Unfortunately for ethical egoism, the claim that we will all be better off if every one of us does what is in his or her own interest is incorrect. This is shown by what are known as "prisoner's dilemma" situations, which are playing an increasingly important role in discussions of ethical theory... At least on the collective level, therefore, egoism is self-defeating - a conclusion well brought out by Parfit in his aforementioned Reasons and Persons.
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...the nervous systems of other animals were not artificially constructed - as a robot might be artificially constructed - to mimic the pain behavior of humans. A capacity to feel pain obviously enhances a species' prospects of survival...it is surely unreasonable to suppose that nervous systems that are virtually identical physiologically, have a common origin and a common evolutionary function, and result in similar forms of behavior in similar circumstances should actually operate in an entirely different manner on the level of subjective feelings.
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For most humans, especially for those in modern urban and suburban communities, the most direct form of contact with nonhuman animals is at meal time: we eat them.... The use and abuse of animals raised for food far exceeds, in sheer numbers of animals affected, any other kind of mistreatment.
The statement "I am in pain" may be one piece of evidence for the conclusion that the speaker is in pain, but it is not the only possible evidence, and since people sometimes tell lies, not even the best possible evidence. Even if there were stronger grounds for refusing to attribute pain to those who do not have language, the consequences of this refusal might lead us to reject the conclusion. Human infants and young children are unable to use language. Are we to deny that a year-old child can suffer?
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It may be thought justifiable to require tests on animals of potentially life-saving drugs, but the same kinds of tests are used for products like cosmetics, food coloring, and floor polishes. Should thousands of animals suffer so that a new kind of lipstick or floor wax can be put on the market? Don't we already have an excess of most of these products? Who benefits from their introduction, except the companies that hope to profit from them?
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Even in the era of AIDS, sex raises no unique moral issues at all. Decisions about sex may involve considerations about honesty, concern for others, prudence, and so on, but there is nothing special about sex in this respect, for the same could be said of decisions about driving a car. (In fact, the moral issues raised by driving a car, both from an environmental and from a safety point of view, are much more serious than those raised by sex.)
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Whereas the property-owning middle class could win freedom for themselves on the basis of rights to property--thus excluding others from the freedom they gain--the property-less working class possess nothing but their title as human beings. Thus they can liberate themselves only by liberating all humanity.
People may hope that the meat they buy came from an animal who died without pain, but they do not really want to know about it. Yet those who, by their purchases, require animals to be killed do not deserve to be shielded from this or any other aspect of the production of the meat they buy.
One thing is certain: you will find plenty of worthwhile things to do. You will not be bored, or lack fulfillment in your life. Most important of all, you will know that you have not lived and died for nothing, because you will have become part of the great tradition of those who have responded to the amount of pain and suffering in the universe by trying to make the world a better place.
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While it is absurd to blame Marx for something he did not foresee and certainly would have condemned if he had foreseen it, the distanced between Marx's predicted communist society and the form taken by 'communism' in the twentieth century may in the end be traceable to Marx's misconception of the flexibility of human nature.
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No society has succeeded in abolishing the distinction between ruler and ruled... to be a ruler gives one special status and, usually, special privileges. During the Communist era, important officials in the Soviet Union had access to special shops selling delicacies unavailable to ordinary citizens; before China allowed capitalist enterprises in its economy, travelling by car was a luxury limited to tourists and those high in the party hierarchy Throughout the 'communist' nations, the abolition of the old ruling class was followed by the rise of a new class of party bosses and well-placed bureaucrats, whose behaviour and life-style came more and more to resemble that of their much-denounced predecessors. In the end, nobody believed in the system any more. That, couple with its inability to match the productivity of the less bureaucratically controlled, more egoistically driven capitalist economies, led to its downfall.
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In the past 20 years alone, it adds up to more death than were caused by all the civil and international wars adn government repression of the entire twentieth century, the century of Hitler and Stalin. How much would we give to prevent those horrors? Yet how little are we doing to prevent today's even larger toll and all the misery that it involves? I believe that if you read this book to the end, and look honestly and carefully at our situation, assessing both the facts and the ethical arguments, you will agree that we must act.
