I had a fierce debate today with a friend at the local pet shop over vegetarianism - she's an ovo-lacto veggie - over if an egg is alive.
Bad idea... ;-)
We parted friends but it got me to thinking - IS an unfertilized egg alive?
The obvious answer is, of course not, but is that the whole answer? I don't know.
I did figure out why ovo-lacto vegetarianism is nearly as bad as omnivorous me though. The O-L veggie claims to have the moral high ground that no animal died because of them - but this isn't true.
The hens are kept in horrible conditions and bred specifically to lay-lay-lay until they are slaughtered for animal food and probably recycled to themselves. Worse, the cow only provides milk for its offspring which we then take away and slaughter: so indirectly, the demand for milk creates (almost) as much suffering for baby cattle as the meat does. One could even argue (just for fun) that the calves are a bi-product and us meat eaters are simply providing a service for the milk drinkers.
I value my testicles too much to posit that one to her though.
I think on paper, they do have the moral high-ground. In an ideal setting, she would have her own livestock (or know of a local farm) to produce her eggs and dairy products. That way she knows that her animals are being treated humanely. Unfortunately, that's usually not how things work. So in order for you to be right you would have to know that she is in fact consuming non-"organic" (hate that term) store bought eggs and milk.
As far as the unfertilized egg goes, it is a single-celled organism, but I'm not sure if it's considered to be alive or not. It really depends on what your definition of life is. An unfertilized egg is made up up organic tissue and has a miniscule metabolism. Under those circumstances I would say it is alive. It cannot however progress on it's own into an independent adult organism. Some say the egg cannot be considered to be alive until it has been fertilized.
Gee, why not, Marc? You can always take synthetic testosterone! :)
Yeah, this one is one I played with a lot back in my vegetarian days. I finally gave up on it because I began to realize that morality is a relativistic human construct and has a lot of features of arbitrariness, in light of, among many other things, some of the points you have raised.
But when life begins is not really a reasonable question. Is a virus alive? It is a matter of definition, which, again, involves elements of arbitrariness. Don't want to kill animals? Then don't swallow your own saliva. It contains millions of bacterial cells that will meet their deaths in your stomach acid.
When you wade into the question of when life begins, on the assumption that the answer will or should govern your behavior, you have opened a can of worms the size of the galaxy. The question as to whether you should struggle to save the vast majority of human zygotes, about nine-tenths of which will abort spontaneously in the first few hours, is one such question.
If zygotes, why not gametes? Is a human sperm cell, with its wiggling tail, alive? If so, isn't every sperm sacred? Save every sperm cell in a single ejaculation and every egg cell that a woman produces in her ovaries, and you can practically double the human population. With just two parents. Talk about your right to life! Why aren't we doing this, if life is so damned sacred?
And it doesn't end there. What about surgery? Every time human tissue is surgically removed, just think of the vast number of living human cells that are being discarded. Each one could potentially be cloned into a living, breathing human being. Are they alive? If not, why not? If they are, why aren't we moving heaven and earth to salvage their "human potential" via cloning? Then there is the matter of your own feces. Every time you take a dump, you are flushing millions of living potential human beings down the cold, wet porcelain hole, condemning them to their deaths without a single thought. How can you do such a thing?
This is an example of the absurdities to which conservative/religious doctrines can go with respect to the "beginnings of human life."
To avoid this, I think the only reasonable course is to take the same definition as did the U.S. Supreme Court in the Roe vs. Wade decision: human life exists when consciousness becomes and/or is possible. That is at the beginning of the third trimester of pregnancy. Prior to that, it's just human tissue, even if it is alive. As for animals, if I'm hungry, it's them or me. Selfishly, I'll pick me. Don't look to nature for a construct of morality, because you won't find it there. If God invented predation, he has a lot to answer for.
So let's not get all wacked out about it. Our view of what constitutes human life is, like our moral constructs, largely arbitrary. So accept it. Live with it. And let us get on with constructing a humanist morality and a social contract with which we can all live.
Actually you're mistaken about the dairy. The cow raises her calf on her own milk till it doesn't need it anymore, then we simply continue milking the cow after the calf no longer needs it for human consumption. In fact, cows milk is no good for human consumption (or at least does not look palatable) in the beginning. Yes the young bulls are butchered, but that's irrelevant to the whole "getting the milk" thing. And yes, I am a farmer and my son works on a dairy farm.
I also had a 10,000 layer bird operation a few years back, so if you have any questions...
