I’m An Atheist, but Tucker Carlson’s a Dick December 31, 2010

I’m An Atheist, but Tucker Carlson’s a Dick

Earlier this week, President Obama called the owner of the Philadelphia Eagles to congratulate him on giving I-went-to-jail-because-I-was-involved-in-an-illegal-dog-fighting-ring Michael Vick a second chance to play football.

FOX News personality Tucker Carlson wasn’t happy with Obama’s decision and said this on the air:

I’m a Christian… I believe in second chances. But Michael Vick killed dogs… I think personally he should have been executed for that. He wasn’t…”

Has a statement that begins with the words “I’m a Christian… but” ever ended well?

I already roll my eyes on reflex when someone says the first three words, much less the fourth…

On another note, I also don’t get all the vitriol against Vick coming from people who hunt on a regular basis. (Update: I had said “eat meat” instead of “hunt” but it was rightly pointed out that animals killed for food are (usually) killed in a more humane way than the dogs in Vick’s dog-fighting rings. There’s an interesting discussion about this topic over at Rationally Speaking.)

(Thanks to Greg for the link)


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  • Denis Robert

    from someone who eats meat: I don’t kill animals for sport…

    But I personally see little difference between Vick and Palin, who kills animals for ratings and political gains.

  • Claudia

    Tucker Carlson is a dick…but then we did know that.

    I disagree with Obama on this one. I don’t think someone making money off the suffering of dogs should get a second chance at a job that thousands of talanted youth dream about.

    And Hemant, I can appreciate that you’re a vegetarian and that there is some hypocrisy sometimes, but you are being totally disingenous here. Dog-fighting is pure cruelty and suffering of an animal, killing it for food entails much less suffering, if done right. Pretending that the two are equivalent is akin to saying that death by lethal injection is morally equivalent to beating someone to death.

    There is plenty to be critical of in the consumption of meat, especially how we treat the animals when they are still alive. But pretending that by eating meat you are at the same moral level as Michael fucking Vick is pure bullshit, sorry.

  • Wendy

    What Claudia said. I love you Hemant, but dang eating meat = dog fighting? Ick no. I will agree there is cruelity in each, but sweet FSM dog fighting and the horror that it is makes me sad panda.

    /from a “trying to eat less meat” person

  • Allison Palmer-Gleicher

    Opinions are like assholes, everyones got one. Tucker Carlson just happens to be a bigger one, thats all.

  • Claudia, Wendy — Fair point. I tend to think of killing for meat as no different than the killing in the dog-fighting, but I know there’s a difference between being shot by a firing squad versus a lethal injection… if that makes sense. In any case, I revised the wording to “hunt” with an update.

    Thanks for your comments.

  • Kim

    I thought this was the Friendly Atheist – when did I get to the smug vegetarian? Sheesh.

    I agree with Wendy and Claudia. There’s a big difference between slaughtering animals for food and torturing and killing animals purely for shits and giggles.

    Sure, there’s a lot to be angry at in terms of factory farming of animals.

    But, those of us who eat meat (and have the financial means to do so) can fight back by choosing small farmers who treat their animals humanely. We’ve joined a meat CSA and have gotten to know the farmer who provides us with both our red meat and poultry. We know the animals are well taken care of in their time on this earth.

  • Tom

    Training dogs to fight and suffer for one’s vicarious entertainment is obviously different from raising and killing an animal in a compassionate way in order to eat it. You can argue if the latter is ethical or not, but it is certainly more ethical than the former.

    (and I hope, if you are sniping at moral incoherence and have any sense of shame, that you are a vegan rather than a vegetarian!)

  • Ron in Houston

    Actually, regarding your analogy of people who hunt, someone got on MSNBC and made the point that if Tucker Carlson is going to call for Michael Vick to be executed then he needs to do the same for Sarah Palin who shot some defenseless caribou.

  • Anonymous

    Sorry for the pile-on here Hemant, I see you’ve updated your post. But since this is not the first time I’ve noticed, I figured I’d ask if your Jain background is not in fact more strongly programmed than you think. 🙂

    Hemant says: There are certain things I had ingrained in me as a child that I have never thought about since becoming an atheist. My reasons for being a vegetarian are among them. As a kid, killing an animal was *always* the same type of sin, hence that error in the post. We also didn’t eat eggs because, as I was told, they could always be fertilized, so you’d be killing an unborn chicken. How do I reconcile that with my pro-choice beliefs? I don’t know… but I still avoid eating eggs whenever possible.)

  • Bob Carlson

    Given that the dogs killed and mistreated by Michael Vick are merely domesticated wolves, wouldn’t it logically follow from the reasoning of Tucker Carlson (no relation) that Sarah Palin also deserves the death penalty for shooting wolves from airplanes? Well, even most folks that abhor Palin’s politics (presumably including Tucker Carlson) wouldn’t be for that, but I think a couple of weeks in the slammer might be appropriate. 🙂

  • Siobhan

    For what little it might be worth, I know plenty of folks who supplement their food budget by going out and hunting their own meat every year. They are, it seems to me, way more in touch with the source of their food, the suffering, preventing the suffering, and making sure they’re using as much as possible of what they kill. None of the hunters I know are doing it for a trophy or “to kill something” (ie, as a blood sport) and don’t actually consume the meat they kill. Not saying such folks don’t exist, but I think they’re probably rare in Vermont. 🙂

  • Todd

    I think this entire thread goes to yesterday’s discussion about leading atheist = herding cats!

    Hemant the atheist is a vegetarian. My sister the Christian is a vegetarian. It seems many atheists here eat meat with little guilt while others chose more humane treatment of the animals they eat – but still consume them, with some guilt.

    I’m an atheist and I not only eat meat but I also hunt. If you think about it from a diferent point of view, some of the animals I eat lead a perfectly naturual life in the wild – free, and then died a very quick death. I think that’s even more humane than the good farming method. o each his own. I do however preserve my contempt for Michael Vick. Gaining pleasure and making money via animal cruelty such as dog fighting has to be some kind of a sickness that should not be so easily dismissed.

  • Most hunters try to kill humanely as well – not all, of course, but most. Add in the fact that the way dogs are generally treated in dog fighting rings tends to be above and beyond cruel and unusual, and I honestly, truly don’t think there is a comparison; the usual for a dog-fighting ring is brutal, torturous behaviour; the usual for a hunter is to kill an animal with a single shot.

  • Ibis

    And might I say, you could also draw a distinction between those who hunt for food or as part of their livelihood (e.g. Inuit who hunt seal, or commercial fishermen) and those who torture and kill animals for “entertainment” or “recreation”. Personally, I think Vick should have been permanently banned from the NFL (not to mention a much longer jail sentence).

    (Hemant says: Sorry to sound all PETA-y here, but the animal doesn’t care about the reason… is there really any difference between shooting for food or sport? Animal dies all the same.)

  • anna nonymous

    I would like to point out the meat bought at the supermarket is usually not “killed in a humane” way, let alone grown in a decent way. Sadly, it’s all about cheap mass production.
    I agree thought that “hunting” is a better comparison than “meat eating”.

  • JD

    I don’t think the uproar was about pet treatment is about killing pets, Vick was about the worst in animal cruelty. Factory farming is cruel, but I don’t think of it as being nearly the same degree. I don’t think killing animals for sustenance by itself is necessarily cruel, though there are cruel ways to treat animals before and during the killing.

  • Marty

    I live in Michigan where deer hunting is a major industry and pastime. I know many hunters and can’t think of a single one that would want an animal they kill to suffer needlessly. I know many families that partly rely on venison to get by. Hunting is not cruelty, period. If you have different feelings about it, that’s your right, of course. No one is asking you to hunt or eat meat if it is your choice. Hunting is not equal to dog fighting. Sarah Palin has every right to participate in lawful hunting activities. What does this have to do with her politics? I know lots of liberals that hunt too.

  • jose

    I hunt birds for food. Mainly thrushes, quails and wood pigeons. With this.

    To the eyes of a vegetarian, I guess I pretty much look like a person who organizes dog fights.

    However I don’t see the difference between someone who hunts his own meat and someone who buy it at the supermarket.

  • Lauren

    It is unnecessary to eat animals. People do it because they like the taste, or they like the variety or some other excuse. it is for pleasure. (in food deserts there is little choice about food, but that does not change the fact that for most people it is about what I WANT to eat not what I NEED to eat)

    and if you eat pork, it is likely that the mother of the pig you ate was put on a rape rack to impregnate her. one of the horrors that the dogs were put through. Unless you are so rich that you raise your own? so saying “humanely raised” is bollocks.

    Saying that it is similar is not “smug” it is accurate. You think Atheists would be more cautious before throwing that around given the complaints about us.

    He went to prison, he did his time, he should be able to re-enter society. Maybe he has changed in his heart, or maybe he knows he might get caught and has merely changed his actions. but ideally we do not punish people for horrors not yet committed. that is part of our freedom in The United States. He should be able to be a free person after prison.

    and yes I am vegan, not vegetarian. I would actually say hunting is “more moral”. Raising animals in factory farm conditions is horrendous. squashing pigs in a giant press while they squeal, or breeding birds that grow breasts so quickly their legs can’t support them is more humane than shooting a moose? at lease the moose had a free life for the first part.

  • Tom

    Forcing animals to fight as a source of amusement is sick, cruel and a debasement of life. And, as has been remarked, you can’t even make the argument that it’s a naturally evolved process, like carnivorism, which vegans and vegetarians are generally unconvinced by anyway.

    I realise dog-lovers can get extremely attached to said animals. However, no matter how much of a dog lover you are, if you think the suffering or death of any number of dogs warrants the death of a single human being as retribution, you’ve got a very disquieting sense of morality as far as I’m concerned.

    Then again, if you believe in retributive justice in any form, let alone that of execution, you’ve got a very disquieting sense of morality as far as I’m concerned. As a Christian, it’s not surprising this Carlson chap does – for all that one may talk of divine forgiveness or turning the other cheek, the absolutely fundamental axiom of Christianity, in pretty much any denomination, is that of retributive justice: all sins or crime must be punished, or “paid for,” to use the frankly disturbing term frequently used to describe it, balanced like some kind of grotesque account book.

    That’s the whole point of the crucifixion: under the barbarous mindset of retribution as justice, forgiveness is inconceivable; an equal number of people must be punished as crimes were committed. The Jesus trick is simply a frankly terrifying logical contortion within the bounds of this already brutal, simple-minded axiom: as long as the amount of punishment given out is proportionate to the amount of crime committed, it doesn’t matter whether it happens to the actual perpetrator or not.

    Punishing innocents who don’t want to be punished is still patently unjustifiable to anyone with even the slightest remaining trace of sanity, however, but then along comes this weirdo who actually consents to take everyone else’s punishments for them! All that remains then is to convince yourself that a) it’s morally acceptable to have someone else be punished in your stead if only, for whatever reason, he actually wants to be, and b) guilt is somehow transferable. Both, however, are nonsensical to me.

  • By his own admission, Carlson’s objection to Vick is based on Obama having complimented the Eagles for having hired him. In other words, Carlson assumes the power to decide who lives and who dies, based on nothing more than the ideological identity of others who speak up in their favor.

    That’s a bone-chilling premise, if you ask me.

  • Speaking as someone who has shot and killed animals, I can no longer bring myself to eat them, regardless of whether the killer was me or someone working at a slaughterhouse.

    I don’t care how humane the animal’s life or death was. It’s still death and I know it personally because I’ve watched animals die by my own actions.

    Just sayin’.

  • Anonymous

    Hemant, I’m really flattered that you came below the line to address my question. That was some super honesty right there. I suggest dipping your toe in with a bacon-baby burger, and see how you feel after that 🙂

    I would actually say that you’re correct. Shooting an animal in the wild, whether for food or sport, is the same. And if done correctly, there’s almost no suffering at all. If you’re not going to consume it, it’s more distasteful to most people. Although in many places it’s better for the ecosystem, as many hunts are designated for animal populations with not enough natural predators (like deer).

