisance suit and they go away after a settlement, even a small one. But they do it so much it constitutes an income stream. They have yet to go after anyone posting on blogs (to the best of my knowledge) yet. But that may be due to the difficulty and expense of finding out who someone is and tracking down their address (to send the summons).

    Happily, counter-suits have come close to bankrupting Westboro. Live by the lawsuit, die by the lawsuit. I think that some abuse of process suits have also cowed them a bit. If there is a lawyer on this thread who can weigh in with more details I would be interested to learn more.

  82. #83 Dustin
    August 8, 2008

    Don’t get too indignant, I was just making an exaggerated comparison.

    Your comparison was asinine, and you’re a jackass.

  83. #84 Naked Bunny with a Whip
    August 8, 2008

    If anything is a “punishment from God”, it’s Fred Phelps.

  84. #85 AJ Milne
    August 8, 2008

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but I think a nation can deny entry to non-citizens for just about any reason they want. Your ‘murican 1st amendment doesn’t apply in Canada, and the Canadian right of free expression applies only to Canadians. If you knock on Canada’s door saying “I want to protest at a funeral”, I don’t see anything wrong with Canada saying “No, go away”.

    I’m Canadian, actually. ‘Bill of rights’ was misspoken for ‘Charter of…’. Context, y’know. US site; I was in US mode.

    Re your question, technically, the language of the charter doesn’t single out citizens for that particular right. It does for rights to which citizenship is clearly a requirement (voting, &c.), but not the freedom of association stuff.

    Now, I don’t know what the precedent is, however; whether any foreign nationals have ever successfully argued it applies to them. There is a matter of standing; I don’t know how/if they could bring suit. And certainly, you’re right that sovereign nations generally have had that right to bar entry, for better and for worse.

    But my issue is more with the principle of it anyway: whether his directive in this case is legal or not (and let’s hope it is, as I sure would hate to see any my tax dollars going to Phelps and Co. over such a misstep), the language Day uses isn’t pretty. Limits to freedom of speech, sure. But we’re normally pretty careful about what we let those become, and with good reason.

  85. #86 Rev. BigDumbChimp, KoT
    August 8, 2008

    In reality, my vegetarian efforts are confined to my diet, and cheering on mad cow disease.

    Well there’s a good message.

  86. #87 Naked Bunny with a Whip
    August 8, 2008

    cheering on mad cow disease.

    Cute joke. :-\

  87. #88 Brownian, OM
    August 8, 2008

    I’m a staunch vegan, yet despite subsisting on a diet of lentils, cardboard, sawdust and self-righteousness

    Oh, that was great!

    I do not remember the exact number but 4 or 5 of Phelps’ grown children are lawyers (I don’t think they have passed the bar, or if passed, they have long since been dis-barred). Their trick is to provoke people into screaming insults at them and then they sue for defamation. It’s all a nuisance suit and they go away after a settlement, even a small one. But they do it so much it constitutes an income stream. They have yet to go after anyone posting on blogs (to the best of my knowledge) yet. But that may be due to the difficulty and expense of finding out who someone is and tracking down their address (to send the summons).

    What reprehensible little cowards. Given the anger expressed at them on this blog and elsewhere, how is it that Fred’s hyoid hasn’t yet been crushed into bone meal by a vigilante?

  88. #89 Ann
    August 8, 2008

    Ditto, Grimalkin. I’m a vegan who loathes PETA’s tactics. Every time someone who believes [X] does something reprehensible, we hear cries for other [X] believers to issue denouncements. While I don’t think that’s actually an obligation, it seems to be the politic thing to do. So here I am, standing up as a vegan, saying that PETA’s tactics are too often reprehensible.

    But by the same token, that doesn’t mean that everything about their positions is wrong. Someone can certainly be an atheist and an ass, as has been demonstrated in comments here, but that doesn’t mean that atheism itself is wrong. Same goes for those concerned with animal welfare.

  89. #90 DaveX
    August 8, 2008

    Rev– I don’t see as how it’s any different than folks on here laughing about the Darwin Awards. I mean if you’re willing to eat meat, knowing the disgusting ways in which it’s raised/treated/fed/handled/processed… well, you deserve something like mad cow. By my sensibility, it’s no different than watching an educated person tuck into a big pile of s**t– it’s unbelievable that folks could be so unconcerned with the basics of their own sustenance!

  90. #91 SteveM
    August 8, 2008

    I’m Canadian, actually. ‘Bill of rights’ was misspoken for ‘Charter of…’. Context, y’know. US site; I was in US mode.

    When I said “Your ‘murkin 1st amendment right …”, I wasn’t really referring to you directly but to the hypothetical American entering Canada.

    Re your question, technically, the language of the charter doesn’t single out citizens for that particular right. It does for rights to which citizenship is clearly a requirement (voting, &c.), but not the freedom of association stuff.

    The US Constitution doesn’t specifically say it’s protections only apply to citizens, but I think the SCOTUS has ruled in the past that it does. Which of course does not apply to Canada, its just me wildly generalizing. :-)

  91. #92 llewelly
    August 8, 2008

    Pierce R. Butler, #32:

    Matthew C. Nisbet, the Vince Li of the Scienceblogs bus, has apparently decided the appropriate “frame” for atheists is acceptance by (I kid you not) the National Catholic Register, and is happily echoing their hatchet job against PZ at http://scienceblogs.com/framing-science/2008/08/two_images_of_atheism_hate_ver.php.

    Matthew C. Nisbet: The best ammunition the anti-framing people could hope to have.

  92. #93 SteveM
    August 8, 2008

    oops:

    The US Constitution doesn’t specifically say it’s its protections only apply to citizens, but I think the SCOTUS has ruled in the past that it does. Which of course does not apply to Canada, its it’s just me wildly generalizing. :-)

  93. #94 Paul Lundgren
    August 8, 2008

    I’d like to see regular Sunday protests at WBC by a bunch of gay men in leather Boy Scout uniforms and fake Jesus costumes making out and fondling each other. Anything to drive Phelps over the edge.

    Seriously, does anyone doubt that Phelps is a closet case himself? Twisted fuck.

  94. #95 Brownian, OM
    August 8, 2008

    Rev– I don’t see as how it’s any different than folks on here laughing about the Darwin Awards. I mean if you’re willing to eat meat, knowing the disgusting ways in which it’s raised/treated/fed/handled/processed… well, you deserve something like mad cow. By my sensibility, it’s no different than watching an educated person tuck into a big pile of s**t– it’s unbelievable that folks could be so unconcerned with the basics of their own sustenance!

    Unconcerned? Have fun traveling with your froofy pansy gut. At this point I’m pretty sure my innards resemble the rusted out muffler on an ’85 Chrysler, but damnit, I’ll eat and drink nearly whatever the locals do.

    Now, if only I had some place to go….

  95. #96 BlueIndependent
    August 8, 2008

    “If anything is a “punishment from God”, it’s Fred Phelps.”

    Somehow I’m thinking Phelps would relish in that idea.

  96. #97 Natalie
    August 8, 2008

    Does the Canadian freedom of expression law (whatever its technical name is) apply to border crossings, though? I could see it applying to non-citizens who are already in Canada, but why would it protect a non-citizen’s right to enter a country?

  97. #98 John C. Randolph
    August 8, 2008

    I can’t fathom what PETA thinks they will accomplish by this, other than once again getting their name in the paper.

    That’s what they’re all about. PETA lives on publicity.

    It just gives us non-meat eaters a bad, bad name.

    Why would anyone hold all vegetarians responsible for what Newkirk’s nut-cult does? My mom and dad are vegetarians, and they sure didn’t have anything to do with this stunt.

    -jcr

  98. #99 Natalie
    August 8, 2008

    SteveM, is the SCOTUS has ruled in such a way, I would be curious to hear about it. AFAIK they’ve ruled in the opposite direction just recently, in the Gitmo detainees case.

  99. #100 varlo
    August 8, 2008

    Perhaps some time in the Canadian bush would be
    a good “tourist” experience… eh?

    Couldn’t you make it the middle of Hudson Bay?

  100. #101 Rev. BigDumbChimp, KoT
    August 8, 2008

    Rev– I don’t see as how it’s any different than folks on here laughing about the Darwin Awards. I mean if you’re willing to eat meat, knowing the disgusting ways in which it’s raised/treated/fed/handled/processed… well, you deserve something like mad cow. By my sensibility, it’s no different than watching an educated person tuck into a big pile of s**t– it’s unbelievable that folks could be so unconcerned with the basics of their own sustenance!

    First, mad cow is only acquired by ingesting parts of an infected cow’s brain or spinal tissue (and a few other related things). Someone correct me if I am wrong. Eating most of the cuts that people eat in this country does not expose you to the risk unless you are buying ground products that are not as specific on their content. I can not speak about other countries.

    That’s quite the statement to say someone deserves getting an disease that will kill them because they eat in a way that the vast majority of their culture eats. I doubt very seriously that Joe sixpack struggling to feed his family knows or understands the intricacies of the stuckuppish values of vegan eating. Suggesting he or his family deserves to die is asinine.

    Plus the vast majority of people who eat meat do not get Mad cow, E coli or other bacteria related diseases. In fact more people get sick from E Coli by eating poorly washed vegetables. Your “sensibility” is guided by your vegan sense of superiority, that you have displayed here quite nicely.

    I personally buy all of my meats from a quality butcher who buys from regional organic farms. I’m not as concerned with the organic as I am with the smaller size and locality. Sure there is always a risk with anything you eat you don’t grow yourself but the food system is far safer than people make it out to be. Does that mean there isn’t room for improvement? No.

  101. #102 speedwell
    August 8, 2008

    I’m a vegan, but I’m also a human. If my posts in the foodie thread didn’t make it adequately clear, I’m not a fanatic, either. I can handle the occasional exception without feeling like a backslidden, impure sinner.

    PETA and their ilk are no better than any other fundamentalist religionista group.

  102. #103 John C. Randolph
    August 8, 2008

    It seems that his sky daddy no longer turns people to salt, causes rains of frogs or the like, but to express his displeasure he causes one person to go insane and commit a crime that has no link whatsoever with any of the issues about which He is supposedly upset.

    Heh. Jehovah’s gotten rather feeble in his dotage, it seems.

    -jcr

  103. #104 Nothing Sacred
    August 8, 2008

    Re: Frab #17

    Agreed. When Fred Phelps dies there should be a huge Pride-like parade and celebration fifty feet away from where he’s being buried. Blaring of the Indigo Girls, “It’s Raining Men” and the Village People will be encouraged. Couples breaking into the cemetery late at night after the funeral to perform homosexual acts on Fred Phelps’ grave, while not encouraged, will not be condemned. Who’s with me?

  104. #105 Naked Bunny with a Whip
    August 8, 2008

    I’m thinking Phelps would relish in that idea.

    Yeah, that occurred to me, too. *sighs*

  105. #106 Blondin
    August 8, 2008

    I don’t see what freedom of expression or anti-hate speech laws have to do with border crossings. How many times have you been asked about your political/religious protest intentions by a border guard?

    In one of the recent news articles Shirley Phelps-Roper said that the group that got across weren’t carrying any signs or pamphlets and honestly answered the questions they were asked by the border guard.

  106. #107 Tom
    August 8, 2008

    You guys and yout PETA-bashing comments remind me of the attitudes to slavery 200 years ago i.e. “how could any sensible person object to us using people who are obviously inferior to us?”

    Give it another couple of hundred years and meat eaters will sound like ignorant bigots – in exactly the same way as we fail to understand how any enlightened person could have supported slavery.

    “yes, but bacon tastes nice” is somewhere along the lines of saying “my slaves make MY life easier”.

    This blog is about evolution. I implore you to think about where humans could go next in their development.

    Just imagine how a cow feels when it is in the line… think on that.

    You guys amaze me. You are full of liberal thoughtfulness (which I applaud with all my heart), yet fail to extend it beyond our species. Gaaaad!

  107. #108 WRMartin
    August 8, 2008

    Wait, wait, wait!
    Banging a pot to make the moon go away is sacred in my religion. Stop desecrating my pots and pans this instant. ;)
    Back on topic. Can we have a few of our friends from the Great White North body check the WBC cult members into the pavement. You know, just on ‘accident’. Be polite about it with a little bit of, “Pardon me, eh” and try not to snicker too loudly afterwards.

  108. #109 Naked Bunny with a Whip
    August 8, 2008

    DaveX: I’ve never wished ill on a vegetarian for his or her eating habits. I’ve never “rooted on” food poisoning in spinach or whatever. You’re cheering on slow, painful deaths for people because of their eating habits. I’m trying to figure out how that makes you any different than a fundy claiming that people with AIDS deserve it.

  109. #110 Sharon
    August 8, 2008

    @Tom #107

    I’m all for animal rights, but a group that uses a young man’s tragic death to further their own agenda is despicable no matter what issue they’re trying to further.

  110. #111 Fergy
    August 8, 2008

    Paul Lundren#94:

    I’d like to see regular Sunday protests at WBC by a bunch of gay men in leather Boy Scout uniforms and fake Jesus costumes making out and fondling each other. Anything to drive Phelps over the edge.
    Seriously, does anyone doubt that Phelps is a closet case himself? Twisted fuck.

    Here’s exactly what you’re looking for, courtesy of Michael Moore…

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ra_fAYl4Th4

  111. #112 varlo
    August 8, 2008

    Normally I like Canadians (a lot of them winter here in Florida)but I disagree with those who want to prevent the lunatics from entering. PLEASE … take them and keep them.

  112. #113 Blondin
    August 8, 2008

    “yes, but bacon tastes nice”

    But tofu tastes like shit!

  113. #114 Tom
    August 8, 2008

    Sharon @110. I do of course agree. We have to be sensitive to other’s feelings. That’s only human. (but let’s extend the same courtesy to other species too)

  114. #115 Sili
    August 8, 2008

    Sounds like PETA are trying to shift the Overton Window.

    I just have to say, I feel terrible for this man’s family and I hope that they can grieve in the piece that they deserve.

    Good thing I suck at punning, ’cause I’m soooo going to Hell (whether it’s there or not) for sniggering at that typo.

  115. #116 Stimpson
    August 8, 2008

    I feel vindicated. A while back I wrote a book review that said animal rights activists were trying to bully and shame carnivores into vegetarianism. Apparently, some people thought I was jerk for saying that. Now PETA comes along and proves I was guilty of understatement.

  116. #117 SplendidMonkey
    August 8, 2008

    sort of OT:
    A 2005 episode (radio) of This American Life entitled “Godless America”

    It’s excellent, feat. Julia Sweeney.

  117. #118 JJR
    August 8, 2008

    “…whether some Canucks will remind him that the 1st Amendment isn’t as alive and well there as it is here.”

    Nor the 2nd Amendment, nor legalized concealed carry for the law-abiding, which could have potentially led to a comparatively happier outcome for all parties involved.

    Not that Canada will likely draw that lesson from this incident; I’d predict they’ll go the UK route and try to ban sharp, pointy things as well. :-/

    When seconds count, the RCMP is only minutes away.

    Phelps/WBC = religious sickos, ’nuff said.
    PETA = SPCA on a bad LSD trip

  118. #119 Hap
    August 8, 2008

    PETA appears to be a very large attention ho with a low level of internal consistency. If you believe that the positive publicity it yields outweighs the negative publicity, and thus benefits your cause, then have at it. To lots of people here, at least some of whom are sympathetic to your cause, it does not – instead their publicity allows people who disagree with vegetarianism and animal rights to lump everyone who has those beliefs with PETA, and to dismiss them all as nutcases. (The ALF does an even better job of it, but they don’t get as much PR.) Their tactics push the Overton window away from animal rights, not towards it, and would therefore seem not to be in your best interest.

  119. #120 300baud
    August 8, 2008

    “Sorry guys, it just doesn’t equate and it’s disgusting for you to try to use this story for animals’ benefit.”

    Fixed it for ya.

    I am horrified by why happened on that bus. But, I have been even more sick with grief by the suffering that we *perfectly sane* people inflict for no reason at all. At least Li has managed to grasp something of what he has done. We are remorseless.

  120. #121 Natalie
    August 8, 2008

    Tom @ 107

    Your comparison to slavery is intellectually lazy, as well as idiotic. It might as well be Godwin’s Law, or some corollary to Godwin’s Law.

    “This blog is about evolution. I implore you to think about where humans could go next in their development.”

    Well, humans are biologically ominvores, so eating meat fits right in with our evolution. As to “where humans could go next”, you obviously don’t know anything about evolution if you think it’s a consciously directed process.

  121. #122 Blondin
    August 8, 2008

    Now I feel guilty for mocking Tom’s statement. I didn’t mean to belittle your position. I think there are many good reasons for changing our meat-eating habits but I can’t agree with your parallel between slavery/carnivorous behaviour. Does a cow on the line feel any worse than the unlucky zebra at the watering hole?

  122. #123 Brownian, OM
    August 8, 2008

    Agreed. When Fred Phelps dies there should be a huge Pride-like parade and celebration fifty feet away from where he’s being buried. Blaring of the Indigo Girls, “It’s Raining Men” and the Village People will be encouraged. Couples breaking into the cemetery late at night after the funeral to perform homosexual acts on Fred Phelps’ grave, while not encouraged, will not be condemned. Who’s with me?

    I’m not comfortable with dancing on others’ graves. I think bringing a bulldozer and pushing the whole hillbilly clan in the grave with him would be more tasteful and appropriate.

  123. #124 IBY
    August 8, 2008

    Holy crap! What happened in the bus is crazy. It is also sick that these groups were using the murder for their own promotion. Yeah, equate the repeated torture of a person with a knife until the person dies with current farming practices.

  124. #125 John C. Randolph
    August 8, 2008

    Give it another couple of hundred years and meat eaters will sound like ignorant bigots

    Nah, meat will still taste great in a hundred years, and militant veggies will be remembered as yet another franchise of pushy self-appointed moralizers.

    There are three main reasons why I for one will never be a vegetarian: 1) lamb kebabs 2) Dungeness crabs, 3) kobe beef.

    -jcr

  125. #126 John C. Randolph
    August 8, 2008

    I think a nation can deny entry to non-citizens for just about any reason they want.

    Yep. Goes with the territory, so to speak.

    -jcr

  126. #127 LisaJ
    August 8, 2008

    Sili @ #115. Damn! That’s a terrible typo. I am so embarassed. Sorry, I’ve been having a crazy day and had about 5 people talking to me while writing that post.

    Ugh, that’s terrible. I’m going to try to fix it. Thanks :)

  127. #128 John C. Randolph
    August 8, 2008

    PETA appears to be a very large attention ho with a low level of internal consistency.

