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.

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I think the point he was trying to make is that sentience is the important thing, and sentience doesn't depend on how fast an animal can run, or how many tons of plankton it can eat in an hour, but on its mental capacities. So, theoretically speaking, if you had an unborn being that could calculate pi and speculate about its eventual death, it would have a greater right to life than a born being that couldn't differentiate between itself and the wall it was looking at.
Yeah, sentience only refers to intelligence in a sci-fi setting. Sapience is usually the word we're looking for.
But if a guinea worm could calculate pi, would its right to life trump that of the host?

What about pinworms? They understand where to crawl to lay eggs and where to crawl back to in order to seek nurishment. They generally cause about the same discomfort as your average wowhead's diet. Do they have a right to life? What if we discovered tomorrow that they create cave drawings and have a very rudimentary language, would that really change things? They are an unwelcome guests living inside of another creature after all.
Ever read Blood Music?

Nope, but I will now. :)
Pinworms are a good analogy to a vegan position on abortion, I think. Most vegans I know would never go out and start stomping on worms in the wild. However, if a vegan were infested by pinworms they would almost certainly take medication (or 'natural remedies') to kill the parasites.

Or am I wrong? Are there vegans out there who would put up with having pinworms to preserve the worms' lives?
Correct Aaron
I have to say, I don't agree with sentience being the only deciding factor in whether a being should live or die. If you look at utilitarianism, or the idea that the moral choice creates the greatest happiness, then it would be better to save the life of a good, much-loved dog than the life of a ruthless dictator - even if the dictator has a higher degree of self-awareness than the dog.

What do you think, Simon JM?

I'm going to have to be careful here I've only done a little research on utilitarianism, but do know there are a number different types so you need to specify which one seeking a definite answer.

There do though, seem to be criticisms along this line, the common one seems to say something like, well if we had more people being happy through the ownership of slaves then the suffering created, it must make that Ok.

Likewise Peter Singer who uses Preference Utilitarianism which seems to say the more preferences fulfiled on balance is more 'good' than things that don't. BTW his stances entails things don't have rights but -if I have it right- since human persons have more sophisticated preferences like a desire to exist, they therefore have more moral value when weighing up the conflicting interests of two animals.
But this also entails a baby has less moral value than a more developed animal and has no 'right' to life.

What stops us killing it, is that the preferences of the parents who want it would be crossed, creating less 'good'.

But the problem with this, similar to the slavery objection above, if there were more parents that wanted to be able to kill their baby, than the total that thought this was wrong, we would then have a greater amount of preferences fillfiled by allowing infanticide and therefore I would think by this reasoning more 'good'.

This maybe addressed by counters to the slavery problem, but I've found those yet.
edit :
This maybe addressed by counters to the slavery problem, but I've yet to find those.
Peter Singer admits that utilitarianism is normative, that is it ascribes to an ideal, and is not the perfect way to apply political justice. However, in this way it's like democracy. If you simplify democracy to 'three wolves and a sheep voting on what's for lunch' it is just as likely to produce slave-owning and baby-killing, but once you analyse it under real-world checks and balances it ends up being a pretty good way to achieve results.

Your view of utilitarianism treats suffering and happiness as being equal in value. Under that model the suffering of a hundred people is outweighed by the happiness of one thousand. However, suffering can be greater or lesser depending on the circumstances. The happiness given to a consumer by cheaper sugar is not as great as the suffering endured by a slave to produce that sugar. So utilitarianism is more complex than it appears on paper and slavery would not, under most circumstances, be a moral choice under utilitarianism. Measuring the amount of suffering and happiness by degree as well as number it creates a more robust ethical model.

You are right that Peter Singer does not give humans and animals equal 'rights', however in my hypothetical situation I'm not talking purely about the dictator's versus dog's suffering. I was talking about the joy or suffering they bring to the people around them. If a dictator causes misery to a million people and the dog brings extreme happiness to ten, then wouldn't it be more ethical to allow the dog to live than the dictator?
EWQ don't forget it is aggregated and enough numbers could in principle outweigh the harm and it is quite easy to see that given historical examples that humans are quite adept at rationalising away the uncomfortable feelings when harming others.

So it is in fact quite possible for slave owners not to feel bad about the suffering they cause to a minority. & even with real world checks and balances today you can still get inhumane behaviour rationalised as OK. You only have to look at people defending torture to see checks and balances aren’t enough.

BTW nor does it need pain and suffering to be of equal value it only requires that bthe aggregate outweighs the other.

Here’s an extreme example to answer your last question. Say that we had one person that was made to suffer so that billions of other humans could live comfortable happy lives with all their desires met.

One could easily think that even with much more weight given to this one individuals suffering that the aggregate happiness would still outweigh the suffering.

Lastly since you discount the anguish from those who are upset about the taking of innocent healthy human lives, one cannot out-of-hand object to the situation where infanticide became legal and people got upset about other babies being killed.

Since it fulfils the preferences and makes happy the parents that don’t want the child, that increased aggregate of happiness would seem to be all that matters.

In fact there are at least a few extreme progressives who think that society should move in that direction because after all, they aren’t persons and if we aren’t required to care for or pass care to others for other sentient beings, we aren’t required to do the same for sentient non person babies. That is if we don’t want be arbitrary and speciest.

That's where Pro-Choice takes you in the end. That and the right to late term abortions.




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