How do atheists justify eating meat on an ethical basis?

As we all evolved from common ancestors, and atheists reject the idea that we have god given dominion over the other animals, what ethical justification is there for not considering then suffering of other species?

It seems that to discriminate on the grounds of species is just as arbitrary as to discriminate on the basis of skin colour, sex etc.

I base my ethics on minimising unnecessary suffering and death and promoting well being and happiness. What are others ethics based upon?

Tags: Vegetarian, vegan, veganism, vegetarianism

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@ John D:  "I will not mollify and forgive someone who murders others just for money or power.  I will not forgive someone who can only express their sexuality and power by repeatedly raping and abusing others."  This is what humans do to animals.  But those of us who respect other animals are not supposed to so much as mention it.

I justify it on the grounds that as far as protein goes there's more bang for the buck.

Northern folks can't afford to be so choosy when there aren't any staple producing plants around. (Or a Von's for that matter)

Life feeds on life.

That is NOT to say that a diet high in f/v is unbeneficial; I strive towards a more vegetarian lifestlye.  It is just simply not an option where I live. 

Where do you live?

Da Bush, Alaska. Check out photos on my member page.

I'm curious about whether any of these recurrent "discussions" about vegetarianism have ever changed a mind?  It's OK.   I like watching my dog bark at squirrels, even though he's never caught one.  The squirrel doesn't mind either, and makes animated squirrel noises back.  It's fun to watch, but sometimes a bit tiresome in predictability.  Dog-squirrel interaction doesn't change the minds of dogs or squirrels, either.  As a vegetarian myself, I know the motivations and challenges, and I know the well-meaning of newer members who have not seen these repetitive discussions, and I know the offense that nonvegetarians take when vegetarians get "out of line".  I usually fly under the radar whenever possible - it doesn't change minds.  So that's my question - does anyone know of anyone who has changed their mind about this topic because of these predictable discussions?

I have known many people change their minds an go veggie. I am new to forums, just a few weeks, and haven't seen it on a forum.

Check out this video on YouTube:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GYYNY2oKVWU&feature=youtube_gdat...

This is absolutely fascinating and is from Dawkins series he did on Darwin. I know I may not be right on everything but I did expect expect more of a debate than seen so far.

Hope you enjoy the video if you haven't seen it. It is worth watching it all.
John if you do decide to watch you will see that Richard Dawkins does not think he is an idiot. I am not sure why you would?
Dawkins found him a very moral person whose ethics were logical and consistent. What do you mean he is looking for an absolute system of ethics?
It's funny how Dawkins is revered by many atheists even though he strays into all sorts of moral issues that suit atheism. He finds it very questionable for parents to indoctrinate children with religion for example. When you read the God Delsion, how much of that is about biology? Not much. He gets dropped like a hot potato when he says things to atheists they don't like hear and that clashed with their personal interests.

As a biologist, Dawkins had an interest with Peter Singer because of the implications evolution has for the way we treat animals. He is well placed to understand the pain and suffering other animals can experience and so I am surprised you are quite so dismissive of him.

It's all very well saying there is no god and ridding yourself of biblical moral obligation, but at least give some thought to what follows. It's not a free ride.

I am warned.

"How do atheists justify eating meat on an ethical basis?

As we all evolved from common ancestors, and atheists reject the idea that we have god given dominion over the other animals, what ethical justification is there for not considering then suffering of other species?"

There's also the issue of trying to conflate vegetarianism with atheism where there is no correlation necessitated or even implied, nor is there a necessary correlation of theism (Abrahamic religions are only three of the "not believed" god constructs, not all of them, some of them prohibit the eating of meat) and those who chose to eat meat. That this connection is loaded into the premise is disingenuous to begin with, the whole thing is blatant question begging, something more associated with theists more than atheists, no?

"It seems that to discriminate on the grounds of species is just as arbitrary as to discriminate on the basis of skin colour, sex etc."

Then we have; "...is just as arbitrary as to discriminate on the basis of skin colour, sex etc."

Seriously? Why not just go whole hog (pun intended) and try to hitch non-vegitarianism to genocide, or at least pedophilia and rape? In for a penny, in for a pound.

"I base my ethics on minimising unnecessary suffering and death and promoting well being and happiness. What are others ethics based upon?"

Add to the above, basic human dignity and intellectual honesty, to start.

BTW: What Dawkins thinks about the ethics of non-vegitarianism, who cares? …He isn't exactly a polymath, in fact …he often struggles to discuss things outside his purview and has been known to drop a logic bomb or two. Besides that, whole argument Dawkins/Einstein gambit is just an appeal to authority fallacy, easily Godwin'd with the Nazi Party.

Well, i guess a couple thoughts pop into my head:

  1. Once we accept that there is no "god given" separation between humans and other animals, that we're just one more animal in the world, i don't see any particular reason to hold humans to different ethical standards than any other animal. If a bear eats a salmon, that's just dinner. If a raven gobbles a vole, it doesn't disturb me at all. All omnivores like us. I agree, it does kinda such that life evolved in such a way that many species need to kill other creatures to survive and/or thrive. But beyond that annoyance, it doesn't ethically bother me when humans eat meat anymore than it bugs me when any other omnivore eats meat.
  2. Similarly, also with recognizing that humans are just another creature in this word, i recognize that we do not deserve quality or quantity of life more nor less than other creatures. While i certainly wouldn't want to needlessly kill or inflict harm on other creatures, i see no reason to inflict harm on people either. And a vegetarian or vegan diet is a harm to many humans 

Mind you, i am speaking here as one to whom a vegetarian diet is not a harm, and like most people in my family i have chosen to not eat most animal species. But i live in a community where many people have attempted veganism and vegetarianism, and the majority of them contracted health problems as a result of their diet.

I do understand many who sell universal vegetariansm/veganism believe such diets are perfectly healthy for all humans (and their canine and feline companions). In which case i and them simply need to agree to disagree. 

Our ability to reason has given us the ability to decide on ethical grounds what we should do. The other animals are incapable to think like we do. The bear cannot be held ethically responsible for eating a salmon. Sometimes chimps kill other chimps in nature. Are they ethically responsible? No, I don't think so. But by your logic, if they kill each other, we can too.

You seem to accept that unnecessary killing or eating is not ethical. For most people then, it is unethical and we are agreed.

I would be interested to hear what health problems people in your community suffered from when they tried a vegetarian diet. You will be aware that a vegetarian diet is at least as healthy as one containing meat for most people.

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