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At least ten times as many people died from preventable, poverty-related diseases on September 11, 2011, as died in the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on that black day. The terrorist attacks led to trillions of dollars being spent on the 'war on terrorism' and on security measures that have inconvenienced every air traveller since then. The deaths caused by poverty were ignored. So whereas very few people have died from terrorism since September 11, 2001, approximately 30, 000 people died from poverty-related causes on September 12, 2001, and on every day between then and now, and will die tomorrow. Even when we consider larger events like the Asian tsunami of 2004, which killed approximately 230, 000 people, or the 2010 earthquake in Haiti that killed up to 200, 000, we are still talking about numbers that represent just one week's toll for preventable, poverty-related deaths - and that happens fifty-two weeks in every year.
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It is easy to take a stand about a remote issue, but speciesists, like racists, reveal their true nature when the issue comes nearer home. To protest about bullfighting in Spain, the eating of dogs in South Korea, or the slaughter of baby seals in Canada, while continuing to eat eggs from hens who have spent their lives crammed into cages, or veal from calves who have been deprived of their mothers, their proper diet, or the freedom to lie down with their legs extended, is like denouncing apartheid in South Africa while asking your neighbors not to sell their houses to blacks.
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To protest about bullfighting in Spain, the eating of dogs in South Korea, or the slaughter of baby seals in Canada while continuing to eat eggs from hens who have spent their lives crammed into cages, or veal from calves who have been deprived of their mothers, their proper diet, and the freedom to lie down with their legs extended, is like denouncing apartheid in South Africa while asking your neighbors not to sell their houses to blacks.
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As far as food is concerned, the great extravagance is not caviar or truffles, but beef, pork and poultry. Some 38 percent of the world's grain crop is now fed to animals, as well as large quantities of soybeans. There are three times as many domestic animals on this planet as there are human beings. The combined weight of the world's 1.28 billion cattle alone exceeds that of the human population. While we look darkly at the number of babies being born in poorer parts of the world, we ignore the over-population of farm animals, to which we ourselves contribute... [t]hat, however, is only part of the damage done by the animals we deliberately breed. The energy intensive factory farming methods of the industrialised nations are responsible for the consumption of huge amounts of fossil fuels. Chemical fertilizers, used to grow the feed crops for cattle in feedlots and pigs and chickens kept indoors in sheds, produce nitrous oxide, another greenhouse gas. Then there is the loss of forests. Everywhere, forest-dwellers, both human and non-human, can be pushed out. Since 1960, 25 percent of the forests of Central America have been cleared for cattle. Once cleared, the poor soils will support grazing for a few years; then the graziers must move on. Shrub takes over the abandoned pasture, but the forest does not return. When the forests are cleared so the cattle can graze, billions of tons of carbon dioxide are released into the atmosphere. Finally, the world's cattle are thought to produce about 20 percent of the methane released into the atmosphere, and methane traps twenty-five times as much heat from the sun as carbon dioxide. Factory farm manure also produces methane because, unlike manured dropped naturally in the fields, it dies not decompose in the presence of oxygen. All of this amounts to a compelling reason... for a plant based diet.
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Evolution has no moral direction. An evolutionary understanding of human nature can explain the differing intuitions we have when we are faced with an individual rather than with a mass of people, or with people close to us rather than with those far away, but it does not justify those feelings.
Terrorism has made our world an integrated community in a new and frightening way. Not merely the activities of our neighbors, but those of the inhabitants of the most remote mountain valleys of the farthest-flung countries of our planet, have become our business. We need to extend the reach of the criminal law there and to have the means to bring terrorists to justice without declaring war on an entire country in order to do it. For this we need a sound global system of criminal justice, so justice does not become the victim of national differences of opinion. We also need, though it will be far more difficult to achieve, a sense that we really are one community, that we are people who recognize not only the force of prohibitions against killing each other but also the pull of obligations to assist one another. This may not stop religious fanatics from carrying out suicide missions, but it will help to isolate them and reduce their support.
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In an earlier stage of our development most human groups held to a tribal ethic. Members of the tribe were protected, but people of other tribes could be robbed or killed as one pleased. Gradually the circle of protection expanded, but as recently as 150 years ago we did not include blacks. So African human beings could be captured, shipped to America, and sold. In Australia white settlers regarded Aborigines as a pest and hunted them down, much as kangaroos are hunted down today. Just as we have progressed beyond the blatantly racist ethic of the era of slavery and colonialism, so we must now progress beyond the speciesist ethic of the era of factory farming, of the use of animals as mere research tools, of whaling, seal hunting, kangaroo slaughter, and the destruction of wilderness. We must take the final step in expanding the circle of ethics. -
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