    Factory farming is pretty gross, and it’s the right thing to do for moral reasons to pay attention to your contribution to the industry. But life is a big moral maze; stock investments, gasoline, WalMart, etc etc… all of these create suffering (and even death) in some way or other. You do the best you can. I spent many years as a vegetarian, but now, I won’t beat myself up for a few burgers a year.

    I am very concerned about halal and kosher killing, and I’d like to see more attention paid to that issue. My understanding is that slaughter involves around 6 minutes of fully conscious bleeding out. I find that incredibly disturbing and sadistic.

    What Vick did was just pathological. And Carlson’s a dick too.

  • Mouse

    I agree with you about Vick, and don’t think you needed to soften ‘eat meat’ to ‘hunt’. Anyone who thinks animals are killed humanely for food is (1) ignoring the cruelty and pain of the animal’s whole life, and (2) looking the other way when video documentation of rampant cruelty is collected year after year by advocacy groups.

  • Another comment about comparing hunting to dog fighting. It is a bad comparison and I actually feel a bit insulted that you would think that I would condone raising an animal with cruelty and torture to become a killing machine to fight and die for profit. You don’t know me personally, and that’s actually the problem with statements like the one you made; a bit like a Christian saying all us atheists are immoral, no?

    To get to know me, here’s a the story(edited from my much-longer blog post) of me and hunting. I was a ‘grocery store carnivore’ for years until I began to learn about factory farming, then I began to become an ethical vegetarian. Not a preachy one and not a dedicated one; there was plenty of backsliding.

    Then, my oldest and dearest friend, a waterfowler for most of his life, took me on my first and, so far, only hunt; a Canada Goose hunt. It was my idea because I felt that if I had eaten meat without ever actually dealing with the killing, I was a hypocrite. My friend and I talked a great deal about what the hunt would mean to me and I expressly told him that I didn’t want to cause any suffering. As he is a much better shot that me, we planned that if I didn’t drop my goose immediately, I would safe the shotgun and hand him the weapon to finish off the goose as quickly as possible.

    So. How did I feel after having done that? I felt bad, but not super-bad and I didn’t felt bad about not feeling super-bad. Yes, I took a life to eat, but I treated that food with a reverence that I’ve never done before. Not in a total new-age-y way, but sort of. I didn’t want to waste even a little of the meat and I wanted to cook it as well as I could.

    Will I do it again? Yes. Will I feel bad? Probably. This is a touchy area for some. Why do it at all? some might ask. Why not just go out and watch geese? I don’t know. I liked how it tasted and I felt a connection with that meat that I’ve never felt with any sort of food. On the 5 hour drive home, I thought about the ethical vegetarians against hunting and the grocery store carnivores that deride ethical vegetarians.

    To the first group: of all the carnivores, hunters should be the least of your targets. If they hunt and kill wild animals, they are allowing a creature to live a life before they kill it as quickly as they can. This is in contrast to the factory farms that keep animals in relative squalor and then subject them to terror before killing them. Hunting is infinitely more ethical than a factory farm. Also, license fees go to help preserve the habitats for the animals; A good hunter is also a good environmentalist. And, as I’ve said, I’ve never felt a deeper connection to my food.

    To the second group: Shut up. You’ve separated yourself so far from the origin of your food that you never see the blood; you steak-eaters insist on calling it ‘juices’. If you’ve never had to look a creature in the eye before taking its life, if you’ve never seen the steam rising from the cooling body as you cut the meat from a once warm and vibrant creature, you have NO place in mocking someone who wishes to never kill.

    So, where do I fit? I think I’m a category all of my own. I will try my best to not eat any meat that I did not have a hand in killing. Not because I enjoy the killing, but because I personally feel I don’t have the right to eat something when I don’t know how it lived or how it died. That’s just me.

    Oh, I kept only a single wing feather from the goose. I don’t like trophy hunting, either.

  • ferulebezel

    I’ve aways wondered how vegans would feel if somebody figured out how to genetically engineer livestock brains so that the animal was incapable of suffering, if it had just enough function maintain the metabolism until the animal was ready for slaughter.

    It would probably be easier on the farmers too.

  • What the fuck?! Since when is killing dogs “murder”? Did I miss something in criminal law classes?
    Vick was wrong, but he served his time. Two years. Is he a dick? Of course, but how long is this asshole to be penalized? You can’t deny someone a chance to make a living for being a dickhead. If we did that, 3/4th’s of the world population would be out of work.

  • Heidi

    I do eat meat. I’m not a big hunting fan. But I don’t think hunters usually torture their prey and rip them apart bodily. I just… have you ever seen any rescued fighting dogs on Animal Cops or something? They stare up at you with big puppy eyes. They’re covered in scars, some intentionally inflicted by botched ear docking surgeries… Ugh. I can’t think about this any more. I certainly don’t think Vick should be executed, but the hell if I’d give him another chance at any damned thing.

  • Nakor

    ^ Eventually I imagine they’ll figure out how to simply produce the meat directly rather than have to kill animals to get it, which will probably bring up all sorts of other issues. Of course, that day is rather far off.

    Regarding the food versus sport thing, I don’t think that anybody argues that the animal feels or would feel differently about it. It’s more about waste and needless death. You could argue that it was needless anyway, perhaps, but that’s another fight. A similar argument is against poachers, who often kill animals that are not overpopulated, and risk causing serious harm to our ecosystem, something that legally hunting, assuming such hunting is controlled by skilled conservationists, actually helps to protect.

    It bugs me when Forestry here releases a draw on a species that is overpopulated, and a bunch of the more extreme green party folk try to win tags just to rip them up. I don’t even hunt, so it doesn’t affect me personally, but I know that those tags were issued for a reason, and Forestry is having trouble trying to maintain a balance in our forests because they can’t predict how many tags will be wasted.

  • Anonymous

    WOW. I very rarely eat meat, but I worked in a slaughterhouse, I know what goes down there, and how can ANYONE say that’s the same as the way Vick and his cronies killed those dogs? If anything, people should be more disgusted about egg products, because those are the animals that suffer the most (even if they may not have the intelligence of a pig, they’re not lobsters).

    And of all three options (production animals, slaughter animals, hunting), the wild animal has it the best, for the longest. Vick’s dogfighting would only be equivocal to hunting if they were trappers, AND got joy out of not being merciful to the animal.

    Lauren- PETA member much? Go to a farm without an anthropomorphic mindset and use your own brain. Though animals certainly have an ability to feel pain and suffering, they aren’t humans, and don’t have human needs. Humans don’t have animal needs. For the most part, if you don’t provide for an animal in all aspects, it drastically reduces how much it will produce (especially in dairy), and who the hell benefits there?
    I can tell just by your post that you haven’t the slightest clue what goes on in any farmyard. I can understand an apprehension toward production hens, white veal, and foie gras, since that is legitimate torture, but don’t mistake that with dairy production and grass-raised beef. There IS a huge difference, no matter what you may have been told to think.
    Please don’t give rational vegetarians a bad name by associating with them. And while Vick deserves to re-enter society, he doesn’t deserve the NFL. It’s not the same thing.

  • Kathryn

    Michael Vick’s hobby was killing and torturing dogs. He didn’t need the money (he was already rich and famous). He did it because he got off on it. He’s a very sick man. As a Vegan, I want to say that hunters are also very sick people unless they are hunting to put food on the family table. I think there is a lot of sickness in our society regarding animals including and especially factory farms and slaughterhouses. There is something different about what Michael Vick did, however, that puts him more in the class of serial killers who started out harming animals and then moved to people. I don’t think he should ever be unsupervised around any defenseless animal or person.

  • Anonymous

    We also didn’t eat eggs because, as I was told, they could always be fertilized, so you’d be killing an unborn chicken. How do I reconcile that with my pro-choice beliefs? I don’t know… but I still avoid eating eggs whenever possible

    Avoiding eggs because they are factory farmed is understandable, a position based on personal ethics. Avoiding eggs because you’d be “killing an unborn chicken”? That’s a position worth examining.

    Thanks again for your honesty.

  • Anonymous

    …as I was told, they could always be fertilized, so you’d be killing an unborn chicken…

    How quixotical it is that while the majority of the time there’s zero chance of that being true (grocery store factory farm eggs), the very rare eggs with a chance of it being true (co-op forage hens) are the only ones who actually live half-decent lives.

  • Anonymous

    “As a Vegan, I want to say that hunters are also very sick people unless they are hunting to put food on the family table”

    That preface seems to be as damning as “As a Christian…”
    except, as a vegan, you presumably took a long hard look at your lifestyle/impact on the world, and don’t believe it because thats what you were born into.

    Sadly, that makes you come off all the more stupid, because you somehow put thought into it and still came to that conclusion. hunters are not sick people. michael vick was a sick person. do not put them together.

  • Dennis N

    I find Michael Vick deplorable. I am an animal lover and I literally hate the guy and refuse to watch Eagles games despite being a huge NFL fan. That being said, Tucker Carlson is an idiot. He’s a storm of idiocy.

    There are two problems with his words. First of all, the death penalty is inhumane, but that is not as important as the second point: He’s a disingenuous dickhead. Does everyone remember the uproar he caused with his comments about Michael Vick back in 2007 when his crimes originally came to light? No? That’s because Tucker Carlson didn’t give a damn about dogs until he could use it as an angle to attack Barack Obama.

    That goes for the whole damn right-wing. Less than two months ago, tea partiers were protesting Proposition B in Missouri that would provide the most basic care for puppies in puppy mills. They actively campaigned against the welfare of thousands of dogs. However, back then Barack Obama was not involved, so their true colors shined bright. Fast forward 60 days and you would think the right actually gave a shit about animals. Trust me, it will pass. They will try their best to gut and defund the EPA and sell the land of endangered species to the highest bidder, and stop any regulation providing for any kindness towards any living thing that is not a white, European descended Christians. Republicans don’t even care about most of their own species and we’re supposed to believe now that they care about a different one?

    On the issue of hunting wild animals vs dog fighting, I think there is a difference, particularly with dogs. We’re talking about Man’s Best Friend, and I don’t mean that in a clichéd way. Thousands of years ago we took it upon ourselves (but with their consent, it seems) to shape the evolution of wild canines. With that comes a responsibility for taking care of the animals that we engendered. I see it on the macro level, that we as a species have a responsibility to dogs as a species. I hope that makes sense. This radiates out to lesser effect to all domesticated species like cats (who could actually survive just fine in the wild, actually) and cattle (who can’t).

    We never manipulated or struck up a deal with wild caribou, so we are less responsible for their well being, although still responsible, since human beings are intelligent enough to, and should, steward the planet.

  • Arallyn

    Crap, forgot to sign in. Anonymous 2:28 is me.

    I’ve pondered that quite a bit. It just seems odd that while I can buy bison who have roamed on a huge ranch just down the street from me and had decent lives, chickens with half-decent lives are extremely difficult to find. Yet since egg is in so much, many avowed vegetarians (for ethical reasons) seem to be ok eating it.

  • Ozy

    Eating meat (and hunting — if done right) are far less cruel than fighting dogs for sport.

    One of the worst comparisons I have ever seen. Shame on you for speaking ill of something you clearly know nothing about. Stick to religious topics — at least you understand those.

  • Greg

    Lauren – you say it is a matter of taste as to whether a person eats meat or not, and they only eat meat because they like the taste.

    Two things to that:

    I am yet to come across a vegetarian/vegan that doesn’t like the taste of vegetables. Maybe they exist, I don’t know, but I have a strong suspicion that if you like eating vegetables, you’re more likely to become a vegetarian than if you can’t stand the taste. If you are one of those that do dislike the taste but eat the vegetables anyway, perhaps your censorious tone is somewhat justified. Perhaps. (Note: this is just talking about your tone, which was – if I dare use the phrase – rather ‘dickish’)

    I have also come across a lot of people who are allergic to ingredients that are commonly used by vegans/vegetarians.

    If a person is unable to eat healthily due to allergies (and/or finances for that matter), are they immoral for eating meat?

    That’s a serious question, by the way:

    If it is immoral to eat animals (as I have been told by some people), then, ignoring the question of how they come to that claim in the first place (I have yet to see what I consider a compelling argument), what should they do?

    (I, personally, happen to have an allergy to lactose, which means although I eat meat, I am aware of just how difficult it can be to find something to eat if you have an allergy to common ingredients (unless of course, you prepare it yourself).)

