May 23·edited May 23Liked by Richard Y Chappell

Thanks for the comments on chicken. I sometimes eat chicken, which I justified by loose appeal to some sort of cognitive hierarchy. I hadn't considered (and didn't know) that broiler chickens actually have it much worse than cattle.

Incidentally, this reminds me of Scott Alexander's post about moral offsetting- the idea that (e.g.) $70 donated to PETA undoes the entire lifetime of animal harm caused by a carnivore. I'm not sure what I think about it. At a micro level it makes sense (with the obvious caveat that it's better to do the offset without eating the meat.) But on a macro-level it fails a sort of categorical imperative- if everyone offset their own meat consumption, there would be no meat consumption.

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Jun 8Liked by Richard Y Chappell

I'm not sure if anyone else listens to Tyler Cowen's podcast but he just did an interview with Singer, where he cited our gracious blog host as an underrated philosopher worth paying attention to! You're hitting the big time!

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One objection to Kagan's view comes from Dustin Crummett. The idea is that what matters to one's well-being is how nearby the possible world is where they are a person. But if this were true, then if one created a button that would turn all animals into people if pressed, and then destroyed it before pressing it, this would make factory farming vastly worse, because it would make the possible world where they are persons much more nearby. This is clearly wrong.

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May 24Liked by Richard Y Chappell

Basically: avoiding factory farming seems overwhelming predetermined regardless of ones moral framework.

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May 24Liked by Richard Y Chappell

I don't think Speciesm is very relevant in factory farming discussions. I'm not a utilitarian at all and am quite proudly speciest, I think humans should get materially more moral weight than chickens; yet it is still obviously a moral harm how we treat chickens and other factory farmed animals; (which as you note is the vast vast majority of animal products). It seems intuitive to think one should avoid these moral hazards, including by going vegan, even if one thinks our moral duties are materially stronger to humans (and different in kind) than to other animals.

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May 23Liked by Richard Y Chappell

Hey, Dr. Chappell! Great review, I myself cannot wait to read this book. I was initially ambivalent about purchasing it as I have read the original, but once I saw that Singer considers it a new book, I did order a copy. I am especially pleased to hear that he addresses challenges from Kagan; I myself am not convinced by accounts that want us to take into account that a being could have been a person under different circumstances (you appear to allude to this with the Chicken-Person-Pill Example). Perhaps it is a difference in intuitions, but I think that when you look at the way things actually are, assuming that the benefits conferred by the pill would be the same, there would be no wrong choice here. This, of course, does not make any reference to second or third term items (how would others feel about you giving the pill to the chicken, would the human have more wellbeing over time in light of the intelligence granted by the pill than the chicken would, etc.) that may turn things in favor of the human.

The deprivation account just doesn't seem to work; in either case, giving the hen or the human the pill creates a fundamentally new person, it's just a matter of which being gets to "host" the person, so to speak.

One final note might be that I would still encourage individuals to take it upon themselves to be vegan or vegetarian, even if animal welfare legislation is more effective on its own. I think there are some important things within those choices that do count, even if for much less.

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Why aren't you vegan?

You understand the arguments, you can access the facts. You live in the richest country in the history of the world. Top university educated, trained in philosophy and critical thinking. Employed as an associate professor at an american university which puts you in a location and income bracket where buying vegan food poses no problem. Emeshed in philosophy and EA circles where you presenting as vegan would come at no serious social cost. You even personally know Peter Singer!

You call what humans do to animals "abusive", "harrowing", "abominable", "heartbreaking", "evil" and "the gravest ongoing moral disaster of our times".

You appear to every single day have the best possible opportunities to easily avoid supporting those immense harms. Yet you choose to support them for seemingly no other reason than your own pleasure satisfaction and you publicly, shamelessly, matter-of-factly admit doing so.

Have you watched undercover videos from animal industries, transportations trucks and slaughterhouses? Do that and say to yourself "I am paying for this, I'm helping this harm be done, that animal is suffering because of me". Why isn't such reflection sufficient to make you change your behaviour? What exactly is preventing you from, starting right now, buying and eating only vegan food going forward? What is so special about your motivational system that you cannot do what millions of already vegan people do every day, despite being in worse social and economic situations than you? What can you say to us to justify why you refuse to take the steps that we have already taken?

You write "I tend to think we should be sparing with blame" but your own critiques on this blog against others often come across as scathing and blameful. You recently even created meme images to ridicule vegans and animal activists who wrote a book that criticized the EA movement for not prioritizing veganism and direct animal care work enough! If that was a fitting reaction to them then what is a fitting reaction to you engaging in "the gravest ongoing moral disaster of our times" for personal pleasure?

In revealed practice your values seem to be: you blaming others, even other vegans, for acting and thinking suboptimally is good and fine but blaming you for daily, very easily avoidable harms to animals is inappropriate.

Even worse, by shamelessly admitting your knowing participation in those harms you send a practical signal to all readers which is louder than all your other words: harming animals is really not a serious issue! For how could it be, if someone as privileged as you, someone who has dedicated their life to thinking and writing about morality, won't even take basic, everyday steps to withdraw practical support of those harm?

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I generally don’t eat pork (when I can recognize as such, which is remarkably hard sometimes) and have been flirting with vegetarianism and even veganism for some time.

I suppose the reason I still eat meat is 1. The animals are already dead 2. Any decrease in demand of meat will ever so slightly drop the price which will ever so slightly increase the demand from some price sensitive proud meat eater.

There is also the none existentance problem, which doesn’t apply to factory farming, (I would much rather not exist then be in a factory farm) but does apply to more traditional or just not horror show levels of farming.

I also tend to think there is a decent chance of suffering only mattering if the animal has some kind of meta cognitive abilities that chickens don’t have but pigs probably do.

Additionally, I think the strongest argument for veganism and vegetarianism is to slowly spread it, but I feel like I’m low status enough that if anything people would be more encouraged to eat meat if they saw me vegan-ing around!

Idk though I haven’t really fully thought it out.

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