    Yeah, they’re rather like Greenpeace. They make a lot of noise, get a lot of contributions, and basically suck all the air out of the room for other groups that actually try to get things done.

    Anyone who cares about animals would do far better to contribute to the SPCA. Anyone who cares about the environment would do far better to contribute to the Sierra Club, the Nature Conservancy, Ducks Unlimited, etc.

    -jcr

  128. #129 Brownian, OM
    August 8, 2008

    Courtesy of a friend of mine, here’s some more bullshit from Bush-Lite’s Conservative government: Tories appoint Manning to science advisory panel. D’oh!

  129. #130 David Wegehaupt
    August 8, 2008

    Actually John C. Randolph, those three reasons are really one: selfishness

    you are deciding that your interest in a particular meal is greater than an animals interest in living.

    I loved all of those things, as well as many other kinds of meats and cheeses, but when I seriously considered the unnecessary suffering and slaughter that these tastes inflict, it became obvious that veganism was the only way I can live. To decide that your taste buds are more important than the animal’s life is self-centered.

  130. #131 LisaJ
    August 8, 2008

    There, fixed :)

  131. #132 300baud
    August 8, 2008

    Natalie @121, humans do indeed have an omnivorous gut. That’s a biological fact. But it does not mean it is right to make other creatures suffer needlessly.

    If a human never eats meat, their digestive system ends up radically different than, for example, an Inuit raised on their traditional fare. Having lived their entire life on an all-meat or all-vegetable diet, they would suffer from malnutrition if they switched to the other’s diet, yet they subsist fine on their own. How does that fit in with biology-makes-right?

    Some humans are much bigger than others. That is also a biological fact. But that fact does not necessarily argue that the largest of us should exploit their size to dominate the rest of us. Would you argue that they should?

    Blondin @122, the zebra enjoyed autonomy. It had its shot at raising a family and propagating its line. It had the opportunity to contribute to its native culture and improve the life of its fellow creatures. (Yes, animals have culture.) It was unfortunate (for it, fortunate for someone else) that it got caught as it drank — but that was not fore-ordained before the creature was even born.

    I see a stark difference.

  132. First off, my condolences to the family and friends of Tim McLean.

    Down here the WBC has lost all its shock “value”. I don’t even flinch any more when I hear about what they’re protesting next.

    My apologies on behalf of myself and, if I may, all my fellow rational Americans for allowing the lunatics of the WBC to cross the border into Canada. I hope the Canadian authorities kick their asses back across the border immediately.

  133. #134 David Wegehaupt
    August 8, 2008

    And again to John C. Randolph,

    #128 is right on. Farm Sanctuary is another good animal organization to contribute to.

  134. #135 LisaJ
    August 8, 2008

    Oh no, that’s terrible Brownian (@ #129). I actually went to school and was good friends with some of Manning’s relatives when I was very young. They are some crazy christians, let me tell you. This is not good news.

  135. #136 Richard Smith
    August 8, 2008

    DaveX, #81: In reality, my vegetarian efforts are confined to my diet, and cheering on mad cow disease.

    Glad to know you’re watching my ass. Literally. Having congenital hypopituitarism, I received several years of hGH treatment as a child. Before synthetics. Cadaverous extract. Dead people’s brains injected thrice weekly, intramuscularly. There’s some speculation that this has led to my being a smart ass. And so I’m glad to hear that you’re rooting for the CJD prions that might yet be incubating somewhere. Because, I’m sure you know, CJD is the name given to human cases of spongiform encephalitis.

  136. #137 John C. Randolph
    August 8, 2008

    Regarding the crime on that bus, what really mystifies me is that the killer had no prior record of any kind of violence. I wonder if he’s suffering from a brain tumor or what?

    -jcr

  137. #138 Brownian, OM
    August 8, 2008

    Oh, but it gets even better. Health Minister Tony Clement wants to shut down Vancouver’s safe-injection site.

    What’s his reasoning? The WHO report that suggests safe-injection sites are effective harm-reduction strategies? No, of course not:

    Mr. Clement said that it is up to each country to decide what measures are appropriate, and “it’s not my job to kowtow to orthodoxy.”

    Well then, what is his reasoning?

    “I believe I’m on the side of compassion and on the side of the angels.”

    You tell ‘em, Tony. Don’t you let no lily-livered over-educated libruls stop you from doin’ God’s work.

  138. #139 John C. Randolph
    August 8, 2008

    Actually John C. Randolph, those three reasons are really one: selfishness

    Gee, you say that like it’s a bad thing.

    Sorry to disappoint you, but I wasn’t raised catholic, and standard guilt-trip tactics like that don’t affect me. Have a nice day.

    -jcr

  139. #140 speedwell
    August 8, 2008

    These radical animal rights activists, blathering on about animal suffering and anthropomorphizing like mad, comparing raising animals for food to premeditated mass murder and chattel slavery. That’s ridiculous, over-the-top, fundamentalist “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God”-level craziness. That’s what makes me ashamed to say I’m a vegan… even a vegetarian… in polite company.

    It’s the mark of an enlightened human to mitigate needless suffering. So what have you done for suffering humans lately, you monomaniacal morons?

  140. #141 Epinephrine
    August 8, 2008

    JJR:

    Nor the 2nd Amendment, nor legalized concealed carry for the law-abiding, which could have potentially led to a comparatively happier outcome for all parties involved.

    What hogwash. Sure, if someone had a gun we could have had a dead lunatic and a dead victim. Or the lunatic could have had the gun.

    What benefit exactly does gun ownership and concealed carry get you?

    Canada, 2006:
    Firearm-related homicide rate – 0.6 per 100,000
    Homicide: 1.9 per 100,000

    USA, 2004:
    Firearm-related homicide rate – 3.5 per 100,000
    Homicide: 5.5 per 100,000

  141. #142 Richard Smith
    August 8, 2008

    JJR, #118: When seconds count, the RCMP is only minutes away.

    No problem, as long as there are enough Inuit soapstone sculptures at hand!

  142. #143 John C. Randolph
    August 8, 2008

    Speedwell,

    I agree with you that the the “animal rights” clowns are out of line, but I don’t see any reason for that to make you feel ashamed. Collective guilt is hogwash, and what you choose to eat or not eat is your own business. Choosing not to eat meat doesn’t make you responsible for any other person’s behavior.

    -jcr

  143. #144 Dagger
    August 8, 2008

    I would never pray for someone to encounter misfortune, for two reasons. One, praying as we all know is completely useless and Two, I’m not one to want to visit misfortune on anyone, usually. But what about wishful thinking…

    How about if the WBC members had a car accident on the way home, plunging to the bottom of some gorge, and as they extricated their bloodied selves from the wreck, immediately were pounced upon and eaten by a recently released troop of former circus bears.

    That at least, would be justice.

  144. #145 Natalie
    August 8, 2008

    300 baud says: “humans do indeed have an omnivorous gut. That’s a biological fact. But it does not mean it is right to make other creatures suffer needlessly. If a human never eats meat… [truncated] How does that fit in with biology-makes-right?”

    I didn’t say biology makes right. Biology is morally neutral. A good analogy would be reproduction. Humans have evolved to reproduce, therefore reproducing is not inherently morally wrong. However, it is not a moral imperative. That is, failing to reproduce is not inherently morally wrong either. I feel the same way about diet.

    “Some humans are much bigger than others. That is also a biological fact. But that fact does not necessarily argue that the largest of us should exploit their size to dominate the rest of us. Would you argue that they should?”

    No, because you’re adding a whole other sentence to this proof. My argument is “because humans evolved to be different sizes, being a different size is not morally wrong.” Exploiting and dominating smaller people is not an inherent part of being larger. Just ask my boyfriend.

  145. #146 Evinfuilt
    August 8, 2008

    “anthropomorphizing”

    that’s my key problem right there. please, you can talk about the health benefits and environmental benefits all you want. But once you start making my dinner sound like a human you’ve gone too far.

    I hate to do this to you, but I shall discuss Gavage. One of those cruel nasty things that turns people vegetarian. Its where we force feed geese for their yummy livers. We even shove a tube down their throats. Sounds really cruel, you would never want that done to yourself, right?

    You see, that’s what Geese do to their young. They stick their beaks down the throat of their young and force feed their kids. Before long journeys (you may see them doing those twice a year) they over eat tremendously. Their liver gets a bit big at those times. It seems our ancient ancestors killed some with the overstuffed liver and found it tasty, and since then we’ve replicated it “artificially”. If you get the opportunity to see it done in person you’ll be amazed to see that after the tube is removed if any food spills down onto the ground the goose quickly snatches it up.

    For some reason, what is cruel to a human is normal to a goose. Imagine that… gosh… Next you know you’ll found out that most animals actually eat other animals to survive and don’t feel remorse (that’s the human specialty.)

    Maybe in 200 years we’ll be eating meat from a vat, or maybe a cow will walk over to me, introduce itself and tell me which cuts on it are best for tonights special occasion.

  146. #147 Natalie
    August 8, 2008

    300baud, two questions for you. You argue that the difference between an animal living in the wild and an animal living on a farm is that the animal living in the wild had autonomy and got to live its life out.

    Would this make humans hunting wild animals for food morally right? If so, does that mean that the question is really about the life the animal lives, and less about the fact that we are eating it? If not, why not?

    What about a farm where the farm animals do live a relatively autonomous lifestyle? Would eating the meat of those animals be morally acceptable, and if so why?

    Many of our current farm animals cannot survive on their own in the wild. If we decide they all need autonomy, whole species would cease to exist. Is this acceptable by your morals?

  147. #148 windy
    August 8, 2008

    “yes, but bacon tastes nice” is somewhere along the lines of saying “my slaves make MY life easier”.

    No, it’s on the lines of saying “yes, but I like not having to do heavy labor”. Then we can discuss whether there are ethical ways of achieving that goal (the taste of bacon, or less labor)

  148. #149 John C. Randolph
    August 8, 2008

    You see, that’s what Geese do to their young. They stick their beaks down the throat of their young and force feed their kids.

    Careful, you’ll have people demanding that geese be prosecuted for child abuse in a minute..

    -jcr

  149. #150 Blondin
    August 8, 2008

    I’m not unsympathetic to the awful ways most animals raised for consumption are treated. It is unfortunate that once meat production moved from subsistance to industry the care and treatment of animals became secondary to profit. I would like to see that change, I think we eat too much red meat and I think there is something to the argument that we consume more energy feeding and raising animals than we get from the finished product. For the good of the human race I think we need to analyze very carefully what crops and/or animals are going to provide the healthiest food supply for the next generations because the food chain is a delicate thing and there are many things (population growth, climate change, development of 3rd world) converging to present a gloomy future indeed for our childrens’ children (can you say “Soylent Corporation”?). Obesity, CJD and cruelty to animals are all problems needing a solution. But fuckin’ tofu ain’t it.

  150. #151 DaveX
    August 8, 2008

    Brownian–

    Mad cow wasn’t only picked up by those eating brains, and I think you’re engaging in knowing foolish to suggest so. In many cases, it was acquired by those who ate beef that had been fed on cattle feed containing meat and bone meal. In order to save a buck, they were feeding cows to themselves.

    And for TOM, I totally agree with you. Try getting one of these so-called “smart folks” to come up with one decent, logical reason to continue eating meat– all I’ve ever gotten is a bunch of chest-thumping Mighty Men, each more eager than the next to celebrate the GREAT TASTE of one type of meat or another.

    Anyways, the veggies on here have been down this road before. Better just to let it drop before they start smearing themselves in BBQ sauce, and re-enacting “Lord of the Flies”.

  151. #152 Epinephrine
    August 8, 2008

    To the vegans – what makes you think eating plants is any more reasonable than eating animals?

    Plant “neurobiology” is a fairly new field, and we’re dscovering more and more communication and sensation in plants. Plants are living creatures that can sense and adapt to their surroundings, can reproduce, and for all we know have analogues of pain. Why is killing plants, or harvesting their young to eat any more acceptable than killing animals? What’s the difference between enslaving a plant and enslaving an animal?

    Obviously, plants are more distantly related to us, and we don’t know how aware they are, but you can’t deny that they live, sense, and communicate. Why should you have the right to end their lives just to feed yourself?

  152. #153 OctoberMermaid
    August 8, 2008

    I don’t get the people who claim it’s terrible for us to eat animals and it’s so, so wrong. Do you go out and belittle every animal you see eating another animal? What about birds eating insects?

    You might as well follow through with this idea. And for the rest of us, we’ll get a kick out of seeing you walk up to wild animals and shouting “FUCK YOU GUYS!”

  153. #154 3000baud
    August 8, 2008

    The point I was trying to make was that being able to do something does not mean one should do something. I can run very fast and fit through tight spaces. I would be a great purse snatcher. Looking at me, you might think I was even bred for the purpose. But I don’t!

    I *can* digest meat, but there are many reasons why I *should* not. When my choices are limited, I sometimes do. For example, I remain a gracious guest and do not complain about what I am served. But I am aware that I am exploiting not only the creature who’s flesh I took, but the creatures who’s habitat was destroyed so that the farm animal could be raised and fed, as well as the taxpayers who have to deal with the environmental impact of animal farming, which is a staggering hidden cost. A $4.00 hamburger costs society considerably more, and by purchasing it, I encourage the further expansion of terrible and unsustainable practices.

    Humanity is no longer limited by “can”. We must not use “can” as a guiding principle. We “can” quite easily eat ourselves to death.

  154. #155 Blondin
    August 8, 2008

    Wow, this thread has something for everyone. I see a guns-v-gun control argument about to erupt.

  155. #156 Davidlpf
    August 8, 2008

    Right now I just can not figure which is mor evil.

  156. #157 biff
    August 8, 2008

    My favorite documentary on the WBC from Michael Moore.
    While Mr moore rubs me the wrong way sometimes this is spot on.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ra_fAYl4Th4

  157. #158 Natalie
    August 8, 2008

    “The point I was trying to make was that being able to do something does not mean one should do something.”
    I completely agree. I never said and I do not think that every should eat meat. It should be each individual person’s choice. So you’re arguing with yourself here.

    “I *can* digest meat, but there are many reasons why I *should* not… But I am aware that I am exploiting not only the creature who’s flesh I took, but the creatures who’s habitat was destroyed so that the farm animal could be raised and fed, as well as the taxpayers who have to deal with the environmental impact of animal farming, which is a staggering hidden cost. A $4.00 hamburger costs society considerably more, and by purchasing it, I encourage the further expansion of terrible and unsustainable practices.”

    These reasons are reasons to not eat meat produced in a particular manner. They say nothing about the inherent rightness or wrongness of meat eating in and of itself. And again, I completely agree that the way meat is produced in most of the world is both morally wrong and environmentally shortsighted. But that does not make it wrong to eat an animal, in general.

    This is my essential problem with people who are, or at least say they are, morally opposed to eating meat. I have yet to hear an argument that is an argument against eating meat period, rather than an argument against factory farming and/or the primacy of meat in the Western diet.

    DaveX: “Try getting one of these so-called “smart folks” to come up with one decent, logical reason to continue eating meat– all I’ve ever gotten is a bunch of chest-thumping Mighty Men, each more eager than the next to celebrate the GREAT TASTE of one type of meat or another.”

    You must not actually be reading the posts. Quite a few people here are having a reasoned, adult discussion about the morals of eating meat.

  158. #159 Brownian, OM
    August 8, 2008

    DaveX, I never said anything about mad cow; that was the Rev BDC. I was the one that extolled the virtues of my mighty intestinal fortitude.

    Perhaps you might consider adding vitamin A supplements to your diet; your eyesight seems to be failing.

  159. #160 Natalie
    August 8, 2008

    Yargh: “every should eat meat” = every one should eat meat

  160. #161 Nick Gotts
    August 8, 2008

    Epinephrine@152,
    Come off it. We can be as certain as of any biological fact that plants don’t feel pain because (a) They have no CNS and (b) There would be absolutely no adaptive advantage in their doing so. The fact that you come out with this sort of crap suggests a degree of uneasiness about your position.

  161. #162 Longstreet63
    August 8, 2008

    I always find the PETA agenda amusing for its short-sightedness. The implementation of it would result in the largest mass death of animals since the dinosaur-killer. Vast numbers of animals exist only because of their usefulness to humans. The day that usefulness ends, so do they. We aren’t going to be turning a billion cattle loose to graze and we aren’t going to grown a several billion tons of feed for them. We aren’t going to turn out every pet into the street, and if we did, imagine the result.

    But at least some of the cattle wouldn’t go to waste, what with the gangs of hungry dogs. Rabid, hungry dogs, eventually.

    There is no habitat for these animals any more. They would all die if we stopped keeping them alive and breeding them.

    And the zebra’s free will is an illusion, by the way. He is also in a cage–a big one called a wilderness, which only exists because humans decided it should remain. And just that long.

    And if the lion killing the zebra is okay because he has a chance, then I guess hunting must be just fine, too, right?

    Steve “The duck had the chance to duck” James

  162. #163 Davidlpf
    August 8, 2008

    that was suppose to be more not mor.

  163. #164 Qwerty
    August 8, 2008

    Posted by: Blondin | August 8, 2008 3:56 PM

    “yes, but bacon tastes nice”
    But tofu tastes like shit!

    Blondin, you mean you’ve done a taste comparison.

  164. #165 Norman Doering
    August 8, 2008

    Phaedrus wrote:

    PETA and the WBC are powerful arguments for birth control.

    Forced sterilization maybe, but they’re not the kind of people who would use voluntary birth control.

    Perhaps they are powerful arguments for a hidden cost to Pascal’s Wager:

    http://hubpages.com/hub/Pascals-Scare-Tactic

  165. #166 SplendidMonkey
    August 8, 2008

    As someone once asked Dr. Science, “If we’re not supposed to eat animals, then why are they made out of meat?”

  166. #167 Nick Gotts
    August 8, 2008

    SplendidMonkey@166,

    Quite. How many people have you eaten recently?

  167. #168 JM Inc.
    August 8, 2008

    Sorry guys, it just doesn’t equate…” I’m afraid I disagree emphatically with this statement. Does a murderous decapitation, tragic though it is, equate with the Holocaust? Not even close. Factory farming is utterly horrific and ethically unacceptable, although picketing a funeral to point this out is even worse. What the fuck are they thinking? “Yeah, let’s picket the funerals of some holocaust victims too, while we’re at it! Show people we mean business.Fuck that.

  168. #169 Epinephrine
    August 8, 2008

    Come off it. We can be as certain as of any biological fact that plants don’t feel pain because (a) They have no CNS and (b) There would be absolutely no adaptive advantage in their doing so. The fact that you come out with this sort of crap suggests a degree of uneasiness about your position.

    >

    Not at all uneasy. I think vegan for reasons of economic/sustainability is fine, but the other reasons sound hollow to me.

