Is plant-based and cruelty-free the future?

I’ve been a vegetarian for a number of years; not for the first time as I’ve always crumbled and my will-power has failed me. This time though I’m in for the long-haul and I’ve gone one step further – veganism… I can’t claim to be liberal and an advocate of equality if it’s limited to just one of the millions of species of life on the planet. If I’m to advocate cruelty free, then that must surely extend to the rest of the animal kingdom?

One of the most annoying questions I get asked if I have to announce that I have a plant-based diet is ‘what do you eat?’ This is a question from pure ignorance as if one is to use their imagination they’ll realise that a plant-based diet requires you to sometimes leave your comfort zone and try food that you wouldn’t have previously considered, and as someone who’s not particularly food motivated this has been an important journey of experimental cuisine for me.

“Veganism is a philosophy and way of living which seeks to exclude—as far as is possible and practicable—all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose; and by extension, promotes the development and use of animal-free alternatives for the benefit of animals, humans and the environment.” – Vegan Society

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Capitalism vs. Socialism

To sum both ideologies up in the simplest of terms; capitalism is a political and economic method where industries and businesses are privately owned and depending on the market’s requirements, things are often made to demand so that companies can run a profitable and organised business to offer trade and employment opportunities; whereas socialism is a social and political method in which private ownership is replaced by co-operative community ownership. They believe that everyone lives to co-operate and contribute towards the communal good, so all should seek reward for their work. Socialists say that their social organisation promotes equality and job protection as the workers work for requirement, not for profit. Karl Marx made the following quote famous in 1875:

“Jeder nach seinen Fähigkeiten, jedem nach seinen Bedürfnissen”

Which in English translates to:

“From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs”

Many argue that capitalism isn’t good as the rich get richer, and once big conglomerates secure an area of the market they dominate and put smaller companies in danger, and workers are exploited. Others argue that communism and socialism is the root of all evil and you just have to look at the aftermath of the October revolution in Russia; or the Great Leap Forward in China that let to droughts and famines and many millions lost their lives; or were ritually slaughtered; died from poor treatment during forced labour; or executed for rebelling against the government as they starved to death. There are stories of mass suicides and acts of cannibalism in both Russia and China as the government watched on.

But does this mean that socialism is a bad ideology, or has it been a tool for cruel dictatorships?

“Capitalism does not permit an even flow of economic resources. With this system, a small privileged few are rich beyond conscience, and almost all others are doomed to be poor at some level. That’s the way the system works. And since we know that the system will not change the rules, we are going to have to change the system.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.

According to Forbes, Jeff Bezos in August 2020 exceeded a $200,000,000,000 fortune, and Elon Musk is slightly in his shadow with a mere $153,000,000,000 fortune, but because of capitalism they legally, yet unethically, pay their employees minimum wage that’s set out as a government employment rule. The rich get richer, the elite get more powerful and the rest of us try and get by, not even knowing that indirectly we might be working for one of these moguls. I understand that both are talented entrepreneurs, and Elon Musk has his scientific mind, and that they both worked hard to achieve and become extremely wealthy and successful, but because of capitalism, they can bully other companies, push them out of the way with lawsuits, and cover all of the bases like Apple have tried to do by turning the brand into a fashion accessory, and with clever marketing and slick designs they’ve become the biggest phone maker in the world and in August they exceeded a $2 trillion net worth. Do you think the people who work in the warehouses or drive the vehicles are going to be paid favourably because the company they’re employed by is so profitable?

So is capitalism a better alternative to socialism, or does it promote greed and inequality?

“Socialism is a philosophy of failure, the creed of ignorance, and the gospel of envy, its inherent virtue is the equal sharing of misery.” – Winston Churchill

Philosophical morality

In archaic Greece, philosophy was a big deal, and the more intellectual you were, the more successful you became. Socrates is claimed by many historians to be the founder of western philosophy. He believed that philosophy was all about achieving results that were beneficial to a society, and he studied ethics based on human reason.

Socrates

‘A system of morality which is based on relative emotional values is a mere illusion, a thoroughly vulgar conception which has nothing sound in it and nothing true.’ – Socrates

The Greek word ‘êthos‘, meaning character and moral nature, is where the word ‘ethics’ originated from. Ethics is to understand and think critically about moral values and how they are to be applied to a situation. Meta-ethics is about questioning the true meaning of ethics understanding how to tell what is good, and what is bad, and philosophers deem this as a necessary component to evaluate moral decision making. To start one must understand the definition of what ‘good‘, ‘bad‘, ‘right‘ and ‘wrong‘ mean? And how actions can have implications that can dramatically affect an outcome, as in every action has a reaction.

Ethical naturalism is essentially objective ethics, meaning that we can understand the difference between something that’s empirical and something like ‘pleasure‘, ‘wanting‘, ‘needing‘ or ‘desiring‘ which are non-ethical, which displays cognitive reasoning. This takes away personal opinion and involves the application of ‘fact‘, ‘truth‘ and ‘realism‘.

Axiology is derived from Greek meaning ‘value‘, ‘worth‘ and is a necessary part of the study of ethics and aesthetics, and understanding value and why it’s valuable. This generally falls into two categories.

• instrumental value

• intrinsic value

Instrumental value isn’t the value of the subject, it’s the subject that gives value. Faith to a Christian, harmony of humanity to a Humanist, a book to an intellectual, or sex to a hedonist.

Intrinsic value is the value of right, or good, or necessary, and many philosophers believe it’s at the basis of ethical, and moral judgement.

consequentialism, whether an action is morally right or wrong has exclusively to do with whether its consequences are intrinsically better than those of any other action one can perform under the circumstances.’ –Stanford

The main way the Greeks studied was through observation, and to approach situations through a rational mind, and question what had previously been answered by religious doctrine. This is basically the way that Humanism approaches life.

‘Humanists are people who shape their own lives in the here and now, because we believe it’s the only life we have. We make sense of the world through logic, reason, and evidence, and always seek to treat those around us with warmth, understanding, and respect.’

The Greeks believed that you must be able to supply justification before morality can be applied.

How can you prove that murder is bad?

Murder is bad because not only are you taking a life that isn’t yours to take, but it involves malice. The desire to cause harm to another human being. Often murder is premeditated which means there was time to consider the action before the act was carried out. So, the act of murder is immoral because I’m able to justify it. The way I personally see morality is something that’s beneficial to the majority, and immorality is something that has a negative impact on the majority. Take honesty as an example. Being honest is being truthful to someone, with no motive, no agenda and no desire to deceive. Being honest is beneficial to everyone. Whereas lying is being dishonest, usually with an agenda, be it guilt, deception or a motive to trick someone into a false belief. Lying isn’t beneficial to the majority.

This is essentially an example of Utilitarianism, but it can cause dilemma in some situations. Is it ethically correct to let one person die to save five people? If it means taking a life, to save five lives that’s doing something beneficial to the majority, but is immoral as it’s taking a life. Moral actions aren’t as black and white as they sometimes appear, especially in the modern world. The Bible was written thousands of years ago, and Greek philosophers only understood the world around them, and the history that preceded them. In the modern world we have situations that thousands of years ago wouldn’t have been imagined never mind considered. Take Nuclear energy, stem cell research, organ transplants, abortions, or gender modification. Only through moral philosophy can modern ethics be studied and acknowledged, without dogma or superstition.

‘An ethical idealist, a person whom embraces the honorable philosophy of ethical idealism, performs acts that are honest, pure, and righteous regardless of their fearfulness.‘ – Kilroy J. Oldster,