cynicallyinsane wrote:Murder is immoral, right? So, is it immoral to eat animals? We don't kill them in defense, it's murder. Right?
It depends upon whether an animal has an awareness of its own existence and therefore an awareness of pain. It is very possible that feeling pain in the sense of responding to a painful stimulus does not entail self-awareness (consciousness). My own thought is that it is wrong to kill human beings because we are aware of our own existence. Perhaps some higher order mammals are also self-aware, but I suspect that is not the case.
If there is no self-awareness, no conscious being there to know its fate, killing it is quite different from killing a being that is aware of its own existence.
There is good reason for believing most, if not all, animals do not have consciousness because none show the kind of deliberate, purposeful adaptation that humans do. Animal culture has remained much the same in each species from the time each has appeared. Human adaptations demonstrate awareness of their own state and a continuous propensity to add new and "creative" ways of coping with natural and social situations.
By the way, this in no way entails that humans should be allowed to wantonly kill animals. There are many good reasons for showing care and concern for living creatures which do not entail refraining completely from killing them.
One can argue that a masterful work of art, for example, should be preserved at great cost. Most higher order animals have at least the aesthetic properties of great works of art, not to mention functional complexity. However, human survival (food) or to keep balance in nature could be good reasons to allow killing of animals, without excusing wanton killing.
Another good reason for using "self-awareness" or consciousness as a condition for moral sanction against killing is that there is no other good reason why killing animals shouldn't be as wrong as killing humans.
This is not an arbitrary cut-off because it fits with historical perspectives in almost all cultures.