    The no CNS thing? So what, so they don’t feel the same way we do. They’re somewhat alien to us, but a surprising amount of signalling goes on. Who’s to say it isn’t analagous to pain? Is there an advantage to feeling pain for a plant? Well, they react much more slowly, but they do react to various stimuli.

    That doesn’t address the other question – what makes it right to kill one thing and not another? Drawing the line at animals, just because they are more similar to us? Pain is a warning system to keep us healthy and living, ultimately it’s all about being alive. Killing plants is just as final as killing animals.

  169. #170 HennepinCountyLawyer
    August 8, 2008

    “Should be simple to deny entry to the Westboro bigots based on them being undesirable aliens.”

    Yeah. . .wonder what planet they’re from?

  170. #171 Nick Gotts
    August 8, 2008

    ho’s to say it isn’t analagous to pain? – Epinephrine@169

    Anyone with any sense. Pain is useful if you can move to avoid it, and very few plants can. none can coordinate their movements in the way most animals can.

  171. #172 Rev. BigDumbChimp, KoT
    August 8, 2008

    DaveX

    Mad cow wasn’t only picked up by those eating brains, and I think you’re engaging in knowing foolish to suggest so. In many cases, it was acquired by those who ate beef that had been fed on cattle feed containing meat and bone meal. In order to save a buck, they were feeding cows to themselves.

    Sorry that’s just not what the science says. Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy is spread from animal to animal because of the practice you outline above but the transfer from animal to human occurs when humans eat meat that has come into contact with brain and spinal tissue of an infected animal. This is usually because of the poor sanitary / cross contamination practices of the slaughterhouse.

  172. #173 Brownian, OM
    August 8, 2008

    I love tofu. LOVE it. (Of course, my first memorable exposures to tofu were of the deep-fried black-bean-sauce-infused sort.)

    I eat meat (though rarely at home, since I find it simpler to cook mostly-vegetarian), but I’ll easily substitute in tofu and not feel like I’m lacking something. I do agree that most tofu faux-meats taste terrible. I’ve never felt the need to approximate veggie stix, salads, or fruit bowls with meat processed to simulate vegetables and fruit, so I’m bewildered why anyone would torture the noble curd until it resembles organ meat in intestine casing.

  173. #174 Barklikeadog
    August 8, 2008

    “If we’re not supposed to eat animals, then why are they made out of meat?”

    Precisely

  174. #175 Strakh
    August 8, 2008

    My, my, where did all the scientists go? So few responses to the nipple-rubbing, crystal-licking, new-age dipshits based on the very simple fact of evolution.
    The hilariously self-righteous hubris of vegatarians, vegans and their childish cohorts merely reveals that they are not not eating meat because they give a flying fuck about anything but their mirrors, they are not eating meat because they love to be contrary to whatever is popular.
    Makes them feel so special, don’t ya know? They’re all just a bit better than those of us who do eat meat as we evolved to do.
    If it isn’t about meat, it’ll be about something else to make themselves feel different from the rest of us…it’s just the way they are: adolescents trying out different identities because they have yet to develop one of their own…

  175. #176 Rev. BigDumbChimp, KoT
    August 8, 2008

    I’ve never felt the need to approximate veggie stix, salads, or fruit bowls with meat processed to simulate vegetables and fruit, so I’m bewildered why anyone would torture the noble curd until it resembles organ meat in intestine casing.

    Ha. Me either. Tofurky and fakon always mystified me. Why someone who was a vegetarian for “ethical” reasons would want to emulate meat is creepy. Now if its other reason it makes some sense. But not a lot.

  176. #177 SplendidMonkey
    August 8, 2008

    How are we ever going to train venus fly traps? They’re so cruel.

  177. #178 Breakfast
    August 8, 2008

    The way most of you guys (and the rest of society) brush off the animal rights issue is pathetic. Few people even bothered to argue; they just quip about how it’s “too tasty” and make other dishonest dismissals. I’ve seen it again and again whenever meat-eating is discussed; nobody wants to even consider the morality of it, presumably out of defensiveness. This sort of behaviour surrounding any serious issue should be deeply shameful to a group of people who spend every day of the year lambasting other groups for their lack of intellectual honesty. Surprise, surpriseá– most everyone acts like a cretin when the issue at hand threatens their comfortable way of life. (Kudos to those who have actually discussed it seriously.)

  178. #179 Nick Gotts
    August 8, 2008

    “If we’re not supposed to eat animals people, then why are they made out of meat?”

  179. #180 SplendidMonkey
    August 8, 2008

    Nick Gotts – Are you Pete Rooke?

  180. #181 JM Inc.
    August 8, 2008

    Epinephrine, #169:

    Actually, if you’re worried about signalling, then you can’t kill anything. All living things signal; you should be outraged about the ongoing holocaust of bacteria, protists, and archaea. But why not? They’re alive, aren’t they? They’re a little bit different, but hey, who isn’t?

    In fact, is has nothing to do with animals being similar. It has everything to do with a CNS, which is the only organ capable of providing a computationally sufficient substrate for the cognitive processes we recognise as pain. This is scientifically demonstrable: There are people out there, human beings, who do not feel pain – the reason is chemical. It’s an extraordinarily rare genetic disorder. They still have brains, consciousness, and personality, and value systems to which they subscribe, so they still accrue ethical meaning. You’re dipping into, “If a tree falls in a forest where no one hears it, does it make a sound” territory. How about it? If a molecule of epinephrine is floating through space, and nobody is there to feel it, does anyone get excited?

    There’s no good reason to think that suffering or consciousness occurs in anything other than particularly organised CNSs, regardless of any other similarities, that is the only one that matters as far as the evidence can tell.

    Killing is a pointless point to make – life is just a chemical system, a method of homeostasis. What is ethically important is pain and self-consciousness. These are the things which impart ethical value to physical systems.

    And Breakfast, #178: Couldn’t agree more.

  181. #182 Nick Gotts
    August 8, 2008

    Breakfast@178 is quite right. I’m not even a complete vegetarian (I eat fish), I certainly don’t go around telling other people they shouldn’t eat meat and in fact think some meat-eating is justified, but the quality of “arguments” put forward to justify meat-eating and industrial farming is truly shameful.

  182. #183 Strakh
    August 8, 2008

    Okay, Breakfast, lay it on us:

    How is it immoral to eat that which we, over millions of years, evolved to eat?

    No Star Trek quotes, now.

  183. #184 OctoberMermaid
    August 8, 2008

    I guess eating meat is what causes one’s shit to stink.

  184. #185 Nick Gotts
    August 8, 2008

    SplendidMonkey,
    If you’re really too stupid to see that I’m simply using exactly the same “justification” you did, that’s hardly my fault. If being made of meat justifies eating something, then clearly cannibalism is just fine.

  185. #186 Barklikeadog
    August 8, 2008

    I eat meat & make no apologies for it. Your morality is not mine. What is morality anyway? Where does it come from? is it Buddhist? Christian? Athiest? Was it evolved? Is it social?

    Eat what you want but don’t play the moral highground because you don’t. Save it for your boyfriend. Good grief.

  186. #187 Breakfast
    August 8, 2008

    Come to think of it, it’s particularly weird that any group who are so invested in promoting, and correctly promoting, evolutionary theory are also so invested in a strict dichotomization of humans from animals — the sort that evolution obliterated.

    James Rachels wrote an excellent book on the moral implications of evolution and he makes a pretty compelling case, based on capacity for pain, for at least limiting meat production. As far as I remember from back when I read it, it’s quite an accessible and sensible book.
    http://www.amazon.com/Created-Animals-Implications-Darwinism-Paperbacks/dp/0192861298

  187. #188 SplendidMonkey
    August 8, 2008

    Are fish not meat? Hmmm.

    OctoberMermaid :)

  188. #189 Breakfast
    August 8, 2008

    Hey Strakh, #183: Is our ‘evolving to do’ something always grounds for its permissibility?

    How about “We’ve just always done it” — is tradition the determinant of morality? (Better backtrack on all that pro-gay-marriage stuff…)

    I’m not even that interested in getting into the debate; I’ve seen it all before over and over. I just wanted to call intellectual dishonesty for what it is and hopefully prompt some self-examination.

    This whole community, in my humble opinion, could use just a dash of humility while it’s trundling along on the cultural warpath.

  189. #190 Strakh
    August 8, 2008

    No copouts like the religidiots, Breakfast. Don’t go referencing a book about it, tell us why YOU don’t feel eating meat is ‘morally’ correct. This is your big chance to make a good argument based on what YOU have internalized from your learning.
    Nice use of multi-syllabic words, there, too. But are you familiar with the fact that we are NOT that different from what you spuriously claim to be ‘animals’? Nor that evolutionary theory makes no such claim that we are?

  190. #191 Nick Gotts
    August 8, 2008

    SplendidMonkey,
    You really are a moron. I was simply pointing out the total asininity of your “argument”, which I could equally have done even if I ate a beefsteak every night. If you’re really interested, I eat fish because they are not factory farmed (I don’t eat farmed fish). I don’t regard not eating any meat as making me in any way morally superior to those who do, I just prefer not to. Or maybe you think I’m morally obliged to eat meat?

  191. #192 Breakfast
    August 8, 2008

    Strakh@190,
    I didn’t really say anything about how I feel about the morality of eating meat. I’m not here to persuade anyone one way or the other. I was mostly commenting on the sorry response to the issue from posters here.

    Let’s be responsible human beings and never, ever hide behind the safety of broad consensus.

  192. #193 JM Inc.
    August 8, 2008

    Some of this is pathetic (no offence). Breakfast is completely right, this is the most obscene double standard I’ve ever seen here. “Bwaaah, it’s ok for us to eat everybody but wrong for anybody to eat us!

  193. #194 Strakh
    August 8, 2008

    Sure you’re not a religidiot?
    Can’t tell you how many times I’ve given a religidiot a chance to really ‘go at it’ on their chosen disagreement with me and they then do the “Oh, I don’t even want to waste my time” routine, just like you.
    But feel free to claim moral and intellectual superiority over us.
    It’s really such a devastating argument, Breakfast.
    Not.

  194. #195 Evolving Squid
    August 8, 2008

    The way most of you guys (and the rest of society) brush off the animal rights issue is pathetic.

    I’ll be quite direct then…

    I have seen no reason that animals should have any rights whatsoever. None.

    Yes, i’ve seen ranting and raving and more than enough misinformation and pseudoscience – there’s lots of that. But there’s never been a coherent, logical reason why animals should have any rights, let alone have more rights than people… something that the ALF seems to believe since they will freely harm people to save animals.

    You don’t like factory farming? Good for you, really. Don’t eat factory farmed animals.

    Think it’s awful how food chickens are kept? Awesome, don’t eat chicken.

    You think squids feel pain? Don’t jig squids or order calamari.

    But don’t believe for a second that there is a moral high ground in cuddling the animals and turning people into ape-rabbits to satisfy some bizarre animals-are-people-too fantasies.

  195. #196 Breakfast
    August 8, 2008

    Strakh: I actually had already posted that I wasn’t interested in debating the meat-eating itself before you Called Me Out. I’m also both an atheist and an omnivore. So your accusations make me lol.

  196. #197 OctoberMermaid
    August 8, 2008

    “Some of this is pathetic (no offence). Breakfast is completely right, this is the most obscene double standard I’ve ever seen here. “Bwaaah, it’s ok for us to eat everybody but wrong for anybody to eat us!”

    Hey, that’s just completely untrue.

    I offer to let others “eat me” all the time.

  197. #198 SplendidMonkey
    August 8, 2008

    I’m all for humane treatment of animals (including people). Unlike most people who eat meat I’ve actually seen and participated in humane harvest and butchering of animals, and I still eat meat. I find killing and cleaning fish to be just as ethically challenging and yet still as acceptable as that mammal butchering experience.

    It’s reassuring to know that even if/when the humane race is as a whole atheist, there will still be lots to argue about.

    I like to think I have a sense of humor. And yes, my shit stinks too.

  198. #199 Strakh
    August 8, 2008

    “Calling Out” made in jest, Breakfast, only to point out that if you’re going to tell other people that they are intellectually dishonet, etc., best to follow up or look like it’s just the pot calling the kettle black.
    We’ve all seen that trolling technique done by religidiots. You have your chance:
    Demonstrate your brilliance on this topic. We await with meat-tainted breath…

  199. #200 TW
    August 8, 2008

    The hilariously self-righteous hubris of vegatarians, vegans and their childish cohorts merely reveals that they are not not eating meat because they give a flying fuck about anything but their mirrors, they are not eating meat because they love to be contrary to whatever is popular.

    Smacks of the theistic anti-atheist argument.

    Interesting given that vegetarianism is fairly “popular” so a reasonable argument can be made for people in the developed world choosing to eat meat to be contrary to whatever is popular.

  200. #201 Breakfast
    August 8, 2008

    Cheers, Splendid. Our shit all stinks. :)

  201. #202 RamblinDude
    August 8, 2008

    Brownian: “I love tofu. LOVE it.”

    Yes! One of my favorite sandwiches is sautÚed tofu slabs with soy sauce (the good, 2 or 3 year kind, not that cheap crap), garlic powder, hot sauce, mustard and mayonnaise, on homemade whole wheat bread.

    I’m not a vegetarian but criminey, why throw out half the food available just because it wasn’t killed with a bolt gun?

  202. #203 SeanD
    August 8, 2008

    I thought in Canada you were free to kick the asses of fucktards like Phred Felps and his merry band of morons?

    …I can dream can’t I?

  203. #204 Breakfast
    August 8, 2008

    Well, when I say “intellectually dishonest” I don’t mean wrong. I mean dismissive or not allowing proper examination. Theists are intellectually dishonest when they merely brush off, ignore or intentionally misinterpret arguments for atheism, and vice versa, and ditto for this issue. I was just asking people to think honestly about this instead of laughing it off. Some have, some haven’t.

    Maybe later tonight if this is still going on I’ll get more into it (sorry, EvolvingSquid), but I don’t want to blow the whole evening sitting here refreshing this page, so for now I will restrain myself!

  204. #205 aleph1=c
    August 8, 2008

    Round 1: Someone desecrates the host (hey, it’s just a cracker–nothing is sacred) and a bunch of people get all bent out of shape, resulting in everything from name-calling to death threats.

    Round 2: Someone pickets a poor guy’s funeral (again, nothing is sacred) and a bunch of people get all bent out of shape, resulting in everything from name-calling to death threats.

    Yes, Phelps is a disgusting psycho jackass, but free speech is free speech.

  205. #206 JM Inc.
    August 8, 2008

    Evolving Squid, #195:

    Yeah, no, you’re totally right. Animals are completely different from human beings. Too true, too true. I’m so glad I live in a world where people freely recognise that there’s no measurable determinant of personhood aside from membership in one arbitrary species. Yeah! Great idea.

    The blatant callousness towards real and demonstrable pain and suffering by a so-called enlightened society is sickening. Yeah, really, there’s no good reason to think that we should avoid causing gratuitous suffering simply because we can avoid it. What a wonderful, ethical world we live in.

    It’s not about ethical superiority! Get over yourselves, Jesus Christ on a cracker! It’s about the fact that we’re causing gratuitous pain and misery to intelligent beings with complex, centralised nervous systems, consciousness, and self-interests, and brushing it off like it either isn’t there or is so inconsequential as to be unworthy of consideration. It’s about the fact that we could do something but just don’t. I’m not PETA, or ALF, I don’t want “Animal Freedom Now!” or anything like that, I’d like to see animal cruelty gradually phased out by degrees, I’d like to see an end to unnecessary, human-originating suffering, and if the best, most realistic way to do that is to simply convince people that this double standard of theirs, where they care about their own interests and their own satisfactions and their own pains and agonies, but completely disregard those of others based solely on species membership, doesn’t fly. The north didn’t end slavery in the south by telling them, “Well, you do your thing and we’ll do ours and then we’ll all be happy.”

  206. #207 Strakh
    August 8, 2008

    Breakfast at #204:
    Point taken.
    Have a good night and I’ll be looking that book up.

  207. #208 Farb
    August 8, 2008

    I heartily recommend that everyone read the link cited at #76, thoroughly. It tells everything that needs to be known about the Origins of Phred. Remember especially the part about the cocaine, even though Phred’s crackhead background casts all other crackheads in an unnecessarily and excessively negative light, by comparison and/or juxtaposition.

    BTW, to our northern brethern: if the Phredsies managed to sneak across the border, does that mean they are in the country illegally? Once they surface, would they then be liable to arrest, detention, and, say, extensive prosecution?

    I know it means they’d be up north longer than they might otherwise be, and eventually, they’d lawyer their way back south, but I’d buy Molson and Moosehead exclusively while you kept them busy!

    That’s a promise. Any other takers?

  208. #209 Graculus
    August 8, 2008

    I read somewhere, may have been on Dispatches From The Culture Wars, that Fred Phelps is not allowed to enter Canada. I’m not sure how to confirm this, but if true it’s another advantage for our neighbors to the north, eh? :)

    That was probably me commenting.

    You see, when you enter Canada you have to state your business, and Phelps lied to the border agent. That gets you on the “uh-uh” list. Now, you can be a little coy, they realy don’t care about the details that much… but woe unto those that lie outright.

    Remember, scumbags, it’s the little things that trip you up….

  209. #210 Benjamin Franklin
    August 8, 2008

    In my business, many, if not most, of my end users are vegetarian, vegans, and raw-foodists. Which is great, as in more power to ‘em.

    I eat meat, and as I posted a few days ago on the great pork vs beef BBQ debate thread, I’m an eat and let eat kind of guy.

    What I won’t stand for though, is when PETA, ALF or anyone else attempts to equate the eating of a hamburger with a bad moral choice, or being intheir eyes, sinful.

    That is no different from a religious wackaloon telling me not to do something because they feel their holy book says it is sinful.

    Perhaps the ever-inciteful Robert Heinlein summed it up the best when he said-

    “Sin lies only in hurting other people unnecessarily. All other “sins” are invented nonsense. (Hurting yourself is not sinful – just stupid).”

    I won’t deny that animals (or plants) have feelings, and are mistreated, but they are not “people”.

    Now, is it too late to have bacon for breakfast, or shall I have breakfast for breakfast?

  210. #211 Nick Gotts
    August 8, 2008

    #210 – Benjamin Franklin’s argument:
    1) Animals are not people.
    2) Therefore hurting them unnecessarily isn’t wrong.

    Somehow, there seems to be something missing from that argument. Oh, I know, it’s any logical connection between the premise and the conclusion.

