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Should We Eat Pork Philosophy Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Philosophy
Wordcount: 2297 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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Nowadays, people pay more attention on choosing what we eat. At the same time, the issue of animal rights and welfare is being raised and discussed in the society. Dogs have been considered as our companion animals for over 30,000 years (Waugh, 2012), while pigs are being considered as farm animals in most countries. Dogs are loved and cared by human; staying with us and we provide them with comfortable living environment. However, pigs live in intensive factory farms with indecent living conditions, being packed in small areas and treated inhumanely, and being treated as food to human. This situation reveals the problem of unequal treatment between pigs and dogs and it leads us to the topic: should we eat pork if we do not eat dogs?

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Most people against eating dog meat but they allow eating pork; they object to cruelty to dogs while enjoying the produce by cruelty to pigs. We are showing our prejudice towards pigs when we are labelling them as “meat”, because it turns pigs as something, and we are objectifying them as food to human (Grillo, 2012). They are both animals, but what are the differences between pigs and dogs and what is wrong in pigs that make them deserve poorer treatment? Given that pigs and dogs are both animals, then they should be given same treatment. If we refuse to eat dogs, then we should not eat pork. In the following, I will be introducing the problem of moral inconsistency, followed by arguing that indeed pigs and dogs are very similar, and the value of them should be independent of their relationship with humans. Possible arguments from the opposite side, along with some responses will be addressed in the later part.

Psychologists mentioned that people are always inconsistent in our attitude and behaviour, and Elizabeth Anderson once mentioned in her book that she is puzzled and confused with moral inconsistency when she saw pet owners wearing fur coat (Herzog, 2011). We are fed with absurdity when we have inconsistent attitudes and selective empathy towards pigs and dogs, and carnisim is the invisible belief system which drives us to choose what to eat (Joy, 2011). We need to be consistent in ethics so as to avoid contraction between our beliefs, values and actions. Being consistent also reflects our integrity as human beings.

There are several reasons behind moral inconsistency. The “A-B-C model” is a widely accepted theory which talks about our attitudes. Our attitude is guided by three components, they are “Affect, Behaviour and Cognition” (Herzog, 2011). Attitude is how people think and feel towards something, behaviour is your action, cognition is how well you understand that issue. Sometimes, people may encounter moral inconsistency because of keeping a pet, which they are emotionally attached to dogs or other companion animals; or they do not understand how pigs suffering during the process of slaughtering, which they do not consider it as an issue to pigs to be treated inhumanely and killed. People may refuse to eat pork once they see, smell or listen to sounds and situation in the slaughterhouse.

Chris Diehm, an environmental philosopher discovered that even when people are pointed out with moral inconsistency, we often think of ways to turn personal behaviour into something reasonable and justifiable (Herzog, 2011). Some of us do realise the differences in our relationships and the way we treat different pigs and dogs; however, we remove our inconsistency by changing our beliefs instead of changing our behaviour so as to feel comfortable. People are unwilling to admit that we are inconsistent or incoherent mainly due to our interest and selfishness, some love the taste of pork and they defend eating pigs. Although Hal Herzog mentioned that moral incoherence is one of the inevitable features of human nature (Herzog, 2011), it is not an excuse of treating pigs and dogs unequally. Human nature does not justify moral incoherence; rather, our human nature, especially our ability to reason and intelligence makes us distinctive from other animals. Instead, human should make good use of the ability to reason and morality to achieve moral coherence and consistency. Now I will turn to the reasons why pigs and dogs deserve same treatment from human.

First of all, pigs and dogs are similar in two ways, both psychologically and physically. In psychological point of view, pigs and dogs are also sentient animals, which they have emotions and they have the ability to experience happiness and sadness. Pigs can be both optimists and pessimists, and their living environment is one of the factors affecting their emotions (Berkoff, 2011). Furthermore, both of them have long term memory of their experience in pain and pleasure, especially for pigs, they not only suffer their own pain, but witness and remember pain of others (PETA, 2013). It has been proved in different scientific reports that both pigs and dogs are very intelligent. They can also develop complex relationships with other species, and they care what happens to them (Grillo, 2012). Each animal, including pigs and dogs has their unique personality and characteristic. In biological point of view, according to the classification of living things, pigs and dogs belong to the class of mammals. They have many common characteristics, such as being vertebrates, warm-blooded, having furs and hairs and sweat glands, as well as they undergo internal fertilization. In terms of physical appearance, they have similar teeth and heart structure. They can also perform simple tasks that children are able to do, and doing different tricks like jumping hoops, bowing and standing (Angier, 2009). It is also found that both pigs and dogs have certain preferences towards temperature, such as under cold conditions, dogs need to wear clothes, and pigs can turn on the heater when they are given the chance and turn it off when they feel hot (PETA, 2013). There are a lot misunderstandings or unknown facts about pigs that makes them inferior to dogs. Regarding the psychological and physical similarities, differences in biological structure or emotions do not justify unequal treatment towards pigs.

