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August 13, 2012 | by  | in Opinion |
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Eating A talking Pig

Steaks and burgers are manifestly delicious. However, many across the developed world have come to a growing realisation that there is something rotten about the way we have to treat animals before they can end up on our plates served with a side of fries. Most people have probably encountered the thoughts of philosophy rockstar Peter Singer on this issue, who argues forcefully that since animals are creatures which can suffer, it is just as wrong for us to harm them as it is for us to harm a human.

But imagine we came across a talking pig. It doesn’t matter how. Maybe we genetically modified it, or maybe those sweet as farm animals in the movie Babe are for realsies.

Say we engaged this pig in a dialogue, and after a lengthy discussion this pig was able to convince us that it wanted to be eaten. Perhaps it felt that being a provider of choice cuts of pork roast and bacon would make its life meaningful. This scenario, devised by Julian Baggini, poses a quandry. Should a committed vegetarian be comfortable killing and eating this pig?

Different answers to this question reveal something interesting about the animal rights debate. Those who say that it would be legit to eat a pig like this might say that its consent is enough to justify our killing it, and that we could do it painlessly. But those who are still opposed might fairly reply that there is something wrong with eating this pig anyway, even if it wants to die and even if it won’t suffer. The pig that wants to be eaten opens up a raft of issues about the wrongness of killing which have little to do directly with the suffering of sentient creatures. It shows that part of what makes life important might fall outside the scope of a calculus of pain and pleasure.

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