Sie sind auf Seite 1von 5

Richard Craib Introduction to Philosophy Paper #3: Option 2

RACHELS BASIC ARGUMENT FOR VEGETARIANISM

In The Basic Argument for Vegetarianism, James Rachels presents his own Basic Argument for vegetarianism, which is based on the work of Peter Singer (70). Singer recognized that vegetarianism would be a way to prevent the unnecessary suffering of animals, and Rachels argument proceeds with this embedded in his premises. However, Singers other claims are stronger than those employed by Rachels. For example, Singer believed that all animals deserve equal consideration. Rachels goal is to construct a simpler and irrefutably sound argument with less onerous initial premises.

Rachels Basic Argument is as follows: Adapted from (LS 13.2-3)

1) It is wrong to cause pain unless there is good enough reason. 2) 99% of the meat sold at markets available to you is made in the modern meat production business (in which) animals are made to suffer terribly (71). 3) Neither the taste of meat, nor its nourishing properties, nor anything else is a good enough reason to eat that meat. 4) So it is wrong to eat that meat (i.e. the kind produced in (2)).

The premise at 1 is very agreeable. An objector who disagrees would have to say that it is okay to cause pain without good reason. This objector would be a definitively immoral person who would ostensibly disagree with any moral claim including this one but from the standpoint of even the weakest morality, premise 1 is clearly true.

Rachels provides an example of a good reason to cause pain. He says, my childrens doctor caused them pain when he gave them their shots, and they did not consent (71). This is a good example because the doctor knows that there is a very good reason to cause this small amount of pain; and even if the children did not consent, the shots are objectively for their own good. We shall see that no such good reason exists for the pain caused to animals in factory farms.

The premise at 2 sets a definition of the kind of meat that the argument is discussing. It is discussing the factory farmed meat only, and this is the only kind of meat mentioned in the argument. The claim is that 99% of the meat sold at markets available is this kind of meat; this is not intended to be the exact percentage, and in fact, Rachels does not phrase it this way. The number here could be 98%, 97%, or 83% but it will not affect the argument; the argument applies even if it began with a subset of the meat available but the reality is that 99% is approximately correct. The final piece of this premise is whether, in fact, these animals suffer terribly (71) or feel a lot of pain. This is not an easy question to answer. Descartes did not believe that animals had souls and therefore, for him, minimizing the suffering of animals was far from a priority. Can

we be certain that animals feel pain? It would be hard to think about an ants experience of pain but cows and pigs are mammals like us; they have brains, and four limbs, and two eyes, and they cry for help when they get hurt, and as Rachels says, our treatment of [these animals] on factory farms and in the slaughterhouses is one of the worlds great causes of misery (79). All science points toward mammals feeling pain, and if that is true then on these farms, animals live in pain, and die in pain. Therefore, premise 2 is true.

Premise 3 is maybe the most contentious. A casual meat eater will often say I like the taste or I need the protein in defense of his eating meat. This premise references premise 1, on its good reasons for causing pain. To continue the example of the doctor giving shots to children; the doctor causes a brief amount of pain to cause long-term health benefit for the victim of the pain. In the case of eating meat, one is causing a lifelong period of pain and then death for the short-term enjoyment of the effective perpetrator of the pain (effective because without the meat eater there would be no factory farms). Comparing the two examples, one can clearly see which is a good reason for causing pain, and which comes far short of a good reason. Could there possibly be a good enough reason for prolonged pain and eventual slaughter of an animal?

Nutrition might be a good reason; if a person was starving and needed to inflict pain on a chicken in order to survive, they could and would do that. However, this situation is not the reality for most people in the world today; people are not eating meat

to prevent themselves from starving, they are eating meat instead of other foods. It is well known that every kind of human nutrition can be obtained from sources other than meat. Therefore, the premise at 3 is true.

We need only show that the argument is valid that the conclusion must follow from these premises, and then the argument will also be sound as we have already shown each premise to be true.

A condensed version shows validity: (1) it is wrong to cause pain without good reason; (2) pain is caused to animals in factory farms, (3) there is no good reason for eating factory farmed meat; (4) so it is wrong to eat meat. So (2) and (3) are used together to invoke (1), and then (4) follows from this. The argument is valid, and hence the argument is sound.

The Basic Argument is very simple; however, Rachels states that it is limited application (71) because it says nothing about animals raised on old-fashioned family farms or animals killed in hunter gatherer societies (71). It is only about factory farmed meat. However, our argument and research showed that about 99% of the available meat is indeed factory farmed and hence the argument applies very strongly to people in modern industrialized countries, and should compel them to become a bona fide vegetarians.

It is worth highlighting that the Basic Argument is a moral argument. It argues that the factory farm meat industry is immoral and consumers of that meat are acting immorally because it is wrong. Many other objections fall against the fact that this is a moral argument. For example, because the argument could lead to a mass boycott of meat then this could lead to decreased profits of the meat industry and hence job losses. Throughout history and into the present day there have been widespread immoral practices; for example, slavery. However, once it becomes clear that those industries are immoral it is not the role of the public to continue to support them; the role of the public is to do the exact opposite and put an end to them.

Rachels Basic Argument is short, simple and sound. The conclusion is powerful, and could have a large impact on reducing the misery in the world the misery of billions of animals. It is appropriate and relevant to the biggest meat eaters in the world. The soundness of the argument means that meat eaters will be hard pressed to find legitimate reasons why their eating meat is not wrong.