Are My Morals Better Than Yours?
Vegans are frequently met with non-vegans who claim we think we’re morally superior. I don’t recall ever telling someone I’m morally superior. But when I remove myself from the equation (tough to do, but stay with me) and I look at the decision, say, to shoot a cougar or a buck or not–and that neither the cougar nor the buck is lunging at me threatening my life, which he could end if he wanted to (and I doubt the buck would ever want to, but you get the idea), I’d say the choice to refrain from taking a life when there is no need to is a morally superior one. Is that outrageous of me?
In fact, I’d say that in any situation I can think of that a suburban writer would find herself in, such as the weekly, potentially-lethal trip (not lethal for me) to Whole Foods, when one is faced with: Should I or should I not end someone’s life or pay someone else (John Mackey’s people) to do it for me, the decision to purchase nutritious items that weren’t once sentient beings is morally superior than the decision to slaughter sentient beings or pay someone to do it for me. Is that outrageous, judgmental and extreme? (Potentially three different discussions there, I realize.)
The decision to refrain from dogfighting was really easy for most people: Michael Vick is morally inferior for committing such unspeakably heinous acts, right? But why? Because dogs hold a special place in our culture? Because we have decided that dogs are more worthy of our respect than chickens? And if so, where’s the morality in that? Isn’t that irrational? (I’ll remind myself that culture and tradition aren’t rational–no need to e-mail me.) The fact that dogfighting is a crime is irrelevant. The outrage didn’t come from the illegality of Vick’s activities; it came from the brutal nature of his activities with a species we have decided is deserving of special treatment.
But then I think: Hmmm, we love horses, right? Have you ever seen what happens to horses at a rodeo? And they’re treated the best of all rodeo animals. We do indeed treat animals we claim to hold dear rather abysmally (e.g., greyhound racing and horse racing).
I return to my original point. Can you not say that choosing not to use an animal for your entertainment and profit, when that individual would surely rather be living his or her natural life rather than the one you decide to create for him or her, is a choice that is morally superior than using that individual for your own purposes?
Finally, let’s say I have a belief that says pedophilia is morally wrong. And let’s say you’re a pedophile. Are you going to accuse me of thinking I’m morally superior and of judging you? Forget the fact that pedophilia is illegal. Or how about you cheat on your spouse and that’s not part of your marital arrangement. I don’t cheat because I think it’s wrong. Cheating isn’t illegal. Am I morally superior to you?
I’m just asking the questions. And some of the examples I have presented aren’t great analogies, so please don’t concentrate on them. The issue, regardless of the analogy, is: Is there such a thing as actions that, objectively, aren’t morally correct? Such as killing without necessity. Don’t say the actions must be viewed through the lens of the context of the culture, as culture shouldn’t have anything to do with morality. Culture is the word we use to describe things that have no good reason for existing: the word for holding something sacred today because you held it sacred yesterday.
Isn’t choosing not to kill morally superior than choosing to kill?