Why I don't think it's a contradiction to be pro-choice as well as vegan

This discussion was started in the thread Is the life of the mother or father more important than a BABY??, which itself started as a debate on the comments page of the Vegetarian/Vegan Atheists group. In the former discussion, bringing in veganism to the abortion debate was considered to be broadening the discussion a bit too far and that a new discussion should be added. So, here it is.

I'm not saying anything that I hadn't said before, I don't think - first, while there aren't any tangible benefits to killing animals in terms of diet (see position paper by the ADA, as one example), the environment (see this report by the FAO - again, there's more, but I'm too lay to dig up additional resources right now), or clothing (I'm not supplying a link for this :P), there are many obvious adverse consequences to a woman who carries a child to term, including but not limited to physical pain, emotional complications, and financial losses.

Secondly, while many animals probably don't have the highly-developed sense of self-identity that human beings do, we still have reason to believe that they have some sense of self. For instance, an animal can tell the difference between an action taken by itself and another animal, can recognize friendly from non-friendly individuals, can discern between their own trail markings, songs and the like from those of others, and so on. These various facets of identity are generally recognized, I believe, to not develop in human beings until between two and eighteen months after birth. As a result, it seems reasonable to conclude that the death of a born animal is a greater loss of life than a fetus's, if such a thing can be measured.

As a result, I don't see any inherent contradiction in being pro-choice as well as vegan at the same time.

Tags: abortion, animal_rights, pro-choice, right_to_life, vegan, veganism, vegetarian

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First back up a sec unless I’ve missed it, why does sentience grant a right to life in the first place?

It depends on exactly what your definition of sentience entails, but I'd argue that if an organism doesn't have any sensation, first of all, then it can't be said to be losing anything by dying, since consciousness just means to be conscious of something. Secondly, if the organism not only has consciousness, but a sense of itself and what it would desire for itself, then issues of freedom become entailed. An organism's freedoms can only be impinged when its desires are.


Seems pretty vague, I’d like to try to see how and where it is applied. Maybe you spell out how you would use it.

I'll see if I can give a couple examples. I suppose this one might be obvious, but for instance if I see an anthill, I try not to step on it. It doesn't cost me more than a step or two around it, so even if the ants wouldn't lose anything by dying, I haven't really lost anything, either. If I'm at a restaurant, and they serve vegetarian burgers, or sushi, or whatever, I don't lose much by ordering the veggie version instead, whereas the animal that would have died would obviously lose a lot more.

I agree that the principle is vague, but that's why it's a principle, not a rule. It's a general rule of thumb intended to help deal with areas of uncertainty. The question is, what if I'm wrong? If I'm wrong by ordering the veggie burger, what do I lose? Not very much, depending on how much I prefer the meat version. But what do I lose if I kill an animal when it deserved moral consideration? My self-respect, at least, and depending on how accurate the laws are to an ideal of justice, possibly more.

Of course, it's not necessarily a 50/50 decision; I think we can be reasonably sure that rocks aren't sentient beings, for example, so that's why the principle only applies to areas of reasonable uncertainty.


Could an imperfect world mean one may happen to exclude some human babies so other species could survive?

That's correct.


If we cannot kill or let die our babies -even if there aren’t enough willing couples the state can step in- if we are to be consistent shouldn’t we also be required to have the state step in a care for all unwanted kittens and orphan ape babies?

If reasonable resources exist, then I would argue yes. Obviously, there's no sense in spending a million dollars to save a kitten when you can spend a hundred to save a human being, but if the numbers were reversed (as they often are) I don't see what reason there is not to.


If you with limited resources are putting our babies first I would want to know on what grounds do we put them first. Singer may say that makes people happy but I would imagine that one could make a lot of vegans happy if it were required for other animals as well.

The grounds that I would use would be that there's no point in saving something that's not conscious - saving a "life" just means to save a consciousness as far as I'm concerned. Consciousness exists only insofar as we are conscious of something, and to be conscious of something requires certain mental/neurological capacities. So far as we know, a dog can't feel guilt, for example, because dogs lack the brain structures necessary for that emotion. (Many dog owners might disagree, but when a dog acts guilty, it seems that it may be more like an expression of anxiety rather than guilt.) We can also say that plants lack any consciousness of any kind, since they lack nervous systems, and the same could be said of single-celled organisms. Humans, I don't it's hard to argue, are generally conscious of more than most animals given our more developed mental capacities, and so more would normally be lost if a human died compared to an animal. That doesn't mean that an animal loses nothing, or that animals deserve no consideration, but I wouldn't put them on the same pedestal as a human.

