Morality is and will always be a major philosophical issue as it touches on several aspects of ethical discussions. This makes it very important for one to have a good understanding of this term so that any reasoned argument revolving around the topic can exhibit sense and logic. Morality has generally been used to refer to a measure of behavior against the standards of right and wrong as set by the society. This simply means that each and every human society has set of presumed codes against which any action of its member is evaluated and judged as either right or wrong.
This is irrespective of the fact that not everything that is considered as right or wrong will be applicable to everyone and in all situations (The Ethical Vegetarian 2010). When the topic on morality is being examined, it is necessary to put focus on the various concepts that are associated with this term. Such concepts include moral standards which tend to evaluate the behavior of an individual, the moral responsibility which examines and guides the conscience of a person, and moral identity which spells the difference between persons capable of right or wrong actions.
The key words that are given consideration when discussing morality include ethics, principles, virtue, and goodness. The constant changes that keep on occurring in the society has made morality a very complex topic since it has to correspond with the many changing situations and changing human conditions (The Ethical Vegetarian 2010). On each and every day, we are confronted by numerous decisions that we must make. The choices of our decisions are mainly dependent on one’s conscience.
Within the Christian circles, conscience is guided by the heart in such a manner that feelings of right, wrong, and fairness are pre-existing within the human heart. This is the basis of awareness that is always present in the mind of any individual to the extent of deliberately guiding their actions. Outside the Christian understanding, human conscience is guided by the needs of an individual and is thus dependent on the acquired behavior of an individual. This is what will make one action right within the conscience of one person and wrong within the conscience of the other person (The Ethical Vegetarian 2010).
To be more precise, conscience is the situation in which a person reasons out first before reaching a judgment on any given matter. This means that a person will look at the morality in what he is about to do, is in the process of doing, or had already done. Conscientious morality is thus present in the heart of an individual and will tend to guide the mind of a person in decisive moments towards choosing good while avoiding evil. People thus act after paying keen attention to their conscience (The Ethical Vegetarian 2010).
Conscience is guided by authoritative teachings which include the perception of the guidelines of morality, how these guidelines are to be applied to different circumstances according to practical discernment of reasons and goods, and the final choice on major acts yet to be done or are already done. This poses a major dilemma since people are normally subjected to several negative influences making them prefer to be guided by their own judgment instead of the authoritative principles of morality (The Ethical Vegetarian 2010).
Vegetarianism refers to the act of strict adherence to plant-based diet consisting of fruits, vegetables, cereal grains, nuts, and seeds while totally avoiding animal products and by-products. The decision by a person to be a vegetarian may be as a result of many factors including health, environmental, ethical, religious, political, cultural, economic, aesthetic, and many other reasons. The ethical reason for vegetarianism has always generated heated debates about the ethics of eating animals.
Vegetarians tend to base their ethical objections to animal eating on acts of killing in general and the agricultural practices involved in the production of meat (The Ethical Vegetarian 2010). The arguments against killing of animals are shaped by concerns for animals’ rights, environmental ethics, and religious reasons. The other reasons may centre on taboos against eating meat of certain animals such as dogs, cats, donkeys, and such like.
While these strong objections are advanced by vegetarians, the non vegetarians are also keen at citing scientific, nutritional, cultural, and religious reasons for supporting meat eating. Since both sides of this debate have sound arguments in support of their position, a dilemma arise as to whether should depend on the authoritative moral principles or rely on the conscience about animal eating or not (The Ethical Vegetarian 2010). In the perception of vegetarians, people have a moral obligation to choose food substances which do not posse danger and harm to animals.
This means that man should look for alternative means of survival instead of killing animals for food. The killing of animals according to the argument of vegetarians should only be done in extreme circumstances and not merely for the enjoyable taste of meat, convenience, or the nutritional value of meat. The increased demand for meat would also require the adoption of a mass means of producing animals to meet this new demand. This would encourage the use of non-ethical ways of hastening growth of animals instead of letting animals grow naturally (The Ethical Vegetarian 2010).
The big question therefore is on whether it is necessary for one to be a vegetarian in order to be considered as a moral person. For one to be considered a conscientious moral agent, he should be able to demonstrate impartiality, ascertain facts, and scrutinize principles in order to ensure that what he stands for make sense and can be intelligently applied. Such a person listens to reasons and acts on the basis of the deliberations from the reasons. Morality requires one to reason out issues so that one only acknowledges an issue if they are sound.
