Murali did his undergraduate degree in molecular biology with a minor in biophysics from the National University of Singapore (NUS). He then changed direction and did his Masters in Philosophy also at NUS. Now, he is currently pursuing a PhD in Philosophy at the University of Warwick.

Related Post Roulette

115 Responses

  1. It should not be illegal. End of story.Report

    • J@m3z Aitch in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

      Killing of animals can be done relatively humanely, with minimal pain and suffering.

      Can screwing of animals be done that way, too?

      Can we with any reasonableness speak of the rape of a sheep?Report

      • LeeEsq in reply to J@m3z Aitch says:

        I think so, animals can’t meaningful give consent. I’d put screwing animals in the same category as bear or bull baiting, cruelty.Report

        • Murali in reply to LeeEsq says:

          Yet we (or I say You*) don’t find killing them to be problematic. It’s not like they consented to be killed. And it’s not like we are likely to look upon a murderer who humanely kills his unconsenting victims humanely by anesthetising them and doing away with them in their sleep with any particular kindness.

          *I live in the alleged purity of vegetarianism.**

          **Of course as a hypocrite I wear leather shoes and belts.Report

          • J@m3z Aitch in reply to Murali says:

            I’ve always wondered whether it’s worse to kill–outright, with minimal pain–or to torture. Sometimes I think it’s worse to torture, not just because of the extended agony but also because of the long-term mental/emotional damage that’s done. But of course most people who are tortured seem to prefer to keep on living, and their lives seem worth living.Report

            • LeeEsq in reply to J@m3z Aitch says:

              I’d rather live if that was an option.Report

              • J@m3z Aitch in reply to LeeEsq says:

                Is life so precious that we’d rather live than die, if every day was fraught with overwhelming emotional or physical trauma? I mean, we’re going to die eventually anyway, so is it possible that for some people continuing to live is nothing more than a prolongation of torture?Report

              • Murali in reply to J@m3z Aitch says:

                That “some” is so small that I doubt it would apply to any significant percentage of humans. I doubt that even a sheep which is buggered every day has nothing to look forward to in whatever sheep fashion it can such that we do it a favour by killing it.Report

              • GordonHide in reply to Murali says:

                That “some” is so small that I doubt it would apply to any significant percentage of humans.

                I’m afraid that’s just not so. A significant proportion of elderly adults are in such poor health that they would rather be dead. The worst cases are those physically unable to commit suicide. Many others are effectively prevented from committing suicide by circumstances, fear and religious belief.Report

        • Jason Kuznicki in reply to LeeEsq says:

          I think so, animals can’t meaningful give consent. I’d put screwing animals in the same category as bear or bull baiting, cruelty.

          Industrial farming is way, way worse than any of these.

          Do you suppose they consent to it?

          (What would it even mean for an animal to consent? If an animal can give consent, can it sign contracts? Hold a job? Get married?)Report

          • Jason,

            While I agree and am in principle uncomfortable with any solution to the “problem” (if it really is a problem) of bestiality qua animal cruelty that doesn’t also address the more real and obvious problem of factory farming, I’m also inclined to say that the existence of one hard-to-stamp-out evil doesn’t mean that we ought not address an evil that is easier to stamp out.

            Of course, you were referring specifically to the “consent” argument. I don’t have much an answer to that, except that some supposedly better interest (food) is served by factory farming than the arguably pathological interest that is served by bestiality. However, as Lee suggested below, that type of distinction might prove “feeble,” and I realize that when we outlaw a behavior on the grounds that it might be pathological, we’re entering dangerous territory.

            I have my answer, but I’m not comfortable with it.Report

          • Mike Schilling in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

            If cats like the way you’re petting them, they purr and come closer. If not they claw at you. What better evidence of consent do you require?Report

      • Mike Schilling in reply to J@m3z Aitch says:

        Most of us consider sex with animals disgusting; they probably consider sex with humans disgusting.Report

      • Kimmi in reply to J@m3z Aitch says:

        Yes, we can. However, one must do it knowing that most “sex” in nature is rape.Report

    • Mike Schilling in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

      Should torturing an animal be illegal?Report

      • GordonHide in reply to Mike Schilling says:

        Any abusive and unequal relationship with another sentient being that can suffer is wrong by my moral code of conduct. I believe that is recognised in the strict rules for animal husbandry and butchering. Hopefully one day we will be able to get our meat from a non sentient source.Report

        • Mike Schilling in reply to GordonHide says:

          Any abusive and unequal relationship with another sentient being that can suffer is wrong by my moral code of conduct.

