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Mind game human flesh - are humans worth more than animals?

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Aliens invade the earth, take us humans prisoner and eat the meat of our children. Why do we find this wrong even though we are doing the same thing with animals? This is the question posed by the thought experiment «human flesh».

Most people think you can eat animals. But hardly anyone thinks you can eat people. Why actually? The German philosopher Richard David Precht has developed a thought experiment that radically questions the way we deal with animals.

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Aliens invade the earth

Imagine: Aliens are invading the earth. They are far superior to us humans, both physically and mentally. They take us prisoner, make us work for them and pump the milk from the newly-born mothers to make delicious drinks. Our children are fattened, slaughtered and eaten with relish. In short: the aliens do to us what we do to animals.

Does the law of the wiser apply?

They justify their cruel behavior with the fact that they are spiritually superior to us and that our human flesh supposedly tastes excellent. For us humans these are not very convincing reasons, after all we have our own needs.

But don't animals also have their own needs, even though they are perhaps less clever than we are? So how can we justify our behavior towards animals?

Peter Singer: The interests of animals also count

These questions are at the heart of animal ethics. The beginnings of modern animal ethics go back to the Australian philosopher Peter Singer, who in his 1975 book "Animal Liberation" calls for a rethink in favor of animals.

Singer argues that animals also have feelings and interests and that these are no less valuable than human feelings and interests. He criticizes factory farming as well as our dealings with great apes. It is wrong to believe that people are fundamentally worth more than animals.

Some animals are smarter than some people

According to Singer, what counts is not what species a living being belongs to, but what interests and abilities it has. So there are no good reasons to treat a chimpanzee worse than an infant or a person with dementia.

However, there is a reason to treat a chimpanzee better than a cow because, unlike a cow, the chimpanzee has more sophisticated cognitive skills, self-esteem, and future plans.

Book reference

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Richard David Precht: «Animals think. On the right of animals and the limits of man ». Goldmann, 2016.

Immanuel Kant: Thinking ennobles people

The view that our minds set us morally apart from animals has a long tradition. Immanuel Kant already advocated the thesis that animals are incapable of neither reasonable nor moral thinking and are therefore morally less valuable than humans.

According to Kant, animals, unlike humans, have no dignity. A thesis that many Christian thinkers already established before Kant with the lack of "image of God" in animals.

Tom Regan: Animals have basic moral rights

Some animal ethicists opposed this moral gradation within the animal world, above all the American philosopher Tom Regan with his book "The Case for Animal Rights".

According to Regan, animals have basic moral rights that apply without restriction and must not fall victim to any balancing of interests, such as a right to life or a right to freedom. According to Regan, all beings who are "subject of a life" have this inherent value; In other words, beings who experience themselves and the world and strive for or avoid things.

What to do?

Regan's criterion is not only met by humans, infants and people with dementia, but also by a large number of animals. In view of the fact that we humans can live well in this country even without meat, the question arises: Are we allowed to do something to animals that one is not allowed to do to us humans?

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  • Comment from Franz Buhler (F. Buhler)
    great movie!
    Agree Agree to the comment Select answers to reply to the comment
  • Comment from Adrian Sousa-Poza (adriansousapoza)
    And even with the familiarity of this thought experiment, we will continue to consume meat. A person learns, and if a person learns to eat meat in their first 10 years of existence, they are unlikely to stop. Children's books show how well the animals are doing on the farms. Most children under the age of 5 do not know where meat comes from. This is the only reason we still eat animal products. We have learned to do it.
    Agree Agree to the comment Select answers to reply to the comment
    1. answer from Alex Volkart (Lex18)
      I don't see or make any distinction between killing animals and plants to get food. Both are sentient beings. Many living beings need both in order to live. That is and will remain an eternal cycle. When certain people forego meat, I really admire it. Nevertheless, they shouldn't pretend to be the preservers of nature. Because for them all the more plants have to suffer.
      Agree agree to the comment
    2. answer from Adrian Sousa-Poza (adriansousapoza)
      For the production of one kilo of beef you need at least 50 kilos of other food. You are right that vegetarians and vegans only eat a plant-based diet and therefore more plants suffer. But since more plants are already needed for the production of meat, their argument becomes invalid.
      Agree agree to the comment
    3. answer from Adrian Sousa-Poza (adriansousapoza)
      You also mention the equivalence of living beings, whose view I partly share with them. However, when it comes down to deciding to kill either 12 bees or your neighbor, things are different (at least I hope). I am of the opinion that life cannot always be equated and that is why I find a plant-based diet sensible or would you rather kill yourself to save the creatures that are still to be consumed?
      Agree agree to the comment
    4. answer from Alex Volkart (Lex18)
      What I meant is that no matter how you eat, living beings have to die for it. It was not about considering which diet is better. I would never presume to do something like that. The fact is, you cannot feed yourself without other living things suffering. For a purely plant-based diet, you would have to clear large areas in order to grow edible plants. Seen in this way, you even have to kill plants in order to be able to grow edible plants.
      Agree agree to the comment
    5. answer from Alex Volkart (Lex18)
      Many farm animals (e.g. pigs, sheep, cows) would not even exist without milk, fur and meat production. Because they were "" created "" for this very purpose. Don't get me wrong. I'm really sorry that animals and plants have to die in order to be able to live. But the fact is without it.
      Agree agree to the comment
    6. answer from Alex Volkart (Lex18)
      I find your example with 12 bees and my neighbor an interesting thought experiment. One should do this experiment with "plant eaters" and "meat eaters", but as follows. If there was nothing left to eat for them in the world except 12 bees or their neighbor, what would they choose? Like you sure, I don't want to know the answer. Because if a person is really hungry and cannot help but eat, then he becomes a "monster" no matter what he prefers.
      Agree agree to the comment
    7. Show answers
  • Comment from Alex Volkart (Lex18)
    We are hardly better than the animals. No living being has so far harmed the earth more than humans (e.g. extermination of animals and peoples, climate change, wars, etc.). We rely more and more on tools instead of skills given to us. We may have certain abilities that most other living things lack. But I dare to doubt whether that makes us better.
    Agree Agree to the comment Select answers to reply to the comment

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