ethics philosophy science

don’t eat me, i’m sentient

A friend asked me yesterday what I thought about vegetarianism.  

My response, having thought about it a bit (with another person), was close at hand – “I think it makes too much of sentience”, knowing that the sentience spectrum (or more particularly the assumed law/goal of not causing pain to anything sentient) is one of the main reasons why people decide to be vegetarian.

This post is not to explain why I think we can (hypocritical as it might sound) treat animals humanely (i.e., I support free-range initiatives) and still eat them, however.  It is to shed new light (for me at least?) on the issue.

((I’ve often said that if we can submit ourselves to a law that says ‘Don’t harm sentient things’, then why not extend this to ‘Don’t harm living things’?  Main reason? Because we’d starve.))

Interestingly, and finally the point of this post, what if plants are sentient too!!??  Perhaps it depends on how we define sentience?  I leave you with a post (in full – from here) I came across recently, and your own thinking on the matter:

R. Fischer says, “The relativity of our reference point can be demonstrated by taking a moving picture of a plant at one frame a minute and then speeding it up to thirty frames a second. The plant will appear to behave like an animal, clearly perceiving stimuli and reacting to them. Why, then, do we call it unconscious? To organisms which react 1800 times as quickly as we react, we might appear to be unconscious. They would in fact be justified in calling us unconscious, since we would not normally be conscious of their behavior.”

3 replies on “don’t eat me, i’m sentient”

(forgot to say that [unlike the quote might suggest] I do not equate ‘sentience’ with ‘consciousness’)

If we grant that it is OK to eat sentient beings, as long as we treat them not too cruelly, why is it not OK to eat human meat, as long as we treat them not too cruelly?

Heya Tim!
I agree, if sentience is the only thing that is informing our ethics, then it’s no significant distance away from cannibalism. :) Good thing more than sentience informs my ethics! :)

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