The first argument I've heard mainly comes down to showing that there aren't meaningful distinguishing factors between animals and humans, so that if you're fine eating animals, you should also be fine eating humans under some circumstances. 

Another argument I've heard is that if you accept eating animals, there's really no reason you can't abuse them or engage in bestiality. We already sexually violate them in different ways and abuse them physically, so if you're uncomfortable with dog/bull fighting or bestiality, you should probably be similarly uncomfortable with supporting the meat industry

Finally, there's just the probability aspect of this, where even if you're 1% unsure that eating meat is wrong, that's essentially equivalent to a 1% chance of an outcome with over 100 murders/rapes that you've contributed to, which is equivalent to more than one atrocity personally committed by you. It's like if I had a pork company with no safety standards so 1% of the time you purchased my meat you were actually eating one of my employees

However, the striking counterargument to all of this that I can't overcome is simply that morals aren't real. They aren't anything that can be measured or verified and any system to measure or verify them would be a moral assumption itself.

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So, what it sounds like to me is that you at least somewhat buy a couple object-level moral arguments for veganism, but also put a high confidence in some variety of moral anti-realism which undermines those arguments. There are two tracks of reasoning I would consider here.

First: if anti-realism is correct, it doesn't matter what we do. If anti-realism is not correct, then it seems like we shouldn't eat animals. Unless we're 100% confident in the anti-realism, it seems like we shouldn't eat animals. Note that there are a couple difficulties with this kind of view - some sticking points with stating it precisely, and the pragmatic difficulty of letting a tiny sliver of credence drive your actions.

Second: even if morals aren't real, values still are real. Just as a purely descriptive matter, you as a homo sapiens probably have some values, even if there isn't some privileged set of values that's "correct". Anti-realism claims tend to sneak in a connotations roughly of the form "if morals aren't real, then I should just do whatever I want" - where "whatever I want" looks sort of like a cartoon Ayn Rand on a drunken power trip. But the whole thing about anti-realism is that there are no norms about what you should/shouldn't do. If you want to, you could still be a saint-as-traditionally-defined. So which world do you prefer, not just based on what's "morally correct", but based on your own values: the world with meat at the cost of animal suffering, or the world without? Recommended reading on this topic from E-Yudz: What Would You Do Without Morality?

Missing cells in your matrix: perhaps morals are real, and creating animals for the purpose of meat is permitted.  The main question for moral realists is "how can you find the truth?".  If morals have some basis in the real, measurable, objective universe, then it becomes an empirical question about how to act.  

"if anti-realism is true, it doesn't matter [to us] what we do" -- that's false. Whether something does matter to us is a fact independent of whether something ought to matter to us.

2TAG9mo
Rationality is a norm. A rational agent will believe what they rationally-ought to believe, and that includes any implications of anti-realism for action.
2Dagon9mo
I think I fully disagree that rationality is a norm. It's a cluster of things, but the socially-enforced expected patterns are not a big part of it. And I think your second sentence is tautological, in that if an agent doesn't believe what it rationally-ought, then it's not a rational agent. I do agree that it's difficult for anti-realists to crisply define "ought" in any way that's distinct from "prefer".
1TAG9mo
I don't mean norm in the sense of "arbitrary standards imposed by society on everybody" , I mean it in the sense of "non arbitrary rules you should follow if you want to obtain specific results". Rationality is it's own norm, in that sense. Yep. But tautologies are true
1lukstafi9mo
The implications of moral anti realism for action revolve around pursuing facts to feed into terminal preference updates.
2FinalFormal29mo
Do you mind explaining further?
1lukstafi9mo
Moral anti-realists do not claim that people don't have preferences. Rather, they claim that there are no preference-assumption-free facts regarding preference system comparisons. Therefore moral anti realists will not seek such facts. Moral realists may seek such facts in order to improve/correct their preferences.

The "do not kill animals to eat them" argument is for vegetarianism, not only veganism.

I understand and see the consistency in the argument for vegetarianism: "I'd rather not kill animals to eat them". As an omnivore myself, I think that all omnivores should at least occasionally participate in the slaughter and processing of the meat that they eat, in order to make a fully informed decision about whether causing an animal to die is worth it to them for the flavor and nutrition offered by meat compared to its alternatives. Old-fashioned though it is, I think that if you wouldn't kill a creature yourself, you have no business eating it.

The argument for veganism beyond vegetarianism, however, strikes me as incoherent when its claims are taken at face value. Veganism at its extreme purports that no product in whose production any animal could have suffered is acceptable for anyone to consume.