Of course, this argument is hardly airtight, and as the relevant sciences develop, it'll probably have to be revised. But, based on what information is available to me now, it seems like the most reasonable guess.


We could but then we are using a sophisticated abstraction, they don’t after all have a sophisticated desire for life. & if you wish to base it on an abstract biological goal to keep living a foetus has this as well. BTW once we have worked this out I’ll move to the bodily autonomy thing.

I'm not sure what you mean by a "sophisticated" desire for life. We have every reason - in fact I would consider it absurd to argue otherwise - that animals dislike pain, get scared when they perceive their lives as threatened, and pursue pleasure. Those experiences are pretty common to all parts of the animal kingdom. I'll admit I'm not an expert on the development of fetuses; I'm not sure when exactly these traits develop, though it wouldn't necessarily affect my position to find that they had these traits.

If by sophisticated you mean capable of understanding in an abstract sense, then we do have some reason to believe that at least some animals are aware of this. Humans aren't the only animals that are capable of abstract reasoning.

As for the really abstract desire for life that you'd find in a plant, frankly I don't put much stock in it. While I suppose we all eventually wind down to chemical processes in motion, I don't see any evidence of sensation in plants.


As a final note, maybe you were getting to this, but I still don't understand your stand on fetus' rights. Certainly, there's no such thing as an inalienable right - we have a right to not be jailed only insofar as we don't break the law, we only have a right to live only insofar as our life doesn't come into conflict with the life of another; and this is assuming equal standing. These principles apply to two intelligent, adult human beings, but not between an animal and a plant, or a human and a single-celled organism, or what have you. Adult humans have a right to vote, but it'd be absurd to give this right to animals or small children, since they would have no idea what to do with it or what the consequences of their vote would be. A fetus is clearly not sentient or intelligent or conscious in the same way an adult human being is and therefore does not deserve the same rights.

Now, in a vacuum, I'd have no problem saying that a fetus has some rights. If there were a literal cabbage patch where children were grown, and someone was stomping on them or poking them with needles, I'd ask them to stop, but this isn't the situation that's presented with abortion. The fetus isn't growing, by itself, outside another human being's body, and so the question becomes an issue of the rights of an adult human with the capacity to reason about its desires and future versus an organism with some sensation but no self-awareness, let alone abstract reasoning. A fetus' rights cannot be impinged if it can't reason about what it wants or how to get it; it may have passive experiences, and that may reasonably count for something, but to say that it has rights is simple nonsense if it can't even understand that it is itself and doesn't want what's happening to it.
Hi Aaron,
Just a quick reply for these points I fell the substance is in the sentience and rights issues.




"Seems pretty vague, I’d like to try to see how and where it is applied. Maybe you spell out how you would use it."

I'll see if I can give a couple examples. I suppose this one might be obvious, but for instance if I see an anthill, I try not to step on it. It doesn't cost me more than a step or two around it, so even if the ants wouldn't lose anything by dying, I haven't really lost anything, either. …Of course, it's not necessarily a 50/50 decision; I think we can be reasonably sure that rocks aren't sentient beings, for example, so that's why the principle only applies to areas of reasonable uncertainty.


The principle I like to use is could others apply this rule to me or the overall position I support? Because when we look at harm it isn’t the minor loss to one individual that is of concern, it is the greater loss esp existential loss, that is important. Also another problems is people don’t mind vagueness when it either doesn’t impact at suits them. That’s why philosophers look for the underlying reasons so it is consistent. So unless you are prepared to put up with vagueness that goes against you, you shouldn’t expect an opposing POV to put up with it.



"Could an imperfect world mean one may happen to exclude some human babies so other species could survive?"

That's correct.

Nice to seem some consistency, few here are.


"If we cannot kill or let die our babies -even if there aren’t enough willing couples the state can step in- if we are to be consistent shouldn’t we also be required to have the state step in a care for all unwanted kittens and orphan ape babies?"

If reasonable resources exist, then I would argue yes. Obviously, there's no sense in spending a million dollars to save a kitten when you can spend a hundred to save a human being, but if the numbers were reversed (as they often are) I don't see what reason there is not to.

