Kill the Killers
One delightful characteristic of our species homo sapiens is that as soon as we achieve some measure of safety from inclement weather and the unwanted attention of predators, we begin to drift slowly but ineluctably away from reality. Whether one toils through the constipated musings of Kant or the lefty-trendy posturing of Derrida, a common thread of self-indulgent solipsism runs through all the supposedly worthy tomes and renders them little more than self-aggrandizing toilet paper.
Fortunately, with the development of empirically-based science over the last couple of hundred years, philosophy has shriveled and invaginated up its own fundament. Today, most philosophers pleasantly waste their time courtesy of comfortable academic tenure and for the most part they remain harmless nobodies, content with their self-reflexive obscurantism. Every once in a while, however, thanks to some strange combination of the mass media looking for a new sensation and a subtle shift in the zeitgeist, a few of these dusty drudges are hauled into the limelight and their ideas are promulgated to the hapless masses.
At the present time we are experiencing, on the fringes, such an event. A subset of vegans are no longer content merely to bore everyone else senseless with their assertions of moral superiority (combined with rather charming anemia and chronic vitamin B12 deficiency). Now a small number of vegan philosophers (yes, you have been adequately warned now) have decided that not only is it bad, very bad, for humans to eat meat but logically (in the Monty Python And The Holy Grail sense of the word) it is therefore also very bad for any animal to eat meat.
Philosophers Jeff McMahan and David Pearce, and bloggers like Tobias Leenaert, are just a few of the new breed of veganosophers who take the position that it is morally unacceptable to permit any creature to suffer. As it is incontrovertible that a prey animal does indeed suffer when being chased and ultimately torn apart by a predator, it follows therefore that we humans have a moral obligation to end this suffering. On a global scale.
The aforementioned writers and those who follow in their footsteps focus on the large telegenic predators. Thus they talk about eliminating the predatory cats, thereby creating a life of ease for herbivores across Africa and the Indian subcontinent. In their delightful vision of a truly Disneyfied savannah, Wildebeest and dik-dik would graze happily, forever relieved of the stress of wondering whether or not a lion or a leopard is lurking in the tall grass.
Like most philosophy, such musings are a pleasingly eccentric way to pass a tedious rainy afternoon if one’s Internet connection is too slow to access any website — a common enough experience in places like rural France or much of the UK. But it is impossible not to note that our vegan friends appear to have overlooked a great many obvious consequences of their comfortable armchair philosophizing.
When we begin to think about the idea of removing predators from ecosystems around the world we begin to see what an enormous task it would be. A great many animals eat others for lunch; all such wicked creatures would have to be exterminated. Goodbye condors, eagles, falcons, and indeed nearly all birds but for those few that survive entirely on nuts or seeds. Remember: worms and insects have feelings too! And as the vast majority of bird species feed on prey, the vast majority of birds must therefore go.
Now we turn to the oceans and what do we see? Well, clearly all the marine mammals must go, as must most of the fish and all of the octopus, cuttlefish, squid, and their like. Some crabs can be spared, but for the most part we must empty the oceans of life, for the oceans are a nightmare of death when viewed through the curious lens of veganosophy.
OK, so we’ve exterminated all the cats, all the dogs, nearly all the birds and fish and all the marine mammals. But oh my word, we’ve hardly begun our task. Just think of all those horrid dragonflies preying on happy little butterflies. So now we must begin to exterminate all predatory insects and this is a very significant undertaking indeed. Also, bye-bye all arachnids. There may be some trivial consequences, such as a collapse of flowering plants due to lack of pollinators (no, those lovely mostly-vegan bees won’t step in to take over as they’re highly adapted to a surprisingly limited range of plants) but global collapse of ecosystems is a small price to pay for moral rectitude.
Alas, even once we’ve exterminated all the mammalian predators and all the reptiles and fish and spiders and insects, we’re still not done.
There are various species of fungi that are parasitic and cause their insect hosts to die appalling deaths. So many fungi must go. Meanwhile there are evil plants that have evolved to get essential nutrients by… killing insects. So now we must carefully eradicate these (literally) heartless killers. Bye-bye Venus flytraps and similarly ingenious species.
Phew. In pursuit of our armchair vegan morality we’ve exterminated millions of species and denuded the Earth and caused wholesale collapse of ecosystems everywhere. It’s not easy, doing the right thing, but hey: the rewards are surely worth it. Nothing beats the self-satisfied glow of moral rectitude, even if trillions of lives have to be ended in order to get there. While this does remind us a great deal of a certain shouty little man with a silly moustache who was very popular in Germany during the 1930s, we must suppress this thought. Because vegans have the moral high ground.
Sadly of course, we can predict what would happen next if this strange mass extermination of living things were to be implemented as a vegan Final Solution to end animal suffering. Another generation of overly-comfortable armchair philosophers would rise up to demand Plant Rights! All those herbivores tearing and ripping and chewing helpless plants! Something must be done!
And so more tenured positions would be conjured into existence and more overly pampered middle-class mediocrities would coast their way through to a comfortable retirement by writing about how we must now exterminate all the herbivores in order to end millions of years of plant suffering.
Or, of course, we could just stop paying silly people to write silly things and instead focus our attentions of matters of urgency such as the fact we’re already exterminating species at an alarming rate, denuding the oceans, burning down forests, and altering the climate with no concept of consequences.
But perhaps that would mean people would begin to demand feasible and efficacious solutions.
Dealing with real-world problems is, however, a thing our latter-day armchair veganosophers much prefer to avoid.