The Ethics of Meat

theusefulpig

When the United States Defence Department has found that its use of beagles to test lethal gases has evoked a howl of protest and offers to use rats instead, I am not appeased.

Peter Singer

I’ve long been meaning to write more on the issues surrounding meat, if only for my own benefit. Part curiosity, part moral biopsy. To this end and possibly to further procrastination, I grabbed my copy of Peter Singer‘s Writings on an Ethical Life and set off on the bus to work.

Singer is a utilitarian and I think utilitarianism is the part of the ethical gallery where secularists always seem to arrive back at. It’s an attempt to put a rational framework on ethics above conscience or faith. Nothing wrong with the latter two, unless they’re telling you to put someone to the flame, but moral questions have often to be resolved and reason serves us well. Singer’s arguments often take things to their logically consistent conclusion and his parallels employing ifs come up hard against many table thumping buts. His arguments on animal rights attract, up to a point obviously, because of their lack of sentiment. This is refreshing, as the debate over the treatment of animals often resembles a dysfunctional custody battle.

He writes clearly but points towards thick books in arcane English and concepts that if I understood them at the time, then I can’t remember doing so. Distraction called.

I stopped in at the Alexander Library to have a look at their discarded library book sale. I am both pigeon and step toed. In the group of cookbooks I found the one pictured above and the title The Useful Pig struck me as odd. I assume sense it was meant to be read “the usefulness of pigs” but the use of the definite article and the qualifier implied otherwise. What makes a pig useful, and what makes a pig useless? If it’s only its instrumentality, then what are our justifications? And here I’ll resolve to make a start on some posts and see where I end up.

6 comments

  1. Reid’s avatar

    Hi Anthony,

    Strange title for a book eh? Were any of the 150 recipes worth trying out?

  2. Anthony’s avatar

    Hi Reid

    It is an odd cover, those flames look like the gateway to porcine hell. The book is great, some excellently complex marinades and dressings and I’m going to try one of the terrines for Christmas. I’ve also found two free range pig suppliers so I’m pretty happy about that.

  3. danny’s avatar

    Thought of you the moment I saw this book, “Schott’s Food and Drink Miscellany”. You absolutely have check out the info and comments at amazon.com (enter this in the amazon search: 1582344205).

  4. Anthony’s avatar

    Danny

    Hi. I was thinking of you when I was trying to persuade someone into getting an Omega – I’m putting you down as “Visa” – deity of consumer temptation.

    Never knew you were a gemini too, an honour. And when do we get more coffee posts?

  5. Anonymous’s avatar

    What about a bit of interview banter with the free range pig slaughterers? Where they fit into the local market? Demand, up or down? And the taste of course. I for one would be interetsed to know more about these guys.

    pieman
    http://www.noodlepie.com

  6. Anthony’s avatar

    Yeah me too and I was thinking about that, until a little while ago I didn’ even know if there were any. I’ll be ordering some soon and see what it’s like.

    For their conditions I think I’ve been deliberately shutting it out but the free range/ organic has an inbuilt appeal for me beacuse niche producers usually try harder than supermarket ones and I see good husbandry as being better the closer it resembles a normal animal life.

    Anyway I’m just trying to write something out on “rights” and have stalled at Hobbes.

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