    Also, I find the claim that forcing animals to fight other animals to the death for no reason other than amusement of a human being equates to farming animals in any fashion for sustenance grotesque.

    You can argue that the latter is also wrong if you like, but to claim they are the same is to claim that the motive is irrelevant (In which case, I hope you don’t support euthanasia, for either humans or animals, in order to be consistent)

    And I shouldn’t have to say this, but just in case… in that bracketed bit, I am not saying ending someone’s life humanely is the same as rearing them for food. What I am saying is if you allow the motive makes a difference for one case, then the motive always makes a difference, and you have to view them all separately.

    So please give me no screeds claiming that I was.

  • I’ve aways wondered how people would feel if somebody figured out how to genetically engineer human brains so that the human was incapable of suffering, if it had just enough function maintain the metabolism until the human was ready for slaughter.

    Ferulebezel, imagine your own response to that statement and the emotions that you feel in response to it. That’s similar to the response that a lot of vegans or vegetarians might have to your original question.

    Many vegetarians/vegans are people who have come to see a part of themselves in other animals. There is a sense of seeing the common experience of awareness, feeling, thinking, and simply living in other creatures beyond the human form. Once that intuitive connection is made, it can become very difficult to consider taking that creature’s life and eating her/him.

    The bottom line is that this originates from our ability to experience empathy—to imagine in a very personal way what the experiences of another living, feeling being might be like. It may not be rational, but thank goodness it’s there, for otherwise, I suspect that we human beings would kill even more of each other than we already do.

    So, as a vegetarian who is close to being vegan, I’ll be honest: I’m disgusted and unnerved by your original proposition. It might be a better alternative to the current level of cruelty that feeding meat eating human beings entails, but it still makes me shudder.

    Secondly, the thought of creating a creature with an impaired ability to fully experience life simply for the purpose of being eaten is also quite disturbing.

    I’m guessing this response is going to anger some people but, oh well. You wanted to know how one of us might feel about this. Now you know.

  • Troglodyke

    Vick did some time for some crimes, yes.

    He never did one second of time for torturing and killing dogs, though.

    Back when this was first going down, I, though a longtime Vick hater (I live in Atlanta and had had my fill of him way before he was arrested), also believed he was being unreasonably hounded. I was part of the “he did his time, he deserves to earn a living, let him be” crowd.

    Then I read a bit deeper, and learned that he was intimately involved in the deaths of those dogs, and in ways that could only be called torturous. This was not “humane” killing of a dog that did not perform. (The plight of greyhounds is pretty bad; if they don’t run well, they are culled, but not sadistically. Of course, surrendering them for adoption is the preferred choice in my book.)

    Vick’s actions with the dogs were sadistic. Now, I am a dog lover (and I make my living training dogs and helping people with their dogs), but I am not silly enough to equate dog life with human life. Anyone who does has overstepped a rational boundary, IMO.

    Respect dogs–and other animals–for their OWN sakes, not because they are the same as humans. We must endeavor always to treat them humanely in life, and to deliver them a humane death.

    At any rate, Vick is a douche, but should he be executed? That’s preposterous. Should he be allowed to play ball? Well, I’m torn on that. I hate that he’s being a “role model,” and in a position, as an NFL player, to be one by default. He should be held up as an example of why one needs to finish school and use one’s brain. He really is ignorant on so many levels.

    The only thing the guy knows how to do is play ball. I wish he could be part of a team and not be a celebrity, but he can’t. Certainly, he should be allowed to make a living, and sure, he could do that by being a low-level blue-collar worker somewhere, but what’s the use of that?

    What I would like to see is him VOLUNTEERING to do 1000 or more hours truly helping homeless animals or homeless kids, not just doing it for community service. (Plenty of other NFL players involve themselves in humanitarian work on their own time, not for community service…what’s so hard about that?) What I would like would be for him to understand why he’s so vilified, as I still do not believe he feels any remorse for the torture he committed. He is sorry he was caught. He needs to be truly sorry for what he did, and if you think the “talking points” he’s been spouting about that are from his own brain, think again. The HSUS is whore-mongering by being all buddy-buddy with Vick, and they have told him what to say.

    So, Vick did some time–for racketeering, and whatever ancillary charges they could get him on. Not for dog fighting or dog killing. Once he’s truly demonstrated remorse for those crimes, I’d be willing to let him be, including letting him play football.

    As for all the holier-than-though vegetarians, I have one thing to say. I am as contemptuous of your smug faux-virtuosity as I am of that of believers. Be a vegetarian, or a vegan, or pescatarian, or whatever name you want to be. But as long as you say stuff like

    and if you eat pork, it is likely that the mother of the pig you ate was put on a rape rack to impregnate her. one of the horrors that the dogs were put through. Unless you are so rich that you raise your own? so saying “humanely raised” is bollocks

    I will politely but definitely dismiss you as someone who thinks the world is black and white (just like many believers) and continue to remain unchanged by your over-emotional rhetoric.

    Sorry, but outspoken veganism borders on a religious cult. It is possible to be a meat-eater and not be contributing to the horrors of factory farming.

  • I am yet to come across a vegetarian/vegan that doesn’t like the taste of vegetables. Maybe they exist, I don’t know, but I have a strong suspicion that if you like eating vegetables, you’re more likely to become a vegetarian than if you can’t stand the taste.

    When I became a vegetarian back during the Reagan administration, I wasn’t a fan of vegetables, unless they were coated in fat and salt, or took the form of a potato product. I looooooooooooved meat. I liked my steak rare because the taste of blood was yummy. (I am not exaggerating.)

    I’ve adapted my pallet considerabley, but a plate full of greens doesn’t exactly entice me, if you know what I mean.

    Just for the record…

  • liz

    @Hemant

    The reason you shouldn’t eat eggs isn’t because they ‘have the potential’ to become chickens. You shouldn’t eat eggs because of the horrible way many egg farms treat their laying chickens.

    I personally, would much rather hang out with a hunter who only eats the meat they kill and only kills as much as they eat. As opposed to someone who shovels insane amount of burgers in their mouths, has NO clue where their meat came from, and perhaps doesn’t even care when they’re informed that the animal they’re eating was tortured and covered with infections before being bled to death and thrown in the meat grinder!

    I would not compare hunting to dog fighting, especially when the hunters are using the meat and straight up kill the animals as opposed to harshly training them and fighting them to the death =/

  • Rich Wilson

    I can totally get behind wanting animals to be treated well before we eat them. But thinking that animals should not be human food under any circumstances is a religious position. That’s fine. We’re friendly. I have lots of religious friends, some of whom are vegetarians, more who are not. But at least recognize it for what it is.

    Life has evolved on this planet from things eating each other. Usually with a lot of suffering involved. That’s the impetus to not get eaten. If there’s something ‘wrong’ with Sarah Palin killing a caribou and feeding it to her family, then surely there’s something wrong with your cat playing with a mouse for hours and then leaving it.

  • Nigel

    Vick tortured dogs to death by shocking them and asphyxiation. Dogs look up to people and have inbred trust in humans. Vick violaed that trust and took advantage of it. He had warning from the NFL to stop the dog fighting and he did not. Instead he risked a $37 million contract with Atlanta to continue his hobby of making the last moments of a creature the worst moments of it’s life for mere shits and giggles. He was caught and duly punished. While Tucker’s hyperbole was stupid, I would prefer such a knee jerk train of thought rather than equating normal meat eating with Vick’s barbarism. Vick has done his time, and because he happens to have a natural and practiced talent at throwing a pigskin he has garnered the glory of the NFL and the accolades of a short sighted Chief Executive. Being a professional athlete is a privilege and not a right, he should have lost that privilege when his continued depraved actions came to light. I enjoy Hemant’s blog a great deal, but this time he’s dead wrong in my book. Hemant’s being a dick. (I use the term with a heavy heart)

  • Greg

    Thanks for that timberwraith – I wasn’t using it as an argument against vegetarianism/veganism in any way, as I said. I certainly expected people like you existed! 🙂

    But then, it sounds like you came to your position through hands on experience, which no-one I have met in real life has yet, so perhaps that is partly why I hadn’t met any.

  • But thinking that animals should not be human food under any circumstances is a religious position.

    If you want to include guiding one’s life and ethics via a form of empathy that includes all animals, human and non, well, give me crucifix and some rosary beads. I’d certainly prefer that fewer people eat meat, but I can’t force people to do that. I can’t say that I’ve converted many people to my religion, but I’m always happy to encounter someone who has embraced “the good news.”

    Then again, I’m one of those weirdo agnostic/atheists who doesn’t see religion as a bad thing unless it actively promulgates prejudice and hurt upon others… and yes, there are religions that don’t do that… or at least, no more than any other human institution. Ever met any Quakers? Fine people.

    So, by my perspective, your statement would actually serve to push me away from atheism, toward religious folk who do center empathy as one of their guiding principles. Empathy’s not rational, but I do see it as useful, and it’s very much a part of who I am.

    I happen to share non-belief in a god with other atheists and agnostics. However, I don’t assume that we have more in common than that. It’s a thin thread at best.

  • Len

    Look,, here’s the thing,, I wouldn’t call the eagles for Vick, or any team ,, just cause It’s not worth it
    But Tucker is a total C*** S****r
    and so is the rest of Fake News

  • Jim H

    I’m about to commit two faux pas: I am coming in late, and going off on a tangent. Claudia said:

    Pretending that the two are equivalent is akin to saying that death by lethal injection is morally equivalent to beating someone to death.

    Sorry, Claudia, but I do see those as equivalent. I have no problem with hunting (humanely), and I eat meat, but it’s wrong to kill a human being–even “humanely.” Yes, I am absolutely opposed to capital punishment. (Self-defense is another matter. I can even justify war, e.g. to defeat a Hitler.) The law makes a distinction between hot- and cold-blooded killing, and what is execution but a cold-blooded killing? Especially if a sentence takes years to carry out?

    [stepping down from my soapbox]

    Should Vick have been given a second chance? Only if one believes in rehabilitation–and, as a society, we claim to.

    Oh yeah, Carlson IS a dick.

  • cass_m

    I’m going to +1 Nigel here. Dogs have been bred to trust humans and have cognitive abilities not seen in our closest genetic relatives. Vick tortured them to death in a particularly brutal way. Yes he’s paid the price for ignoring the warnings but he should have lost the privilege to play in the NFL.

    BTW I know many ranchers and hunters. None of them would treat livestock the way Vick treated those dogs.

  • ethinethin

    @Rich Wilson

    Life has evolved on this planet from things eating each other.

    And as the first species to be able to analyze this, we have the ability to rise above it. Just because something happens naturally does not make it the ideal behavior (I would direct you to google Richard Dawkins’ opinion on social darwinism as a parallel).

  • One of the favorite foods of the Lewis and Clark expedition was dog. They got really sick of eating elk all the time. Not that this has anything to do with Ticker Carlson who, of course, should be executed for saying something so stoopid!

  • Dennis N

    But thinking that animals should not be human food under any circumstances is a religious position.

    Not all absolute positions are religions. I think you have a very odd/wrong definition of the word “religion” if you think that tenet as you describe it is a religion. I think the word you may have been looking for is “dogma”: a position that is authoritative and not to be disputed, doubted, or diverged from. Contrast that with, for example, Dan Dennett’s working definition of religion:

    social systems whose participants avow belief in a supernatural agent or agents whose approval is to be sought

  • Gabriel

    A lot of self-rightousness in this thread. The atheists (me) think they are better than the religous. The vegeterians think they are better than the omnivores. The non-hunters think they are better than the hunters. The hunters think they are better than the people who buy their meat from stores. The vegans think they are better than everyone. And very little skepticism seems to be directed toward anyone’s personal beliefs. Just anectdotes and ad hominem.

    For what its worth I think Tucker Carlson is a vapid little piece of shit. I don’t think he cares about dogs, dog fighting or Vick. He just likes the sound of his own voice and wants people to pay attention to him.

    I don’t like Vick either. I hate the fact that someone who tortured dogs for fun gets a pass because he can play a game well. I think his prison sentence was light but I don’t want him executed.