          Mine too, by the way.Report

        • Stillwater in reply to GordonHide says:

          +1. Recoginzing the “need” (scare quotes!) for factory farmed animals shouldn’t prevent us from seeing the harms committed by that practice. The goal should be to eliminate them (the harms, not the farms) as much as possible.

          For some reason, whenever Peter Singer says this, the whole world explodes.Report

          • Is that really Singer’s argument? I’ve never read him, just heard what others say about him, but the impression I get from those others is that his prescriptions are much more robust than “eliminating as much of the harms as possible.”Report

            • Stillwater in reply to Pierre Corneille says:

              He’s a utilitarian. He doesn’t have robust prescriptions for anything. (brr-ching)Report

            • Shazbot5 in reply to Pierre Corneille says:

              Well, Simger would say we get very little utility out of eating meat that we couldn’t get from eating veg-based foods. And the meat industry causes incredibly abounts of pain and suffering in animals. So, when you do a utility calculation, eating animals comes out really badly.

              NB: This is the argument we use to say killing and eating dolphins (which is done) is immoral. They suffer. We don’t get much out of killing them.

              Watch the Cove, if you havent’t. Great documentary. Very fun, oddly, for a movie about dolphin killing.Report

              • I wasn’t aware of that documentary (or Singer’s actual position), so I might look into it.Report

              • Shazbot5 in reply to Pierre Corneille says:

                Great documentary. It is like a real heist movie.Report

              • Shazbot5 in reply to Shazbot5 says:

                Unless you don’t think the happiness of animals matters in a utility calculation. But that is extremely problematic, because:

                A. If animal happiness doesn’t count in a utility calculation, how do you explain that animal torture is wrong?

                B. What is the relevant difference between a non-human animal like a pig and a mentally handicapped human (human animal) that explains why the happiness of one matters morally and the happiness of the other doesn’t. You can’t say “intelligence” because the mentally handicapped are, in some cases, less intelligent than many animals. Similarly, you cant’ say “ability to know right from wrong” or “ability to form abstract concepts” or “ability to think about death” for the exact same reason.

                If you say the relevant difference is just that we have a certain biological, genetic code, then you open up a whole new can of worms. (What if some people in the future were born without a human genetic code? Does their happiness matt, morally?) Also, are other biological factors morally relevant. If X says that humans of other races don’t matter morally, that is wrong. But if species is morally relevant, why not race?Report

              • J@m3z Aitch in reply to Shazbot5 says:

                Re: B.

                My philosophy colleague likes to ask students in his into class this version of the streetcar problem: One one track you have a hobbit; on the other you have a baby that was born without a brain…”

                Drives the students nuts, especially the religiously conservative ones. My wife was in her 30s when she took the class. Her response was, “who cares about the brainless baby?” A couple of the religiously conservative students in there (great kids, and very bright) were also my students–I think they had a hard time looking me in the eye.Report

            • Stillwater in reply to Pierre Corneille says:

              Pierre, since I’m in a linky mood, here’s one about what an ass-hat Peter Singer is. {{Warning: the link is to this site.}}Report

  2. Brandon Berg says:

    Most people want to eat animals.

    Not many people want to have sex with them.Report

  3. DRS says:

    Why is this a “Politics & Foreign Affairs” category post?Report

  4. I admit that for me, there’s a bit of an “ick” factor, and ickiness is not a good reason to make something a crime.

    But there are other reasons, namely, that it seems to me to be cruel to the animals.

    Now, I’m not sure animals have rights in the same way that humans do. I take Jason K.’s arguments to that effect seriously. But I think that establishing that animals don’t have rights does not necessarily imply that the state ought to lack competence to protect them.

    One might object that animal-protection laws can result in all sorts of mischief and unintended consequences. My answer: We should weigh that mischief and those consequences when we decide to enact them or to repeal them.

