Dear Humane Herald,
What [animal rights activists] are doing is worthy of praise; I am often disturbed by the ongoing practices of the meat market industry.
Having said that, I [have identified] what seems to me a faulty logic.
Suppose we establish that a zebra is a sentient being and a lion is a sentient being. Then [opponents of the instrumental use of animals] should do everything possible to prevent the lion from eating the zebra, since the zebra (one can argue) is instrumental to the survival of the lion.
It is obvious then that this path goes against the law of nature.
Furthermore, I believe meat-eater humans share some vestigial properties with animals such as lions, since [humans] have hunted, herded, and consumed animal meat since the beginning of time. It follows that it would be against nature to deprive humans of meat.
Sure, one can say that meat is not instrumental to our survival and the planet would be a much better place if we leave animals alone but that should be part of an educational process, not… a political one.
~ Concerned Carnivore
Dear Concerned Carnivore,
You raise some of the most commonly voiced criticisms of animal rights. The philosophers who work in this area have generally come to consensus that the “law of nature” argument is a variant of the classic “is/ought” fallacy:
More discussion of this fallacy as it pertains specifically to animal rights appears at the following link (where this fallacy is actually the very first one listed):
As pointed out in the latter article, rape occurs in nature, but that doesn’t make it acceptable. Rape is part of human nature, but that doesn’t make it something we should allow. Animals sometimes rape each other, but virtually all human cultures on the planet have concluded that this reality does not justify humans raping each other.
Regarding whether it’s a political or merely educational issue: that argument was used to defend the practice of human slavery against political elimination. Pro-slavery advocates reasoned that people should be free to enslave one another—but, bizarrely, not the right to be free from slavery!—and that the burden was on anti-slavery advocates to teach people not to choose to enslave one another.
Thankfully, the Republican Party of the 1850’s and 1860’s, Abraham Lincoln, and the other proto-abolitionists of the 1800’s rejected that view and realized that a political solution was mandatory.
We are in the same place today. Fortunately, there is now the political will to bring an end to the mass mutilation, torture, and slaughter of over 10 billion animals per year.
Moreover, since the environmental costs of the animal-killing industry have become prohibitive, humans have perhaps even greater incentives to eliminate the killing industry now than ever before.