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The Predation Argument

Charles K. Fink

Introduction: One common objection to ethical vegetarianism concerns the morality of the predator/prey relationship. According to some critics, ethical vegetarians fail to recognize that human beings are predatory animals (while not carnivores, at least omnivores), and that meat is a natural part of the human diet.  If it is natural for human beings to eat meat, how could it be wrong?  Related to this is the charge that ethical vegetarians are in the awkward position of condemning, not just  human predation, but all forms of natural predation.  If we should interfere in the operations of the meat industry or abolish recreational hunting because of the misery which these practices inflict upon animals, shouldn’t we also interfere  in the operations of nature and  protect prey animals from wild predators?  The objection raised here is sometimes called the “predation argument.”  In what follows, I will examine three versions of the argument.

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Man today thinks that he was once a hunter-gatherer, free to roam the land feared and without fear, just as today encountering only animals which were small or weak or slow or stupid.  Dominating the land.  In fact only a few thousand years ago there were bulls and rhinos three meters tall and cats and wolves that could eat them all over africa and europe and asia, whereas we were kept in small small numbers compared to what we are used to today.   There were deer 2 1/2 meters tall with horns like huge tables either side of their heads and various other megafauna.  What is a man without metal?  A 5 ft monkey with a stick.  To pole dance with a wooly rhino you'd need a stick the height of a house, which wouldn't break under the weight of one, and even then you'd probably die.  What happens when elephants see humans in the wild?  They kiss us goodnight, and only an armour piercing weapon or unnatural burst of speed could stop that.  Why should we not consider the truth, that the man who evolved from the dust was small like a mouse, a hider-scavanger.  Great ape?  We are little, great only in intellect.  We are mice amongst hamsters today, but as entities, what we really grew as, mice amongst cats with monsters everywhere to boot, literally, and ashamed of it because of the idea we might have been better off some mighty lords in control of it all.  We believe not just what we say, that we were lords of the beast, but that we are gods of the universe eternal as was conceived in the swinging days of animal husbandry and slavery.  How does psychological repair go?  Acknowledgement of the self first?  We protected prey animals before that time alright.  Here is one of them, and you there are one also because we protected ourselves, for the most part no lords, no masters, certainly not gods to anything uncageable.  Gorillas die fighting little cats today which are easily overmatched to us.  Feardy little monkeys we were with some cunning for protection, and if you insist on eating the result without being a true predator, you go insane, just like chimps, just like humans, flaying each other and everything else they can catch for no good reason.  People talk like we evolved as choosers, veggies and carnivores alike.  Back then we were in trouble, small numbered, whole species dying out occasionally.  So, I'm sorry if this is just a big babble, but the more I know about the past we came from, the more I guffaw at an idea of we being natural lords, even if we did decimate the land eventually, we are not an impressive species in any way even remotely outside the capability of our minds.

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