Narration of Archie: As I sat at my table, surrounded by friends, I saw Zach with a pork and beef sandwich. My plate was laden, as usual, with a salad, beans, and vegetables. Zach began to attack my habits;
Zach: Well, Archie, I see you again have failed to succumb to the most primary human sustenance.
Archie: I assume you are facetiously referring to some kind of flesh?
Zach: Flesh- you sophist- don’t persuade me with rhetoric, persuade me with logic.
Archie: Logic? Perhaps, Zach, you would regale me with your intellect and divulge exactly what logic leads you to consume flesh, then we shall see where logic comes to play. I am sure your mind is up to that task, but I don’t want to turn you off your meal if you think it not so…
Zach: Archie, nothing could possibly persuade me not to finish this delicious sandwich. As you wish. Meat is justifiable, not only for the extrinsic good of our health, but more importantly because we have a right–a principled justification– to eat meat.
Archie: I’m not sure I understand you- a right? Where does this right originate?
Zach: it originates in power. It originates in our being a more developed, intelligent, and capable species than any of the animals we now consume.
Archie: I see. So power constitutes a right to decide on those weaker than us?
Zach: That is my claim. Also, I will add, that human beings are fundamentally more important than animals because of their intellect and ability to self-actualize. That is, we know we exist, and suffer greatly in death, in a way far more significant way to animals.
Archie: Zach, I’ll respond to your first argument, before moving on to this addendum… may I ask, importantly, what exactly makes murder wrong?
Zach: Well, it is illegal
Archie: And why is it made to be illegal?
Zach: Because it causes suffering to that person, as they are the ones who lose a potentially fulfilling future life. Also, people around the murdered person suffer greatly.
Archie: So you don’t think this applies to animals, correct?
Zach: OF COURSE NOT! Animals can be killed, especially when it’s done without pain, because the other animals certainly don’t feel any sadness, and the animal itself isn’t self-aware enough to know what it is losing in death.
Archie: So, if a being doesn’t suffer in death, it isn’t aware fully of its own existence, and no-body cares about it, then to kill it painlessly is ethical?
Zach: That seems to be my principle, yes.
Archie: Is it ever ok to kill a human being?
Archie: Imagine, for a moment, a heavily disabled individual. Describe for me, if you will, a person who suffered brain damage.
Zach: Well, a person who suffered great brain damage might have no rational thought, might not even be conscious, and might even be in a vegetative state
Archie: And now, Zach, would you describe for me a baby, of perfect health, 2 days after it is born?
Zach: Sure- a baby still sees upside down, it isn’t consciously self-aware, and it can’t speak. It has a few instinctual desires and is probably quite fearful of the world around it.
Archie: Now, imagine those two examples- would it be wrong to kill them?
Zach: How could it not be? They are human beings. It is murder.
Archie: Surely though, I would be justified in killing them if I did it with a painless injection, or walked up behind them and shot them in the head without any fore-warning. Have they suffered in this death?
Zach: No, it still seems wholly immoral, I can’t see where you are taking this argument, but… well no, they haven’t suffered.
Archie: And what if we imagine that this babies mother has just died while giving birth, and the father is not to be found. Furthermore, the disabled person has no family or relatives, and is living in a government disabled home, with no visitors. Does anyone suffer if I kill them?
Zach: No, if no-one has an emotional connection to them, then sure- no-one suffers when they die. Except that you take away the potential for the baby to enjoy life!
Archie: Very well noticed Zach, that potential is removed. Would you not agree that in killing a healthy animal, they too have a life removed which could have been, for that animal, rather fulfilling?
Zach: Yes, I do agree.
Archie: So here we are, with two examples of humans that really, by your principle, can be killed! Don’t you agree that neither the child nor the disabled person understood what they lost, felt pain, and no-one cared for them and thus didn’t suffer either?
Zach: well it seems I must agree. But I still think animals are fundamentally weaker than us, and we have a right to dominate them!
Archie: An argument like this is certainly interesting. I will have to probe it to discover any fault…
Zach: Probe away.
Archie: Well, Zach, you agree that you are stronger than me?
Zach: Undeniably so.
Archie: And you could defeat me in a fight, and probably in intellectual debate as well.
Archie: I agree. So, kill me.
Zach: Sorry? Archie did I hear you correctly?
Archie: Yes, you have, by your logic, the justifiable right to kill me, because you are more powerful than me, correct?
Zach: I can’t kill you Archie, power of not- we are equals.
Archie: Why are we equals?
Zach: Because we both suffer, and are at least similar enough in intellect.
Archie: What is relevant intellect and suffering then? Is it the ability to fear death that makes us equals, or something more fundamental?
Zach: it is nothing more fundamental, we are equal because we both suffer in similar ways.
Archie: Do you know animals mourn their dead? And that they recognize, (pigs, at least), 30 individuals around them?
Archie: And did you know that in the line up to be slaughtered, cows start mounting one another in a desperate attempt to get a moment of pleasure before their inescapable doom?
Zach: No, I suppose not
Archie: So, would you not agree that animals suffer too!
Zach: Well yes, I suppose so.
Archie: Surely we agree now, that murder is wrong when the thing which died suffered, or its family suffered, or we remove the potential to take away life.
Zach: yes, and I suppose animals suffer the harms of murder in a way relatively similar to humans… perhaps veganism is legitimate! Thankyou!