    I don’t support capital punishment.

  • In the same vein as ethinethin’s statement, I’ve seen a few people try to use evo psyche based arguments to portray sexist oppression as inevitable.

    A man could argue that sexist oppression hurts women and thus, it needs to stop. This is arguing from a position of empathy for women. A man could also argue that sexist oppression actually benefits him (and other men). So, why should he or any other man care?

    Which perspective is more rational? The one that comes from empathy or the one based upon self-preservation and self-benefit?

    As a woman, you know how I’d answer this…

    You may generalize this argument to other animals, as needed.

  • snail whisperer

    I quit eating meat because I can survive well on vegetables, and I didn’t want to kill animals needlessly. I quit because meat (the way America usually does it) is unhealthy. But, first and foremost, I quit because factory farms are both cruel to the animals and a disaster for the environment.

    I have a lot more problems with a person who buys meat off a styrofoam tray than I do with anyone who kills a wild animal mercifully and eats it. Farmers’ markets, where the meat sold was probably allowed to graze freely until the end and then killed humanely, are a good compromise, IMO.

    Trophy hunters are wasting the animal and I don’t like that, but the animal still lives a reasonably natural life (in most cases). If a hunter doesn’t do it, either another animal will or the inevitable decline of age will get them–arguably, the quick kill is preferable. (anticipating the rebuttal, I don’t exactly advocate euthanasia for old people–though the older I get the more I hope to avoid the bitter end of old age through an “untimely” death–but a wild animal without full capacities will likely starve to death slowly and painfully.)

    Vick and others who fight dogs are being cruel to a lesser creature just to entertain themselves and gamble. I don’t even see how you can remotely equate these things.

  • Alice

    I have also come across a lot of people who are allergic to ingredients that are commonly used by vegans/vegetarians.

    If a person is unable to eat healthily due to allergies (and/or finances for that matter), are they immoral for eating meat?

    I just wanted to say that as a person with Celiac disease (no gluten) and a couple other much more minor issues, I actually started eating meat again after being a vegetarian for several years once diagnosed. I spent an entire year as a gluten-free etc. vegetarian, and it was nearly impossible to eat out (which isn’t much of a problem for everyday life, but on vacations or tours with large groups of people, I ended up eating handfuls of snack food and the occasional salad with no dressing). I stick with products such as soy milk, eggs from humanely-treated chickens, etc., while at home, but I don’t feel guilty if I eat the occasional hamburger or turkey or whatever when I’m out and about. This is a far, far cry from dogfighting.

    This is semi-unrelated to the initial post, but it really, really irks me when people are all, “eating animals for ANY REASON EVER is evil”. If as a society we were vegetarian, sure, I could survive, and I do my part to avoid eating meat, especially of the factory-farmed variety. But sometimes, it can be really difficult to maintain one’s health without eating meat.

    I also have a cousin who is allergic to most vegetables and fruits. He eats a lot of meat, because he can’t eat much else.

  • Hemant! I’ve always wanted you to start talking about vegetarianism on your blog. I’m very curious as to how it fits with your atheist lifestyle. I’m a veghead myself and sometimes there seem to be extreme similarities between those who eat meat and those of the Christian persuasion.

    I’m a vegetarian and I don’t think anyone should be executed for the inhumane treatment of animals.

    (Hemant says: I think I’ll make a longer post about vegetarianism soon 🙂 )

  • Rich Wilson

    If you want to include guiding one’s life and ethics via a form of empathy that includes all animals, human and non

    No. I just don’t think humans eating animals is unethical. How humans treat other animals, yes. That humans eat other animals, no.

    I think any time we question someone else’s ethics it’s going to be a touchy argument, so I’m going to stop now.

  • I don’t think Vick should have been executed, but he certainly didn’t deserve a second shot at playing football for millions of dollars and getting idolized for “changing.” If someone had done to even ONE child what he did to numerous dogs, they’d have been locked up and the key thrown away. And frankly, I don’t see that it’s much different, except dogs can even do the little speaking for themselves that kids can. *cue the arguments for human life being “more valuable” than animal life*

  • No. I just don’t think humans eating animals is unethical. How humans treat other animals, yes. That humans eat other animals, no.

    I think any time we question someone else’s ethics it’s going to be a touchy argument, so I’m going to stop now.

    Rich, the problem for me is that you essentially questioned my ethics by attempting to put that framework within the category of “religious.” If I were speaking to a group of religious people, that wouldn’t matter to me. However, in the context of an atheist blog, categorizing something as “religious” is equivalent to implying that the perspective in question is an irrational way of looking at the world and thus, easily and rightfully dismissed.

    We can disagree on how our personal ethics should be constructed—and we do—but know that I have very good reasons for my system of ethics (and you probably do, too).

  • Rich Wilson

    Sorry timberwraith,

    I was trying hard to not make add a judgement to ‘religious’ but I agree it’s a loaded word, particularly on here, and a bad choice.

    I’m sure we both believe in the equality of persons regardless of gender, race, sexual orientation, or any other identifier. And we both probably put spiders outside rather than kill them. I’d let them stay inside, but my wife disagrees with that ethic.

  • Greg

    keystothekid:

    I’m a veghead myself and sometimes there seem to be extreme similarities between those who eat meat and those of the Christian persuasion.

    I can’t let this go, because as a atheist carnivore, I would say it’s the other way around. 😉

    Apart from anything else, vegetarians and vegans are the ones making the claims.

    (Not to mention that to me they seem to both come to their conclusions from unsupported premises)

    (As a disclaimer: for me, morality comes from a version of enlightened self-interest. I can’t see how you can get from there to ‘immoral to eat meat’. That’s why I’m not a vegan really.)

  • david

    Forcing animals to fight as a source of amusement is sick, cruel and a debasement of life………….

    the same could be said for all pets NOT kept in their natural enviroment or any animal in a zoo or a park

    the only difference here being what YOU personally consider a good level of amusment

    I eat meat if someone does not then thats good as well

    the problem comes when people try and force you into their way of thinking as theirs is RIGHT and yours is WRONG

    the main problem here is peoples total misunderstanding of a prison sentance
    the sentance is your punisment and fine to society once its been “served” then your debt has been paid …………. but people dont understand that and think its ok to punish people for the rest of thier lives for something

    Vick was punished ( do I think it was enough no but thats not the issue) he was not banned from keeping animals

    so whats so hard for so called christians to understand in punishment or are they the only ones that should have teh final word as they know best ?

  • Bruce

    This has probably already been covered but if you’re doing it right the animal doesn’t suffer at all when you hunt, and only minimally when you fish. I’ve never shot a bird that wasn’t dead before it hit the water or even knew what happened (if it was capable of knowing.) If you want to meet a group of people who passionately advocate for the decent and humane treatment of animals you cannot find a more consistent (in both word AND deed (I’m looking at PETA right now)) group of people than hunters or anglers.

  • Arallyn

    I completely agree with Gabriel 4:33 and Greg 6:45.

    I’m not a carnivore, but even though I rarely (as in probably two or three times a year) eat meat, I’m hesitant to even associate myself with vegetarianism, because of the incredible self-righteous dicks in it. Most atheists are skeptical of a lot of things (Bill Maher notwithstanding), and are capable of deciding for themselves how to live their lives. I’m so sick of vegs/vegans screaming that they should be able to impose a meat-free diet on others.

    Again, I realize to a huge extent that this is not a “fair” generalization, but unlike the unfair characterization of atheists by Christians (all pushy/militant etc), the extremely vocal minority of people who are against meat, actually ARE that way. Vegetarians and vegans can have strong moral opinions without forcing them on anyone; I know and am friends with many who can debate rationally and be understanding when others choose to be omnivorous.
    But unfortunately it feels like this thread is a storm of smug and self-righteous, and I would dare say, damnation of others unlike ones self as extreme as religious fundamentalists are. More understanding and openness is called for all around…even towards meat-eaters, whether or not you believe that there’s a rational reason to eat meat.

  • Zhuge

    I think I see the comparison between the Christians/Meat-eaters(?) in a certain sense. I mean, I think that there is obviously the “doing it because it’s what’s done” or “my parents did it and so will I” going on(for both sides, but more so for meat-eating since it’s the cultural norm), but I think that vegetarians get a touch of the minority/majority pressure added on. In the same way that atheists can upset some people only by existing, vegetarians annoy meateaters(some, and not by any means a majority or anything) by existing.

    That is, if I say that I don’t eat meat, nine out of ten people don’t care or show genuine and rational interest. Similarly, nine out of ten theists(or superstitious people or whatever) may not care or show only a friendly interest in my atheism. But we all know the one out of ten that takes such a statement as a personal attack. They become offended and begin to argue(as opposed to debate) with me. So it goes with being a vegetarian. While most people won’t be much upset, there are those for whom finding out I am a vegetarian means yelling at me, arguing with me(when I don’t want to. I love ethical debates, but sometimes it doesn’t seem very friendly), being snide or trivializing my opinions.

    For anyone who cares, I suppose, I make a two part distinction between the moral and aesthetic reasons for my vegetarianism. Aesthetically, I don’t like killing higher level animals just to eat them when other alternatives are available, in the same way that I aesthetically like a representative democracy where all people have “rights” or whatever. But morally I am a utilitarian(approximately) and so I figure that there are cases where meat eating is acceptable(marginal land use, food storage for the poor, nutrition for those who cannot eat other sorts of food, etc.) But I would still prefer not to eat meat in those cases personally, in the same way that if it turned out that there was a very happy dictatorship in some unknown corner of the world, I would still choose a social democracy over living there(all things being equal).

  • Rich, thank you for your reply.

    What I’m about to say isn’t directed at you Rich, but more generally to anyone in this discussion who wants to dismiss vegetarianism/veganism as a religion.

    There are many approaches and philosophies behind these diets. Some focus on health, some focus on sustainable agriculture, ecological impact, and one’s carbon foot print, and others come from an empathy centered perspective. Before you dismiss them as unfounded and illogical, you should understand where folks are coming from.

    My perspective originates in the empathy centered perspective, but any of the other justifications are also important to me as well.

    As I implied upthread, if you want to take a “this benefits me” approach to ethics, then why should you care about people who aren’t members of your group? Why care about poor people if you are rich? Why care about gay people if you are straight? Why care about women if you are a man? If you receive benefits from the oppression of people who aren’t a part of your group, that’s all the better for you, correct? Why does their pain and discomfort matter when you benefit from being in a position of greater power? You aren’t a part of their group, and so, you are unaffected. Coming from the perspective of self-preservation, that’s a perfectly rational position.

    I see this attitude occur in all kinds of in-group/out-group situations. You can even see it happen in atheist/theist power imbalances. Whenever there is an exploitable difference between different groups of people, some will think little of ignoring the plight of the other group and engage in actions that hurt the other group and benefit themselves, especially if the group who benefits is seen as superior or more deserving of social worth.

    There are those of us, such as myself, who think that’s unethical behavior. I actually care about those who are different from me. Again, this comes from the ability to empathize with others. You could argue that I shouldn’t care because it’s not rational to do so. I’d call you cold hearted person who cares little for anyone except themselves.

    Given how readily human beings exploit others, I’m strongly focused upon the human tendency to ignore the needs of those who are different from them. The greater the level of difference, the greater the emotional distance, and the greater the likelihood of exploitation and harm.

    Animals who are not human are about as different from myself as I could imagine. Recognizing my own human tendency to dismiss the needs of others who are different from me leads me into recognizing that this propensity is even stronger with other animals. I refuse to give in to that tendency. It already causes great harm to fellow members of my species. For the sake of ethical consistency, I refuse to entertain that tendency with other animals.

    You might think this position is odd and irrational. However, I’m also about as different from most human beings as they come. I’m a transsexual woman, I’m bisexual, and I don’t believe in a god. That places me within several hated groups and positions me as so different from most humans that a great portion of the human race would yawn at my demise.

    So, yeah, my religion is vegetarianism. My religion is also caring about others. It’s a character flaw I can live with even if some folks think it’s kind of dumb.

  • Bob

    To be fair, when Vick was arrested, I did suggest that he should be allowed to play under the same rules as he put dogs into fights: if he loses, the team owner gets to put one right between his running lights.

