Quicklinks: Following up Islam and vegetarianism

About two months ago, I submitted a post about the open mosque in Cape Town that included a short bit on how the idea of takfir can make Islamic conflicts worse, specifically with regard to ISIS (or ISIL or IS or whatever it calls itself these days). There’s a guest post on The Friendly Atheist that addresses the same point but taking a slightly different angle, saying that when some Muslim groups say ISIS is not Islamic they are not necessarily saying they are not Muslims. I doubt either perspective is completely correct but I should at least share the information.

Going further back, to last December, I described my experiences at a writer’s workshop, including my dismay at recent trends showing an increase in global meat consumption. This dismay is now reinforced by a recent article in The Guardian (found via io9) which summarises a report showing that to avoid climate change it is necessary to reduce the global consumption of meat. It’s not just a minor issue.

The global livestock industry produces more greenhouse gas emissions than all cars, planes, trains and ships combined, but a worldwide survey by Ipsos MORI in the report finds twice as many people think transport is the bigger contributor to global warming.

It’s pointless getting an electric car or cycling to work without reducing meat consumption because you’ll be directing attention at the wrong problem. It’s like telling people to be careful because candles are a fire hazard but staying silent about a trend for indoor bonfires! Even when people do say or do something, the reaction to suggestions that meat consumption needs to be reduced are negative.

For example, see this discussion about the push back against meatless Mondays. Not only the objections often completely misguided but when you see complaints about how meatless Monday or stricter emissions standards are bad for the economy you know that that person has a completely short-sighted view of the world. Are short-term economics really going to take priority over long-term survival?

Quicklinks: Animals and food

Tauriq Moosa has a new essay looking at the ethics of keeping animals in captivity. He claims that it is not always wrong, and I’d agree that there are times when it can be right. It seems as though we’d disagree exactly how often that is but he does bring up a number of points that are worth thinking about.

The other two links concern animals as food; something that I see fellow South African Jacques Rousseau thinks should end in his lifetime: Continue reading

Quicklinks: GMOs

I happened to find a number of stories about genetically modified organisms this past week and thought they might be worth sharing. Not only have the early pioneers of GM plants been awarded the World Food Prize but the British government seems to be pushing strongly for GM crops. I think this is great. The technology can do amazing things, especially if we’re going to be facing issues with climate change.

There are many people who claim it’s not safe but there’s really no evidence of that. The technology itself should be safe and the few studies that claim it’s not are poorly designed. There’s a post on Science Based Medicine that looks at the many flaws with a recent study that claim GM crops are hazardous to our health.

There may be valid criticisms of the behaviour of some companies, like Monsanto, but that’s no reason to jettison the whole field of GMOs. If you think a company makes computers unnecessarily expensive or hard to use you wouldn’t tell people not to use computers, you would tell that company to change it’s practices. Similarly, if there’s a problem with the way GMO producers behave then it’s fine to focus on that but don’t make unscientific claims about how dangerous GMOs are.

Quick links: Vegetarianism

Here’s a blog post containing a thought experiment about the ethics of vegetarianism that I found quite interesting. It was also written by a watcher of my blog; this blog is small enough that I do at least glance at each person who watches me. You are all important to me. I’d recommend reading the link but here’s a really condensed version of what it says.

If you were on one of two train tracks and were told continuing on your current would result in you hitting and killing a pig but you could change tracks to one where you would hit and kill a bean plant, most people would rather hit the plant. That’s an ethical decision where most people value animals more than plants. This is analogous to the situation in a shopping centre where you have the option of either buying ham or beans yet in that situation people do not go for the beans as often. This means at some point there is an inconsistency in the ethics of those people that would eat meat rather than plants but still avoid killing an animal when food is removed from the equation.

The other link I’ll share is a more practical one. Clean drinking water is a fairly rare commodity, particularly in Africa. A vegetarian diet can be produced with less water than a meat-based diet. This means become vegetarian (or at least reducing the amount of meat eaten) would have benefits with regard to water availability. This article shares that some water scientists are suggesting that mankind will be forced to follow a primarily vegetarian diet by 2050 in order for there to be sufficient water for everyone.

Debating plant ethics

A pansy, the symbol of the free though movement. (source: Wikimedia Commons)

Some people might know that I became a vegetarian a few months ago for ethical reasons. In summary: many animals are sentient and capable of suffering and experiencing harm which means they are objects of ethical concern. It is unethical to cause harm to sentient creatures if it can be avoided. Eating meat is harmful to them, unnecessary for our survival and so ethically unacceptable. There are also health and environmental benefits to a vegetarian diet which are nice but were not the basis for my decision. That is all based on animal ethics. At least one person has now tried to start a debate on plant ethics. Continue reading