    One might further object that “we as a society” tolerate cruelty to animals all the time, though such means as factory farming and animal experimentation. My answers:

    1. I’m a hypocrite. I eat meat and most of the meat I eat is probably factory farmed. I don’t seek out factory farmed meat, but it’s cheaper and I don’t seek out humanely farmed meat.

    2. The fact that one evil is tolerated does not mean we should tolerate a second, correlative evil.

    3. In some cases of animal experimentation–and arguably when it comes to making meat for consumption–the cruelty to the animal is for some human end. I’m not saying we should subordinate human needs and wants wholly to the well-being of animals, but in a case like bestiality, I think I’m willing to make that “sacrifice.” Of course, I’m not inclined to be bestial, so that’s easy for me to say. And I have a hard time determining whose wants ought to be restricted by such laws and whose ought to be permitted. I suppose that whatever line I would draw would have to do with a well-articulated, pressing human need (e.g., food, medicine, but not cosmetics or bestiality). Line drawing is a hard thing to do, but we do it all the time in other venues and on other issues, and I don’t in principle have a problem with it here.Report

  5. Snarky McSnarksnark says:

    I don’t really understand the ethical frame here.

    It is okay to screw people. Why is it illegal to kill them?Report

    • mark boggs in reply to Snarky McSnarksnark says:


      • Fnord in reply to mark boggs says:

        It’s usually illegal to kill people even with their consent.Report

        • Brandon Berg in reply to Fnord says:

          The assumption, I would think, is that there’s a sort of catch-22 here. A person can’t give meaningful consent to be killed, the argument might go, because anyone who wants to be killed is self-evidently not competent to make life-or-death decisions.Report

    • Stillwater in reply to Snarky McSnarksnark says:

      It’s OK to have sex with humans but not OK to kill them.
      It’s not OK to have sex with animals but OK to kill them.


      Consent can cover three of the four, I guess. Maybe. Even if a person wanted to be killed, there might be compelling reasons to make it impermissible to do so. If a being is incapable of giving consent, what does it mean to act without it’s consent? That sort of thing.

      People’s views about this stuff usually aren’t determined by a single criterion, it seems to me. And some of the criteria employed aren’t well justified.Report

  6. LeeEsq says:

    I think a good analogy to bestiality is all the old games that humans used to play with animals like bear and bull baiting, cock fighting, fox hunting, etc. All of these games are illegal in most of the developed world and you could get into major trouble for indulging in them. Most people see themselves as cruel to the animals involved and causing unnecessary pain on them. Bestiality is wrong for the same reason, we can be fairly sure that the animal is experience pain.

    Now its also true that most of the methods that we use to get products from animals involves inflicting the ultimate pain that of death but I’d feebly argue that there is a difference. Humans are omnivorous and meat forms an important part of the human diet. Its a good source of protein and it provides nutrition. Since meat eating is a necessity than killing animals for their meat is not immoral. If your killing for meat than you might as well use the rest of the animal.Report

    • Lee,

      I agree almost completely with this comment. In fact, you said in two short paragraphs what I tried to say above in a much longer and abstruse comment.

      My only difference is one of emphasis. I do think that I can’t personally escape the “ick” factor when it comes to my desire to outlaw bestiality. I think there are other reasons, and good ones, which are the ones you mention. But I confess that the idea disgusts me on a more visceral level than even such cruelties as bear-baiting or dog fighting.Report

    • Brandon Berg in reply to LeeEsq says:

      Bestiality is wrong for the same reason, we can be fairly sure that the animal is experience pain.

      We can? A chicken, sure. But a sheep, or a cow? I can’t think of any obvious mechanical reason why it would be painful.Report

  7. zic says:

    There is a long, sad history of this bigotry in this land. It began with Thomas Granger.Report

  8. Shazbot5 says:

    I don’t think the justification for banning sex with animals, whatever it is, has anything to do with protecting the animals. It is a rule about banning certain kinds of sex as being abominations or something.

    I suspect some large animals that people have sex with might not care about the whole thing. My dad was a veterinarian and would stick his arm up to his shoulder inside of female cows in certain kinds of exams, and they didn’t seem to even care.

    And sex with animals that are too small would fall under animal torture.