  211. #212 Barklikeadog
    August 8, 2008

    Hmmm…Did someone say bacon? Bacon, I love bacon! So do my immoral dogs. I think I’ll wrap my steak in bacon. Praise the cow & pig, for without we’d all eat beans & you know how that enhances a social gathering. I might even throw on an arthropod to boot. Yum! Maybe some sweet corn on the cob too w/ plenty of butter.

  212. #213 Barklikeadog
    August 8, 2008

    Nick, food animals aren’t hurt unnecessarily. They’re hurt to provide me dinner.

  213. #214 Pony
    August 8, 2008

    Fred Phelps vs The Chaser’s War on Everything.

    I can understand people not wanting to eat meat for aesthetic reasons. (ie, they don’t like the taste/texture/smell/look etc)

    I can understand people not wanting to eat meat for biochemical reasons. (ie, meat disagrees with their digestive system)

    But I can’t understand people who don’t want to eat meat for “moral” reasons. It’s not the same thing, to eat a cow, or a pig, or a chicken, as it is to eat a human. The animal is not a person.

    On the other hand, I think the litmus test for eating something should be whether you are willing to kill it yourself. Meat does not grow on supermarket shelves, and it is a messy gruesome procedure. Our consumer culture, first world food wastage is a much worse phenomenon than people eating meat. And that goes on with vegetables and grain products as well as meat.

  214. #215 Nick Gotts
    August 8, 2008

    Barklikeadog,
    I’m simply, once again, pointing out the asininity of a supposed “argument”; not arguing against meat-eating. It’s truly amazing how many people here think that if you point out the weakness of an argument, you necessarily dispute its conclusion.

  215. #216 JM Inc.
    August 8, 2008

    Benjamin Franklin, #210 “I won’t deny that animals (or plants) have feelings, and are mistreated, but they are not ‘people’.

    Oh, I don’t know, it depends on how you’re defining “people”. I would disagree with you there. I would define “people” as anything with a sense of itself as a distinct thing, with preferences and desires, and with the ability to feel pain, pleasure, preference.

    I don’t know what definition of people you’re using, but my definition clearly admits, for instance, cows, pigs, chickens (perhaps to a lesser extent). It really depends, empirically, on whether some creature has the neurological basis for some or all of the above characteristics. Since that can sometimes be in doubt (especially since we don’t have but a vague understanding that certain parts of brains do certain things), my approach to it has always been the same as my approach to abortion, that ‘it is better not to kill something that might be a person, than to kill something that definitely is not a person’.

  216. #217 Epinephrine
    August 8, 2008

    JM Inc @ N>169

    Actually, if you’re worried about signalling, then you can’t kill anything. All living things signal; you should be outraged about the ongoing holocaust of bacteria, protists, and archaea. But why not? They’re alive, aren’t they? They’re a little bit different, but hey, who isn’t?

    My point exactly – why use a given feature, or more to the point, an arbitrary degree of evolution of a feature. Don’t get me wrong, I am fine with eating plants, I’m just curious at the thoughts of others.

    In fact, is has nothing to do with animals being similar. It has everything to do with a CNS, which is the only organ capable of providing a computationally sufficient substrate for the cognitive processes we recognise as pain.

    This isn’t necessarily true.

    This is scientifically demonstrable: There are people out there, human beings, who do not feel pain – the reason is chemical. It’s an extraordinarily rare genetic disorder. They still have brains, consciousness, and personality, and value systems to which they subscribe, so they still accrue ethical meaning.

    That’s not a demonstration, that merely shows that CNS can exist without pain, not that pain ccan’t exist without a CNS. Not to establish any authority, merely to prevent you assuming I don’t know anything about the subject – one of my degrees is in neuroscience.

    There’s no good reason to think that suffering or consciousness occurs in anything other than particularly organised CNSs, regardless of any other similarities, that is the only one that matters as far as the evidence can tell.

    It’s a matter of degrees though, isn’t it? Humans thought that animals didn’t have feelings, that they weren’t advanced enough. Too different from us. I agree, we have no evidence that trees feel pain, but we don’t have evidence that they don’t feel pain either. The answer you seem to push is “since we’re not aware of any pain, it’s ok to kill them”.

    How primitive ins an animal before it ceases to feel “pain”? What if a stimulus is aversive, but we have no way of determining whether it’s “pain”? Essentially, it boils down to a question of whether we empathise with the creature that might experience it, at least that seems to be the case.

    Killing is a pointless point to make – life is just a chemical system, a method of homeostasis. What is ethically important is pain and self-consciousness.

    Why? Pain is just a chemical system. Killing is the only really clear line one can draw. Things are alive or not (and even that’s tricky), but it’s ceratinly a lot easier than trying to determine whether a given creature can or can’t feel pain.

    These are the things which impart ethical value to physical systems.

    No, these are the things that impart ethical value to the current human view of things.

    I’m not stupid or insane, I’m actually asking a question: Why do you choose to draw the line at plants? Is eating a jellyfish ok? It lacks a CNS of the type you associate with connsciousness. Are invertebrates fair game? Snails have ganglia, but that’s hardly a brain.

  217. #218 JM Inc.
    August 8, 2008

    I’m always confused when people say animals aren’t also people. Perhaps somebody could explain it to me?

  218. #219 Barklikeadog
    August 8, 2008

    Nick, not arguing. Just eatin’. ‘asininity’ Is that a word?

  219. #220 ~Doc~
    August 8, 2008

    Are the Baptists sure?

    Because you never know, it could be god’s response to all sorts of things. Ever notice how these delusional morans don’t pick just one, but cover all their bases? It’s not god’s response to adultery. It’s not god’s response to homosexuality. It’s not god’s response to abortion. Nosireebob. It’s god’s response to all three. It’s an omnipotent three-fer!

    The problem is, of course, if the pretended it was just god’s response to, say, homosexuality, then the obvious question would be why god picked out just that one to smite the poor guy over; why not adultery or homosexuality?

    Of course, the flip side is, it seems clear that god doesn’t care about adultery, homosexuality or abortion…it takes all three to bring out god’s sword of justice!

    All that said, I’m glad to know it’s not just the US that has such incredible levels of religious douchebaggery. I used to feel so alone!

    ~Doc~

  220. #221 Epinephrine
    August 8, 2008

    In my previous post the quotes got dropped in part and italics got messed up, it should read:

    This is scientifically demonstrable: There are people out there, human beings, who do not feel pain – the reason is chemical. It’s an extraordinarily rare genetic disorder. They still have brains, consciousness, and personality, and value systems to which they subscribe, so they still accrue ethical meaning.

    That’s not a demonstration, that merely shows that CNS can exist without pain, not that pain can’t exist without a CNS. Not to establish any authority, merely to prevent you assuming I don’t know anything about the subject – one of my degrees is in neuroscience.

  221. #222 queenofdenyl
    August 8, 2008

    Phelps and his hate-filled crazies are exactly what keeps me an agnostic and not an atheist. I so desperately want to think there is a special hell-like place for shitheads like him.

  222. #223 Nick Gotts
    August 8, 2008

    Epinephrine,
    How do we know rocks don’t feel pain?

    In fact there are good ways of determining that many species of animal feel pain: by the structure of their nervous system, by their behaviour, and by whether that behaviour can be changed by administering what we know, in humans, are analgesic drugs. So, for many animals, we have very good reason to believe they feel pain. For others, and for other organisms, we don’t. Can you really not see that this is a morally relevant difference? I think you just don’t want to.

  223. #224 northentouch
    August 8, 2008

    to Julian
    Epinephrine was probably referring to such things as the fervour over janet jacksons “warbrobe malfunction”, even though it was eventually nothing happened with it. That wouldnt have been an issue whatsoever in Canada. We love tits here.

  224. #225 JM Inc.
    August 8, 2008

    Actually, that’s really good Epinephrine. See, I disagree with the killing point, though. I think it’s because I disagree with the assessment of “it’s alive or it isn’t”. What about viruses? What about prions? What is alive? Alive, as far as can be told, is importing free energy and exporting entropy in order to optimise long term homeostasis. These are the sorts of questions I’m interested in asking.

    I would eat jellyfish, I don’t disagree with eating, for instance, insects. They’re largely automatic. I know it’s a question of degree, that’s the interesting, but also, since we’re currently largely ignorant, it’s also the disturbing part. I don’t draw the line specifically at plants, I draw the line at things which, to the best contemporarily available knowledge, lack the things which we are aware cause these sorts of experiences, these “qualia” which we find aversive or enticing, and the fact that there’s something there which perceives the aversion or enticement.

    I have no doubt that our definition, if we pursue this approach to ethics (which I think we should), of what constitutes a person in this sense will change over time as we learn about the neuropsychological mechanisms which make up these experiences. We can’t stand to hang around second guessing ourselves about everything we might be wrong about, or ignorant about. It’s not, as far as I see it, inherently unethical to do something which inadvertently has results which would have been unethical had we known the consequences. I’m… ethics, I don’t like morality, it’s too absolute and rigid. Ethics is practical and ad hoc – it’s whatever we can put into practice now which, as far as we can tell, will not make the situation worse, so I’m not really looking for a definitive, One, True, Ultimate, Only, Singular, Final Moral System of Judgement, instead I’m trying to look at the situation from a perspective of, “right now, what do we know that causes these bad, aversive experiences, what can we tell about this now, and how should we act now to minimise these things?”

    I just don’t see any reason to think plants, for instance, or microbes or anything lacking sufficient CNS development, have these experiences. Maybe they do, but if we don’t know it, we can’t act on it. Certainly, this doesn’t give us license to go chop down all the trees and wipe out all the insects, but there are other, very good reasons to avoid that. Yes, our current perspective on this sort of preference utilitarian ethics is necessarily anthropocentric, because the only way we have of judging the subjective ethical “goodess” or “badness” of anything is by comparing it to what we know about ourselves, but I really don’t see how that can be helped until we start plugging our brains into grasshopper brains to determine if there’s anybody home (or whatever, who knows?).

    I don’t like the “death fixation” brand of ethics, so to speak (I didn’t mean to strike your positional derogatorily by calling it that), because it seems, to me, to be based on little more than uncaring chemistry, whereas, while, yes, feelings and thoughts are ultimately electrochemical too, they are indeed motivators of behaviour, which is ultimately what ethics is about. Again, I’m going for an ad hoc approach, rather than a “one true” approach which looks for the ultimate constituents of our ethical guidelines in death or life or chemistry. Motivation is enough for me, and I feel motivated by the knowledge that cows and pigs and such are similar enough to me, to wish to avoid harming them because I cannot imagine a way to justify my own well-being while simultaneously ignoring the well-being of organisms which undoubtedly share many of my capacities and many of my experiences.

  225. #226 Epinephrine
    August 8, 2008

    Nick Gotts,

    Your method of determining whether something feels pain simply is a test of whether they feel things the way we do.

    Rocks exhibit no signalling, no response to stimuli, so they’re unlikely to have anything resembling a sense of pain.

    The reason the field of plant neurobiology (or the sensory biology of plants, if you’d rather) is actually being looked at is the realisation that plants are more complex than originally thought. Whatever the senses a plant has, we can with ease label it “not pain”, because it doesn’t resemble our sense of pain.

    In fact there are good ways of determining that many species of animal feel pain: by the structure of their nervous system, by their behaviour, and by whether that behaviour can be changed by administering what we know, in humans, are analgesic drugs.

    Exactly, you are defining pain as based on the human experience. That’s fine, but what it boils down to then is the definition that “creatures whose senses are sufficiently different are fair game”.

    I’m asking the question to be difficult, of course, but in the interest of exploring it. I’m asking it to see if there’s anything behind the rationale other than this. I’m not arguing that plants feel pain, I’m saying that the concept of “feeling pain” itself may be on a sliding scale. “Primitive” animals that can avoid noxious stimuli, whether they have true central nevous systems, nerve networks or what have you, may at some point no longer feel something that can be said to be pain – and that likely happens before you leave the animal kingdom.

    If it’s truly about pain, would you object to eating of transgeneic animals that couldn’t feel pain?

  226. #227 Pim van Riezen
    August 8, 2008

    Epinephrine,

    I think you’re on the spot when we’re talking about there being an arbitrary limit vegetarians place on the immorality of killing living things. Of course they could bounce that argument back by saying that putting that limit solely on the question of humanity is just as arbitrary and reeks of unwarranted exceptionalism.

    The more common approach in this kind of discussion is to include the element of unnecessary suffering. Cruelty like ripping the wings off a fly or blowing up a frog is more or less universally seen as wrong. Within that context, the question is whether eating meat is a necessity. If it is not, the only ethical way to eat meat is if no suffering was involved.

    Then you can argue about what amounts to suffering. Instant death and an existence with no more stress for an animal than a natural life would have given it is where I would draw the line. That leaves room for biological meat. But I can see the point of vegetarians that recognize factory farming to be the de facto standard right now and see the culture of consumerism around meat as an enabling factor for such practises, so they prefer to skip the meat altogether.

  227. #228 Nick Gotts
    August 8, 2008

    If it’s truly about pain, would you object to eating of transgeneic animals that couldn’t feel pain? – Epinephrine

    No, provided there was good reason to think they could not suffer in other ways. Incidentally, as I’ve said more than once, I don’t actually object to meat-eating as such: we can’t live without killing, or without causing suffering, but this doesn’t mean non-human suffering should be dismissed or laughed at, or that weak or stupid arguments for meat-eating should not be disputed – and we’ve certainly seen plenty of those, your own included.

    Certainly ability to feel pain may be on a “sliding scale” – it probably is. I’d feel worse about hurting an ape, cetacean or parrot than a mouse, worse about that than a lizard, hardly at all about a fly, not at all about a jellyfish. Also, you appear to be ignoring the point that in the case of many animals we have good reason to believe they feel pain – we can see why it would be adaptive for them to have this capacity, in addition to the other grounds I’ve given. Yes, maybe rocks feel the most exquisite agony when kicked, but as we have no reason to think so, we can’t do anything about it – because maybe they feel the most exquisite bliss. Maybe plants just adore being eaten – there’s exactly as much reason to believe this as to believe they feel pain – none at all.

  228. #229 Pim van Riezen
    August 8, 2008

    Maybe plants just adore being eaten

    Some of them rely on it to spread themselves. At least the munchy parts with the seeds.

  229. #230 Barklikeadog
    August 8, 2008

    Man, this steak tastes goooood!

  230. #231 JM Inc.
    August 8, 2008

    I agree with Nick Gotts, we can’t run around second guessing ourselves on all sorts of things. As I said above, the best we can (and should) hope to do is an ad hoc system of ethics, I’d argue preference negative utilitarian, one that does indeed change as we learn more about the way people feel and the way feeling and experiencing happens at all, but it is just really unambiguous that most of the animals we eat a lot of, cows, pigs and the like, do feel pain, they do have emotions, they do have desires and preferences, and we do treat them horrible. The total amount of suffering that would be avoided by allowing everybody to eat steak every other Saturday and Sunday, or burgers every three weekdays in the US, is drastically lower than the total amount of suffering that would be avoided by cutting the consumption of burgers and steak to levels where the economy of the meat industry permitted humane practices.

    Think about domestic cows, they can’t survive outside the farm, they have been bred by humans to be completely useless mobile meat incubators, and the only tragedy is that we’ve failed to breed out the remaining parts of the brain which aren’t pertinent to that farm job (hopefully we’ll manage this with genetic engineering). Domestic cows aren’t going anywhere, but the least we can do is cut down on their suffering, which isn’t going to happen as long as we continue to value the minor satisfaction of our weekly steaks or thrice weekly burgers more than the enormity of the suffering caused by current factory farming practices. That’s why this light-hearted, brush-it-off is so horrible – the wholesale abuse and slaughter of conscious beings isn’t something we should be doing with a smile on our face, a chuckle in our heart, and a dab of ketchup on our shirt.

  231. #232 Nick Gotts
    August 8, 2008

    Pim van Riezen,
    True – and I believe you do get “fruitarians”, who only eat those bits.

  232. #233 Nick Gotts
    August 8, 2008

    JM Inc@231,
    Well said – the swaggering and smirking we’ve seen from a lot of commenters is really pretty disgusting. I’m going to leave this thread at this point.

  233. #234 Pim van Riezen
    August 8, 2008

    True – and I believe you do get “fruitarians”, who only eat those bits.

    That idea sounds sellable. Although I doubt it’ll grow strong enough to pressure restaurants to start carrying fruitarian menus, there’s bound to be a couple of cookbook deals in there.

  234. #235 Barklikeadog
    August 8, 2008

    Bye Nick. *wipes ketchup off shirt*

  235. #236 Pimientita
    August 8, 2008

    Seriously, does anyone doubt that Phelps is a closet case himself? Twisted fuck.

    Ew, no…we don’t want him. Then again, I don’t want to seem callous and pawn him off on the heterosexuals either, so let’s just say that he is, well, “special.”

  236. #237 Jack Handey
    August 8, 2008

    If trees could scream, would be be so cavalier about cutting them down?

    We might, if they screamed all the time for no good reason.

  237. #238 Evolving Squid
    August 8, 2008

    @206
    It’s about the fact that we’re causing gratuitous pain and misery to intelligent beings with complex, centralised nervous systems, consciousness, and self-interests, and brushing it off like it either isn’t there or is so inconsequential as to be unworthy of consideration.

    I simply don’t care. People >> Animals every time.

    To be fair, having said that, I’m not advocating the wanton mass killing of critters for shits and giggles, if only because that’s wasteful and may be detrimental in the long term to us.

    But killing animals to eat them, fine by me. Farming furry critters to make coats, just grand.

    as you said:
    a world where people freely recognise that there’s no measurable determinant of personhood aside from membership in one arbitrary species.

    You got it in one. I don’t and won’t anthropomorphize animals.

    But I’ll grant you this: When there’s no more human suffering, maybe then we can worry about animal suffering. Until then, it’s unfairly putting animals over people and that hurts where it really counts.

    When we are nearly extinct and the cockroaches have taken over, I won’t expect them to consider my well-before their own either.

  238. #239 SpelndidMonkey
    August 8, 2008

    Eating Ketchup is cruel, or sacrilegious, or something, to somebody…

  239. #240 Pim van Riezen
    August 8, 2008

    But I’ll grant you this: When there’s no more human suffering, maybe then we can worry about animal suffering. Until then, it’s unfairly putting animals over people and that hurts where it really counts.

    A vegetarian could counter that abstaining from eating meat does in no way limit us in our possibilities to end human suffering. The relative energy-inefficiency of meat consumption is also not exactly making things better in the world.

  240. #241 Barklikeadog
    August 8, 2008

    Man, that steak was goooood!

  241. #242 SplendidMonkey
    August 8, 2008

    People >> Animals
    Jaws!