    But executed? Damn, talk about some screwy values.

    Carlson apparently has pundit’s disease – he actually thinks his opinions are worth something.

    Really, if there were something that could possibly contribute to a rise in rational thought in this country, it’d be doing away with the whole ‘expert du jour’ phenomenon. They’re ‘here to tell us what it all means’ and ‘here to give us perspective’ – but for far too many, it’s a substitute for thinking.

    (Okay, so someone may ask, what’s the difference between Hemant and a Tucker Carlson. Easy. Hemant has way better fashion sense …

    … seriously, though, the cachet of reason is far better than the stench of bullshit.)

  • GentleGiant

    I only have one positive thing to say about Tucker Carlson… at least he’s not wearing one of his awful bow-ties in the clip!

    Timberwraith:

    As I implied upthread, if you want to take a “this benefits me” approach to ethics, then why should you care about people who aren’t members of your group? Why care about poor people if you are rich? Why care about gay people if you are straight? Why care about women if you are a man? If you receive benefits from the oppression of people who aren’t a part of your group, that’s all the better for you, correct? Why does their pain and discomfort matter when you benefit from being in a position of greater power? You aren’t a part of their group, and so, you are unaffected. Coming from the perspective of self-preservation, that’s a perfectly rational position.

    One big difference here between the above and eating meat. All of the above pertains to other human beings.
    Now, we’re all animals when it comes down to it, sure, so you could say that’s our commonality.
    Where Veganism/Vegetarianism threads into the “religious” spectrum (dogmatic is probably a better term, as was suggested above), though, is when you want to force others to live by the same rules as you do.
    I frankly couldn’t care less what you eat, that’s your personal choice, please respect my right to eat what I want. I need meat (or eggs or dairy products) to keep up my intake of protein (especially after having Gastric Bypass surgery). I’d love to substitute some of it with e.g. beans or other legumes, since they’re usually cheaper, but you couldn’t get me to eat the mealy things if you put a gun to my head. There are other protein sources (soy or mushroom based products), but I simply can’t afford those (if I had Michael Vicks paycheck, sure).
    Do I prefer free-range meat, eggs and dairy? Sure do.
    Can I afford them? Nope.
    It’s a simple question of survival.

  • @Timberwraith — More power to you, for being, well, YOU, and not conforming to society’s expectations AND having the nerve to enjoy it!

    I’ll stick with my (moderate) consumption of meat. I’m already limited, and I’m not giving up chicken or fish.

  • One big difference here between the above and eating meat. All of the above pertains to other human beings.

    Yes, and that’s consistent with the degree of difference correlating with a greater lack of concern. A bigger difference between oneself and another living creature correlates with less concern over that creature’s suffering. Other animals are quite different from humans. Hence, human beings have few compunctions against taking their lives.

    Where Veganism/Vegetarianism threads into the “religious” spectrum (dogmatic is probably a better term, as was suggested above), though, is when you want to force others to live by the same rules as you do.

    How am I forcing others to share the same diet as me? Did you see me advocating for laws to outlaw eating meat? All I did was explain the ethical framework behind why I don’t eat meat. Would you call an atheist dogmatic for explaining why s/he doesn’t believe in a god?

  • Before folks try to brand me as a self-righteous vegetarian, I rarely share my reasons for being vegetarian with people. Why? Because if I’m truly open about my reasons for abstaining from meat, folks tend to take offense. So, I mostly keep my mouth shut.

    I don’t think y’all are evil scumbags because you eat meat. Most of my friends are omnivores and I share meals with them all of the time. I even work at a restaurant owned by a family I’m good friends with. Guess what? They serve meat.

    Does this change the fact that I wish more people would shift their diets? No. Does this change the fact that eating meat disgusts me on some level, deep down? No. Do I evangelize, like a good number of atheists do? Once in a very rare blue moon. If you don’t believe me, go visit my blog. I mention vegetarianism twice, only in passing. I’ve never penned an article at my blog devoted to the topic.

    Be aware however, that I refuse to be apologetic about the ethical framework that underlies my diet. If that framework makes you feel uncomfortable, well, perhaps you should give that framework a second thought.

  • matt

    I enjoy this blog quite a bit, but I am shocked by this posting.

    Speaking from first hand experience, dogs that are used in dog fights are tied to chains, purposefully neglected, and beaten and tortured until they are crazy enough to kill other dogs. They are abused and abused until they are finally killed or wounded and left to die.

    I can only assume your lack of understanding at the vitriol against Michael Vick is due to your profound ignorance of the topic. Hunting and eating an animal that has had a life of freedom is not, to quote Jules, “the same fucking ball park. It ain’t the same league. It ain’t even the same fucking sport.”

  • matt

    BTW, Happy New Year!

  • matt

    Ok, I just can’t let this go…

    On another note, I also don’t get all the vitriol against Vick coming from people who hunt on a regular basis.

    You don’t get it? Hunting for food and torturing the helpless are morally equivalent? I’m an atheist, but Hemant Mehta is a dick.

  • JB Tait

    Apart from compassion and what should be defined as cruel, hunting, slaughter houses, and some fur coats are legal. Dog fighting is not.
    In some occupations, a crime bars you from ever participating in them again.
    And for some offenders, we do punish them for the rest of their lives, even after they serve their sentence.
    Not sure if these mechanisms should apply here.

  • Greg

    timberwraith:

    As I implied upthread, if you want to take a “this benefits me” approach to ethics, then why should you care about people who aren’t members of your group? Why care about poor people if you are rich? Why care about gay people if you are straight? Why care about women if you are a man? If you receive benefits from the oppression of people who aren’t a part of your group, that’s all the better for you, correct? Why does their pain and discomfort matter when you benefit from being in a position of greater power? You aren’t a part of their group, and so, you are unaffected. Coming from the perspective of self-preservation, that’s a perfectly rational position.

    You’re missing the ‘enlightened’ part of enlightened self interest.

    Sure, if we were making up our morals as we go along, whatever was right would change per second. We would see no reason to help homosexuals if we ourselves are heterosexual, and all the rest.

    But we aren’t making up our morals as we go along.

    We understand that living in a group which has equality is beneficial to ourselves. Not only does the society we live in contribute very greatly to our own standard of life, but we have no knowledge of what will happen in the future.

    Take you American’s separation of church and state, for example.

    It may seem in the dominant religion’s advantage to have no separation, but rather to have total control of government. However, if that religion should split, or another religion gains dominance somehow, that religion would be in a huge amount of trouble. Hence, it is in their enlightened self interest to have the separation of church and state there.

    It’s like having a prohibition against murder is in our self interests, even if we really want to kill someone, because that prohibition also keeps us safe.

    I could go on further, but this is really going off on a tangent! 🙂

    One of the problems of basing your morals on empathy when it comes to your fellow animals, imho, is that you end up anthropomorphising the animals, because you have no other way of trying to empathise with them.

  • Mouse

    Re. vegetarianism having incredible self-righteous dicks “in it”
    Although some may actually be dicks on occasion, but in my experience, most non-veg’ns to some degree or other react to my very existence as a vegan defensively or aggressively, suggesting to me that they view veganism per se as self righteous.
    Re. costs of nonmeat protein, I like numerous friends in one of the most expensive cities in the US manage just fine on the salary of a non-profit worker and have for 7 years. I don’t respect your choice to eat meat when it’s based on a few lame, self serving, poorly informed excuses. If that makes me a dick, so be it.

  • One of the problems of basing your morals on empathy when it comes to your fellow animals, imho, is that you end up anthropomorphising the animals, because you have no other way of trying to empathise with them.

    When I was watching an animal crying out in pain and fear after I shot it with my rifle, I didn’t have to anthropomorphise to grasp some modicum of what it was experiencing. That’s as real as it gets.

  • GentleGiant

    Mouse:

    Re. vegetarianism having incredible self-righteous dicks “in it”
    Although some may actually be dicks on occasion, but in my experience, most non-veg’ns to some degree or other react to my very existence as a vegan defensively or aggressively, suggesting to me that they view veganism per se as self righteous.

    All of the “Meat is Murder” campaigns sort of shoot your whole argument down here. But if we’re going on anecdotal evidence only, I’ve never met anyone who have been aggressive towards vegans/vegetarians. Some of us might find the reasoning silly, especially because of the huge number of you who base your decission on said anthropomorphous view, but I’ve never encountered hostility/anger unless provoked by vegans screaming about how we are soulless butchers and murderers.

    Re. costs of nonmeat protein, I like numerous friends in one of the most expensive cities in the US manage just fine on the salary of a non-profit worker and have for 7 years. I don’t respect your choice to eat meat when it’s based on a few lame, self serving, poorly informed excuses. If that makes me a dick, so be it.

    Don’t know if you’re a dick, but “lame, self serving and poorly informed” certainly fits you it would seem.
    See, some of us actually don’t live in the US… big surprise there, eh? So before you claim that non-meat protein is cheap and easy to get no matter where you live, maybe you should do a little research. Yes, beans and other legumes are fairly cheap, I just can’t stomach them. So the other options available ARE very expensive around here.

  • GentleGiant

    timberwraith:

    How am I forcing others to share the same diet as me? Did you see me advocating for laws to outlaw eating meat? All I did was explain the ethical framework behind why I don’t eat meat.

    I originally quoted you because you were the one who was called “religious” – but it was more a general (vegan/vegetarian) you I addressed. My apologies for not making that clearer.
    However, by claiming a higher morality and how you are able to feel empathy with all animals, thus implying that those who eat meat can’t do the same, you are trying to influence how others should feel and act (emotional influence, guilt etc.).
    And yes, a lot of people will find your reasoning illogical, even after you’ve described it fully. Why? Because other animals do not have the same developed neural network we do, thus anthropomorphizing them is a disconnect. They are not “little humans” with the same range of emotions and thought patterns as humans. Now, feel free to feel that way and if it makes you happy and it keeps you from eating meat, hey, more power to you. Just don’t deride others if they don’t feel the same way based on actual scientific evidence.
    That’s also another “notch” in the “religious” belt, you have “faith” in your connection with all the animals, something that isn’t based on rational, scientific evidence (having some dna in common with a pig doesn’t make you brother and sister). I can also assure you that the feeling isn’t exactly mutual, lots of animals will have no qualms devouring you should the opportunity arise.

  • John H.

    What Vick did was a wrong, but not an execution-worthy wrong. Good thing such asshats as Carlson aren’t in charge, I guess. I also happen to think his identification as Christian as mainly gratuitous. He’s pandering, plain and simple. (I think it may be in the job description.)

    WRT Vick: It’s all about the money. Should anyone be surprised he’s playing, again?

  • Sorry, but this guy showed he was a scumbag (apparently his ability to play football is more important than the NFL’s image so why are they bothering with dress codes) and why is the President even involving himself in what the NFL does let alone praising such a dispicable human being? Though to say Vick should be executed is, wow, way overreacting.

    And I can understand why hunters are outraged. Hunting isn’t as cruel as dog-fighting. Not from a skilled hunter anyway. I don’t see myself ever hunting or butchering but there’s a hell of a big difference between either one or dog and cock fights. And hunting does serve an important function. Who can’t admit this when the deer population is getting so overrun that deer are crashing through windows and shit? Don’t equate most hunters with Sarah Palin. Most are more ethical than that.

    Oh, and please, do I really have to point out yet again that even vegans have to kill to eat sufficiently? Just because plants don’t bleed and move around and have a shorter life span, animal life is somehow sacred but plant life ain’t? Get over it. Killing is a fact of life and most of those animals you won’t kill to eat have themselves no qualms in killing other animals to eat. (Though I admit, I eat most vegetarian animals, fish excepted.)

  • I think Vick should have been executed. That is just my opinion based on my own judgement of what I think of animal cruelty. TO me that crime ranks higher than human cruelty, because it takes a real sick bastard to torture a creature that WILL NEVER be able to make others aware of it’s suffering. An animal will always carry that burden quietly because they are unable to communicate.

