Temple Grandin’s reply to those who have identified the inherent contradiction in the statement “I design slaughter houses and I love animals,” is: “some people think death is the most terrible thing that can happen to an animal.” It follows according to Ms. Grandin that “the most important thing for an animal is the quality of its life.”
Ms. Grandin’s argument is derived from an underlying ontological worldview that assumes a dualism between “human” and “animal.” This is a factual inaccuracy. Biological “animality” exists on a continuum: a human animal is a member of a species of bipedal primates in the family Hominidae – “higher primates.” It is from this invalid assumption that Ms. Grandin’s argument tries to follow. Her claim, then, is baseless and open to the challenge of blatant selective reasoning.
If it is wrong to do A to X, then it is wrong to do A to Y if Y is similar to X in the relevant ways. For example, if causing me pain for “sport” is wrong because of the pain then the wrongness of the action is intrinsically tied to my capacity to suffer. Therefore, if A, B, and C can also suffer, and it’s wrong to cause me pain for “sport” because I can suffer, then it is wrong to cause A, B, and C pain for “sport.” This argument follows from collapsing the false duality so fundamental to Ms. Grandin’s unfounded conclusion.
On the issue of death, the following moral form takes shape: If it is wrong to kill me for a triviality such as “taste,” regardless of the “quality of my life,” then it is wrong to kill a cow for a similar reason, regardless of the “quality of his life,” if the cow is like me in the ways relevant to the situation.
Some philosophers argue that death is experientially neutral – it is neither “good” nor “bad.” Therefore, the death experience is not the worst thing that can happen; it just is. Others’ believe that death is “bad” – it is the absolute harm – because one’s opportunities for future “good” experiences are irrevocably ended. Many regard death as a harm if the being in question has certain cognitive capacities that allow for the planning of future “good” experiences. On this view, for some animals, human and nonhuman, death isn’t harmful. (This list is not exhaustive.) However one chooses to view death, a categorical dichotomy between “human” and “animal” doesn’t follow because they each assume as a necessary condition the beings’ sentience. As some animals other than human are the kinds of beings who care about what happens to them (i.e., they have interests and a welfare), the harm of death may be relevant to them.
If death is neutral for Ms. Grandin, then her logic should be extended to human animals, which would, I suppose, go to justify painlessly killing me in my sleep tonight. If death is a harm because it ends one’s chances for future “good” experiences, then Ms. Grandin has arbitrarily and self-servingly excluded a class of beings who necessarily ought to be included because they can and will experience these future “goods.” Finally, if the harm that death is relies on a cognitive function, then Ms. Grandin must include human animals in the group of beings who are only concerned with the “quality of its life,” versus death qua death. This group of humans would include, but is not limited to, every human baby ever born, some mentally handicapped individuals, and the severely senile.
Ms. Grandin’s cognitive dissonance, then, is not rectified by her reply.
Crossposted @ That Vegan Girl