Should humans wipe out all carnivorous animals so the succeeding generations of herbivores can live in peace?

That was the Quora question.

David Pearce’s answer:

“Sentient beings shouldn’t hurt, harm, and kill each other. This isn’t an argument for mass genocide against cannibals or carnivores, but for dietary reform. Humans are prone to status quo bias. So let’s do a thought-experiment. Imagine we stumble across an advanced civilisation that has abolished predation, disease, famine, and all the horrors of primitive Darwinian life. The descendants of archaic lifeforms flourish unmolested in their wildlife parks – free living but not “wild”. Should we urge scrapping their regime of compassionate stewardship of the living world – and a return to asphyxiation, disembowelling and being eaten alive? Or is a happy biosphere best conserved intact?

“Back here on Earth, the exponential growth of computer power entails that every cubic metre of the planet will shortly be accessible to surveillance and micro-management. In consequence, which life-forms and states of consciousness exist in tomorrow’s wildlife parks will be up to us. Mass-produced in vitro meat, the CRISPR revolution in biotechnology, and fertility regulation via cross-species immunocontraception mean there is no need to re-enact the traditional Darwinian horror story indefinitely. On some fairly modest assumptions, fertility regulation is ethically preferable to Malthusian methods of population control in humans and nonhuman alike.

“Critics might claim that a genetically tweaked vegetarian lion isn’t “truly” a lion. But this is like saying non-Caucasians who lack the 1% to 3% Neanderthal DNA typical of Caucasians aren’t “truly” human. Or vice versa. In short, beware naive species essentialism.

“For now this debate is fanciful. Before humans can start systematically helping sentient beings, we must stop systematically harming them. Thankfully, the in vitro meat revolution promises a world where factory-farms and slaughterhouses have been outlawed.  Before seriously contemplating high-tech Jainism, let’s shut the death factories.”

2 comments

  1. clive barker · April 28, 2015

    I think this is the most retarded thing I have ever read. ‘predation, disease, famine’ and all the other ‘horrors’ you described are an integral part of nature and natural processes. Removing them would either remove the very ‘essence’ of what makes the natural world work, or would have dire unforseen consequences of a possibly catastrophic nature.

    “Well, death and predation and all that are just so depressing! Since I don’t like it, it must be bad! Let’s all imagine a world where everything is good and kind, it would be literally perfect!”

    I just facepalmed so hard that my brains were ejected from my skull, flew against the wall, and slowly slithered down like one of those wacky wallwalker octopuses you used to dig out of a box of frosted flakes.

    And let’s not even discuss what exactly ‘abolishing’ carnivores would entail. You are going to wipe them all out, right? I know that you typed a little disclaimer like ‘This isn’t an argument for genocide, or anything, guys, but, like, let’s imagine if they were all ‘abolished’ instead!’

    Newsflash, qualia-boy: Those plants that most likely make up your entire dietary intake? They predate, they cannibalize, they die, too, sometimes being crunched between human teeth while still alive.

    If this is supposed to be a thought experiment, it’s an abject failure.

    Like

    • algekalipso · April 29, 2015

      Hello clive barker,

      Let me respond point by point to your comment.

      > I think this is the most retarded thing I have ever read. ‘predation, disease, famine’ and all the other ‘horrors’ you described are an integral part of nature and natural processes. Removing them would either remove the very ‘essence’ of what makes the natural world work, or would have dire unforseen consequences of a possibly catastrophic nature.

      There are a number of philosophical background assumptions that you seem to hold in your analysis.

      First, we start with a naturalistic fallacy. “‘predation, disease, famine’ and all the other ‘horrors’ you described are an integral part of nature and natural processes.” Sure they are an integral part of *current* natural wildlife. But that fact does not in any way imply anything on the level of ethics. Rape, murder, famine, etc. are all natural and widely prevalent properties of human groups. Does that make them ethically permissible?

      Second, there seems to be a strong hint of essentialism in your comment that does not really go anywhere. What exactly is the basis for thinking that there is such a thing as the essence of a lion? Animals evolve over millions of years and adapt to new circumstances. The definition of a specie is something we decide based on observation, and it does not have a true ontological grounding. As Sartre would say: Existence comes before essence (I’m not an existentialist, but hey, this is a well known reference to make my point across). If there is a metaphysical “animal soul” or something, then yes, maybe there is some kind of risk of accidentally losing that. But we do not have a lot of reasons to think that’s the case. Instead, I go by the Buddhist notion of emptiness: The lion is in your imagination. Out there there is an animal with consciousness. The idea that it is “lion consciousness” is something your mind is projecting.

      Third, you are presenting a false dilemma: Either they loose their “essence” or there are terrible unforeseen consequences. How does this dilemma come about? The first part, as I mentioned above, relies on shaky philosophical assumptions. But unforeseen consequences are certainly something I care about deeply. In fact, I am a consequentialist. All I care is the consequences!

      > “Well, death and predation and all that are just so depressing! Since I don’t like it, it must be bad! Let’s all imagine a world where everything is good and kind, it would be literally perfect!”

      It is not that I do not like death and predation. It is that I am concerned about the wellbeing of all sentient beings. And there is widely available converging evidence that nonhuman animals experience pain and suffering just as we do (though they don’t experience encephalized emotions – i.e. hedonic tone associated to concepts).

      Coming back to your naturalistic fallacy, the main problem with only thinking of the possible consequences of acting is that you neglect the bad things that are happening already. That’s called Status Quo bias. That is, you intuitively feel that how things currently are is indeed Ok and good… because that’s nature! But why wold nature magically be the best case scenario? It is highly unlikely that there isn’t anything we can do to alleviate animal suffering.

      > I just facepalmed so hard that my brains were ejected from my skull, flew against the wall, and slowly slithered down like one of those wacky wallwalker octopuses you used to dig out of a box of frosted flakes.

      Ok…

      > And let’s not even discuss what exactly ‘abolishing’ carnivores would entail. You are going to wipe them all out, right? I know that you typed a little disclaimer like ‘This isn’t an argument for genocide, or anything, guys, but, like, let’s imagine if they were all ‘abolished’ instead!’

      It wasn’t me who asked the question like that. I don’t personally think “abolishing” carnivores is the way to go. I just pasted the Quora question as is, with David Pearce’s reply.

      But, nonetheless, we can discuss what abolishing carnivores would entail. We can do so in a reasonable way, by considering various options in a systematic way. The first thing that most people think here is genocide of species. But there are more options. You can use fertility control to reduce the population of carnivores. This would not involve actively harming or killing carnivores. The obvious drawback of doing this is the Malthusian dynamics that follow such an action. That’s why cross-species fertility control is ideal. That is, you regulate several species’ population in a dynamic way.

      In principle we can even use drones and robots to take care of the welfare of every animal on earth. Likewise, reducing the population of predators is also not the only possibility. We can either change their genes so they are vegetarian, or if you are still concerned about “essences” you can always simply drop off in-vitro meat to lions in a natural wildlife reservoir.

      > Newsflash, qualia-boy: Those plants that most likely make up your entire dietary intake? They predate, they cannibalize, they die, too, sometimes being crunched between human teeth while still alive.

      Plants probably do not solve the phenomenal binding problem of consciousness. The cell walls effectively limit the overall integrated information processing of the entire organism. But, I am very interested in hearing about evidence that shows that plants could be consccious. If it turns out plants are conscious, then vegetarianism will not be far enough. We can eat synthetic food (no problem in principle).

      > If this is supposed to be a thought experiment, it’s an abject failure.

      Predation is very very bad. If you are eaten by a lion alive, you’ll agree with me.

      Like

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