    Now back to the real world, I definitely think that allowing him to continue to play was a terrible choice. Athletes in the US are considered role models and I think it sends the wrong message to allow an animal torturer to carry such hefty responsibility. He should have been in jail for longer at least and never allowed to play football again.

  • However, by claiming a higher morality and how you are able to feel empathy with all animals, thus implying that those who eat meat can’t do the same, you are trying to influence how others should feel and act (emotional influence, guilt etc.).

    And atheists don’t do this?

    They are not “little humans” with the same range of emotions and thought patterns as humans. Now, feel free to feel that way and if it makes you happy and it keeps you from eating meat, hey, more power to you. Just don’t deride others if they don’t feel the same way based on actual scientific evidence.

    I’ve seen plenty of evidence in person, with other animals. If you aren’t capable of making that connection, there’s not much I can say to you. You will see what you wish to see.

    That’s also another “notch” in the “religious” belt, you have “faith” in your connection with all the animals, something that isn’t based on rational, scientific evidence (having some dna in common with a pig doesn’t make you brother and sister).

    If “rational scientific evidence” leads to the abuse of other living creatures, I’m beginning to see why some religious people see a kind of cold heartedness in some forms of atheism.

    Yes, that’s a judgment and feel free to see me as a sanctimonious “dick”. I basically don’t care at this point.

  • bob42

    Fair is fair. Next time Vick has to miss a game due to an injury, he should be put down.

    But seriously folks, what Vick did to those animals was horrible, but does not warrant the death penalty.

  • A Blood Red Fox

    If “rational scientific evidence” leads to the abuse of other living creatures, I’m beginning to see why some religious people see a kind of cold heartedness in some forms of atheism.

    Yes, that’s a judgment and feel free to see me as a sanctimonious “dick”. I basically don’t care at this point.

    I highly doubt he even has any “rational scientific evidence”. I think it’s 100x more likely that all he has is dogma, which is irrationally taken as evidence.

    I’m sorry “Gentle Giant” but your reasoning is extremely tenuous and is most likely due to… what’s the term? Cognitive dissonance? Anyone swayed by your arguments is clearly irrational and clinging to the same faith-based nonsense as yourself. Your views are at best out of date, and at worst an intentional misinterpretation of the data for your own comfort.

  • AxeGrrl

    timberwraith, I just want to thank you for your posts in this thread ~ expressing and justifying one’s vegetarianism/veganism (and one’s ethical relationship to animals and their treatment) without coming across as self-righteous and/or sanctimonious is an incredibly difficult balancing act….

    and you’ve pulled it off commendably here, imo.

  • A Blood Red Fox

    Before I go, I should also add that the whole “neural networks” talk is true of reptiles, fish, invertebrates, etc. (I’m not sure how the brains of birds work though.) but it’s rather difficult to justify saying that about mammals.

    As for being able to experience pain, the only places I’m aware that there is any debate is in the case of fish (due to the way they likely experience time – or don’t) and in the case of invertebrates, where they get signals but it’s impossible to know how it might be interpreted.

    With mammals I think the “brain-damaged human” comparison makes the most sense. I don’t recall who said that, it might have been Singer.

    I should also add that 90% of the time, charges of “anthropomorphizing” and animal are largely rationalizing BS rather than rational… having more to do with protecting the speaker’s poor fragile little conscience and trying to support old dogma.

    I’m leaving now, but I want to finish with this:

    It is my opinion that “Gentle Giant” can’t deal with moral uncertainty, so he hides behind faux-scientific talk.

    As for meat:

    Meat is good, and I want some right now. But I don’t have any pretensions about it being moral, it is what it is. Just try and be sensible about it.

    It would be nice if we could stem the abuses of factory farming, but me joining in on a boycott would do nothing… the truth is that we are held captive by capitalism run amok and undemocratic political systems.

    And now I’m off, bye bye.

  • Rich Wilson

    While we’re talking NFL and ethics, how come more people don’t get upset about a league with a team called “The Redskins”?

    Really?

    Yellowskins? Blackskins? I find it offensive that my browser accepts ‘Redskins’ as proper spelling, but not Yellowskins or Blackskins.

    In my world the entire fucking ‘sport’ would go away.

  • Execution being a bit extreme, I don’t think Vick’s playing ball again is a good thing. Obama is pretty much out of line here. Carlson is still a douche though.

  • GentleGiant

    And atheists don’t do this?

    Yes, atheists use emotional guilt to influence others, all people do.
    When trying to influence others about atheism, I would hope that they do it with a sound backing of evidence. Your case here doesn’t have that sound backing.

    I’ve seen plenty of evidence in person, with other animals. If you aren’t capable of making that connection, there’s not much I can say to you.

    When was the last time you had a deep, profound heart to heart with a chicken? When you shared that deep, profound mutual feeling you both had?
    I don’t have that connection, because it… doesn’t… exist!
    It’s wishful thinking on your part, just like the “close, personal connection” the religious have with their “personal saviour.”
    I’m sorry for YOU if you can’t see that. It’s a delusion. Simple as that.

    Besides, where’s your compassion for the plant life you have people cut down so you can eat? They share some of your dna strings too and are living things.

    You will see what you wish to see.

    Pot, meet kettle.

    If “rational scientific evidence” leads to the abuse of other living creatures, I’m beginning to see why some religious people see a kind of cold heartedness in some forms of atheism.

    Erm, who has said anything like that (the first part)?
    What you deem abuse isn’t necessarily objectively so, just because you feel differently, based on your anthropomorphizing of animals.

    Yes, that’s a judgment and feel free to see me as a sanctimonious “dick”. I basically don’t care at this point.

    Obviously you do, otherwise you wouldn’t continue posting.

    Look, I don’t really mind your reasons for being a vegetarian. If that’s how you see the world, fine by me, just don’t expect the rest of us to agree with you given the evidence presented.

  • Tom

    As an atheist who has been a vegetarian roughly a year, it all comes down to this for me – suffering and pain. No, I do not think cows, pigs, chickens, etc. are the equivalent of a human being and I actually am not against their consumption per se. The problem I have is of another sentient being living in extremely horrific conditions its entire life. They may not have the intelligence we do but they can feel physical pain just as much as we can (and some would say emotional as well). Now, I know there are humane sources of non-factory farmed meat, but they represent a very tiny percentage of all the meat that is actually consumed. If all meat were from these humane sources (I’ll include meat from legitimate hunters as well) then I would have no problem with it. Of course these opinions are strictly my own and other vegetarians will disagree.

  • GentleGiant

    Tom:

    Now, I know there are humane sources of non-factory farmed meat, but they represent a very tiny percentage of all the meat that is actually consumed. If all meat were from these humane sources (I’ll include meat from legitimate hunters as well) then I would have no problem with it.

    I think we can all agree on that (at least all of those who give a damn, apathy is big in this world). That would indeed be the best way for things to be. But unfortunately it isn’t and refraining from eating meat won’t change it unless one can start a global movement, which won’t happen.
    So, some of us have to make do with what we can and eat what we can afford in order to survive.

  • GentleGiant

    A Blood Red Fox (sorry, your replies didn’t show up on some of my former refreshes of the page):

    I highly doubt he even has any “rational scientific evidence”. I think it’s 100x more likely that all he has is dogma, which is irrationally taken as evidence.

    I’m sorry “Gentle Giant” but your reasoning is extremely tenuous and is most likely due to… what’s the term? Cognitive dissonance? Anyone swayed by your arguments is clearly irrational and clinging to the same faith-based nonsense as yourself. Your views are at best out of date, and at worst an intentional misinterpretation of the data for your own comfort.

    No, it’s not dogma, it’s simple logical deduction.
    If my views are “out of date,” I’d like you to show me the “new” research that all animals used for consumption are able to operate on an emotional and neurological level equal to humans. I promise I’ll change my mind if you can come up with it.

    Before I go, I should also add that the whole “neural networks” talk is true of reptiles, fish, invertebrates, etc. (I’m not sure how the brains of birds work though.) but it’s rather difficult to justify saying that about mammals.

    Yes, mammals have a neural network closer to humans… still doesn’t mean that they have the same thought process, emotions and feelings that we do.

    As for being able to experience pain, the only places I’m aware that there is any debate is in the case of fish (due to the way they likely experience time – or don’t) and in the case of invertebrates, where they get signals but it’s impossible to know how it might be interpreted.

    Sorry, straw man argument, I’ve never claimed animals weren’t able to feel pain.

    I should also add that 90% of the time, charges of “anthropomorphizing” and animal are largely rationalizing BS rather than rational… having more to do with protecting the speaker’s poor fragile little conscience and trying to support old dogma.

    Bull. If a speaker indicates that they have a special “empathy link” with animals, they better prove it. They can’t, because it’s not there. They might imagine it is so, but there is no scientific data that suggests e.g. livestock share the same emotional range as a human being nor that they have the brain power to communicate that with a human being.

    I’m leaving now, but I want to finish with this:

    It is my opinion that “Gentle Giant” can’t deal with moral uncertainty, so he hides behind faux-scientific talk.

    I have no moral uncertainty, so please take your straw man argument with you.

    As for meat:

    Meat is good, and I want some right now. But I don’t have any pretensions about it being moral, it is what it is. Just try and be sensible about it.

    It would be nice if we could stem the abuses of factory farming, but me joining in on a boycott would do nothing… the truth is that we are held captive by capitalism run amok and undemocratic political systems.

    And now I’m off, bye bye.

    See, the funny thing is, we actually agree on this part. I wish that we could treat all animals better, but it’s not likely going to happen any time soon and me boycotting the industry isn’t going to make a difference. Plus, I have to eat too…
    But I don’t have any moral qualms about eating meat.

  • david

    humane sources of meat is a daft term end of the day teh animals STILL DEAD

    your still killing something

    im sure if asked the meat would rather stay alive in crappy conditions than be dead in pleasant ones

    if you dont eat meat great good for you

    if you do eat meat great good for you

    saying eating it or not eating it is right or wrong is the same as saying ” your thoughts on my religion/lack of religion ” is wrong

    its a personal choice and people have to understand people might have a different view

  • Rich Wilson

    ok, I promised myself I was going to leave the vegetarian debate. But thinking offline, I came up with something I don’t see said.

    Preface: I’m just dealing with ‘causing animals do die so we can eat them’. Not with how they are killed, or live before they die, or what rain forests are destroyed to keep them alive. Many good reasons to be a vegetarian. I’ve been a vegetarian for long periods of my life for those very same reasons.

    But here’s my though on ‘the animal is still dead’:

    I think it’s safe to say that we’re better off with various populations on this planet being in some kind of equilibrium. It’s not good for the long term well being of the planet for a population to be in steep decline (e.g. cod, whales, gorillas) or steep incline (e.g. humans, chickens, cows)

    That said, if a population is going to remain relatively steady, then specific animal X living ten years instead of five means specific animal Y doesn’t get born. There HAVE to be negative controls on the system, i.e. starvation, disease, predation, old age, (or in the case of humans, birth control).

    So to say that it’s unethical to kill an animal to eat it means that ten years of Animal X’s life is more valuable than five years of Animal Y + five years of Animal Z.

    That’s fine. There’s nothing ‘wrong’ with that position, but there’s nothing particularly ‘right’ about it either. It’s a perfectly valid personal choice.

    And to be fair, I can’t recall any vegetarians ever lecturing me about eating meat. When I was a vegetarian, I had some people act like I was going to, but I always viewed it as a personal choice.

  • Rich Wilson

    I just noticed an apropos post over at The Teapot Atheist: http://teapotatheism.blogspot.com/2010/12/well-at-least-they-agree-on-something.html

    dealing with EU regulations on the labeling of meat, and how Jews and Muslims carry out their ritual slaughter.

  • GentleGiant

    I just noticed an apropos post over at The Teapot Atheist: http://teapotatheism.blogspot.com/2010/12/well-at-least-they-agree-on-something.html

    dealing with EU regulations on the labeling of meat, and how Jews and Muslims carry out their ritual slaughter.

    Great blog post. Thanks for linking it Rich.

    … and it has even been “Markuze’ed”! Dang, that guy is everywhere!

  • I’m done with the conversation on meat eating, but I do have one comment on the “meta” aspects of this conversation.