  242. #243 Pim van Riezen
    August 8, 2008

    Barklikeadog: You’re being cruel. It is 2:51am here and the chances of finding an Argentinian place that is still open are close to nothing. Stop taunting me with the yummy steak references!

  243. #244 Barklikeadog
    August 8, 2008

    Sorry, I’ll stop. Gotta clean up the kitchen now anyway.

  244. #245 Rev. BigDumbChimp, KoT
    August 8, 2008

    Barklikeadog: You’re being cruel. It is 2:51am here and the chances of finding an Argentinian place that is still open are close to nothing. Stop taunting me with the yummy steak references!

    no shit.

    Might have to head up to whole foods before it close…. oh fail. 9 pm here.

    Damn it.

  245. #246 JM Inc.
    August 8, 2008

    I think I’ll leave now too. I’ve made my point, and if a handful of psychopathic crackerjacks can’t be bothered to take an interest in the conditions of life beyond their front porch, that’s not my problem. No offence to anyone, but sometimes it’s just fruitless.

  246. #247 Barklikeadog
    August 8, 2008

    JM, I do take offense. I am not now, nor have I ever been, a crackerjack!

  247. #248 Barklikeadog
    August 8, 2008

    Besides, my interests go all the way out to the curb. So there!

  248. #249 JimC
    August 8, 2008

    Tim’s funeral based on the premise that this is god’s response for Canada’s policies that enable abortion, homosexuality, and adultery.

    Actually it’s not adultery the nuts are picketing it’s divorce and agast getting married again. I guess these morons can’t figure out it’s impossible to commit adultry with someone your married to, similiar to being a married bachelor.

    They haven’t kept pace with their own theologians either who easily show their take to be incorrect. They really are a joke.

  249. #250 SplendidMonkey
    August 8, 2008

    Arrived? I really feel like I have arrived here on Pharyngula today! I was called a “moron”, and if I may be so presumptuous, a “psychopath”? And here I sit eating leftover turkey (freerange I think) just before (I hope) the brink of spoilage (waste is evil).

    Cheers!

  250. #251 Barklikeadog
    August 8, 2008

    SplendidMonkey you dun good! But are you a crackerjack?

  251. #252 Blondin
    August 8, 2008

    I just don’t get this moral argument against eating meat. I understand the moral arguments against senseless slaughter, killing for sport, cruelty, etc but I just don’t get the “animals are people” thing. People are people, everything else is not people. I don’t know how to respond to accusations of intellectual dishonesty because I can’t help feeling that mine is the null position and it’s those who claim that anything with a CNS is somehow equivalent to a human who are making the extraordinary claim.

    If that were the case then no predator should be allowed to kill any prey? Why stop at life with a CNS? I’m guessing it has something to do with the fact that it’s a choice. We can choose to be carnivorous or not. What if it wasn’t a choice?

    Here’s a different scenario: suppose we had the ability to harvest organs from primates and transplant them into humans. Suppose you need a new heart and you need it now. There are no donors but you can be given a baboon’s heart. It’s you or the baboon, one of you dies.

    This also seems like a no-brainer to me but I’m curious to hear what others think.

  252. #253 Dave
    August 8, 2008

    I think Stockwell Day dropped the ball here. He should have explicitly required that every member of the Phelp’s clan be denied entry until after the funeral, or they should have put up a sign in the airport requiring every traveler to disclose if they were planning on picketing a funeral during their stay. Then you just round up the people who get through at the protest and charge them with lying (or withholding information) at a border crossing. Bingo, federal offense.

  253. #254 SEF
    August 8, 2008

    Maybe plants just adore being eaten – there’s exactly as much reason to believe this as to believe they feel pain – none at all.

    Not so. Some respond, ie react in real time, with poisonous chemicals and/or with chemical signals to alert other plants in the area or even to summon predators of their attackers. This isn’t indicative of something which adores being eaten but of something which is resisting being eaten and which even (in some cases) acts as though it’s part of a community.

    We don’t know how it “feels” to the plant, ie there’s no direct analogy to animal mechanisms, but its response certainly suggests it accords negative values to the experience in some manner. Fruit, on the other hand, as already mentioned, appears to be programmed to want to be eaten – in the right way by the right life-form which will spread its seed suitably.

  254. #255 JessieColt
    August 8, 2008

    Fred Phelps and his ilk just need to be placed on the US Terrorist Watch List and restricted to their little half burnt farm.

  255. #256 Barklikeadog
    August 8, 2008

    Blondin, I agree. Their argument was ridiculous. As one psychopathic crackerjack to another, I would choose to take the baboon heart. Animals that we use for food are generally regarded as food. Yeah some people want to make them pets and liberate them from bondage. Animals are not going to suddenly jump evolution and become thinking conscious beings. With the exception of some great apes, whales and some birds they just don’t fit the bill of ‘person’. The fact that they have nerves is a stupid argument. We don’t abuse the cattle. We ranch them for food. We don’t do animal experiments to save all mice. We do it to make life better for people. The bleeding hearts can eat all the carrots they want. I’ll still enjoy my steaks.

  256. #257 Jams
    August 8, 2008

    “It’s truly amazing how many people here think that if you point out the weakness of an argument, you necessarily dispute its conclusion.” – Nick Gotts

    If only that fit on a T-Shirt, I would wear it every day, and never take it off.

    I have a few, if not arguments, at least questions to add to the fray.

    What’s unethical about eating people? There seems to be an assumption that cannibalism is necessarily unethical. I’m not sure how or why that would be the case.

    “Unnecessary suffering” is a different matter. How should one determine whether suffering is necessary? Or, what constitutes necessary suffering? Is suffering ever necessary?

    Is killing humans for reasons other than food always unethical? And why?

  257. #258 Rev. BigDumbChimp, KoT
    August 8, 2008

    What’s unethical about eating people? There seems to be an assumption that cannibalism is necessarily unethical. I’m not sure how or why that would be the case.

    Interesting jams. I say that falls into the “laws against it for the yuck factor” like necropsy or bestiality. People find it yucky so they try to prevent people from doing it. honestly taken solely on that question with out other factors I don’t see an ethical issue with it. Although the argument can be made that making it not socially abhorrent to eat people could possibly encourage some folks to kill humans for food.

    Is killing humans for reasons other than food always unethical? And why?

    No. Self defense is one. Justified war is another. Of course that opens up the “What is justified war” and “Who decides if it is justified” questions.

  258. #259 Rev. BigDumbChimp, KoT
    August 8, 2008

    necropsy should be necrophilia

  259. #260 SEF
    August 8, 2008

    There seems to be an assumption that cannibalism is necessarily unethical.

    Cannibalism is inherently risky for health reasons. However, its main unethicality lies in the “what if it was you” type of argument – which only definitively applies among humans unless you believe in reincarnation(!). NB That argument doesn’t apply to parts of people which aren’t people (any more) though, eg the placenta gets (ritually) eaten by some.

    Anyhow, the idea is that society should have rules formed from the point of view of someone who doesn’t know what their place in that society will be, so that they’ll be inclined to be fair to all possible factions. Given that most people wouldn’t want to be the one being eaten, no-one in the society should be permitted to eat other people.

    Since an unborn foetus (and perhaps even a newborn baby) wouldn’t really be aware of its situation, that could theoretically make it fair game if it ceased being intrinsically owned – such that the mother (for example) would suffer on its behalf. Modern societies have tended not to follow down that route. Previous societies often accorded very little value to the unborn and newborns though – especially if they were a hindrance to the tribe escaping some peril.

  260. #261 Rev. BigDumbChimp, KoT
    August 8, 2008

    Cannibalism is inherently risky for health reasons. However, its main unethicality lies in the “what if it was you” type of argument -

    Well if I die of natural causes I doubt I’ll give a shit if someone eats me. I’ll be dead.

    I don’t think jams is asking if we kill someone then eat them, he’s only asking about the act.

    Suppose I die. And my meat is declared completely safe to consume. What is wrong about having a nice Rev. BDC steak besides social stigma?

  261. #262 nemo
    August 8, 2008

    My first thought when reading: PETA=motherfuckers

  262. #263 nemo
    August 8, 2008

    My guess why cannibalism is sort of a moral taboo is that it helps us to function as a society better.

  263. #264 Jams
    August 8, 2008

    Yeah, there’s definitely a distinction between eating dead flash, and making flesh dead. If someone is eating my arm and I’m still alive, it’s completely different than if someone is eating the dead arm I previously owned. So, let’s move a little closer to the quick. Is it necessarily always unethical for someone to be eating my living arm?

    (Germany says yes btw)

  264. #265 niennie
    August 8, 2008

    No. 101:
    ‘That’s quite the statement to say someone deserves getting an disease that will kill them because they eat in a way that the vast majority of their culture eats. I doubt very seriously that Joe sixpack struggling to feed his family knows or understands the intricacies of the stuckuppish values of vegan eating. Suggesting he or his family deserves to die is asinine.’

    ‘The vast majority of their culture eats.’ Though I agree with your example of Joe Sixpack, I think that ‘vast majority’ statement of yours echoes eerily with the ‘vast majority’ of your culture who are religious.

    Joe is poor, he has no choice but you are intelligent, sustainable and aware enough to afford at least decrease the amount of factory-abused meat in your diet. Just like how we are intelligent enough to get rid of religion in our lives.

    Having said that, my 2 cents about the article is that both organizations, and many more, are truly despicable. I expected that from religious fundamentalists, but PETA’s comparison was WORSE.

  265. #266 Blondin
    August 8, 2008

    Tarzan: Be careful, Jane. There’s cannibals in this forest.
    Jane: Cannibals! Ooh, would they eat me whole?
    Tarzan: Nah. They spit that part out.

    Didja hear about the cannibal who passed his ex-wife in the parking lot at Walmart?

    Sorry. I’ve been saving them for 20-odd years. See what happens when PZ leaves us alone for a few minutes?

  266. #267 Rev. BigDumbChimp, KoT
    August 8, 2008

    The vast majority of their culture eats.’ Though I agree with your example of Joe Sixpack, I think that ‘vast majority’ statement of yours echoes eerily with the ‘vast majority’ of your culture who are religious.

    I don’t see that it matters and I think trying to make that connection is odd. Religion is not necessary part of life. but if you go to the grocery store in your neighborhood and they only stock certain cheap items or the restaurants which you rally can’t afford to eat at anyway only serve a certain kind of food, you are pretty much stuck if you have no way of getting outside that. And there might be no motivation to get out side that.

    Joe is poor, he has no choice but you are intelligent, sustainable and aware enough to afford at least decrease the amount of factory-abused meat in your diet. Just like how we are intelligent enough to get rid of religion in our lives.

    If you read the rest of my comments or any of mine in the food post you’d see that I do exactly that.

  267. #268 Rev. BigDumbChimp, KoT
    August 8, 2008

    yikes. Forgive my butchering of the english language in that last comment.

    ugh

  268. #269 Epinephrine
    August 8, 2008

    Thank you Pim and Nick for your answers!

  269. #270 Davidlpf
    August 8, 2008

    Take both groups to far north island in the artic circle, and play a real game of survivor, unfortunely I do not think either side will survive.

  270. #271 Blondin
    August 8, 2008

    I just remembered what this thread was about and I realize my last post was in very poor taste. I apologize.

    I feel very sorry for Tim McLean’s family both for their tragic loss and for the circus they are being exposed to. PETA and those Phelps jerks are scum.

  271. #272 Jams
    August 8, 2008

    You can blame me Blondin. I brought it full circle. I’m like that.

  272. #273 Richard Smith
    August 9, 2008

    Blondin, #266: At least the conversation hasn’t delved into jokes about auto-cannibalism. That would almost inevitably lead to self-defecating humour.

  273. #274 Dagger
    August 9, 2008

    No worries Blondin, tangents are almost a requirement to post on here. You were just following one of them.

  274. #275 Strakh
    August 9, 2008

    Thank you, Blondin!

    A little humor in the midst of all this is more than welcome.

    Can’t wait to use that in the ER…

  275. #276 faux mulder
    August 9, 2008

    i do hope the westboro church group comes in sufficient numbers to be legally regarded as rioting…

    i’m charging my taser.

  276. #278 speedwell
    August 9, 2008

    Blondin said (way up there somewhere): “But fuckin’ tofu ain’t it.”

    Well, of course not, silly. Imagine trying that sort of thing when there are perfectly good carrots about.

  277. #279 speedwell
    August 9, 2008

    Strakh @ 175: “it’s just the way they are: adolescents trying out different identities because they have yet to develop one of their own…”

    Right. My chosen identity as a vegan is of a woman without the breast cancer that killed her mother, who wants to get rid of a lifelong weight problem, and who lives in an area where local produce is abundant and varied and the growing season doesn’t stop all year. OK with you, Daddy-oh? What’s your chosen identity, Big Brother?

  278. #280 SEF
    August 9, 2008

    @ BigDumbChimp #261

    I also happen to take the view that I wouldn’t really care what happened to my body if I was already dead because I’d be dead! I’ve carried a donor card from the time they existed and possibly had the clause in my will about donating my body to science even before that. Which raises a couple of the important accompanying issues.

    Firstly, in any society which has a concept of property at all, your body at least ought to be your own property if nothing else is. Failing that, your family’s (as tends to be the case for female bodies in patriarchal societies) and then the state’s (if there is one). So the concept of ownership, possibly extending after death, is going to vary as are death practices themselves (see later).

    Secondly, tracking any variation from a simple rule for all requires the ability to reliably keep quite extensive records (free from tampering and with investigative authorities around too). Making considerations such as donor cards and living wills etc only possible in relatively modern civilised times anyway. It’s an area where multiculturalism causes friction by requiring some attempt to be made to accomodate more than one social norm within a single legal structure.

    I don’t think jams is asking if we kill someone then eat them, he’s only asking about the act. … Suppose I die. And my meat is declared completely safe to consume. What is wrong about having a nice Rev. BDC steak besides social stigma?

    Eliminating the disease factor and eliminating the cases of criminals who kill and eat people, it isn’t the case that the social stigma always applies at all. For example, the original brain disease issues arose in societies where the norm was for the community to eat the deceased person to show respect to them – kuru.

    NB It would have been difficult for anyone in that relatively isolated society to register that they wanted anything different done with their body after death. Once the community was successfully convinced of the cause of their disease problems, the rule had to go the other way for all members.

  279. #281 Strakh
    August 9, 2008

    Omnivore who’s lost a wife to breast cancer: she had none of the risk factors, ate a moderate diet and still it took very little time…
    If you think not eating meat will help, more power to you, but remember, there is no scientific agreement on that issue, as painful as it is…
    If I had thought it would have helped, I would have kept the meat from her, hell, I would have done anything, but nothing helped, not chemo, not radiation, nothing…
    What’s at issue here is the utterly pathetic claims of moral superiority and/or the belief that it’s healthier. Neither case can be made and it just gets tiresome to hear it…

  280. #282 speedwell
    August 9, 2008

    Reverend Chimp @ 176: “Why someone who was a vegetarian for “ethical” reasons would want to emulate meat is creepy. Now if its other reason it makes some sense.”

    Well, I like the taste and texture of meat as much as anyone else does… if not more… which is part of my problem. I make “creative vegan meat substitutes” in order to fill the psychological hole left by giving up real meat. I was raised on meat-and-two-veg and it’s hard to persuade my body that it needs to eat different now. Plus grain and soy “meats” and “milks” and “cheeses” enable me to cook the way I’m used to. I’m very good at making homestyle, familiar-tasting versions of traditional recipes. I’m not above tasting meat and dairy once in a navy blue moon just to make sure I’m still on track flavor-and-texture-wise.

    If you were to realize that meats really don’t have a whole lot of flavor on their own, try boiling a small piece of chicken breast or a small piece of steak in plain water, unseasoned, until cooked enough to be safe to eat. Taste it and you’ll realize that all the protein really contributes is a certain kind of chewiness. The flavor of well-cooked meat is supplied by moisture, salt, fats (liquid and solid), sugars, herbs and spices, sugar, acid, and slightly burned or caramelized versions of most of the above. All of these can be supplied directly.

    So if I take, for example, a piece of flavorless, absorbent protein such as a chunk of extruded textured soy product, I can judiciously add in the things that make a piece of meat taste like a piece of meat. If I want a dairy-like cheese product such as a nacho sauce, I can make certain adjustments in fat, moisture, saltiness, slipperiness, color, temperature, body, and acidity to a neutral substrate such as tofu or white bean paste. It’s food engineering and it can get pretty technical, but if I was afraid of technical, I certainly wouldn;t be hanging out over here. :)

  281. #283 Strakh
    August 9, 2008

    #281 is in response to speedwell at #279, mea culpa for the omission…

  282. #284 Growling in Toronto
    August 9, 2008

    Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms
    http://laws.justice.gc.ca/en/charter/
    Sorry if that’s a double (didn’t see it).

  283. #285 speedwell
    August 9, 2008

    Strakh @ 281: I’m so sorry to hear about your wife… really I am. When I hear about a man who’s lost his wife to breast cancer, I always think about the patience and determination of my mom’s third husband, who lost his first wife to breast cancer and swore he was not going to go through that again, until Mom found the lump, and then he swore he would do everything in his power to help her, and did.

    I understand it didn’t work for your wife. I’m sure you both did the level best you could, and I share your frustration. But all bodies are different. No medicine or therapy works for everyone. Death penalty opponents even point this fact out when they argue against lethal injections.

    The vegan diet seems to be working for me right now. Part of the reason is that I’m losing weight, which as you know is a major risk factor. I’m trying to eat as clean and pure as I can (without acting the part of someone who’s terrified by food). I’m trying to remove animal hormones from my diet (plant phytoestrogens are not the same and don’t have the same effect in the body). There is certainly good evidence for vegetarianism being a defense against cancers in general; my primary physician, who is also (as it happens) an oncologist, is pleased with me for being one. Neither of us claim that giving up meat is the miracle cure. But why include known risk factors when avoiding them is so easy for me?

  284. #286 Tom
    August 9, 2008

    From Blondin:

    If that were the case then no predator should be allowed to kill any prey?

    I’m not suggesting that anyone should change their behavior. It’s best that people arrive at vegetarianism by their own route. This is how it works for me.

    I am biologically evolved to be capable of eating meat. I have eaten meat in my earlier life because that’s how my parents brought me up. One day I realised the pain I was inflicting on other concious creatures. I don’t HAVE to cause that pain. I have a choice. And so I exercise it.

    The predators mentioned by Blondin probably aren’t capable of exercising that same choice.

    I do regret eating plants but I have to live. I realise that the world is a cruel place and some things have to die to let other things live. I go along with that. If I were in danger of dying from starvation and rabbits were the only food source around, then I would kill and eat rabbits. I’m part of that cruel world.

