Friday, October 22, 2010

Friday Fallacy - If I could Kill it Myself

This week's Friday Fallacy post is going to be an example of an ignoratio elenchi or irrelevant conclusion fallacy. Ignoratio elenchi can be used to describe a broad group of logical fallacies all of which possess the characteristic that the conclusion of the logic does not address the issue in question. This specific example of an ignoratio elenchi argument is the argument that whether or not we should be able to eat meat should be determined by our ability to kill the animals ourselves. I have chosen to call this week's fallacy “If I could kill it myself”; although, a more appropriate name for the general fallacy might be “Appeal to personal ability”.

One omnivorous blogger writes:
“I have started to realize (partially due to moving back to Alaska recently) that if I can't look an animal in the face, kill it and butcher it...should I be eating meat at all?
If I can't do it myself, I expose myself as a hypocrite, because I would rather have someone else do the 'yucky stuff' and I get to reap the benefits.”

A second omnivorous blogger seems to have put themselves through quite a bit of trauma trying to kill an animal in order to prove a point.
“I’ve spent a lot of words in recent posts explaining why I need to know where the animals come from that I eat, but standing there in the brutal sun, feeling like the earth was tilting under my feet and hearing a strange roar in my ears I questioned why this was so important. I felt quite as if I may pass out or possibly throw up at any moment, so why subject myself to this? I wish I could explain eloquently but I can’t. I only knew that if I’m going to eat meat, this was something I had to do. If animals can lose their lives for my dinner, I just needed to feel that I paid my own price, that of feeling the pain of taking one’s life.”

This is not a thought process unique to omnivores trying to justify their own actions as this vegan commenter makes clear:
“One big reason I quit eating meat in the first place was because I realized that I myself could never go out and kill another living thing, so why would I be okay with eating something someone else has bludgeoned to death?”

While our ability to kill an animal may speak to our personal squeamishness and, in the second example given above, personal resolve, it says nothing about whether the action is one we ought to do. If the simple fact that people had the ability to do things justified doing them, then we would have no grounds upon which to call any action unethical. Clearly (Modus Tollendo Tollens) our disagreement with this conclusion speaks to the fact that we do not hold this logic to be sound.

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