    A legit argument/question is: If torturing animals is immoral, then why isn’t killing them immoral. But there is a big debate there around whether a utilitarian approach that minimizes anmial suffering or an approach that sees each animal life as having worth is correct.Report

    • Matty in reply to Shazbot5 says:

      And sex with animals that are too small would fall under animal torture.

      Despite my immediate reaction of ick, this pretty much sums up my position. If someone is doing things we want to make illegal for reasons of animal cruelty there is no need for an extra law based on whether they get turned on or not.Report

    • Shazbot,

      Even though I think there are good or at least serviceable reasons to outlaw sex with animals, I think to a certain extent you’re right about the “anti-abomination” motivation, at least in my case. I admit such a motivation is not a sound basis for public policy, however.Report

  9. zic says:

    Jason mentions industrial farming. I’d guess it to be the epicenter of bestiality.

    One of the things I like about religion is its habit of giving thanks for food. Having grown up farming, I believe eating should be an act of honoring the animals that provide for us. In our modern lives, this seems an exception, not the rule that it was not so long ago.

    I don’t think there’s as much difference between humans and animals as most people think; or to be more precise, I think humans often forget we are animals; and that there are many forms of intelligence in different animal species that we don’t comprehend. I would love to be a bird, with the potential to fly and read magnetic fields; to read the wind like a bear or dog. What of the octopi? The elephant?

    Our human-centric hubris shocks me.Report

  10. J@m3z Aitch says:

    It’s a hell of a good question by Murali. It really focuses on what at least appears to be a very contradictory position most of us (the broad us, not just we ‘uns here) hold. And while I hadn’t thought of the bestiality angle specifically, the issue of animal cruelty vs. killing animals is one that’s rolled around (fruitlessly) in my head for some time.

    Biologist Temple Grandin writes about her work in designing more humane methods for moving animals through slaughterhouses. She’s autistic, and somehow as a consequence has more intuition with beasts than humans, so for her making the slaughterhouses humane is very important work. And sure, if we’re going to kill them I think it’s indisputably better to do so in a way that minimizes their suffering. But…if they’re worthy of that consideration, can we really justify destroying their life?

    I don’t have an answer, but I just wanted to praise Murali for the question.Report

  11. I find I’m beginning to reconsider my position a little bit. I still believe the state is competent to act against animal cruelty, but I’m wondering if it’s worth it’s while to outlaw it, especially if doing so requires enacting a new law or, worse, a “war on bestiality.”

    For one thing, is there really an epidemic of bestiality going on? If we were to legislate against it, what would the appropriate punishment be? (Hint: I wouldn’t endorse the death penalty that Zic linked to.) How would the law be enforced?

    My reconsideration doesn’t really address the problem as Murali laid it out, so the problem is still there. But I’m much less comfortable with outlawing the practice than I was before I read and participated in the comments in this thread.Report

    • P.S., I didn’t mean to imply Zic endorses the death penalty. She was just pointing out the extremes to which such laws have been taken in the past.Report

      • zic in reply to Pierre Corneille says:

        I worked for a summer at Plimoth Plantation as one of the first-person interpreters. We used to send messages up and down the village to one another, the silly inside jokes that make a minimum-wage public-service job fun. One was to tell a guest that you desperately needed help, and if they saw Thomas Granger, please send him along.

        So this person would go through, asking everyone where Thomas Granger was. “I believe his out with the kine,” (kine means cows) one person would answer, or “Oh, he do so love the animals, he’ll be off with the turkeys.” Obviously, though they’d only been here a few years, the transplants were already setting about the husbandly effort to domestic the wild turkey.

        And this is another important point on farm animals: cows, horses, sheep, chickens, goats, pigs, cats and dogs, too: All were amazingly genetically successful because they were domesticated, because of the relationships they formed with humans.Report

    • J@m3z Aitch in reply to Pierre Corneille says:

      is there really an epidemic of bestiality going on

      Yeah, it strikes me as one of those things that’s so unusual, so beyond the norm, that the presence/absence of a law is unlikely to have much effect in its frequency. I mean, who would think, “Ah, it’s legal! Now I can fuck a goose,” who wouldn’t think, “Damned if it’s legal or not, I wanna fuck a goose!”Report

    • Kimmi in reply to Pierre Corneille says:

      “For one thing, is there really an epidemic of bestiality going on? If we were to legislate against it, what would the appropriate punishment be? ”