    However, sitting here in my safe house, surrounded by the benefits of technology, I’m NOT in that life-or-death situation, and that’s why I choose not to inflict suffering. I am capable of surviving on a plant-only diet, so I do.

    By the way, I’m married to a great veggie cook (which helps!). Many is the time I have thought “meat would have ruined that meal”. I don’t consider I am missing out, and for the record, I don’t miss bacon – anchovies are the only thing I miss – I have that thought once every couple of years or so.

    I’m amazed by the number of people on here persuaded by the “animals are human” argument. Sounds eerily like the “but black people aren’t like us” argument back in slavery days.

    When I previosuly commented that we should consider where we are going as a species, I did mean socially, culturally and morally. I know evolution is not directed. Sorry if I didn’t make that distinction clear. Remember, as humans, as distinct from animals, we have CHOICE. We can exercise our choice to minimise the amount of suffering in the world.

    As for the commenters on here, with their oh-so-hilarious comments about how delicious steak/bacon/kebabs are… does your mom know you are using the computer again? Post sensibly or you won’t be allowed to join in the adult’s conversations.

  285. #287 Tom
    August 9, 2008

    Correction to previous post: That should read “animals aren’t human” of course.

  286. #288 Strakh
    August 9, 2008

    speedwell at #285:
    Yeah, worked in oncology at the time, went home from work, did the same stuff but it wasn’t the same…
    Then some pinhead self-righteous vegan smirked that she wouldn’t have passed it she hadn’t have eaten meat…I almost tore his head off before I was torn off him…(don’t handle grief well nor suffer fools gladly…)
    Knowing the inside of it all from being in the health care field, I was stunned that such a healthy woman with no risk factors and such a healthy life style could succumb so easily…can’t work in oncology anymore, do ER work now, and end up seeing more pinheads than I ever thought existed…
    Good luck on your regimen.

  287. #289 speedwell
    August 9, 2008

    Thanks, Strakh. I can’t believe that bastard who said that to you. Dirty sociopaths who can bring themselves to say something like that are less human than a good, clean, gentle food animal. Well, no, OK, not really, but which one would you rather be locked in a room with, if you know what I mean. I had an urge to help you hold them down and rip their useless head off, as well, and I’m so nonviolent I once considered becoming a Quaker. Gee.

  288. #290 Rev. BigDumbChimp, KoT
    August 9, 2008

    Well, I like the taste and texture of meat as much as anyone else does… if not more… which is part of my problem. I make “creative vegan meat substitutes” in order to fill the psychological hole left by giving up real meat.

    Well that I can understand.

    If you were to realize that meats really don’t have a whole lot of flavor on their own, try boiling a small piece of chicken breast or a small piece of steak in plain water, unseasoned, until cooked enough to be safe to eat. Taste it and you’ll realize that all the protein really contributes is a certain kind of chewiness. The flavor of well-cooked meat is supplied by moisture, salt, fats (liquid and solid), sugars, herbs and spices, sugar, acid, and slightly burned or caramelized versions of most of the above. All of these can be supplied directly.

    Meat has plenty of flavor. boiling it sucks the flavor out of meat. Grilling a steak or piece of chicken totally dry produces a very flavorful food item. Raw beef has a TON of flavor. So I’m not sure I agree with the above.

  289. #291 Iain Walker
    August 9, 2008

    Tom (#286):

    I’m amazed by the number of people on here persuaded by the “animals are[n't] human” argument. Sounds eerily like the “but black people aren’t like us” argument back in slavery days.

    While I’m more or less content to be an omnivore, I can sympathise with the moral case against killing animals (especially those with complex nervous systems) for food. But my sympathies tend to turn into irritation when presented by crude, well-poisoning, false analogies like this.

    Cognitive capacities within living organisms span a very wide spectrum, and like it or not, we are at the extreme end of the distribution (of known species, anyway). If the capacity for fear and suffering and degree of awareness of self are morally significant properties, then it also the case that these are properties that admit of degree.

    Claiming equivalence of human domestication of animals with humans enslaving each other is little different from the kind of anti-abortion rhetoric which claims that a foetus is a person regardless of its state of development. Both positions ride roughshod over the facts of variation in nature and try and reduce complex questions to arbitrary absolutes.

    In short, I’m skeptical of the notion of “animal rights” for the same reason I’m pro-choice – differences in degree matter.

    On which note, I suppose this also makes me the opposite of JM Inc (comment #216). I’d argue that if our best available criteria (behavioural and neurological) tell us that X has a lower capacity for suffering and self-awareness than Y, then it is reasonable to treat X as having lesser moral significance than Y. If we subsequently find out that we have underestimated X’s capacities in this regard (or have overestimated Y’s), then we can revise our valuations of their respective moral worth accordingly. Simply treating them the same because there is some residual possibility that our current best estimates are wrong is nothing less than an abandonment of moral and epistemological discernment. Moral decisions have to be based on what we currently know, to the best of our current ability to find out. If we had to be absolutely certain of the empirical facts of the matter before we were justified in making any moral judgement, then moral judgement would be impossible.

  290. #292 dzd
    August 9, 2008

    I’m amazed by the number of people on here persuaded by the “animals aren’t human” argument. Sounds eerily like the “but black people aren’t like us” argument back in slavery days.

    I’m amazed by the number of people who have let reckless anthropomorphization depress their critical faculties to the point where they actually think a cow or a chicken is a fuzzy or feathery person.

  291. #293 PYRETTE
    August 9, 2008

    Any one else heard of the Patriot Guard Riders?

    Any why is it that whenever Good and Moral folks make me lose all faith in humanity, it’s the Bikers (or other stereotypically moral-less people) that give it back to me?

  292. #294 PYRETTE
    August 9, 2008

    Oh and on the animal rights issue; to quote Penn and Teller “[I] Would personally strangle every ape on the planet if it would save one junkie with AIDS”

    That being said i beilieve we have an inherent right to eat other animals (we are more evolutionarily fit than they are, so as animals we get to eat them) but at the same time it is our duty as human beings to not cause undue suffering. Not bacause they are human, but because WE are and we should care about how we treat those that are lesser than us.

  293. #295 Rotker
    August 9, 2008

    @PYRETTE #294: You have just written everything that I wanted to write, just a bit more coherent than my comment would have been. I was even skipping through the PETA episode of “Penn & Teller’s Bullshit” to find that exact quote, which I only remembered partially…Get out of my head, you mind-reading psychic witch!! ;-)

    Oh, and: “SOYLENT GREEN IS PEOPLE!!”

  294. #296 Blondin
    August 9, 2008

    Some of the animals-are-human discussion is starting to remind me of Jules & Vince’s conversation in Pulp Fiction:

    “…dog has a personality. Personality goes a long way…”

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c0zJSgHDnpw

  295. #297 Iain Walker
    August 9, 2008

    PYRETTE (#294):

    i beilieve we have an inherent right to eat other animals (we are more evolutionarily fit than they are, so as animals we get to eat them)

    Oh, bollocks.

    1. The fitness of an organism is a function of its ability to survive and reproduce given the prevailing environmental conditions. It’s a completely relative standard, by which human beings may be fitter than some other populations of organisms, but less fit than others.

    2. Unless you’re living in some quasi-Social Darwinistic fantasy world in which “is” implies “ought”, questions of relative fitness entail nothing either way about our rights or responsibilities vis a vis other animals.

    Sorry, don’t mean to be so irritable, but I’ve seen enough stupid arguments from both sides of the carnivores versus herbivores divide today.

  296. #298 Jj
    August 9, 2008

    Question for vegans…
    While I don’t eat alot of meat, as it gives me, uh…lower digest tract issues – I have to ask..
    Are vegetables alive? Are they ripped from their homes & slaughtered for food? (I’m thinking…yes…)
    So, I’ve always wondered – why is eating one living thing “acceptable” yet not another?
    Please enlighten me…
    Jj

  297. #299 Jj
    August 9, 2008

    RE: #108

    < "Pardon me. eh"> :)
    Best laugh I’ve had in awhile…
    Thanks..

    P.S. You bring your pots, I’ll bring my hockey stick…

  298. #300 Robin Levett
    August 9, 2008

    @Nick Gotts:

    #179:

    “If we’re not supposed to eat people, then why are they made out of meat?”

    followed by #185:

    SplendidMonkey:
    If you’re really too stupid to see that I’m simply using exactly the same “justification” you did, that’s hardly my fault. If being made of meat justifies eating something, then clearly cannibalism is just fine.

    Oh dear; when I saw your original substitution of “people” for “animals” I thought you were displaying some degree of cultural knowledge.

    Perhaps both you and SplendidMonkey should google “The Reluctant Cannibal”?

  299. #301 Ace of Sevens
    August 9, 2008

    To all the meat-eaters: Please Answer the following questions:

    A. What quality do humans have that makes it wrong to kill them?
    B. How do animals in general lack that quality? (This must explicitly state it is okay it’s ok to kill someone with a very low IQ or explain how they are also different than an animal.)

    Oh, and if the answer to A is “humanity” please explain how this isn’t arbitrary and is more valid than, for instance, restricting these same qualities to the Brahmins.

  300. #302 SASnSA
    August 9, 2008

    Here’s a tragic story that helps to sum up the Christian/Catholic hypocrisy. A bus full of Catholics going on a religious pilgrimage from Texas crashed Friday, unfortunately killing 15.

    If the bus had been full of atheists, we would have seen a statement like the one above that they were being “punished by God”. But seeing as they were Catholics, the quote was “God called them home, and he called them at a good time”.

    The bus crashed due to poor maintenance. A front tire was retreaded which is illegal, at least in Texas, causing a loss of control when it blew out. God didn’t do it for any reason, no matter who was on the bus. It’s always terrible when people die like this, but don’t make something holy out of it.

  301. #303 SEF
    August 9, 2008

    @ #301

    A: Being members of the human species and thus human society which is now largely world-wide (ie international) instead of the former tribal situation in which certain tribes really did regard other humans as not true humans and as the equivalent of monkeys in being fair game to eat if caught.

    B: They’re not of the human species nor, generally, part of human society. It probably should be illegal to eat someone’s guide-dog.

    C: It isn’t arbitrary in any way other than that established by evolution. There really doesn’t appear to be any interbreeding with other primates (and the best test case, Neanderthals, are no longer around) whereas the old concept of races has been roundly discredited that way (and the caste system can be shown to be equally vacuous when people move into more democratic societies).

  302. #304 SASnSA
    August 9, 2008

    @Ace of Sevens

    Let me answer your question with another question.

    Looking at any other Carnivore or Omnivore: what quality is it that prevents them from normally eating one of their own? And what do their prey lack?

    This is nature, animals eat other animals, and humans are just another type of animal.

  303. #305 Robin Levett
    August 9, 2008

    To all:

    Can we have a bit less anthropormophisation on this thread; you know the animals hate it…

  304. #306 Robin Levett
    August 9, 2008

    Ooops:

    “anthropomorphisation” that should be…

  305. #307 Grammar RWA
    August 9, 2008
    A. What quality do humans have that makes it wrong to kill them?

    A: Being members of the human species and thus human society which is now largely world-wide (ie international) instead of the former tribal situation in which certain tribes really did regard other humans as not true humans and as the equivalent of monkeys in being fair game to eat if caught.

    This answer has unacceptable consequences.

    If the victim’s membership in the modern human society is necessary to make killing someone wrong, then that means it was not wrong to kill anyone before the advent of modern society.

    This means the common atheist arguments about the immorality of the Bible are null and void. When Yahweh commands Moses to commit genocide against the Midianites, this is excusable, because “certain tribes really did regard other humans as not true humans and as the equivalent of monkeys in being fair game to eat if caught.” This is an extremist stance. Only extremist moral relativists, such as fundamentalist Christians, are willing to excuse the purported actions of Moses here. Your argument is not going to be acceptable to most atheists. I for one delight in pointing out the evils of the Bible as an argument for atheism, and I’m not going to let this one go.

    Further, your argument means that when feral children are discovered, even today, they have no right not to be murdered (or raped, or tortured) by their discoverers, because they are not yet part of modern human society.

    Also, if an artificial intelligence ever develops self-awareness and a desire to continue existing and processing, this will not be sufficient to impart upon that AI a right to continued existence, to “live”, because it is not a member of the human species. It would be okay to destroy, infect, or enslave any self-aware AI, because of the AI’s “birth caste.” How many atheists aren’t Gene Roddenberry fans? ;) This argument won’t fly either. Besides the implications for AI ethics, a serious field of study that will likely be extremely relevant sometime in the coming century, the argument also fails to address everyone’s intuition that there is something special about humans that makes it wrong to kill us, above and beyond the magical invocation of the word “Homo”.

  306. #308 Grammar RWA
    August 9, 2008

    This is nature, animals eat other animals, and humans are just another type of animal.

    This is by far the stupidest of all arguments in this thread, from either side. Did you not get the memo from Iain Walker back at #297?

    You are committing the naturalistic fallacy, a favorite of creationists.

    If your argument worked, then it could be extended like this:

    “This is nature, animals eat other animals, humans kill other humans, and humans are just another type of animal.”

    Because humans killed each other in the past, it’s okay to keep doing it. That’s what you’re saying.

    If you try to introduce the caveat that “well, no, you can’t kill humans anymore because that’s wrong,” then you must allow in the argument that “you can’t kill nonhuman animals anymore either, because that’s wrong,” or you’ll be guilty of another fallacy, special pleading. Now you’re back where you started.

  307. #309 SEF
    August 9, 2008

    @ #307

    If the victim’s membership in the modern human society is necessary to make killing someone wrong

    No, just being human (and not merely a potential human) is enough. Some people merely happened, and still happen(!), to be wrong in classifying various humans as non-human (or sub-human or separate races etc etc). That doesn’t mean better informed people have to live down to the standards of the uninformed though. Just as it’s not good for atheists and scientists to give in to creationists and other ignoramuses.

    then that means it was not wrong to kill anyone before the advent of modern society.

    In places where people weren’t aware that some humans were indeed true humans, that certainly was the case! It was not legally wrong to kill the non-humans. One might hope that, if educated on the facts of the matter (and not hopelessly insane, religious, bigoted etc) any formerly ignorant people might come round to accepting reality as it is and hence change their view on it being OK to eat those other humans.

    When Yahweh commands Moses to commit genocide against the Midianites, this is excusable, because “certain tribes really did regard other humans as not true humans and as the equivalent of monkeys in being fair game to eat if caught.”

    No, because you’d have to be able to show that the Moses bunch really did regard the other lot as being non-human. Not all tribes have had that view. The biblical claims of taking the virgin girls of defeated enemies for breeding is evidence against the Jews having had that view.

    The “everyone not of my tribe is non-human” view is quite an isolated (and isolationist) one – of necessity. Plus it would still be wrong from our modern point of view and, for your example, would actually raise yet another black mark against god for being ignorant of the reality of his own alleged creation! He, at the very least, should have known the others were also humans.

    Further, your argument means that when feral children are discovered, even today, they have no right not to be murdered (or raped, or tortured) by their discoverers, because they are not yet part of modern human society.

    You’re really not grasping this are you! We, as members of modern human society, now know that other apparent humans really are humans and could be part of our own society, interbreed and so forth. We don’t have the excuse of being ignorant any more to fuel any prejudices.

    Incidentally, sufficiently damaged feral children probably wouldn’t ever reach a state in a society which adopted them where they were permitted to vote. Rights and responsibilities tend to have vaguely rational levels to them. It’s just the prejudicial, ie non-rational, distinctions which have to be abandoned in the light of superior knowledge.

  308. #310 SEF
    August 9, 2008

    Edit: “OK to eat” should have been “OK to kill” (though the “eat” thing might still apply).

  309. #311 Vitis01
    August 9, 2008

    @ 301 and 304

    Animals generally evolve not to eat there own species because of prions and parasites that are only transmissible species to species. Things like Spongiform Enchephalitis or Trichinosis. That is why I will only eat human if it is very well cooked.

  310. #312 Grammar RWA
    August 9, 2008

    No, just being human (and not merely a potential human) is enough.

    That is certainly not what you said previously, though. You said it was necessary to be part of modern human society. If you want to amend that and say that human society has nothing to do with it, it’s the species alone, you can make that amendment.

    But now that means you’re saying “the quality humans have that makes it wrong to kill them is that they are humans.” This is entirely circular reasoning, worthless to anyone looking for a serious answer to Ace of Sevens’s question.

    In places where people weren’t aware that some humans were indeed true humans, that certainly was the case! It was not legally wrong to kill the non-humans.

    If you’re trying to derive morality from legality here (“it is wrong because it is illegal; it was not wrong because it was not illegal”), then it’ll be amusing to watch you try to escape from that pit of illogic. If you aren’t, then it was completely irrelevant for you to bring up legality, and you’re obscuring the relevant issue, morality. Ace of Sevens wasn’t asking about legality. The question “is it wrong” is a question about morals. Nobody asked “is it legal.”

    If your contention is that Moses wasn’t one who took that view, it doesn’t much matter, because as you admit, there were other tribes who did. So it follows from your assertion that those tribes were not doing something morally wrong when they killed people. If you hold to that extremist stance of moral relativism, just say so unequivocally, because no one else here should have to waste time arguing with the morally bankrupt.

    You’re really not grasping this are you!

    It’s hard to understand you when you keep changing what you’re saying, without making this clear. Your original contention was that current membership in human society was what mattered. If you’re changing this to potential membership, say so.

  311. #313 LisaJ
    August 9, 2008

    Pyrette @ #294. I am totally with you. You stated perfectly how I feel about this issue. Nice one.

  312. #314 Grammar RWA
    August 9, 2008

    LisaJ endorses the naturalistic fallacy too, then? You might want to sit on the benches next time the creationist trolls come along.

  313. #315 LisaJ
    August 9, 2008

    I don’t even know what the definition of the ‘naturalistic fallacy’ is, so I obviously never said that I supported it.

  314. #316 Grammar RWA
    August 9, 2008

    Here, I linked it earlier. Read Iain Walker back at #297. He explains it, though without naming it as such. He refers to the is-ought problem.

    Here’s what PYRETTE said earlier that’s fallacious:

    That being said i beilieve we have an inherent right to eat other animals (we are more evolutionarily fit than they are, so as animals we get to eat them)

    In other words, we should eat them because we can. This is also known as “might makes right,” and if you allow it as an argument, you get Manifest Destiny, Triumph of the Will, and Social Darwinism. Allow it, and Ben Stein’s Darwinism->Nazism argument suddenly has legs.

  315. #317 Grammar RWA
    August 9, 2008

    It wouldn’t hurt for me to be more verbose, I hope.

    The point, then, is that if there is an argument that allows us to kill nonhuman animals for pleasure, while disallowing us to kill human animals for pleasure, it cannot be the one that PYRETTE advanced and you endorsed. You’ll have to come up with something else.

