Interviews!

I was recently interviewed by Rhys Southan, creator of the anti-vegan website (calling it that doesn’t do it justice) Let Them Eat Meat. The full version of the interview is here, and a shorter version of it is here at the “veganish” website CarpeVegan, where Southan is a guest contributor (I still think it’s so cool that they let an anti-veganism ex-vegan post on their site). I really enjoyed doing it and I hope you enjoy reading it.

Also, starting within the next few weeks, I will at least occasionally post interviews with people on the topic of animal rights, veganism, vegetarianism, paleo diets – basically anyone that is doing something out of the ordinary when it comes to diet. I might even interview some regular ol’ omnivores if I feel like it would make for a good read. If you’re a freegan vegan, a veganish pescetarian, a “happy meat”-only carnivore, or if you have any kind of diet or philosophy that makes you not easily categorized, and you feel like doing an email-based interview (anonymous, if need be), drop me a line at moregreenmoregreen [at] gmail dot com

I just like the interview format. You can ask probing questions, but there’s no need for it to devolve into the type of “conversations” that often plague vegan comments sections and message boards i.e. flame wars where two people with irreconcilable philosophies slug it out for everyone to see. Interviews allow the interviewee to put their view out there, but also allow the interviewer a chance to shape the content and direction of the conversation to a certain degree. It’s kind of like a dialogue, kind of like a monologue, and it gets another perspective out there in a way that wouldn’t occur otherwise. I really like it.

I gotta admit that I’m pretty much just stealing the idea from Rhys. If you’ve never taken the time to read the interviews there, now would be a good time to start (especially the veg*an interviews and ex-vegan interviews). I think Rhys does a good job of not dictating the direction of the interview too much, but still sometimes moving it in a direction that the interviewee wouldn’t necessarily go himself. And that’s what a good interview should be, in my opinion: a collaborative effort to get ideas out there in a way that neither individual would/could do by himself.

– – thanks for reading – –

SV

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10 Responses to Interviews!

  1. Aeolus says:

    Hi. Good to see your most interesting site. I tried, without success, to leave the following comment at CarpeVegan:

    If to be against speciesism means to insist that one cannot on principle choose to save the baby rather than the puppy, then both Peter Singer and Tom Regan must be counted as speciesist, since both of them would choose on principle to save a (normal) baby rather than a dog. In animal ethics, “speciesism” typically means giving greater weight to the interests of humans SIMPLY because they are human. But one is not speciesist for giving preferential treatment to a human in some situation because they are superior to a nonhuman in some morally relevant way: e.g., their death would preclude more opportunities for the satisfaction of their interests than would the death of a dog, or, because of their mental capacities and social relationships, they would suffer more than a dog would suffer. One is also not speciesist for giving preferential treatment to a human because of obligations to them arising from social relationships (e.g., that person is my child or my best friend). To make the anti-speciesist claim that all creatures have an equal right to be treated with respect is not at all the same as claiming that all lives are of equal value, such that we cannot legitimately make choices when the house is on fire. After all, we can decide to give the heart transplant to the eight-year-old child rather than to the eighty-year-old, without thinking we have less respect for the elderly. Perhaps Speciesist Vegan really does believe that humans count more just because of their DNA; on the other hand, perhaps he just has a peculiar definition of “speciesist”.

    • Thanks for the comment.

      I don’t think I have a peculiar definition of speciesism at all. I think the definition you give is actually far more peculiar. Even if the definition you give is the more dominant definition, I’m under no obligation to accept it as being more logical than the one I use. I think this is something that reasonable people can disagree on.

      If what you’re saying about Singer and Regan is true (I’ll just assume it is), then I DO consider them speciesist. I think they use tortured logic to come up with a way to explain why saving the baby instead of the puppy (what we all recognize as the ethically better choice) is not based on species considerations. I just don’t buy it.

      Here’s the thing: all of the things that you mentioned (precluding opportunities for satisfaction of interests, mental capacities, social relationships) are all things that make us human. To me it’s like saying “I didn’t save the baby instead of the dog because it’s human. I saved it because it has an opposable thumb.”

      Do you see what I’m saying? The list of attributes and faculties that (supposed) anti-speciesists say can justify giving more moral consideration to a being in a certain situation just magically happen to be attributes and faculties that humans possess, but animals do not possess (or possess to a lesser extent). Isn’t that curious? Isn’t that convenient?