      Increasing the availability of p0rn appears to decrease the rate of bestiality, on a state by state basis.Report

  12. Mike Schilling says:

    but I’m wondering if it’s worth it’s while to outlaw it,

    “It” being cruelty or bestiality?Report

  13. Mike Schilling says:

    At the very least, we shouldn’t be implicitly recommending it, so the name should be changed to “worstiality”.Report

  14. J@m3z Aitch says:

    OK, I shudder to mention this, but….a friend once told me of a video a friend of his showed him (when it’s a friend of a friend of a friend, you know you’re getting into something nobody really wants to admit to, and my friend avows that he was deeply revolted) a video of a woman being screwed by a pig.

    Is this rape of the pig? Could you really force a boar to mount a woman against it’s will? Doesn’t it seem necessary that the boar must have been aroused, however that came about, to do this? Is that animal cruelty?

    Or should I just shut up and go sit in the corner now?Report

  15. Kazzy says:

    I asked a similar question here.

    The very notion of animals consenting is curious. And I wonder if we do presume it to exist, what that means about animal studding and breeding and the like.Report

    • Kimmi in reply to Kazzy says:

      I presume male animals to consent, in the main (unless unusual measures need to be taken). I presume female animals to not consent (whyfore else would cats have barbs down there?)Report

  16. aaron david says:

    “Harrogate grinned uneasily. They tried to get me for beast, beast….”


    “Yeah, but my lawyer told ’em a watermelon wasn’t no beast. He was a smart son of a bitch.”

    Suttree – Cormac McCarthyReport

  17. CK MacLeod says:

    Probably should exist primarily for deterrence purposes and for use in particularly obnoxious cases. Unusually interesting Wikipedia article on Zoophilia (a term I hadn’t known til today) with some choice nuggets of info: Some highlights, bestiality is not illegal in all states of the US. Until relatively recently, it seems, there was an animal brothel in operation in the great state of Washington. It was shut down, and a law passed, after an event you can read all about. Part of the Western aversion to bestiality seems tied to aversion to animal sacrifice, since bestiality appears to have been a part of pagan rituals, and also played a role in the Roman Games – animals trained to rape, for example. There also seem to be some unique public health concerns involved.Report

    • Glyph in reply to CK MacLeod says:

      “unique public health concerns”

      This is something I was surprised didn’t come up before. Everyone seems to be assuming that the roots of the taboo are in completely irrational “ick” factors, but that seems exactly backwards. The roots of the “ick” factor are in the ancestral fear of disease – that is, it seems likely that for the same reason some ancient groups in hot climes said “nope” to the pork and the shellfish, and had prohibitions on overly-promiscuous behavior with humans, and frowned upon getting frisky with the sheep, is because they noticed that Zog got really really sick after doing these things. We know more than they did, but they weren’t totally wrong in what they were observing. I’ll just leave this here:

      I think in the modern world we know enough about diseases and how they are transmitted and preventative/palliative measures that this doesn’t need to be dispositive in our decisions; but at some point, if the risk of contagion is too high or its consequences too severe, the government is at least hypothetically justified in stepping in as a public health measure.

      For example, today I don’t want to outlaw human orgies or anything, but if they were becoming widespread and were a major vector for some new virulent disease, they might be something we’d want to look at regulating, if not outlawing. Typhoid Mary was basically kept in solitary confinement for nearly 30 years.Report

      • Stillwater in reply to Glyph says:

        Good point Glyph. I agree with those kinds of analyses re: the causal origins of culturally entrenched beliefs. A long time ago I read a book called “the Biology of Religion” (I think), which reduced religious and cultural beliefs and practices to biological factors present for specific groups in specific environmental contexts. It’s an interesting thesis. As far as it goes, of course. It pretty much said what you just said, but in a whole lot more words.Report

        • CK MacLeod in reply to Stillwater says:

          Some truth to Glyph’s point, clearly, but possibly too reductive as mere matter of physical disease. A society that approves of “sex with animals” is a society that accepts the “animalization of sex,” which equates with the animalization of the human, and, in this context, means eroding the dignity of human beings, not enhancing the dignity of animals, producing symbolic equality, but at a lower level.