    Humans got to where we are today by way of murder, rape and slavery. If merely being more evolutionarily fit confers moral legitimacy, then rape, slavery and murder are all A-OK, because we and our ancestors are more fit to our environment than those lineages of hominids who did not practice as much slavery, rape and murder as we did.

  316. #318 Grammar RWA
    August 9, 2008

    for sake of clarity:

    “… than those extinct lineages of hominids who did not practice as much slavery, rape and murder as we did.”

  317. #319 SEF
    August 9, 2008

    @ #312

    That is certainly not what you said previously, though.

    It is what I said. You just failed to comprehend it properly. Note the word “thus” indicated merely a follow on from the actual condition of being human (and applied to the way anyone in a modern society would, based on modern evolutionary and genetic knowledge, accept any humans anywhere as being human and a potential member of their own society rather than something incapable of joining) because it’s societies which make the rules. Just because there might still be some primitives or bigots out there who would fail to recognise humans as human, doesn’t mean that anyone in a modern (ie possessing advanced knowledge) society should stoop to their level.

    If you’re trying to derive morality from legality here

    You’re getting cause and effect the wrong way round. Are you really that stupid or are you merely working hard at feigning it?

    So it follows from your assertion that those tribes were not doing something morally wrong when they killed people.

    No, they didn’t think so but we do know so. We can understand without condoning their ignorance and bigotry.

    when you keep changing what you’re saying

    I didn’t. Don’t blame me for your own comprehension failures.

  318. #320 LisaJ
    August 9, 2008

    No, I don’t really feel that ‘might makes right’. I just feel that it’s evolutionarily hardwired into us to eat meat, and our bodies are made for it, as it is for other animals.

    Now anytime I hear of someone inflicting unnecesary pain and suffering on animals, I definitely have a problem with it. I would never condone mistreatment of animals. Getting back to the main topic of my post, what I find really ridiculous is that what happened to this poor kid was much more severe than how an animal should be killed when taken for meat. This guy was stabbed repeatedly in the neck and chest, which had to be some awful pain, and was then decapitated. He had to go through some horrible pain before he died, something that most animals would definitely be spared (unless you’ve got some sicko that isn’t treating his/her animals humanely). So for PETA to say that what happened to this kid is equal to what happens to animals killed for food is absolutely ridiculous and disgusting.

  319. #321 Grammar RWA
    August 9, 2008

    It is what I said.

    Of course it is not. You said it was necessary for them to be in the modern human community. By what you said, being human ten thousand years ago would not be enough to confer moral status on those people.

    It doesn’t matter to me either way, because you’re still using circular reasoning. All you’ve said so far to answer Ace of Sevens is “the quality humans have that makes it wrong to kill them is that they are humans.” Round and around we go.

    Now you’re also saying it’s wrong to kill people because society says so. It follows that should society decide differently (should another genocidal nation arise and conquer all other nations) it will be okay for them to kill people, because then society will say it’s okay.

    You’re getting cause and effect the wrong way round. Are you really that stupid or are you merely working hard at feigning it?

    You’re the one who said “It was not legally wrong to kill the non-humans.” There was no point in bringing that up unless you were trying to derive legality from morality.

    No, they didn’t think so but we do know so. We can understand without condoning their ignorance and bigotry.

    Clear enough on the charge of moral relativism, but you’re still running in circles with “they are humans!” I notice you did not even bother to address the problem I pointed out with your circular logic. You don’t care?

  320. #322 Grammar RWA
    August 9, 2008

    So for PETA to say that what happened to this kid is equal to what happens to animals killed for food is absolutely ridiculous and disgusting.

    PETA is wrong to use his death in this way. They were ridiculously insensitive to his family. I will not defend PETA so please don’t ask me to (not that you have).

    No, I don’t really feel that ‘might makes right’. I just feel that it’s evolutionarily hardwired into us to eat meat, and our bodies are made for it, as it is for other animals.

    Can you explain how that is different from might makes right, though? In what way are you not saying that “we should eat them because we can”?

    Look, if Steven Pinker and the evo-psych crowd are right, then men are evolutionarily hardwired to rape women. Their bodies and brains are made for it, etc. How could this possibly make rape okay? How could your same logic make killing animals for taste okay?

    The fact that people today live long and healthy vegan lives means that eating animals is unnecessary now. It’s fine for you to say that killing animals for food was necessary back when it was necessary, and I’ll agree with you. But that’s not the world we live in today.

    Our bodies are “made” to eat a wide variety of foods. “I just like to” is not sufficient justification for eating them, any more than it would be for torturing them. (I promise that’s not a visually graphic link, it’s just a moral thought experiment in text, so please do click it.)

    You just said a moment ago that “anytime I hear of someone inflicting unnecesary pain and suffering on animals, I definitely have a problem with it.” You must admit that there is pain and suffering in the meat and dairy industries (if you don’t think you must admit this, then unfortunately I do have some graphic links for you, but I hope you’re already aware.) And you must admit that if vegans can live healthy lives, all that pain and suffering is entirely unnecessary.

    Yet you’re supporting it with your money, aren’t you? In contradiction of your stated morals? I’m not trying to show you out to be a bad person or something. I’m quite sure you’re trying as often as you can to operate from the best of intentions. But perhaps here is a conflict you didn’t previously notice, between what you believe and what you actually do.

    The good news is it’s an entirely resolvable conflict. :)

  321. #323 SEF
    August 9, 2008

    because you’re still using circular reasoning.

    No, I’m not. That is the significant shared and exclusive property of humans – their human-ness (and it’s significant for evolutionary considerations of being a social species).

    If you want to extend the situation further though, then personhood is the important consideration for the morality issue over not killing and humans are the only things currently known for certain to have personhood. Were something else to demonstrate unequivocal personhood (an AI or an ET), then moral people should conclude that those shouldn’t be killed either (apart from the usual self-defence issues).

    However, individual personhood isn’t always how real-world humans actually judge things. Instead the human-ness and personhood of the whole class can lead some people to the moral sense that someone in a brain-dead state shouldn’t be “killed”, whereas other people can recognise that they are no longer really a person but merely artificially “fresh meat” which used to be a person (or, in the case of a foetus, a parasitic piece of meat which only possibly has potential to be a person).

    At the moment the instinctive moral sense for some is still at odds with what will likely become the rationally adjusted moral sense. At the moment, humans mostly “judge” purely on people being human. Human-ness is what is (as per the question actually asked). Personhood is what may well will be.

    Note that, referring back to how that “will be” affects the original Q, a low-IQ person is still a person in the way that a brain-dead or anencephalic human isn’t. Hence killing the former is still going to be regarded as wrong while “killing” the latter isn’t. Meanwhile, other primates (viz close and high IQ ones) are already accorded semi-personhood status from the killing point of view; and their own acquiescence to any medical testing is also increasingly required. They aren’t permitted to vote but then neither is a child, a hopelessly low IQ person or a criminal in most circumstances (whereas women now are in less ignorant societies!).

    Personhood has rationally evaluated shades of grey in its rights and responsibilities. That’s the advanced view gradually taking over in iterative stages from the primitive, ignorant, prejudicial, black and white view. Even getting to inclusive human-ness (instead of certain groups assiduously avoiding recognising it) is a big step forward!

    Now you’re also saying it’s wrong to kill people because society says so.

    No, I’m not. Read and comprehend. Don’t just mouth the words to yourself.

    It follows that should society decide differently (should another genocidal nation arise and conquer all other nations) it will be okay for them to kill people, because then society will say it’s okay.

    No, it doesn’t follow. That society won’t magically have unlearned the fact that all humans are humans. They will know they are acting immorally even if they do choose to act immorally. Merely possessing the knowledge does not simplistically preclude the existence of a choice – and the possibility of choosing immorally. To be completely ignorant of the choice even existing is to be amoral. It’s very unlikely there would be an entire nation of people with that same mental defect.

  322. #324 Grammar RWA
    August 9, 2008
    because you’re still using circular reasoning.

    No, I’m not. That is the significant shared and exclusive property of humans – their human-ness

    Here’s what you’ve said:
    “Humans have property Y that makes it wrong to kill them.”

    And what is property Y?
    Y = “Humans have property Y that makes it wrong to kill them.”

    It’s entirely recursive, circular at a single step!

    At the moment the instinctive moral sense for some is still at odds with what will likely become the rationally adjusted moral sense. At the moment, humans mostly “judge” purely on people being human. Human-ness is what is (as per the question actually asked).

    Again you’re saying that right and wrong are simply a function of societal consensus. Humans have moral status because humans say so, nothing more and nothing less.

    If you want to extend the situation further though, then personhood is the important consideration for the morality issue over not killing and humans are the only things currently known for certain to have personhood.

    But there are extremely mentally retarded humans who may not have a theory of mind or even an identity throughout time. Under what definition of personhood would they be included? And what is that property within personhood, specifically, that makes it wrong to kill someone (funny how you haven’t even gotten around to Ace of Seven’s point yet)?

  323. #325 SEF
    August 9, 2008

    It’s entirely recursive, circular at a single step!

    No, it isn’t really circular. It’s an important and non-arbitrary, real-world dividing line; and one which has frequently been ignored – which it couldn’t be if you were right in thinking there wasn’t any point in stating it. You’re not right and it isn’t simplistically circular. No other life-form is human and all humans are recognisably human (by anyone who doesn’t try hard to avoid recognising it). You could say the “quality” is a species one – essentially genetic. However, you’re supposed to understand that, especially after having it repeatedly explained in various ways.

    It’s also important that all other humans could, by their human-ness, theoretically become part of a given society of humans – because it’s only within a society that nurture adds to nature in the formation of morals and the enforcement of them. Perhaps you weren’t aware that morals are environmentally sensitive and built up by nurture on top of the inbuilt (by evolution) natural ability to acquire morals at all.

    Again you’re saying that right and wrong are simply a function of societal consensus.

    No, societal knowledge – of which the individual members are supposed to be informed if it’s a society with a fair education system. The law is what is arrived at, ideally, by consensus. That’s what covers the situation for the education failing to take or the choices being bad despite the knowledge. Why is this so hard for you to comprehend?

    Under what definition of personhood would they be included?

    A grey and graduated one. They are accorded only some rights (partial personhood), according to their ability to take responsibility – and some very retarded humans, eg anencephalic ones at the most extreme, really are killed / allowed to die quite morally as their best option. Again, can you really not read and comprehend the words or are you just dishonest (and/or a very primitive black-and-white thinker of the sort who shouldn’t be allowed certain responsibilities in an advanced society)?

    As a test of whether you’re even worth talking to, tell me where abouts it is on the number line that numbers suddenly become big numbers. Note that numbers definitely do have a property by which one can tell whether one is bigger than another. Yet sometimes a given number is big enough for one thing and not big enough for another. The quality is real(!) but not an either-or. Personhood is a more advanced (nurtural) moral concept than the state of human evolution has achieved (by just nature) – and has repercussions beyond the sort of things vegans might want of it.

    At the moment societies still operate on a lot of expediency (arbitrary ages for voting etc) rather than making tedious individual tests of personal rationality and responsibility. But some tests are already made and you’re ignorantly or dishonestly (since I’ve already given you plenty of examples) apparently pretending that they’re not.

  324. #326 SEF
    August 9, 2008

    And what is that property within personhood, specifically, that makes it wrong to kill someone (funny how you haven’t even gotten around to Ace of Seven’s point yet)?

    Morality. Though it occurs to me that you genuinely might not be grasping the full significance of that, despite my previous references to it – especially since you keep trying to reject the society point. It is perhaps a trickier thing to comprehend despite being the whole point of the discussion – especially if you’re only viewing things as unidirectional instead of as an iterative feedback and two-way situation (and if you have a perverse aversion to the important “circularities” involved!)

    Personhood is itself about having the capacity to make moral decisions. A person may not have reached a reliable level of responsibility (yet or ever) and hence not be accorded all rights (eg children and the severely mentally retarded). Amoral people and people who repeatedly make immoral choices, tend to have rights and responsibilities taken away from them accordingly. What other primates appear to lack (ie as a group, as with underage children, rather than having to find the one exceptional individual who may not even exist) is sufficient self-control to reliably exercise moral choices. They do exhibit various degrees of intelligence, empathy, language skills etc etc. But the morality is untrustworthy. It isn’t clear that they can be held morally responsible for their actions were they to be accorded full honorary personhood within human society. Eg the chimp kills man incidents.

    The importance of having morally responsible persons in human society is that they can be trusted (more or less – hence the existence of criminal) to treat other members in the same way – you know not to kill them and they know not to kill you. If they act immorally they are held responsible for that choice insofar as they are responsible. If they visibly lack responsibility (appear amoral rather than immoral) they get rights taken away from them under a different system but just as surely and even more irrevocably if it’s an unfixable state of affairs. The person in a coma doesn’t get taken to the voting booth or put on a jury to pass judgment on fellow members of the society of humans/persons. (NB It is a matter of expedience that personhood is assumed to apply at fixed degrees to all humans above certain ages unless clearly shown otherwise. In reality people reach various levels of responsibility at different rates.)

    It is not moral to kill a person because a person knows it is not moral to kill you and can co-exist in your society (at some slightly variable level of equivalence) on that understanding. No other known species as a concerted whole qualifies (and the species line is the expedient one again).

  325. #327 Grammar RWA
    August 9, 2008

    Great Zod! You finally got around to it.

    Under what definition of personhood would they be included?

    A grey and graduated one. They are accorded only some rights (partial personhood), according to their ability to take responsibility – and some very retarded humans, eg anencephalic ones at the most extreme, really are killed / allowed to die quite morally as their best option

    Ah, but a few of those rights are accorded even to those who cannot comprehend any responsibility. Once a severely retarded human is born otherwise, he or she is granted the right not to be used as someone else’s property, and the right not to be murdered. Rightly so, as a retarded person can have an interest in remaining alive (at any given time) even without having an identity that persists throughout that lifetime.

    So we may have a human who is a “partial person”, and the reasons for recognizing that partial personhood may be no more than these two: a preference for avoiding pain, and a preference for avoiding death. The potential or lack of potential to develop into “more of a person” later (as neurotypical children have) is not necessary. This is well and good.

    But it turns out that most of the food animals humans consume have these same two preferences, and so must be afforded the same rights: to not be used as property, and to not be murdered.

  326. #328 Grammar RWA
    August 9, 2008

    excuse me.

    “Once a severely retarded human is born otherwise healthy

  327. #329 Grammar RWA
    August 9, 2008

    It is not moral to kill a person because a person knows it is not moral to kill you and can co-exist in your society (at some slightly variable level of equivalence) on that understanding.

    Whoops! Now you’ve backed up and you’re asserting that it’s okay to kill a retarded person who isn’t aware that he shouldn’t kill you, even when he is not threatening you in any way (because there is no dispute here that you could morally kill in an immediate case of self-defense).

    Thankfully you’re in the minority with that view.

  328. #330 SEF
    August 9, 2008

    You finally got around to it.

    Liar! It was there previously (eg #323 and #309). You just ignored it. I think that clinches the case that you’re basically dishonest in your arguing. If you were honest but somewhat incompetent you could still have gone back to check carefully whether you’d previously missed something important rather than claiming it wasn’t there.

    Now you’ve backed up and you’re asserting …

    False. Read the words – all of them and not just the ones you like and regard as an opportunity to dishonestly quote out of context.

    The rest of your post #327 falls into the same category. You are selectively ignoring important details from the originals in order to make dishonest points. That pretty definitely makes you some subspecies or other of troll.

  329. #331 Grammar RWA
    August 9, 2008

    No, you never mentioned personhood before 325, so I could not have ignored it.

    Okay, I’ll try to parse that last paragraph again.

    It is not moral to kill a person because a person knows it is not moral to kill you and can co-exist in your society (at some slightly variable level of equivalence) on that understanding.

    This says that what makes it a immoral to kill someone is their capacity to comprehend that they should not kill you.

    That would mean if they don’t have that capacity, it’s moral to kill them.

    However, you now say that’s not what you mean. Okay. Fine. I’m taking your word that that’s not what you meant.

    Honestly, SEF, you’re exhausting my patience with your ambiguous language. It’d be different if you were willing to consider that the communication breakdown may be on both sides and not just mine. I’m willing to grant that I may not be as smart as you, but I’m not nearly as stupid as you keep claiming. I’m done putting up with the abuse.

    What interests to me at this point, what I’m taking away from the discussion, is that you believe it would be wrong to kill someone, except in self-defense, even if they did not understand that it was wrong to kill you. Even if they were severely retarded and could not protect your rights from other incursions. Even if all they could muster for “partial personhood” is a preference for avoiding pain and a preference for avoiding death. Even if they have no potential for developing into “more of a person” later. That’s great. I agree.

    But if that’s all it takes to be accorded the right not to be murdered, then most food animals meet the criteria.

    It wasn’t exactly nice talking to you, but it was interesting.

  330. #332 Grammar RWA
    August 9, 2008

    LisaJ, I’ve got to get out of here for a while, but I thank you for our brief discussion. It was both pleasant and interesting. If you’re at all interested in continuing that thread later at a more relaxed pace, well, I’ll check back here in the morning. Either way I look forward to your upcoming guest posts. :)

  331. #333 SEF
    August 9, 2008

    so I could not have ignored it.

    You ignored the shades of grey part of it, like you have been ignoring so many other things (the original limited contexts and the carefully inserted warnings about exceptions and nominal inclusions) in your dishonest quote-mining. And you’re still doing it. I don’t believe it’s possible for you to make those sorts of “mistakes” honestly. It goes beyond mere incompetence and poor reading comprehension on your part. It looks far too deliberate.

  332. #334 Neil Schipper
    August 9, 2008

    I went to the counter-protest gathering outside the church where the Mclean funeral was held. In the end, the protesters did not show.

    It was nice to see several hundred fellow Winnipeggers who, like me, were not acquainted with the deceased but who felt that the Phelps clan protests, even if legal, needed to be dissuaded in any efforts to disrupt the funeral.

    Our main local paper already has the story

  333. #335 SEF
    August 9, 2008

    Hopefully the “counter-protest” wasn’t itself a disruption from the family’s point of view.

  334. #336 truth machine, OM
    August 9, 2008

    I don’t even know what the definition of the ‘naturalistic fallacy’ is, so I obviously never said that I supported it.

    Fuck but that’s dumb. You can endorse the naturalistic fallacy without ever using those words or know what they mean.

  335. #337 truth machine, OM
    August 9, 2008

    PYRETTE (#294):

    i beilieve we have an inherent right to eat other animals (we are more evolutionarily fit than they are, so as animals we get to eat them)

    Oh, bollocks.