Secondly, some people hold the idea that human are superior to other animals, so that we have the right to treat them according to their relationships with us, and their values depends on how close we are. Paul Taylor brought out the idea of “species egalitarianism” and “biocentrism” on the ground that not only are animals members of the community, they are also “teleological centres of life that each animal is a unique individual pursing its own good in its own way” (Taylor, 1986). Generally, there are three kinds of values being identified in animals, which are the “commodity, amenity and moral value” (Norton, 1988). Commodity value refers that species can be made into products and being sold in market, for example wool and alligators for making clothes and handbags. Amenity value refers to the presence of animals which improves our lives in a recreational way, such as fishing, hunting or watching performances. Moral value refers to values in species themselves, which includes intrinsic and inherent value; and that value is independent of human (Regan, 2006; Taylor, 1986). The moral value is a universal value, which can be found in all species and it is the same in all species. Unlike commodity and amenity value, moral value does not come in any degree (Regan, 2006). Therefore, animals have their own life and they do not fully depend on human although different species are interdependent in some way. Even if their values depend on human, it would be a mistake if we overlook their own moral values and independence.

Moral value of animals is highly related to the problem of moral inconsistency. Most people responding to some questionnaires stated that they treasured and valued the independent value of animals, which they agreed animals exist independent of any use (Randall, 1986). In spite of the findings from the questionnaires, human place commodity and amenity values on top of moral value of animals in most of the time. Those three values should come together in parallel, and hold equal importance. Furthermore, animals with further relationship with us do not mean that we should or have the rights to treat them unequally and inflict harm on them. We do not know someone does not mean we should hurt that person, and the same applies to animals. Pigs and dogs are independent creatures; they do not live for us.

Despite pigs and dogs are highly similar and they have independent moral values, people hold the opposite view have other arguments that they believe it is fine to treat pigs and dogs in different way. In the following, I will be presenting their objections and some responses why their arguments do not stand.

Some people may argue that pigs and dogs are very different in nature, which means they are not the same when they are born to and born for. People mean that dogs are bred to be friends and companions of human, while pigs are bred as farm animals to be food and meat to feed human. The ones holding this view consider both dogs and pigs as means to human. We should not consider pigs and dogs as “tools” to serve and satisfy human needs since we are not the only species on the world (Regan, 2006). They do not live for us as mentioned previously that animals have independent moral value from us. The nature indeed does not shape animals distinctively for different purposes or uses; it does not separate animals from animals into different categories. It is our intuition or practices which lead us to the idea that pigs and dogs are different. Using the example of human, we are not born to be someone; it is our experience that shapes us. Therefore, it does not make sense in claiming that pigs and dogs are born differently.

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People may say that history and our own culture contributes to the differences between pigs and dogs and the act of eating pork, it makes nothing wrong in following our customs. We develop our practices by learning from our ancestors and parents, copying their way of living including their eating habits. However, following culture and customs does not mean we are acting rightfully or the act is ethically good. For example, racism, gender inequality and slavery existed since long time ago; do we say that they are justifiable because our culture and customs that treat people in different manners and ways? We should not make judgements only base on culture and customs, but also our morality, critical mind and rational thinking. It is undeniably difficult to change our practices and beliefs in a short period of time. A person is easily being tempted when the idea of treating pigs and dogs first comes to his mind; and it certainly takes time to change our habit (Herzog, 2011).

Another argument which is likely to be given by pet lovers who eat meat is that dogs have higher instrumental value. In the past, dogs hunt for human and they are being considered as loyal since long time ago. They stay with us during our ups and downs, offering love and companionship. They can protect human, our property and children, dogs are also being used to detect bombs and drugs (Wogrinrich, 2011); while pigs are only being considered as food to human. Although dogs seem to have higher instrumental values in our life, actually they are equipped with all those talents because they are trained. Some may say dogs can recognise drugs because of their sensitivity in smelling. However, when we look deeply on how dogs identify different types of drugs, it is because they are being taught by human. If they are not trained, their strengths could not be expressed. It is because we human choose them to be taught rather than pigs, it does not mean that pigs cannot perform those tasks and actions, pigs are also trainable as they are intelligent. Pigs can also be our companion animals and we can keep them in our homes. We stereotyped pigs as stupid and dirty, which refrained people from getting close with them in the past. In this way, we cannot support the argument that we do not eat dogs because they are useful, it is human who makes them useful, and we can also provide pigs with skills so that they can have higher instrumental value.

Rick Dove, an animal welfare campaigner once said “It’s an idiotic double standard: you can’t kick a dog, but you can lock a pig up in a small crate and take her piglets away before she can nurse them properly, as any mother is programmed to do. This is man’s insane inhumanity at its worst.” (Kirby, 2010); dog lovers who claim that they love and care about animals are contradicting if they eat pork, who truly love animals should not be morally defending causing one harm and suffering to satisfy their own pleasure. It is hypocritical to love one but totally neglecting the other. If we agree to eat pork, we should accept eating dogs as well regarding their similarity and moral values. If we refuse to eat dogs, then we should not eat pork. Years ago, people have not thought of refusing to eat shark fins due to our traditions and customs, yet people are asking others stop eating shark fins now. Some may not think of treating pigs and dogs and other animals consistently and coherently similarly. Value changes as time passes, it is the matter of time that people should put this matter into practices. Not only between pigs and dogs, but the other animals should also be given same treatment to show our respect to them as one of the members in community.


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