Ok, but again when push comes to shove those that disagree will want a bit more substance as to why you ignore something that is strongly felt that you care for children and your own kind above other species.

I think we will clear things up looking at the sentience issues.
The principle I like to use is could others apply this rule to me or the overall position I support? Because when we look at harm it isn’t the minor loss to one individual that is of concern, it is the greater loss esp existential loss, that is important. Also another problems is people don’t mind vagueness when it either doesn’t impact at suits them. That’s why philosophers look for the underlying reasons so it is consistent. So unless you are prepared to put up with vagueness that goes against you, you shouldn’t expect an opposing POV to put up with it.

I'll admit I don't understand what you're getting at here. The principle I've described seems perfectly clear to me; I should also like some clarification on your use of the term "existential loss", and why such loss is more important than run-of-the-mill suffering; and finally, if you're implying that I'd not be willing to sacrifice myself for a more sentient being, then you might be right, but if it were to happen it would only mean that I'm a hypocrite, not that my view of vegan principle is incorrect.



Ok, but again when push comes to shove those that disagree will want a bit more substance as to why you ignore something that is strongly felt that you care for children and your own kind above other species.

All that I can say to such people is that frankly, their feelings don't impact the objective world. We know for a fact that there's little difference between us and "higher" animals, such as tend to be farmed for our use, and we know even more certainly that a fetus is substantially less sentient than any farm animal. Ergo, a consistent moral system would need to include non-humans in considerations of pain, loss of life, and so on. If they can't accept reality, then there's nothing that I can do about that.
Aaron
It depends on exactly what your definition of sentience entails, but I'd argue that if an organism doesn't have any sensation, first of all, then it can't be said to be losing anything by dying, since consciousness just means to be conscious of something. Secondly, if the organism not only has consciousness, but a sense of itself and what it would desire for itself, then issues of freedom become entailed. An organism's freedoms can only be impinged when its desires are.

The grounds that I would use would be that there's no point in saving something that's not conscious - saving a "life" just means to save a consciousness as far as I'm concerned. Consciousness exists only insofar as we are conscious of something, and to be conscious of something requires certain mental/neurological capacities.



This is actually something along the lines that the pro philosophers take, it only makes sense to talk about things having a desire for a thing to have a right to a thing. Eg a rock no desire no point to talk about rights.

You talk about sentience and consciousness but all that gives is a right not to suffer or feel pain. The lit agrees on that. On the other hand to want to exist or continue to exist in the future requires sophisticated cognitive reasoning that only persons have. So the problem you now have is that you cannot use desires and rights to prohibit the killing of animals, babies and some infants as they don’t have this desire.

At least some philosophers like Peter Singer And David Boonin realise this so they look at others reasons to prohibit this. Singer tries to say, well it would make parents unhappy, but this seems to ignore that there are in fact parents who kill their kids who would be happy if they could do this. Boonin tries a potentiality argument based on the fact that a baby etc is a sentient being that will be a potential person, but if Pro-Life get mocked for using a similar argument I hardly see anything that changes this for Boonin.

Now I have come across one essay where rights can be seen as interests, and rights holders are stake holders that can be in a abstract relation, that has no direct desire underpinning it. Eg an infant may not desire a good education or their inheritance, yet they still have a abstract relation or interest in those matters.

Now as a vegan you might argue we shouldn’t kill animals because they are sentient or conscious, well there is no connection between these and a right to life. So all you have to rely on is this abstract relation/interest between their biological/welfare goals and their ‘right’ to continued existence.

Even with Peter Singer his argument is more against factory farming than becoming a vegetarian( though there maybe other reason like Climate change that entails vegetarianism) By his reasoning organic and humane farms could still operate.
Aaron Now you last two paragraphs ask why I give rights to foetuses without the desires or capacities to use them. I simply turn this around and point out that we are talking about basic welfare and existential concerns, not higher rights voting etc, yet we give these rights to babies and infants that don’t have these higher cognitive capacities, like foetuses. NOTE you talk about two adult humans.

My stance has always been you must be consistent, either the rules you use are or aren’t applicable and since they aren’t applicable to either babies or foetuses they should be treated the same way.

Either that or you change the rules-maybe you can give a fuller justification for consciousness- and give another justification or you apply them consistently. I’ve read in fact one article where a progressive thinks infanticide is the next step of secular moral progress.