This falls apart in 2 places for me:

First, most vegans will happily consume products which required the labor of animals, and whose production harms animals, as long as those products aren't on their list of taboo items. Vegans categorically reject eggs even from spoiled pet chickens who get better nutrition and medical care than many humans in developing nations, because eggs are on the taboo list, and yet instead of eggs they'll recommend substituting plant based products grown in industrial monocultures whose planting and harvest endangers entire species of birds. Vegans categorically reject honey because they claim to care about the wellbeing of bees, and yet they encourage consumption of products whose production requires shipping hundreds of thousands of bees to a central location. This puts great stress on the hives, and exposes them to all kinds of diseases like the first day of kindergarten, compared to leaving them alone and harvesting a frame or two of honey every so often when they make more than they need.

Second, the vegan rhetoric of "don't eat these taboo items because animals suffer to make them" appears inconsistent to me because I regard humans as being animals too. I think that if you want to minimize the amount of suffering that goes into your diet, it's essential to consider the experiences of the humans who farm the products that you eat. "The vegans" as a cultural force tend to diatribe ad nauseum about how ever harvesting any honey hurts the bees, or ever harvesting any wool hurts the sheep, yet I do not see them showing comparable vitriol about the impact of poor labor practices on the suffering of the humans whose labor produces cheap "vegan" foods. The wool and honey stuff makes me especially suspicious about the claimants' experience with the actual products: I have kept pet sheep and seen how happy they look to get out from under their heavy wool coats in the warmth of early summer, and how calmly they tolerate shearing when a skillful professional denudes them. I have worked with beekeepers enough to see how carefully harvesting a frame of honey avoids injury to even a single insect, and seen how in wild hives, they will fill every bit of space with honey until they're forced to swarm because there is inadequate space left for the colony to grow.

Yeah, I was definitely accidentally using veganism as a stand-in for more vegetarian-aligned ideas. I'm not really opposed to taking honey or silk or whatever.

I'm very naturally inclined to think in that old-fashioned way where if you kill or are willing to kill an animal for its meat that makes it okay, but I'm not sure if that's actually rational.

Why should morals be based on what I'm comfortable with? It seems like by my own standards, judging morals that way has led to many immoral actions by people who were comfortable dehumanizing and killing their e... (read more)

1nim9mo
IMO, the omnivory morality that we're calling "old-fashioned" has 2 forms, each of which rests on an underlying value that's not directly related to killing or eating at all: 1. "Kill what you eat" embodies a distaste for hypocrisy. Distaste for harvesting one's the meat one eats is often rooted in an intuition that killing animals somehow harms or sullies the people who do it. They're not entirely wrong; it isn't (and shouldn't be) emotionally easy to dispatch an innocent creature. When someone expresses a desire to eat meat without "getting their hands dirty", they're implying that they're better or more deserving of comfort and ease than whoever they're asking to do the dirty work for them. That inconsistency of suggesting that some people are "better" than others in that they deserve to get the benefits of unpleasant tasks without doing the tasks themselves tends to map closely with value systems that modern western cultures express great distaste for when they're stated explicitly. The "some people deserve more comfort than others" concept only becomes palatable when wrapped in meritocratic ideology -- "I don't wish to kill what I eat so I work to pay someone else to kill it for me" is such a wrapper. 2. "Eat what you kill" embodies a distaste for gratuitous waste. I suspect that this distaste is very deeply embedded in the cultural or even perhaps genetic patterns of society which have been shaped through life-or-death competition: minimizing wasted resources now tends to maximize available resources later. I suspect that historially, the tribes, villages, and societies who wasted a significant portion of their resources were less successful than those who disliked waste, so we see more of the latter groups' values surviving to echo in the present. I don't always eat what I kill -- I've never been desperate enough to eat a mouse or rat, for instance, althou
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if you're fine eating animals, you should also be fine eating humans under some circumstances. 

Just to get this out of the way, so you can ignore the rest of my answers: I have not found myself in such circumstances, but I do think they are conceivable such that eating humans would be fine.  Note that I am a moral anti-realist (I don't think there is an objective truth to what's morally allowed or required).

there aren't meaningful distinguishing factors between animals and humans

This has massive implications beyond choice of food.  We should stop creating humans, in order to create and support more of whichever animal is morally indistinguishable from humans and uses the least resources.

 there's really no reason you can't abuse them or engage in bestiality.

I hope not the ones I eat, that's gross.  For those who have such urges, it's an open question whether it's preferable to suffer and suppress them or to enact them on animals.  It's absolutely not controversial that enacting them on humans is far worse than on animals.  

Why are you assuming it's even bad to enact them on animals? In the agricultural industry we stick tasers up the anuses of bulls to harvest their ejaculate. If you can tie a calf down to harvest veal for the pleasure of humans, why can't you fight dogs for the pleasure of humans?

I'm not sure how your moral anti-realist views play into this, so it might be useful to explain how they're influencing your answers.