          So, in terms of the post’s question: We kill and eat animals, and it is only a not-strictly-rational, frequently compromised estimate of the sanctity of human life – of a difference – that prevents us (or most of us) from killing and eating human beings. Even that notion might be utilitarian at some level, just as having any idea of human dignity and mutual respect is utilitarian, but it’s still different from worrying about disease transmission. The post puts the matter in terms of “screwing,” so imagines the animal in the passive, receptive, archetypal feminine role, but common bestiality (as in porn, in history, in Enumclaw) often includes the reverse. Once the human is de-humanized, it or we become more easily susceptible to exploitation – and an interest in degradation itself is encouraged. Once aligned with the familiar mechanisms of Sadistic eroticism – seeking escalated versions of the same experience just to achieve the same relative stimulation, or stimulation for stimulation’s sake – it seems a very dangerous pattern. That’s what seems to have happened to the guy in Washington.

          Could be those defending the freedom to get off with your Bichon Frise imagine the opposite process, a raising of the beloved pet to the level of an erotic equal. I wonder if the thought or feeling or wish is ever completely absent in the caresses given beloved dogs and cats, as though the animal friend brought to ecstasy by a belly rub might turn around not just with an friendly “kiss,” and a communicated request for more, but with a spoken declaration of true love.Report

      • Fnord in reply to Glyph says:

        I think you’re overestimating the actual public health risks. The health risks associated with zoophilia may be unique, but I doubt they’re greater than simply cohabiting with animals and being sexually active with humans. Now, human sexual promiscuity is another common historical taboo, but I think there’s a definite difference in how society treats those taboos now.

        Since you mention her, Mary “Typhoid Mary” Mallon was only held in quarantine for an extended period because she refused to take basic precautions. It would have been perfectly safe for her to participate in society more or less normally, if she would just stop trying to work as cook.Report

        • Glyph in reply to Fnord says:

          I’m not overestimating them. I am saying that we should correctly estimate them before saying that the government should never, ever, ever intervene in private behavior.

          People seemed to be making blanket statements that bestiality was completely, totally outside the realm of govt., and I don’t think it *necessarily* is from a public health standpoint (though I fully concede this is largely hypothetical at this point in history – there are few practitioners of bestiality, and AFAIK currently no highly contagious dangerous diseases that they can easily vector to the rest of society. If either of these factors change I don’t think it’d be unreasonable to think there might need to be a law and some penalties).

          The fact that Typhoid Mary wouldn’t modify her behavior voluntarily is sort of the point, no? If we could be sure that people would always and ever do the right thing on their own, then we wouldn’t need laws or government at all. That’s why I brought her up. She continued to endanger other people.

          If practitioners of bestiality were shown to be doing the same, we might (theoretically/hypothetically) be justified in legally proscribing the behavior.Report

          • Murali in reply to Glyph says:

            AFAIK currently no highly contagious dangerous diseases that they can easily vector to the rest of society

            Birdflu is a perennial problem in these parts, usually comes from consuming infected poultry. Would probably spread via sexual contact, but you’ll have to confirm with Dr Saunders. And IIRC swineflu was a problem for you a few years ago. a number of coron viruses have been known to jump the species boundary.Report

            • Glyph in reply to Murali says:

              I almost went down this road, but then I thought that a “bird herpes” joke might be in poor taste.Report

              • Murali in reply to Glyph says:

                bird herpes might be in poor taste, but baning bestiality on the basis of disease is a bit excessive, that is like banning the consumption of all meat just because pigs from china are infected.Report

              • Glyph in reply to Murali says:

                I was careful to say this is a hypothetical, based only on the contagiousness and virulence of the theoretical disease and the likelihood of widespread outbreak.

                But there are times when the government is conceptually justified in stepping in to proscribe behavior, if that behavior can be shown to have widespread public health risks (which in the case of disease usually, but not always, implies the proscribed behavior ITSELF must be widespread).