My argument

1. We are basing rights on desires
2. Personhood gives a right to life
3. Sentience doesn’t give a right to life.
4. Non humans animals aren’t persons.
5. Foetuses aren’t persons.
6. Babies and some infants aren’t persons.
7. We shouldn’t be speciest as we aren’t ethically allowed to arbitrarily preference a group we belong to.
8. We can kill 2 classes of non persons regardless of, potentiality to be future persons, because it makes others unhappy, are able to have care transferred to other parties or belong to the same species.
C If we are allowed to kill two of these classes of things because they aren’t persons, & the other reasons aren’t morally relevant, prima facie we should be able kill the third class.

note we can change this to Peter Singer's aggregation of total preference fulfilment & it still works.
I'll admit I don't understand what you're getting at here. The principle I've described seems perfectly clear to me; I should also like some clarification on your use of the term "existential loss", and why such loss is more important than run-of-the-mill suffering; and finally, if you're implying that I'd not be willing to sacrifice myself for a more sentient being, then you might be right, but if it were to happen it would only mean that I'm a hypocrite, not that my view of vegan principle is incorrect.

1st Ok tell me if I have you right.

Basically if it doesn’t cost me anything and it doesn’t hurt/counteracts the other parties desire or lack of, it’s Ok?
Mostly agreeing with EvilWombatQueen's last post, but here's my quick rundown of why I'm vegan, and why I'm pro-choice.

The argument for vegetarianism (I'll go into veganism if anyone wants to talk about it) consists of just two sentences:
1) Scientifically speaking, the differences between humans and other "higher" animals are startlingly few, both genetically and with regards to capacity for fear and pain.
2) Just because you are strong enough to take advantage of something or someone, does not mean you should.

The argument for being pro-life is also based primarily on compassion. It can be summarized as:
1) When a woman is carrying a pregnancy, and she decides she wants to terminate, we are forced to consider her rights and the rights of her fetus in opposition.
2) The woman is a fully sentient being and a member of society, while the fetus will not be sentient until several months after it is born.
3) As compassionate beings we must press for equality of all members in society; we cannot consider women to be equal partners in society if the entire course of their lives, including the dangerous and painful process of birth, can be legislated for nine months at a time.
4) After the fetus is no longer a guest in the body of another sentient being, the opposition of rights of mother and child ends, and we are bound by compassion to protect the rights and life of the child as much as we protected those of the mother.

The obvious place where you can come to see opposition between the two arguments is in the second point for vegetarianism: "Just because you can doesn't mean you should." I believe that points 2-3 of the argument for being pro-choice adequately demonstrate that abortions are not a frivolous allowance we should make for women, but are rather a serious human right in their own capacity, because they allow women the freedom that men are already constitutionally allowed: to simply abandon a pregnancy. You cannot have gender equality without safe, legal abortion.
but are rather a serious human right in their own capacity, because they allow women the freedom that men are already constitutionally allowed: to simply abandon a pregnancy. You cannot have gender equality without safe, legal abortion.

Could you clarify what constitutional freedom men have to abandon a pregnancy? I thought that in the US you in fact have legally binding child support?
Simon has that pegged this is not in issue of equal right a guy get finiancial screwed in the reer for his mistakes if the Woman decides to keep the child. I think it is more of a health issue and discerns a person decision of what they do with their bodies and choosing not to grow some one else in it before it can live on it's own seems fair in my world
Ok I address that now with aaron as well. But it is hardly a constitutional freedom, rather a biological one.
& I also disagree on whether its an issue if the guy gets financially screwed; if she gets to op out so should he.
I think morals and ethics debates are out there becuase there is no cut clear line where something is right or wrong. I sware to you if we were trapped on an island and any of you looked like an easier kill then having to hunt or gather else where guess who is going to be my dinner, You not the fish that would take time to get not the animals i dont know about but the other stranded person who is trapped and probably growing as weak as i am. Prove a fetus has thoughts or any other action that makes it more then just growing flesh and cells at the period in wich abortion is practiced with in the united states
No they don't have thought/sentience but as I've argued using rights and desires a baby doesn't ahve a right to life either.

& Most are fully functioning Homo Sapiens which are bit different from a bunch of tumor cells or a tissue culture held in a growth medium in a dish. It also self maintains and self assembles itself, quite a neat trick when you think about it.

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