Tuesday, September 2, 2008

A Quote from One of My Favorite Australians

I'm reading one of Peter Singer's books. He's one of my heroes.  He has very strong controversial views and I love people with strong controversial views--well, probably more when I agree with them.

I'm not sure if I agree with ALL of his views, but so far I agree with most of those that I've read about.

I am thinking of doing several posts with quotes that I like from the book.   Reading his book gives me so much to think about, and also so much I want to write about. 

So, here's the first one.

It's a bit long.

I may for instance be wondering whether it is right to eat meat. I would have a better chance of reaching the right decision, or at least a soundly based decision if I knew a number of facts about the capacity of animals for suffering, and about the methods of rearing and slaughtering animals now being used. I might also want to know about the effect of a vegetarian diet on human health, and considering the world food shortage, whether more or less food would be produced by giving up meat production. Once I have got evidence on these questions, I must assess it and bring it together with whatever moral views I hold.

I don't think we should force our moral views on others. But by force, I mean physically prevent someone from doing what they feel is okay. I don't think SHARING our moral views is forcing our moral views on someone; well, especially if we are sharing our views on our personal blog, and people have the choice whether they want to read it or not.   I think writing about vegetarianism on MY blog is different than lecturing a friend as she bites into her ham sandwich.    It's just like I think someone has the right to write an essay that's anti-homeschooling on their blog.   However, I would not be at all friendly towards someone who approaches us at the grocery store with a lecture on why Jack needs to be in school.

I don't feel I have a right to prevent other people from eating meat. That's their choice. I do think I have a right to try to educate people and correct misconceptions they might have.

I think we all have our rights to our opinions, but I think educated opinions have much more weight than uneducated opinions.

I think we need to do research on a subject before our opinion becomes truly valid. The problem is that in doing research, it's hard to sometimes separate fact from passionate opinions.

I personally find this a huge challenge whether it's regarding animal rights, male circumcision, breastfeeding, vaccination, co-sleeping, Israel, etc. A lot of books on these subjects have valuable facts, but they're sometimes clouded with manipulative writings.

I guess in the end we have to educate ourselves and filter out the bullshit.  And yeah, what's bullshit to one person is beautiful gospel to another.

I'm still struggling with the animal rights issue. Giving up meat was fairly easy for me. Being Vegan was very hard and I gave it up quickly. I'm not comfortable with myself and the choices I am making right now. Do I want to go back to being full vegan?  Probably not.   Do I want to stay vegetarian, but cut back on dairy and eggs? Do I want to eat dairy and eggs, but make sure it doesn't come from a factory farm?   I really don't know right now.   I'm confused and struggling with these issues.  

Here's a confession. The library had another book by Peter Singer. Animal Liberation. I didn't get it. I was too scared to read it. I thought it would make me feel too guilty. I was a coward. I thought the book would make me feel bad. Ignorance is bliss. Knowledge can make us feel like total crap.

There are blogs on my blogroll that sometimes make me feel uncomfortable. At times I don't enjoy reading them. I could say negative things about these people. Stop pushing your opinions down my throat. You have no right to write things on your blog that make me feel uncomfortable! You're being intolerant of people who make difference choices than you.

I don't do that though because I feel that they have a right to their opinions, especially since their opinions sound very well-thought out and educated. I think some of their ideas are a bit too extreme for my tastes, but if I can take what they say with a grain of salt, I think I can use the information from their blogs to help me make some improvements in my own lifestyle choices.

None of us can be perfect.   I think it's virtually impossible to live a life in a way that never indirectly harms others.   

I don't think any of this is about ENDING suffering.   I think the best we can do as individuals is REDUCE suffering.


Darcy said...

Check out The Way We Eat: Why Our Food Choices Matter it deals more with the vegetarian aspect of ethics. It won't make you feel as bad about not being vegan.

Animal Liberation is fantastic as well. I only skimmed through parts of it but it deals with the actual movement and those nuts who burn facilities and torch the homes of scientists who test on animals.

I would stay away from Rethinking Life and Death unless you are seeking some sort of degree in ethics or are doing research for starting your own utilitarian society.

I enjoy Singer's writings a lot. And I agree that you don't have to agree with everything he writes, but even the things you don't agree with will at least get you to thinking "why" on either side of the issue.

When we stop questioning things, we start to lose our own identity and with it our own morals.

Dina said...


I definitely want to read The Way We Eat. I guess it was published recently.

I finally figured out that the book I'm reading is excerpts from Singer's other books. There's a few chapters from Animal Liberation and other books as well.

I loved the chapters from Animal Liberation. The only thing is I start wondering what information might be outdated now. Such as....what's going on in the Veal industry now? Is it still as bad?

It's so hard to get a clear answer sometimes about these things. I can't really trust PETA because they're pretty much against the use of ANY animals--no matter how gentle you are with them.

So far, I do trust Singer. He's persuasive and upfront without being emotionally manipulative. You know how some people will talk through the eyes of the animal, or the eyes of an infant?

There's a difference between saying "The puppy whimpered in the corner of his cage" and "The puppy sat there, sad in the corner of his cage. He missed his mommy. He was so alone. He felt hopeless."

anja said...

All you can do is what is comfortable for you. Being a full on vegan was too difficult, so don't go there again. You're (in my humble opinion) going down the best road -- thinking, considering, taking all the arguments into consideration before making an informed decision.

Dina said...


Thanks. I agree with you. I'll slowly figure it all out. I hope!

Darcy said...

There is an updated 25th anniversary edition of Animal Liberation. It has some interesting additions.

The veal industry is honestly not much better than it use to be. The calves are still crammed into crates. There is no other way to make veal feel like veal. If it was allowed to run free for more than a week of its life, the tenderness would be gone.

Bettina said...

Anything involving moral and ethical choices can be hard to sort through, there are so many greys and so many people trying to force it to be black and white.

I'm sure you'll find a happy medium that works for you. :)

Dina said...


Thanks! I can rarely manage to find a happy medium. Well, I can. Eventually. It's usually a huge struggle for me though.

Dina said...


That's sad about the veal. Does it really taste that great?

I'll look for the book...or the other book you mentionoed.

Tors said...

FWIW, Dina, I think you have a very healthy attitude towards differing opinions and new ideas. Whichever path you take, it won't be done blindly. :)

Dina said...


Thank you. I appreciate you saying that.