Apr 30 2009

What It Should Really Mean To Be Libertarian (*Ahem,* Jan Narveson)

by Lindsey

We all know that people have many different motivations for being veg*n, such as concern for animals and/or the environment or health reasons. But I know few who become vegan, citing political beliefs as their main motivation. So I’d like to post my friend’s reason for being vegan.

Leafy recently posted a debate between animals-as-property abolitionist Gary Francione and libertarian philosopher Jan Narveson. I was appalled at Narveson’s stance that if it is in humans’ interests (even in the trivial interests of entertainment or fashion), it is entirely morally acceptable to torture an animal in any conceivable way. To him, it’s “weird,” but we shouldn’t ever stop anyone from doing it. I presume his reasoning is that he wouldn’t want to interfere with a person’s “freedom” to torture another feeling being.

For context, my friend originally posted the following on a private forum with about twenty (non-veg*n) members.

The longer I remain vegan and think about my motivations for being so, I’ve realized that they stem from larger societal issues. This is the point where this post might start offending people, and I truly do not mean it to. Any examples I provide or situations I describe are not directly pointed at anyone, least of all anyone here. I don’t know anyone here very well (or even decently well), so this is just a statement of how I feel. (More direct disclaimer: Every thing said in this post is directly from my point of view. The topics herein contained are stated as facts. Their factness may remain debatable to some, but from my point of view, they are fact. I believe wholeheartedly that there is no such thing as objective/absolute truth so read what I say with that lens. )

I don’t much like labels, but one of the most fitting labels for me is Libertarian. While I will not completely identify myself with that political party, I agree with basically all of their tenets. To me, it all means one thing – freedom. You should be free to do whatever you want to do, however you want to do it, for as long as you want to do it so long as you don’t infringe on another’s right to do the same. Any restriction on this is an outside party/force trying to control behavior for his/her/its/their own purposes. Manipulation of a population is a heinous crime and is the antithesis of freedom. That being said, if humans are guaranteed this (and I know they aren’t but ultimately, that is what I hope for), why are animals not?

The answer to that question boils down to one simple belief. Humans are superior to animals. If one believes this, I counter with a simple, “why?” If it is because we possess greater mental capacity, I might remind you (generic you, not the reader) that the one (and practically only) advanced ability that humans have over animals is the ability to recognize “complex” patterns. Yet, I find it disheartening that this ability receives very little reward in our society. The people who make the most money are not the ones who have mastered this defining characteristic of our species, but are the ones who have mastered their physical bodies to play games. We are “superior” to animals yet our largest forms of entertainment of at the same level of the entertainment of animals. If we are that similar to animals, then perhaps a higher authority has deemed humans as a “superior” species. Regardless of one’s belief in said higher power, I personally must go back to what I said in the last paragraph – manipulation of a population is a heinous crime and is the antithesis of freedom. If this “higher power” has decreed that we are “superior” that that power is manipulating us by infusing an alien belief structure into us. While it is generally easier to remain ignorant of this lack of self-definition, I do not feel that I can accept that.

So, all of that being said, I feel that animals are neither superior nor inferior to humans. Humans are animals. In that light, the meat industry is akin to slavery in that a group of people are restricting the life of other individuals to make a significant gain from the life of that individual whereas on the other side of the coin, the individual is not allowed to live a natural life. This is a grave injustice. It is sickening to me the more I think about it. I cannot support something which betrays my most base moral code…the prevalence of justice (what can I say, I’m a Libra).

I sincerely hope that this post was not taken as a sermon. I have no right to tell you that what you feel/believe is wrong. In fact, I am a moral relativist, but that does not quell the fire of my own beliefs. There are about a billion other related topics about which I have an unyielding blaze of criticism/commentary, and I hope that I can one day discuss these things rationally with rational people such as are here. I welcome any critiques of my post/thoughts and would love to start a dia/tria/more-alogue about the subjects and any related (or non-related) ones.