                Also, if in fact there turned out to be such a disease, it still might be best not to ban it, but to instead embark on educational campaigns and providing sheep condoms; maybe even legalizing sheep brothels and giving the animals regular checkups. This would be done on the same theory that we might provide clean needles to heroin addicts (or free condoms to prostitutes) rather than jailing them.Report

    • J@m3z Aitch in reply to CK MacLeod says:

      I was afraid I was pushing the envelope with my comment about the pig/woman movie, but compared to the info CK brings us, I don’t think I was even in the envelope. I’m pretty knowledgeable about the seamier side of life, but even I am a bit startled at the idea of an animal brothel (as Tyler Cowen would say, “markets in everything”). This is both fascinating and disturbing. Humans may have the capacity to strive for nobility, but once again I’m persuaded that we are not, as a species, innately noble.Report

  18. Rufus F. says:

    It’s late and I’m a bit drunk (natch), but I think Jeremy Bentham was okay with killing animals for food, so long as it was done relatively painlessly, but opposed to causing animals to suffer with one reason being it would bleed over into how humans treated each other, so perhaps sexual violation of animals is related to sexual violation of other humans.Report

    • Shazbot5 in reply to Rufus F. says:

      This is about right.

      He was okay with doing medical experiments on dogs, explicitly.

      It is not clear if Bentham thought meat was necessary (in some way) for human health, though. Even Singer would be okay with eating meat if you had to do it for survival. Part of Singer’s case is that all we lose from meat is gustatory pleasure and a bot of convenience in getting complete nutrition. Bentham might’ve thought of meat as more important in the diet than that. Unfortunately, Bentham doesn’t say that much about it, except that animal suffering counts in the utility calculus.Report

      • Shazbot5 in reply to Shazbot5 says:

        I mean, “all we lose when we stop eating meat…”Report

      • J@m3z Aitch in reply to Shazbot5 says:

        all we lose from meat is gustatory pleasure

        Unfortunately, this is where utilitarianism struggles. How can we measure and compare our utility from gustatory pleasure with another species utility from life? On the surface it seems evident that dying’s disutility surely outweighs gustatory utility, but that conclusion seems to rely on assumptions about inter-special (someone give me a better word, please!) equivalency in utility perception.

        Another complicating factor is that in a meatless world, there’d be far fewer agricultual animals than there are now. If, as was suggested to me above, living a fairly miserable life is superior to not living, then a vast reduction in farm animals might, ceteris paribus, cause a vast reduction in net utility.

        Offsetting that, though, is that feeding people directly with vegetable matter would require less cropland than does feeding people indirectly with vegetable matter, via the intervening animal. (My understanding is that, iirc, there’s only ten percent efficiency in transferring caloric energy from grain through cows to human, compared to consuming grains directly). So that might leave more land for wildlife. But would the amount of wildlife equal the lost domestic animals?

        And how would we compare the utility of wild vs, domestic agricultural animals? There’s been criticism here of industrial animal operations, but I find that term overly broad. Some practices strike us as horrible, and despite the conceptual problem of measuring other species’ utility, I’m willing to agree wholeheartedly (what I know of veal operations, or some chicken “factories,” to use a loaded term). But I’ve been on industrial scale dairy farms that treat the animals well. The feed is high quality, because it results in better milk, and the cows, while confined within barns, are free to move about and their bedding is cleaned regularly. (Not that there aren’t other legitimate criticismsnof such operations, such as extensive use of antibiotics and difficulty in managing their nutrient/waste streams, too often resulting in waste overflows into local waterways, but I’m just focusing on animal utility here.)

        And while living free and wild sounds wonderful, in a romantic sort of way, let’s not forget thst nature can be red in tooth and claw, wild animals are often diseased and parasite ridden, and we know factually that most wild animals live longer and healthier lives in captivity.

        I’m not trying to make an argument either for or against meat consumption. In fact I say this as someone who becomes more uncomfortable with meat consumption each time I teach environmental politics (even though I teach it from a fairly conservative, not Look-How-We’re-Destroying-The-Environment!!, perspective), and who is working on substantially reducing his meat consumption. I’m just noting the difficulties I see in using a utilitarian analysis (and of course I’m something of a utilitarian, but as you may know, ine who believes utility is subjective and not directly comparable). And perhaps Singer has satisfactorily covered this and I just am unaware of his response.

        Sorry if folks find this comment ridiculously lengthy. That’s what happens when I decide to take an Adderal. 😉Report

  19. damon says:

    First it was SSM, then Polyamory, now this!

    Won’t SOMEBODY PLEASE think of the childrens!Report