I’m Brandon Cooper, a 20 year old psychology student and I recently started my BrandonCoop blog on a variety of topics including psychology, animal rights and veganism. I turned vegan 2 years ago and this topic is very important for me, which is why I enjoy blogging it. I’m very glad I was allowed to make a guest post here.
The topics I would like to write about made me think about my motivations to be a vegan. In a recent interview (The Radical Plan To Phase Out Earth’s Predatory Species), philosopher David Pearce talks about eliminating suffering by preventing predators from causing it in the wild when they kill other animals. He proposes genetic engineering as a way to change the animal kingdom in order to stop suffering that occurs there all the time due to Darwinian evolution. At first this proposal may sound like a caricature of thoughts frequently associated with veganism. You may have encountered people saying: ‘But what about nature? Animals kill each other in nature, why can’t you do it?’
Obviously, there are several ways in which the suffering caused by animals differs from the suffering caused by us for meat consumption. Examples are that we don’t need animal products to live a healthy life, that we can make the moral choice not to do so and that the suffering we cause usually extends over a longer time-span: We don’t just kill other animals; they also have to live a life in mass-production before they die.
Nevertheless, the ideas from David Pearce still made me think about one core motivation of veganism: Trying to reduce animal suffering. For me, this is the number one reason to be a vegan. I don’t have to be a vegan for health reasons; I could most likely have a healthy diet if my meat-consumption is reduced to a healthy degree. Also, I’m not primarily a vegan due to environmental reasons. They are important, but what ultimately convinced me to become a vegetarian and finally a vegan is that I don’t want to be the cause of animal suffering.
The problem I encountered thinking about this is that exactly this motivation, trying to reduce suffering in animals, would lead to ideas such as the ones proposed by David Pearce. Personally, I think that bio-engineering nature in a way to eliminate all naturally occurring suffering might be a bit extreme. I am relatively sure that even most vegans and vegetarians would agree that the ideas proposed by Pearce are too extreme, but how would we justify that?
If religious reasons to hold that one version of nature – in this case the existing one- is in some way superior to another version of nature – in this case the nature we would construct via bio-engineering- fall apart because of the Darwinian as opposed to sacred origin of the variety of species that exist on earth, which other reasons might there be to oppose the idea of changing nature to fit our moral ideals? One could try to argue that such an extreme bio-engineering would in some sense violate animal freedom. In this scenario animals would be highly dependent on the ways in which we want to change them instead of having the freedom to live freely in the way they want to. This objection to Pearce might be in line with the thoughts of many vegans because maintaining animal freedom seems to be a goal also widely held in the vegan community.
After all, this topic is of course only of theoretical nature because bio-engineering nature in such a way is far from easy and most likely not achievable in the near future. Even if it happens to be achievable, humanity would probably not go down that path because humanity does so far not mainly consist of vegans that try to reduce animal suffering. Nevertheless, I find the topic interesting to think about and I would be interested in your thoughts on it.
Should we try to change nature in a way to eliminate all extreme suffering or does that simply go too far?
I would be glad if you check out some of my other posts such as “Eating animals makes us deny their mental capacities” and “Why we don’t eat certain animals”.
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