      So, Singer and Regan find a way to get to the correct decision. They just feel compelled to try to bring their pet theory of anti-speciesism along for the ride. They just can’t bear the thought of saying “You know what, maybe there ARE situations where making a decision based on species is justified. Maybe anti-speciesism ISN’T an inviolable concept that has no exceptions.” If speciesism is sometimes okay, but all the other -isms (racism, sexism etc.) are NEVER okay, then that kind of weakens all of their arguments by analogy, doesn’t it? They know it, and that’s why some people try so hard to have their (vegan) cake and eat it too. They want to use anti-speciesism as the basis for so much of their argumentation and philosophy, but they don’t want to admit to some of the more uncomfortable and misanthropic conclusions (and behaviors) that strict deference to the principle would demand. It’s dishonest. So they play these little games about how their decision has absolutely nothing to do with species considerations.

      I’m not trying to argue (here or in general) that we should just feel free to use species distinctions to justify differing standards for different species or that all non-human animals deserve no respect for their interests. I wouldn’t be vegan if I thought that. I’m just saying that there are circumstances where a decision made for speciesist reasons is the right decision. Veganism can exist without anti-speciesism. We don’t have to paint ourselves into these ridiculous corners to argue that veganism is the ethically better choice.

  2. Hey there, I found your site through CarpeVegan and am liking what I’ve read so far. I have an award for you over at my little blog (which is more like a personal journal) if you want to check it out. Have a great day!

  3. great interview. i’ve been reading let them eat meat for a while now after coming across some ex-vegan kerfuffles. i liked your list at the end. there are a few alternatives to anti-speciest animal rights veganism besides the supererogatory deal that i’ve been thinking about lately. the first would be veganism in the framework of virtue ethics & the second is a little more esoteric, maybe, it is veganism as a kind of mutualism or extension of the golden rule. i haven’t really seen this discussed anywhere.

    • Thanks.

      I think I know what you mean by virtue ethics, and I do plan to address that at some point. I think it actually has a lot of overlap with the idea of supererogation, if I’m not mistaken. I had a professor of ethics recommend Kant’s Metaphysics of Morals, Part II: The Doctrine of Virtue. Is there anything else that you would recommend?

      I also think I know what you mean by mutualism/golden rule, but I’m less clear on how I would apply that to arguing for veganism. One problem I see with it is that “treat others as you would like to be treated” is something that we can’t expect of animals, so I think it’s sort of strange to use it as a way to argue for veganism. In fact, some people use the inability of animals to reciprocate moral duties as a reason to reject the idea of animals having rights. But if you have something that you think I should read, by all means, make a recommendation.

  4. so first of all i’m no philosophy expert – i just took some classes and read some books in college…

    kant is a deontologist not a virtue ethicist. you could read aristotle or this http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/ethics-virtue/#4. I also found someone’s phd thesis on supererogation & virtue ethics – apparently there has been much work on the subject in philosophy.

    ironically I found this from a let them eat meat interview when googling just now:
    “I began studying Aristotle, who takes a very different approach to ethics than most contemporary moral philosophers. While newer work in ethics tends to be fairly technical, and focused on the rightness or wrongness of particular hypothetical actions, Aristotelian virtue ethics focuses on the qualities of character that help a human to excel and flourish. From this perspective, I began to see that a genuine sensitivity towards the suffering of non-human animals is compatible with eating in ways that do not harm me, mentally or physically.” – http://letthemeatmeat.com/post/508745601/interview-with-an-ex-vegan-pamela

    obviously i don’t get to ex-veganism via virtue ethics 😉

    i’ll get back to you on the other thing…

  5. FIXED: “I also found someone’s phd thesis on supererogation & virtue ethics – apparently there has ***NOT*** been much work on the subject in philosophy. “

  6. Aeolus says:

    I think you will be quite interested in this essay by Rosalind Hursthouse, “Applying Virtue Ethics to Our Treatment of the Other Animals”: http://www.hackettpublishing.com/pdfs/Hursthouse_Essay.pdf
    And you might want to check our her book Ethics, Humans, and Other Animals.
    At one point in her essay, Hursthouse says, “although Singer and Regan can both plausibly claim that they still avoid speciesism (because of their stances on mentally incompetent humans), they do not avoid (what we might call) animal elitism.”

    • Wow, nice find! I haven’t read it yet, but I’d say it seems to be right up my alley. I like that she addresses Singer and Regan specifically. They’re animal elitists!

      Thanks for sharing that. I’ll let you know what I’m thinking about it once I get into it.

  7. Azura Drenim says:

    Bah, you can argue all you want that all animals are speciesist for protecting their young, acting out of survival or self defense, but that’s not speciesism. It’s called survival instinct. Of course we will save our own kind in an emergency. What animal wouldn’t? However, an animal who is not acting out of survival or self defense leaves other animals alone, and that is what humans ought to do as well!

holler!

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