    There’s a tendency among some atheists to tell religious people that they are delusional. I’ve long suspected that his tactic doesn’t do much to convince the other person of the “error” of their belief system. Having now been the personal recipient of this treatment on this comment thread, I can attest to it’s drawbacks.

    My response wasn’t “Gee, I must have some manner of cognitive fault. Perhaps I should reexamine my thought process.” My response was equivalent to, “Hmmmm. This person is rather difficult and unsavory. I think I’ll avoid talking to him.” That, of course, is the PG rated version. For the sake of decorum, I won’t share the uncensored version.

    If your objective is to generate animosity, increase levels of invective from other participants, deter further conversation with the targeted party, and/or “score points” with those who are already convinced of your side of the argument, you should continue to use this tactic. From what I can see here and in other venues, it works well. However, if those aren’t your goals, then another tactic might be advised.

    The funny thing is, I’m leaving this conversation with a greater degree of empathy (there’s that darned word again) for what it must be like to be a religious person who has their deeply held beliefs and worldviews dismissed as delusional thinking by combative atheists. I have to say, the experience doesn’t leave me with feelings of pride toward my fellow non-believers.

    If I’m left with this negative perception, I can take a few guesses as to what effect this kind of conduct has in a country such as the US where a great majority of the populace believes in a deity of some kind.

    The more I watch both sides of this issue sling mud at each other, the more ambivalent I feel toward all parties. Ah well.

  • GentleGiant

    I’m done with the conversation on meat eating, but I do have one comment on the “meta” aspects of this conversation.

    There’s a tendency among some atheists to tell religious people that they are delusional. I’ve long suspected that his tactic doesn’t do much to convince the other person of the “error” of their belief system. Having now been the personal recipient of this treatment on this comment thread, I can attest to it’s drawbacks.

    From Dictionary.com:

    de·lu·sion? ?
    [dih-loo-zhuhn]
    –noun
    1. an act or instance of deluding.
    2. the state of being deluded.
    3. a false belief or opinion: delusions of grandeur.
    4. Psychiatry . a fixed false belief that is resistant to reason or confrontation with actual fact: a paranoid delusion.

    Pay special notice to 3 and 4.
    You have no credible claims to back up your assertion and it flies in the face of logic and everyday evidence that animals such as livestock, fish and poultry have the same highly evolved emotion spectrum and rational thought as to be compatible with the same level as humans.
    Yet you persist in this claim, making it the very definition of delusional.
    I’m sorry if the truth doesn’t sound comfortable, but it’s neither negative nor positive, it just is.

    My response wasn’t “Gee, I must have some manner of cognitive fault. Perhaps I should reexamine my thought process.” My response was equivalent to, “Hmmmm. This person is rather difficult and unsavory. I think I’ll avoid talking to him.” That, of course, is the PG rated version. For the sake of decorum, I won’t share the uncensored version.

    Of course it wasn’t, being confronted by a truth that runs contrary to one’s deeply held belief never elicits that kind of response. It’s a natural defence mechanism.
    Feel free to express your true feelings, I don’t mind and won’t be offended. Don’t hold back on my account.

    If your objective is to generate animosity, increase levels of invective from other participants, deter further conversation with the targeted party, and/or “score points” with those who are already convinced of your side of the argument, you should continue to use this tactic. From what I can see here and in other venues, it works well. However, if those aren’t your goals, then another tactic might be advised.

    The funny thing is, I’m leaving this conversation with a greater degree of empathy (there’s that darned word again) for what it must be like to be a religious person who has their deeply held beliefs and worldviews dismissed as delusional thinking by combative atheists. I have to say, the experience doesn’t leave me with feelings of pride toward my fellow non-believers.

    Please stop playing the victim card (another favourite theist trick). I challenged your perception and clearly it struck a chord, otherwise you wouldn’t have responded with such an emotional response.
    Don’t make me out to be the bad guy just because your personal “loveydovey friends with all the cute little animals”-theory was shot down (but do feel free to dislike me because of that last sentence, it was meant to be especially harsh).

    Science Dictionary:

    delusion (d?-l ‘zh?n)
    A false belief strongly held in spite of invalidating evidence, especially as a symptom of mental illness, as in schizophrenia.

    It’s got nothing to do with “combative atheists” – it’s the simple fact of the matter. Theists cling to their beliefs despite massive evidence that contradicts that belief.
    You have no evidence for your assertion either, thus you fall in the delusional category too.
    If if makes you feel any better, I’m sure I’m delusional in some areas too, where I have a belief that isn’t backed up by any kind of evidence beyond “if feels right” or “I’d like it to be that way” (can’t really think of anything, though).

  • dauntless

    GentleGiant

    So, some of us have to make do with what we can and eat what we can afford in order to survive.

    I’m sorry, you told us you had a gastric bypass surgery but you can’t afford to eat healthily? Maybe it would be more prudent to start learning to “stomach” beans, grains, fruits and vegetables.

  • GentleGiant

    dauntless:

    So, some of us have to make do with what we can and eat what we can afford in order to survive.

    I’m sorry, you told us you had a gastric bypass surgery but you can’t afford to eat healthily? Maybe it would be more prudent to start learning to “stomach” beans, grains, fruits and vegetables.

    When did I say that I couldn’t eat healthy? I said that I couldn’t afford to buy only free range (or organic) meat, dairy and eggs (but if it’s on sale, I do tend to put it in my basket over “normal” groceries). Nor can I afford to buy the various meat substitutes (soy and mushroom based protein).
    On the contrary, I eat very healthy, I eat low fat meats (chicken/turkey breast, fat reduced ground beef, low fat sliced meat like ham), low fat dairy products (mmmm, cheese), eggs (mostly egg whites), whole grain bread/pasta, brown rice and lots of vegetables. So I can indeed “stomach” grains, fruits and most vegetables just fine.
    I’ve lost more than 90 lbs since my operation last year, so I’m doing just fine, thank you. 🙂

    Now, if you’re implying that I wouldn’t have been able to get fat on a vegetarian diet*, then that shows a basic lack of knowledge about nutrition and the human body.
    You can get fat (or thin) of off any kind of diet… it’s all about calorie consumption.

    *If that’s not what you’re implying, then I apologize, but it’s not an uncommon perception and I’ve heard lots of vegetarian “gurus” spout this nonsense.

  • Greg

    Timberwraith – I’ve got to be honest here, I don’t see how you can claim people are attacking you.

    No-one is saying you are a horrible person. No-one is saying you are stupid in any way.

    All people have been saying is that they do not agree with your claims, or at least that they do not find them particularly persuasive. All they are saying is that in this particular instance, they believe you are wrong.

    Someone disagreeing with your claims does not constitute an attack upon you!

    I’ve been lurking a little, because I didn’t want to get into any long drawn out arguments where no-one was likely to persuade the other, and yet I was still interested in the discussion, and when you asked if something made you sound like a dick, I almost came in and said: “No, but you do sound a little defensive. Being defensive often makes you sound aggressive.”

    (With your strange claim that: “rational scientific evidence” leads to the abuse of other living creatures” for example – I doubt many omnivores say it does.)

    What you have to bear in mind is that vegans/vegetarians are making the claim here.

    They are saying eating meat is immoral, meat eaters are not saying it is moral. It’s a bit like the atheist/theist debate: theists say a god exists, atheists don’t say a god doesn’t exist. (Personally, I think it is morally neutral…)

    However, in order to honestly hold our position, we are going to have to point out where we disagree with you. We’re attacking the argument, perhaps, but not you. (I will also point out that there are a couple of comments made by vegetarians in this thread that could easily be constituted as attacks upon omnivores like me. Don’t try to claim you’re being attacked by omnivores without acknowledging those more blatant examples of aggressive behaviour in the opposite direction.)

    That being said, I want to say a more general comment. There seems to be a current of feeling among vegetarians/vegans that being in the wild necessarily constitutes a better life than being in captivity.

    To these people, I say:

    If you ever get the chance to, go on a wildlife safari in an area where you can see wildlife habitats largely untouched by man. Not only is it the most awe-inspiring thing I have ever done, but you quickly learn that it is a vicious cut-throat world out there.

    Does a dairy cow have a worse life than a buffalo? Are farm reared deer in a worse position than a buck in the Kruger National Park?

    The animals we raise for our food only have to worry about one predator – humans. We protect them from the other ones. The grazing animals in the wild spend their entire lives trying to stay alive. If they make one mistake, not only are they dead, but they are eaten whilst still being alive in many cases. Nature isn’t all nice and fluffy. There are very few animals that have no predators to worry about. One of the most amusing sights I’ve seen was a herd of elephants protecting their young at a water hole from three warthogs. They do that because even the elephants are concerned about enemies.

    It is anthropomorphising to say a free life is necessarily better than an enslaved one. Farm reared animals undoubtedly have a calmer, and safer lot than their wild cousins do. There’s a reason that animals reared in captivity tend to be killed when released into the wild.

  • Tom

    Greg said:

    Farm reared animals undoubtedly have a calmer, and safer lot than their wild cousins do.

    I was kind’ve seeing your point but that line just totally lost me. Ok, if you’re talking about animals that live on idyllic free range pastures and live a quick death than I can see your point. But if you’re talking about animals in factory farms which represent the vast majority of meat – are you kidding? Do you know what goes on there? I think it was Paul McCartney who said if slaughterhouses had glass windows we’d all be vegetarian. Yes, life in the wild is tough as animals have to deal with predators, starvation, etc. but can that life really be worse than being stuck in a cage your entire life, standing in your own excrement, never having access to fresh air, potentially dealing with sadistic workers, etc.? I don’t know if you’re a dog person like I am, but one of the reasons I decided to go veg was that I realized I was a hypocrite for caring so much about my dog while not caring at all about the animals I was eating. Depending on who you speak to, pigs are just as if not more intelligent than dogs. So before I ramble onwards, as I mentioned in an earlier post I actually don’t have a problem with meat per se, but I do have a problem with how most of it came to be. Please look into factory farms if you haven’t already.

  • Greg

    Tom said:

    Ok, if you’re talking about animals that live on idyllic free range pastures and live a quick death than I can see your point.

    I thought it was quite clear that I wasn’t talking about factory farms from the way I was talking.

    As it happens, I am not just a dog lover (have grown up with them my entire life), but also an animal lover, as you may have guessed from my mention of the wildlife safari. In fact, the only animals I could say I don’t like are domestic cats – as a result of an unfortunate couple of incidents when I was young which nearly involved me losing my eyes. Oh, and then one later which involved a cupboard falling down on top of me… I don’t have a good track record with cats… I try to avoid them. 😉

    Also…

    Yes, life in the wild is tough as animals have to deal with predators, starvation, etc. but can that life really be worse than being stuck in a cage your entire life, standing in your own excrement, never having access to fresh air, potentially dealing with sadistic workers, etc.?

    Anthropomorphising again. You would hate the latter of the two lives, therefore you assume the animal does too.

    Note: I am NOT saying I approve of factory farms with that comment. I am merely saying that the argument relies on anthropomorphising.

  • Tom

    Greg said:

    Anthropomorphising again. You would hate the latter of the two lives, therefore you assume the animal does too.

    Note: I am NOT saying I approve of factory farms with that comment. I am merely saying that the argument relies on anthropomorphising.

    I understand your point about anthroporphising, but there comes a certain point where it’s obvious which scenario is preferable over the other. We have a basic understanding of the wants and needs of animals and what gives them pleasure and pain. I mean is it anthroporphising to say that your dog would prefer a life of daily long walks, eating the best food, having plenty of toys, etc. over a life of being tied up in a backyard with no contact whatsoever?

  • Oh, for pity’s sake, I love vegetarians who say they don’t preach when they go on and on about the evils of meat eating. News flash: that’s preaching. (Hemant, for the record, I really appreciate that you don’t and that you mostly stay out of it when these debates crop up on the blog.)