    1. The fitness of an organism is a function of its ability to survive and reproduce given the prevailing environmental conditions. It’s a completely relative standard, by which human beings may be fitter than some other populations of organisms, but less fit than others.

    2. Unless you’re living in some quasi-Social Darwinistic fantasy world in which “is” implies “ought”, questions of relative fitness entail nothing either way about our rights or responsibilities vis a vis other animals.

    Quite so, and yet LisaJ says she agrees with #294. I hope PZ will rethink having someone so stupid and so ignorant of the fundamentals of evolution as a guest blogger.

  336. #338 truth machine, OM
    August 9, 2008

    No, I don’t really feel that ‘might makes right’. I just feel that it’s evolutionarily hardwired into us to eat meat, and our bodies are made for it, as it is for other animals.

    So you eat your meat raw?

    Idiot.

  337. #339 Neil Schipper
    August 9, 2008

    Re: #335

    Actually, counter-protest isn’t the right word (it was used by the newspaper, and I re-used it not so thoughtfully). There were no signs or chants or megaphones, no marching. We just hung out, most of us across the street from the church.

    The intent was that if the WBC folks showed up, the rest of us would link up to prevent them from getting too close.

    Although it certainly wasn’t a highly organized event, from time to time, some folks who seemed to be in the know walked around and gave the crowd updates, like “The service has now started.” and “The service will be over in about ten minutes”.

  338. #340 Wowbagger
    August 9, 2008

    I like to eat meat (in moderation) and I’m far too lazy (physically and creatively) in the kitchen to become a vegetarian or a vegan. I accept that that’s a poor excuse but that’s the way it is.

    I do, however, dislike that we have to effectively imprison, torture and kill animals to provide me with meat – it makes me feel a little guilty – but I also recognise that my feelings are an aspect of the compassion that has served us so well as a species.

    Our ancestors evolved into meat-eating because, dietarily, it provided greater fitness; our descendants may very well evolve out of it because of the resource issues, because we’ve developed alternative nutritional sources and, psychologically, they can’t cope with the negative affect of the consequences.

    For the moment, though, I’m content to be a transitional form.

  339. #341 LisaJ
    August 9, 2008

    Truth machine, I’d appreciate it if you got a life and stopped calling me an idiot and stupid. That’s all I’m going to say to you here. Grow up.

  340. #342 Don't Panic
    August 10, 2008

    LisaJ, perhaps you’re not familiar with Truth Machine’s shtick. Occasionally it makes a incitefully brilliant comment and the rest of the time it is annoyingly insulting and argumentative (though often the first category also fits into the latter). It can be tenacious about beating a dead horse into the ground and I’ve long since lost hope of it “growing up”. It’s a machine; it’s unlikely to change.

  341. #343 Strakh
    August 10, 2008

    Wowbagger @ #340

    Best. Statement. About. This. Ever.

    Should just close it off, as nothing more for either side can be better said after that…

    Bravo.

  342. #344 JCE
    August 10, 2008

    The Topeka Capital-Journal ran a story on their local nutcases proposed invasion of Winterpeg. I found the comments to be particularly heartening, both before and after it came out that the WBC whackos had (sensibly!) chickened out of showing up for the funeral. They seem to be nice people down there (I would happily buy a beer for folks like oldharleygurl, although I don’t think we are as nice as she seems to think we are :) ) who have been stuck on how to deal with the bullies in their backyard. It can only be hoped that when these miserable excuses for human beings slink back home after failing at their protests up here, they are embarrassed enough to give the locals a break for a while.
    http://cjonline.com/stories/080908/loc_316247506.shtml

    And good on you, people of Winnipeg and (I can’t believe that I am saying this) Stockwell Day for making it clear to these insufferable, hate-filled people that there are some lines that you do not cross, even in a tolerant nation.

  343. #345 Ray
    August 10, 2008

    We orchestrated a group of about 700 people that waited back from the church in case WBC showed. If they had, we would simply have created a non-confrontational line of people that simply would not allowed them to expose their hatred to the grieving family. The police could handle the rest. This was not about addressing the WBC’s hate propaganda, but rather a protective barrier to allow the family to bury their dead in peace.

    Whatever the reason for WBC’s no-show, we really don’t care. The family got what they needed (as best they could), and were grateful for out presence. Again, it wasn’t about our own moral outrage. It was to protect an already over-burdened family.

    The WBC could never have gotten close to that church.

  344. #346 JCE
    August 10, 2008

    “It was to protect an already over-burdened family.”
    That was the line I was thinking of that should not be crossed. It is good to know that the family would not have had to see such ugliness during the funeral. Winnipeg showed what it was made of today in coming up with a firm but non-confrontational solution.
    RIP Tim McLean

    (Protesting the play in Toronto is an entirely different matter, since controversy isn’t going to hurt anyone there.)

  345. #347 Grammar RWA
    August 10, 2008

    Wowbagger @ #340

    Best. Statement. About. This. Ever.

    Should just close it off, as nothing more for either side can be better said after that…

    Bravo.

    Strakh, you should not let on that you are so easily impressed.

    Wowbagger just said that it’s torture and murder and he doesn’t care enough to bother doing anything about it.

    So if that future comes when we end the unnecessary killing, anyone looking back at the struggle will remember Wowbagger as one of the enemies, one of those opposed to moral progress, a reactionary like Fred Phelps and the Westboro Baptist Church.

  346. #348 Grammar RWA
    August 10, 2008

    Jesus, truth machine, I already gave LisaJ a clear response to the fallacy back at #322. Why don’t you let her take some time to think about it and respond? There’s nothing to be gained from being rude about it.

  347. #349 Grammar RWA
    August 10, 2008

    a reactionary like Fred Phelps and the Westboro Baptist Church.

    Actually, no. More like the Christians who sat on the sidelines and said nothing about Phelps while he terrorized us for decades, who didn’t speak up until he started terrorizing military families as well, and who still never complain about the content of his anti-gay slogans.

  348. #350 Bee
    August 10, 2008

    I’m pleased at least to see a few vegetarians/vegans here are aware at least minimally of the effects the large scale farming of grains, vegetables, most fruits, and let me add with emphasis, *cotton* for fabric has on animals.

    http://www.panda.org/about_wwf/what_we_do/policy/agriculture_environment/index.cfm?uNewsID=115940

    At least in the case of grass fed cattle and sheep, it is possible for some other small mammals, birds, and insects to co-exist and live out their lives, including reproduction, but in non-meat producing agriculture, current practice in terms of habitat destruction, pesticide and herbicide application, and most horribly, most harvesting methods, the combined mortality rate is very high.

    Cotton is likely the worst offender, especially regarding the enormous amount of land and water required to produce clothing, linens, etc., in the vast quantities used by six billion humans, not to mention the chemicals and fertilizers used to keep that cotton growing and healthy.

    I’ve nothing against vegetarians other than that some do make a religion of it and turn a blind eye to the destruction required by their own dietary choices.

  349. #351 Iain Walker
    August 10, 2008

    Grammar RWA (#322):

    Look, if Steven Pinker and the evo-psych crowd are right, then men are evolutionarily hardwired to rape women.

    I’m a tad skeptical of the more extreme claims of evolutionary psychology myself, but this is a gross piece of misrepresentation.

    The study you seem to be alluding to (Thornhill, R., & Thornhill, N.W., “Human rape: an evolutionary analysis,” in Ethology & Sociobiology 4, 1983; also Thornhill, R. & Palmer, C.T. “A Natural History of Rape: Biological Bases of Sexual Coercion”, 2000) claims only that rape may be (or have been in the past) a viable reproductive strategy under some circumstances for some males, and that this is why it persists in the population. This falls a long way short from the blanket claim that “men are evolutionarily hardwired to rape women”. At most it suggests that some men may have a genetic predisposition which increases their likelihood to resort to such behaviours.

    This theory of rape as an adaptive behaviour is also controversial amongst evolutionary psychologists.

  350. #352 Grammar RWA
    August 10, 2008

    The problems to which Bee refers are real, but the implications do not follow.

    Take the cotton example. The WWF link given is great, because it talks about the environmental issues with cotton farming, and then it goes into improvements that can make cotton more sustainable and less damaging.

    Are vegans opposed to making cotton farming more sustainable? Of course not. In fact the stereotype of tofu-nibbling tree-huggers is not far off; the overlap between animal people and environmentalists is huge.

    Are vegans consuming more cotton than nonvegans? We’ve no data to go on, but again, you’re talking about people who are more environmentally conscious than the average person. The safest bet is that we’re buying less than the general population.

    How about the comparison of grass fed cattle and sheep? Well, the demands of meat consumers cannot be met by grass feeding. That’s why the massive factory farming operations exist. So this is simply not a solution. The meat you actually eat doesn’t come from grass fed animals, it comes from gigantic factory farming operations, tremendous polluters. “Oh but I only buy grass fed cows.” Not when you go to restaurants, school and office cafeterias, and other people’s homes.

    And what exactly is the impact of the meat and dairy industries?

    29 November 2006, Rome – Which causes more greenhouse gas emissions, rearing cattle or driving cars?

    Surprise!

    According to a new report published by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, the livestock sector generates more greenhouse gas emissions as measured in CO2 equivalent – 18 percent – than transport. It is also a major source of land and water degradation.

    Says Henning Steinfeld, Chief of FAO’s Livestock Information and Policy Branch and senior author of the report: “Livestock are one of the most significant contributors to today’s most serious environmental problems. Urgent action is required to remedy the situation.”

    Now, the UN goes on to discuss ways to reduce the environmental impacts, but you’re never going to reduce them to the point where CO2-producers (food animals) are going to be better for the environment than CO2-trappers (food plants). Any size shift of biomass from producers to trappers would be an improvement, the more the better.

    And so what exactly is the benefit of one person shifting to a veg diet? “It is comparable to the difference between driving an SUV and driving a reasonable sedan,” according to researchers at the University of Chicago. And that’s assuming no attempt to buying products of sustainable agriculture; obviously the environmentally conscious vegan diet is a further improvement.

    Vegetarian eating with eggs and dairy, though, still isn’t enough. The dairy industry is the meat industry; the cows are slaughtered just the same when they stop giving milk. Chickens are slaughtered when they stop laying eggs. And the hormones-and-feces runoff from these farms is just as bad.

    I’ve nothing against vegetarians other than that some do make a religion of it

    No less vacuous a statement than “I’ve nothing against atheists other than that some do make a religion of it.” Spare us the clichÚd equivocations.

  351. #353 Grammar RWA
    August 10, 2008

    Argh blockquotes! Everything from “29 November 2006, Rome” to “Urgent action is required” should be in blockquotes.

  352. #354 Grammar RWA
    August 10, 2008

    Iain, thank you for that comment. I’m trying not to misrepresent the Thornhill study, so maybe you can help me get it right.

    The study you seem to be alluding to (Thornhill, R., & Thornhill, N.W., “Human rape: an evolutionary analysis,” in Ethology & Sociobiology 4, 1983; also Thornhill, R. & Palmer, C.T. “A Natural History of Rape: Biological Bases of Sexual Coercion”, 2000) claims only that rape may be (or have been in the past) a viable reproductive strategy under some circumstances for some males, and that this is why it persists in the population. This falls a long way short from the blanket claim that “men are evolutionarily hardwired to rape women”. At most it suggests that some men may have a genetic predisposition which increases their likelihood to resort to such behaviours.

    I don’t disagree with you, except I don’t understand why “a genetic predisposition” cannot be described as being “evolutionarily hardwired.” Is it because “hardwired” implies “cannot avoid doing do”? If that’s the objection then I retract my wording. (And I note that means we aren’t evolutionarily hardwired to eat meat, either.)

    This theory of rape as an adaptive behaviour is also controversial amongst evolutionary psychologists

    I figured LisaJ was aware of that, but it’s worth pointing out for other readers. Note also that I’m not endorsing the theory; I merely said “if”. The point I’m trying to make is that even if rape were in the genome, that would not be an ethical argument in favor of rape, and neither is meat-eating in the genome an argument for meat-eating today.

  353. #355 Grammar RWA
    August 10, 2008

    I may have to retire my RWA. That’s supposed to have said “cannot avoid doing so”.

  354. #356 Roger Cullman
    August 10, 2008

    For an insight into the reaction Toronto had upon hearing that Phelps and his crew were going to stage outside the opening of a play about him, check out this article on blogTO.

    – Roger

  355. #357 Strakh
    August 10, 2008

    RE##$& by Grammer RWA:

    I wasn’t speaking to you, shit for brains. If you would quit masturbating to your own image in the mirror you might have noticed that.

    If I’d wanted an opinion out of that anus on your face, I would have asked for you to shit more pointless self-congratulatory crap.

    You have done nothing on this site but expose yourself for the kind of junior high asshole who likes to fuck with people because even his own mom won’t give him the time of day…

    As for your “morals”? As long as they say Grammer RWA is just too fucking smart for everyone else, they’d be just fine for a self-fucking twerp like you, so shut the fuck up and stay out of any conversation where your name hasn’t been shat out, okay, shit for brains?

    And, oh, yeah, tell me again how smart you are by tearing this obscenity-laden note apart. It won’t change the fact that you’re just a pretentious and ridiculous narcissist with nothing but shit pouring out of your mouth. It’s the only way to treat a smirking little self-fucker like you; anything else is simply a waste of time, as your mother no doubt figured out long ago…

  356. #358 Grammar RWA
    August 10, 2008

    :D

    I’ll have you know, my mother says I’m very special.

  357. #359 John Scanlon FCD
    August 10, 2008

    Grammar RWA said

    The meat you actually eat doesn’t come from grass fed animals, it comes from gigantic factory farming operations, tremendous polluters.

    You have an argument against eating factory-farmed meat. Well, I live in tropical savannah where you can’t grow vegetables because of seasonal aridity and heavy metal pollution (part natural, part from mining), fruit and nuts grow alright but only feed you a few weeks in the year, and grass-fed cattle are the only kind there is. I don’t much like beef, and actually eat more pork and chicken and fish (expensively and pollutingly imported from the coast, my bad), but it’s what grows on the ground here so I don’t have an ethical problem with eating cows, at least here. I don’t assume this applies everywhere, nor should you overgeneralise. The ecology of hunting and gathering is still there, beside and partly inside the factory system, and will remain when the factories are gone.

  358. #360 Strakh
    August 11, 2008

    #358 by Grammar RWA:

    Touche’

    And I’ve taken my chill pill…

  359. #361 Iain Walker
    August 11, 2008

    Grammar RWA (#354):

    I don’t disagree with you, except I don’t understand why “a genetic predisposition” cannot be described as being “evolutionarily hardwired.” Is it because “hardwired” implies “cannot avoid doing do”? If that’s the objection then I retract my wording.

    I think that talk of “hardwiring” (given the derivation of the expression) gives a strong implication of something “built in” and deterministic, whereas “predisposition” implies something more like a probabilistic bias that may also be influenced other factors. Part of my problems with evolutionary psychology (or more accurately, the way it is often popularised) is a tendency to overstate and oversimplify the way in which genes influence behaviour – although I have the same problem with some of the critics of evolutionary psychology, who often overstate the overstatement. There’s an awful lot of strawmannery in evo-psych debates (hence my comment at #351).

    The other objection I had to your wording was the unqualified catch-all reference to “men”. If there is a genetic component to rape-behaviour, then it does not follow that such a component is widespread throughout the male population (and as far as I’m aware, proponents of the rape-as-adaptation hypothesis don’t go so far as to claim this). The component could be relatively rare, while still being maintained in the population by balancing selection.

    Note also that I’m not endorsing the theory; I merely said “if”. The point I’m trying to make is that even if rape were in the genome, that would not be an ethical argument in favor of rape, and neither is meat-eating in the genome an argument for meat-eating today.

    Totally agree, and your intended point was perfectly clear (to me anyway). I was just nitpicking your characterisation of the hypothesis …

    Hmm. I suppose I should also issue the disclaimer that I’m personally skeptical about the rape-as-adaptation hypothesis, and that one would have to be an idiot to fail to make the distinction between (a) justifying a form of behaviour and (b) providing a biological explanation for it.

  360. #362 Grammar RWA
    August 11, 2008

    Thank you for your explanation, Iain. I consider it an ethical imperative for me to try to be ever more careful that I don’t spread misinformation, so I appreciate the friendly nitpicking.

    There’s a lot of good work coming from the field of evolutionary psychology, too. I hope I didn’t give the impression that I think it’s all bullshit.

  361. #363 Grammar RWA
    August 11, 2008
    The meat you actually eat doesn’t come from grass fed animals, it comes from gigantic factory farming operations, tremendous polluters.

    You have an argument against eating factory-farmed meat.

    No, I have an argument against eating meat of any kind. What you quoted there was merely a note to those people who think they are eating “happy meat.” They aren’t, of course, and they aren’t nearly as careful as they’d need to be even if their premises were sound, which they aren’t anyway. Animals have an interest in not being murdered, so it doesn’t matter how “gently” you murder them, you’re still violating their rights.

    Now John, I don’t know what country you live in, so I can’t comment on whether eating animals is necessary for you or not. Most people here are in first-world nations, so the question didn’t come up for over 350 comments. It’s absolutely unnecessary for almost everyone here.

    Neither have you clearly explained whether eating meat is absolutely necessary for your survival, or whether it would just be rather difficult for you to live on a vegan diet. Mere difficulty is irrelevant, of course. Nobody ever said it was going to be easy to do the right thing.

    In the end, if it’s impossible to survive where you are without eating meat, then the moral thing to do is for the wider world to invest in the infrastructure and imports it will take to ensure that everyone in your nation is able to feed themselves well, healthfully, without relying on murder. This won’t happen tomorrow, but it’s where we should all be aiming over the long term.

  362. #364 truth machine, OM
    August 14, 2008

    Truth machine, I’d appreciate it if you got a life and stopped calling me an idiot and stupid. That’s all I’m going to say to you here. Grow up.

    Just further evidence that you are a cretin, and intellectually dishonest.

  363. #365 truth machine, OM
    August 14, 2008

    Jesus, truth machine, I already gave LisaJ a clear response to the fallacy back at #322. Why don’t you let her take some time to think about it and respond? There’s nothing to be gained from being rude about it.

    There was more to be gained from that than from this pointless comment of yours. You’ll be waiting a very long time for her to give you an intellectually honest response.

  364. #366 truth machine, OM
    August 14, 2008

    Occasionally it makes a incitefully brilliant comment

    In this case neither inciteful nor brilliant, simply obvious … that someone who agrees that “we are more evolutionarily fit than [other animals]” is a very poor choice for a guest blogger on a biology blog. Rather than address the substance of my criticism, the child tells me to “grow up” … how droll, how hypocritical.

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