Yes, they are bred to lay so much they "burn out" after 1 year 4 months, at which time they're really only fit for dog food (and maybe McDonalds). As for "horrible conditions", from a human perspective, it would seem so, because of the size of cages, but I can assure you a stressed bird simply does not lay eggs. Walk into a barn and start screaming and yelling, as to upset the birds, production goes down or stops. They're simply raised in cages from the start so they know no better. Chickens raised in freedom then put in cages, generally don't lay well due to the stress of lose of freedom.
And as far as the unfertilized egg being life? Does that mean every time a woman menstruates, she's killing a life? She must feel very guilty every month.
???..where do you get your info from. I live on the farm and always have been a farmer. 5 of my neighbours are dairy farmers. That is how it is. The milk is NO GOOD for human consumption in the beginning! Don't know how much clearer I can be. Generally only the bulls are butchered for veal...as in for meat, not milk. Feales are kept and given the mothers milk. THAT IS HOW IT"S DONE! Again where is your info from?
Don't know about how long they keep the animals...can ask.
An abused animal gets stressed and doesn't produce...that simple.
Sorry for the very short response...was on my way out and did a simple quick response (as you may be able to tell from the missing "m" in females (^_^)).
Anyway, to reiterate, all mammals secrete a different kind of milk in the beginning (including cows) to give the babies the nutrients and the protection they need from birth. Most of it is just logic which I hope as an atheist, you can appreciate. The calves are NOT immediately taken away. And no one in their right mind is going to go through the extra time and expense of bottle raising a calf when the mother can do it. The young females are needed for production and the bulls (if not used for breeding) need to grow for a while before they are suitable for the table and for that reason are NOT killed when born or shortly after.
As for abusing/mistreating livestock, there's a name for it in the farming industry...bankruptcy! Again, logic (and simple biology). At worst, you get a dead worthless animal. At best you get a sick/lame animal that is no good. I'm not saying no one abuses animals/livestock, as I wouldn't say no parent abuses their child...it's just the very minority and doesn't work or make sense to. Most in the industry like animals and enjoy working with them, believe or not.
I would highly recommend people get to know farmers on a personal level and ask questions or go to qualified agriculture colleges/universities for their information. Asking groups like PETA, Zoocheck, or the video you posted is the equivalent of going to church to find out about science. Go to a farmer for farming info and a scientist for science.
Now as for the "ethical" questions of whether it's "cruel" to separate cows from calves at a certain state? If you humanize them, then there may be an argument there. Personally, as a person in the livestock industry, I see no signs of it. In fact, the mothers will wean the babies on their own, some before they should be. Again, emotions aside, it makes no sense for a farmer to raise an animal when it's cheaper and less time consuming for the mother to.
That being said, I personally don't like the "mass produced" animal meat. I raise my own on grass and in the outdoors, because the meat is much better in my opinion. Also, I very much respect people who decide to be vegetarians/vegan, for whatever reason they decide. I do not, however, respect people/groups who throw out lies and conspiracy theories. I won't tell anyone they don't know how their industry/job works/functions and I expect the same in return.
You've pretty much hit the nail on the head. There are many difference practices...some good, some questionable. That's why I do think it's important to have animal rights groups. Some (not all) do wonderful work. Obviously, like I pointed out, I am very much against the ones who simply don't believe there should be ANY domesticated animals...especially the ones who disguise it as "fair treatment" of animals.
And no, 48 hours is not common practice. There is "bob veal", I believe it's called, where the calf is butchered within that 48 hour time frame, but I believe that's become quite rare. Veal is generally 1-3 months, but most I believe are now done up to 6 months. Not sure if you can call that veal, but that doesn't stop people. And I suppose it is possible some of the larger operations may have some kind of automated system of bottle feeding after a few days, but otherwise, I have bottle fed young orphaned cows and farm elk and it is no easy task. Time consuming with the milk mixing, right temps, and the continual wiping of the butt to stimulate pooping (technical term (^_-). Usually the mothers lick it, but I won't go that far), not to mention the # of times a day. Not sure how one can do that economically without the mothers, but who knows? Letting the mothers raise them, literally cuts out the middle man. And of course, most females are brought to full adulthood.
I should point out, I'm in Canada and things are run differently here as both dairy and poultry are run by marketing boards who set up strict standards and have controlled pricing so the farmers can make a living on "family sized" farms as opposed to the "mega sized" farms found in the states. It is a socialist concept and being Americans seem to be allergic to that word, I wouldn't hold my breath it would ever come there.
And now (in England I believe) they're selling ice cream made with REAL human mothers milk. Had the article, but lost it. I'm sure it could be googled...but now I'm really getting off topic, so I'll stop...
Usually the mothers lick it, but I won't go that far)
See? You're an evil animal-hater who won't do the basic things for animals. :-D