    I wish factory farming wasn’t a necessary evil but given the world’s population I fear it is. Good luck feeding the entire population on free range and wild. There’s just too damned many people and, as Gentle Giant points out, those of us who are financially challenged can’t afford the option. I’ve checked out a local free range farm. Milk there is $12 a gallon. I really don’t think so. Also, you have to buy huge quanities of meat. I live in a small apartment. I can’t store a whole side of beef. Can’t happen. I’ve got to go with the small packages offered in the grocery stores. Oh, and most don’t deliver so add in the gas cost to drive out to the farm. This place actually and will sell smaller packages but their prices on everything (not just milk) were literally 5-10 times as much.

    Everyone eating free range or wild is as laughable a premise as Jesus saving our nonexistent souls.

    I also notice that in all their preaching, vegetarians never address the fact that they kill plants other than resorting to the sentient being argument. If life is sacred, life is sacred. We have to kill to eat.

    Nor do I see them addressing the ecoglogical problems caused by farming the huge amounts of crops it would take for the world’s population to be purely vegetarian. Rather glaze right over that one, don’t you?

    Get real. I really don’t give a flying fuck if you don’t eat meat. Man, that is so far down on my scale of shit to give a damn about but stop giving a shit that I do and stop giving a shit that I don’t unrealistically demand humane conditions of raising animals for the slaughter. They are not human. Specieism is not racism. For it to be on a par with that a chicken or a pig or a cow would have to be able to have an intelligent conversation with us.

    Hell, even our beloved dogs and cats aren’t the same. If your house is on fire, and you’ve got the kid in your arms a yard to the door and safety for both of you and you turn back to save the dog you hear whining in the room beyond that wall of flames, there is something seriously wrong with you and that kid would be way better off without you.

    So why don’t vegetarians, in their whining arguments, ever say we need to practice birth control because that would save animal lives? Hmmm?

  • Oh, for pity’s sake, I love vegetarians who say they don’t preach when they go on and on about the evils of meat eating. News flash: that’s preaching. (Hemant, for the record, I really appreciate that you don’t and that you mostly stay out of it when these debates crop up on the blog.)

    I wish factory farming wasn’t a necessary evil but given the world’s population I fear it is. Good luck feeding the entire population on free range and wild. There’s just too damned many people and, as Gentle Giant points out, those of us who are financially challenged can’t afford the option. I’ve checked out a local free range farm. Milk there is $12 a gallon. I really don’t think so. Also, you have to buy huge quanities of meat. I live in a small apartment. I can’t store a whole side of beef. Can’t happen. I’ve got to go with the small packages offered in the grocery stores. Oh, and most don’t deliver so add in the gas cost to drive out to the farm. This place actually and will sell smaller packages but their prices on everything (not just milk) were literally 5-10 times as much.

    Everyone eating free range or wild is as laughable a premise as Jesus saving our nonexistent souls.

    I also notice that in all their preaching, vegetarians never address the fact that they kill plants other than resorting to the sentient being argument. If life is sacred, life is sacred. We have to kill to eat.

    Nor do I see them addressing the ecoglogical problems caused by farming the huge amounts of crops it would take for the world’s population to be purely vegetarian. Rather glaze right over that one, don’t you?

    Get real. I really don’t give a flying fuck if you don’t eat meat. Man, that is so far down on my scale of shit to give a damn about but stop giving a shit that I do and stop giving a shit that I don’t unrealistically demand humane conditions of raising animals for the slaughter. They are not human. Specieism is not racism. For it to be on a par with that a chicken or a pig or a cow would have to be able to have an intelligent conversation with us.

    Hell, even our beloved dogs and cats aren’t the same. If your house is on fire, and you’ve got the kid in your arms a yard to the door and safety for both of you and you turn back to save the dog you hear whining in the room beyond that wall of flames, there is something seriously wrong with you and that kid would be way better off without you.

    So why don’t vegetarians, in their whining arguments, ever say we need to practice birth control because that would save animal lives? Hmmm?

  • snail whisperer

    @Donna Hamel You are overgeneralizing. No doubt, plenty of vegetarians have little or no concept of how to defend the ethical position they are taking (largely because they don’t really have one) but I can assure you I both avoid meat and advocate for population control (and, no, at 43+ years old, I don’t have children).

    But I think you (and @gentlegiant) are too quick to submit to the status quo. We can’t feed people the diets they currently eat and still avoid factory farms. But if everyone ate less meat, there would be roughly 10X the vegetarian food available, since animals wouldn’t be eating it. @GG won’t join a boycott because it won’t do any good, and can’t afford to eat free-range/organic. Well, I avoid meat largely because of factory farms. I doubt the farms have felt my impact, but I have. I grit my teeth at the prices of organic food, but I find other places to trim the budget because it is important to me. I am a happier person because I act on my belief system rather than going with the flow.

    As I said before, my primary motivation is environmental. People are stretching the limits of the planet, both through their very existence and through their lifestyle, which exacerbates the former. I can’t change society, but I can change myself.

    I know I’m walking that fine line between debate and proselytism. For the record, I don’t care what you, personally, eat any more than I care what you worship. But your arguments are weak. If you don’t think eating meat is a problem, fine, but you haven’t provided any real justification for that position.

  • SeekerLancer

    Blah blah vegetarians yeah we know.

    I think what Michael Vick did was stupid and wrong but I don’t care because the point is what Tucker Carlson said was also stupid and wrong.

    We’re missing the point that Fox News is silly and will remind its Christian viewers how its correspondents are good Christians too and then be hypocritical Christians in the same breath in order to find any mud they can to sling and somehow the people who watch this stuff seriously don’t even notice.

  • dauntless

    Donna

    I also notice that in all their preaching, vegetarians never address the fact that they kill plants other than resorting to the sentient being argument. If life is sacred, life is sacred. We have to kill to eat.

    Well plants don’t exactly have central nervous systems, do they? If you haven’t studied them, then I will tell you they have very simple physiology compared to animals and none of their tissue types come even close to the complexity of nervous tissue (the tissue that allows thought, emotion, pain). Regardless of this, the amount of plants that meat eaters kill is even greater than the amount that vegetarians eat, because the animals you eat had to be (over)fed.

  • Tom

    Donna said:

    I also notice that in all their preaching, vegetarians never address the fact that they kill plants other than resorting to the sentient being argument. If life is sacred, life is sacred. We have to kill to eat.

    Life is “sacred” (nice choice of words by the way) to me in only the sense that we should respect all SENTIENT life to as REASONABLE a degree as possible. Do I think a cow is as important as a person? No. Do I think a head of lettuce is as important as a cow? No. I’m sure you already knew that though.

    Nor do I see them addressing the ecoglogical problems caused by farming the huge amounts of crops it would take for the world’s population to be purely vegetarian. Rather glaze right over that one, don’t you?

    Seriously??? Do you not realize how much food each animal has to actually eat before it ends up on your plate? And do you not realize how much methane gas is produced by cattle which adds to the greenhouse affect? Glaze over that one, don’t you?

    If you want to keep eating meat go right ahead but don’t keep on rationalizing it with these bullshit arguments.

  • I never thought I’d agree with Tucker Carlson about anything, but I tend to think he’s right about Vick.

  • Thegoodman

    I am on the opposite side of the fence with…most of humanity…in regard to animals. While I don’t approve of cruel treatment of anyone or anything; I just don’t see why everyone is making a big deal about Mike Vick. What his dogs went through is no worse than what a chicken, pig, or cow goes through in their short brutal lives before we consume their flesh. Just because many of you delude yourself into thinking that dogs “care” or have “personality”, the fact is that they are not an intelligent beast (far less intelligent than a pig) and their lives exist because we allow them to.

    His punishment was fair considering his large involvement in the illegal gambling/dog fighting situation. He served his time and I believe he deserved a second chance.

    There are countless celebrities and pro athletes who beat the hell out of their wives, get arrested for drunk driving, and worse. I personally feel that many of these things are far worse than dog fighting.

    If society believes that running a dog fight is worthy of lifelong punishment (or even execution) then you should lobby to change the laws to do just that.

  • Silent Service

    All right, I could only stomach about a quarter of the comments on this one. Here’s my take;

    What Michael Vick did was wrong. Worse, he was raised to think that something like dog fighting was okay so he didn’t even realize how wrong it was. It’s a sad statement that such things happen, but they do. People don’t like to think that what they’ve been taught is wrong. But psychotic? Hyperbole much? Step it down people and try to be realistic. Hopefully Vick has learned his lesson for real. I’d prefer to think that he’s not just going through the motions. It’s possible that he is just going through the motions, but if so it doesn’t matter. He has served his time and if he stays on the straight and narrow he’s every bit an equal citizen in this Great Experiment as you and I. Punishment is not meant to be for life unless assigned for life.

    All you self righteous idiots that are pissed off at the NFL for letting him play football are full of fucking shit. It’s a sport. I don’t give a crap how many young men want to be a quarterback in the NFL. Vick has talent to do the job and has served his time. The Eagles gave him a chance because he has talent and might just help them win the Super Bowl. It’s a business decision and it’s theirs to make. Barring Vick from football because you’re still pissed off about his crime imposing additional punishment above what the judge and jury imposed. It’s making Vick a second class citizen. I get it that many believe he should be a second class citizen because of his particular crime. Good thing you aren’t in charge of assigning punishment. That’s why a judge imposes punishment on a jury’s recommendation in most jurisdictions. The judge is trained to judge the seriousness of the crime (or should be if he’s not). Juries would do just what you lot want to do. Destroy Vick’s life as retribution for his crime. All you’re missing are rope and a tree and you’d be a right proper lynch mob.

    Our Justice system is not about retribution. It never has been. It is supposed to be a justice system. Sometimes it fails, but it’s a damned site better than letting you lot have your way.

    And finally, the commenter’s who pointed out that Tucker Carlson is only pissed off about this issue because it’s a way to slam Obama are 100% on track. Tucker is a disingenuous fucking hypocrite with an agenda. I’d much rather see his ass tarred and feathered than Vick’s.

    Now that I’ve got that off my chest I have to say I hope that the Packers bury the Eagles on Sunday. GO PACK!!!

  • Rich Wilson

    I just wish other ex-cons had the same opportunity for second chances that celebrities with special talents do. One can commit a crime that most of us would consider not nearly as unethical as what Michael Vick did, and find their post ‘debt paid to society’ job options severely restricted.

    Or try having a pot related offense and trying to get a student loan for that matter.

  • Silent Service

    Rich,

    I agree 100%. It would be great if our ego and self righteousness did not get in the way of doing the right thing. Too many people want revenge or vengeance, and conflate their personal sense or right and wrong with social order. Michael Vick is lucky as hell because most other ex-convicts get screwed by society. Yet some people still want to punish Vick more by barring him from playing in the NFL. That won’t help solve any problem.

    We really need to invest, as a society, in follow up programs designed to help make productive members of society out of ex-convicts. We just might see actual improvements in crime rates if ex-convicts had better opportunities after prison. Unfortunately our prison system is designed to warehouse convicts until their sentence is up, then dumps them back onto the street to repeat their offense. Worse, we criminalize some personal behavior not as a way to make society safer, but to criminalize behavior based on the personal morals of the people pushing legislation (marijuana and alcohol laws in particular).

    The problem is that a complete overhaul of our legal code would be managed by the same idiots that wrote the current code. I don’t see any improvements coming anytime soon.

  • walkamungus

    Thank you, Silent Service. Nicely put.

    About 3 months ago a book was published about what happened to the Vick dogs that were removed from the property. It’s called _The Lost Dogs_, and it’s an amazing, uplifting read. Very few of the surviving dogs actually had to be put down. Some of the Vick dogs are being adopted, and others will live out their lives on a “rescue ranch.” Dogs are darn resilient critters.

    There has been recent speculation that human/dog co-evolution goes back far longer than what typically gets cited as the period of the “domestication” of dogs by humans.

  • Silent Service

    I got a warm fuzzy. MMMMMMMmmmmmm.

    Thanks walkamungus. I have my moments.

  • walkamungus

    Oh, and I recently saw a tape on ESPN of part of a speech Vick gave at a school. He sounded pretty sincere about his newfound understanding that (1) there are a LOT of people who cared about his unwanted dogs, even if they hadn’t previously known of the dogs’ existence; (2) those people were–and still are–very, very angry about what was done to the dogs; and (3) many of those people believe that he is beyond rehabilitation. I’m giving him the benefit of the doubt for the moment.