The vegetarianism and moral conscientious debate also lean on aspects of feeling and taste. While feelings are good to the extent in which they reflect moral seriousness, they should not bar a person from figuring out what is right. Taste on the other hand does not need any reasoning (The Ethical Vegetarian 2010). The ethical issues that have so far been advanced by vegetarians for avoiding meat and other animal products are all good reasons to the extent that there are available alternatives to the killing of animals for food.
The question that needs an answer from the vegetarians on is what ought to be done in circumstances that the alternatives are not readily available or where the cost of obtaining the alternatives is out of reach of an individual. Will a conscientious moral agent allow such sound reasoning in this present circumstance to justify the eating of meat in the absence of alternatives? What if one’s taste is for meat? Taste does not need any reasoning and should therefore drive the conscience as to what one is eating (The Ethical Vegetarian 2010).
What then should the animals be for in the opinion of a vegetarian if they are not supposed to be eaten on ethical grounds? Wouldn’t their numbers be too much to an extent of being a menace to people? What would drive the conscience of a moral agent on the basis of such sound facts? If the reasons in this circumstance are sound, will a conscientious moral agent acknowledge them and change his mind towards meat eating? The entire questions posses’ dilemma for an ethical vegetarian. This is because religious morality permits the eating of meat, and health ethics similarly permits the eating of meat.
The taste of an individual may equally drive his conscience to eat meat (The Ethical Vegetarian 2010). Vegetarianism is mainly driven by two aspects namely ethical vegetarianism and dietary vegetarianism. Those who practice vegetarianism on ethical grounds base their argument on the fact that all forms of killing are morally wrong and should be avoided. To them, the slaughtering of animals for food is a mistreatment, exploitation, and abuse in a way. To them, it is simply not moral to skin animals for meat, leather, and fur or to fish, hunt, and engage in any other practice that would hurt or lead to killing of an animal.
In the strict sense therefore, a truly conscientious moral agent should even avoid wearing leather items such as shoes and belts, avoid woolen clothing, and all other associated animal by-products (The Ethical Vegetarian 2010). Several schools of thoughts have since emerged each with a varied viewpoint regarding the kind of relationship that should exist between man and animals. The two leading schools of thoughts are the exploitative and the liberationists. Significant philosophers among the liberationists include Singer and Regan.
According to them, animals should be liberated against all forms of human exploitation. On the other hand are the welfarists who argue that animals should be used as food by man as long as their welfare is assured during their lifetime. This group continues to reemphasize their position to the effect that animals should live lives free from avoidable suffering and that the different purposes for which animals are used by man should be critically and regularly examined (WorldAnimalNet, 2005). Among the ancient philosophers, vegetarianism should be practiced for various reasons.
According to Pythagoras (285-500BC), transmigration of souls makes it wrong to eat an animal since one could merely be eating the implanted soul of a person. Aristotle (384-322BC) on the other hand supported the idea that animals do not have any sense of reason and are thus significantly different from man. The animals are therefore on earth purely to be used by man for food and other accessories. Other humanitarian philosophers who supported the course for vegetarianism include Seneca, Plutarch, and Porphyry (WorldAnimalNet, 2005).
Plutarch advanced his course by questioning the circumstances under which man first consumed flesh of animals. He thus argues against Aristotle to the effect that animals are not on earth to be eaten but rather for their aesthetic value and to enrich nature. Aquinas (1225-1274) saw no harm in killing animals for food or treated in any other useful way. Kant (1724-1860) on his part considered that did not have any direct duties towards animals. He however opposed cruelty towards animals as a basis for developing humane feelings towards humanity (WorldAnimalNet, 2005).
Ethical vegetarians tend to be more successful in their practice of vegetarianism. To them, the killing of animals is morally wrong and unacceptable. They simply do not care about the effects that vegetarianism has on their health. Such people will hardly revert back to meat eating regardless of the sound reasoning since they have a strong moral conviction. This is contrary to health vegetarians who revert to meat eating if their health fails to improve. Successful vegetarianism should therefore be guided by both ethical and health concerns. This makes vegetarianism without ethics ineffectual.
It is therefore of sound reasoning that one needs to be a vegetarian in order to be a truly moral person. Conscientious moral agents therefore have no option but to be strict vegetarians irrespective of any sound reasoning advanced by those who want to eat meat and other animal by-products. Work cited The Ethical Vegetarian. ‘Arguments for Vegetarianism’ 2010 [Online] available from < http://www. ethicalvegetarian. com/arguments. html > [26 July 2010]. WorldAnimalNet ‘Animal Welfare in Context: Ethical and Philosophical Theories’ 2005 [Online] available from < http://worldanimal. net/online_management_book/2%20Ethics. pdf > [26 July 2010]
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