I am not a Terrorist

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Zane
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I am not a Terrorist

Post by Zane » Mon Feb 25, 2019 2:19 am

Apologies for the thread title. I just couldn't stand to write another, "Hey Everyone."

I have been a philosophically inclined proponent of animal liberation/rights since reading Peter Singer's Practical Ethics as an undergrad. My initial reason for joining is admittedly vulgar: I wrote a screenplay that involves characters in the Animal Liberation Front and I'd be interested in hearing feedback from actual vegans for a change.

This forum clearly had the highest quality discussions out of the boards I scouted, and I'm already trying to read previous threads on topics of interest (e.g., effective altruism, ALF/ELF). I am tad disappointed about the site's recent traffic, but it's a rather narrow topic. I'm a long time/regular poster to a message board that falls under the broad umbrella of "Skepticism," but I mostly stick to the politics forum, where "rationality goes to die."

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brimstoneSalad
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Post by brimstoneSalad » Mon Feb 25, 2019 12:26 pm

Welcome Zane, did Practical Ethics inspire you to go vegan?

What's your stance on the ALF today? It's a pretty controversial group, even among vegans.

Glad you appreciated the discussion on this forum, I hope you like it here.

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Post by Zane » Tue Feb 26, 2019 1:37 am

Hi,

Singer did initially inspire me to go vegetarian (and then vegan), but I thought his preference utilitarianism helped clarify so much more than simply diet (as I understand it, he's now moved on to hedonistic utilitarianism). He brought such lucidity to a multitude of issues for me.

As for the ALF, my views are mixed. Simply going vegan does not change anything (the same number of animals will get killed regardless of my personal diet). I like the idea of a diversity of approaches, and people out there imposing a kind of cruelty tax on animal-exploitation industries. In general, I think effecting social change takes all kinds of people, so I would not sneer at PeTA, or the academic philosopher, or even terrorists (provided it's limited to property destruction).

I do not think rational arguments and vandalism will do much to move the dial. It's not as if people started accepted gays and lesbians because they suddenly realized it's wrong discriminate against on the basis of a morally arbitrary trait. People refuse to change their diet to due to reasons of vanity and health, so morality/rationality is near-hopeless when it comes to glorified apes. In my view, the most significant driver for "veganism" in the future will be cost-effective lab-grown meat. Such a breakthrough could do more alleviate suffering than, well, anything.

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brimstoneSalad
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Post by brimstoneSalad » Tue Feb 26, 2019 2:08 pm

Zane wrote:
Tue Feb 26, 2019 1:37 am
as I understand it, he's now moved on to hedonistic utilitarianism
Yes, that is weird. It usually goes the other way around.
Zane wrote:
Tue Feb 26, 2019 1:37 am
Simply going vegan does not change anything (the same number of animals will get killed regardless of my personal diet).
Why do you believe that?
Does this address your concerns? wiki/index.php/Individual_Responsibilit ... Difference
Zane wrote:
Tue Feb 26, 2019 1:37 am
In general, I think effecting social change takes all kinds of people, so I would not sneer at PeTA, or the academic philosopher, or even terrorists (provided it's limited to property destruction).
I think you're missing unintended consequences. When you frighten people you turn the public against you, and you can slow and interfere with progress on other fronts.
It's also important to consider that there's no way to reliably limit damages to property destruction.
In the case of arson there could always be somebody trapped in a building or the fire could spread out of control, even in the case of non-arson property destruction you could start a fire by accident or intervention by staff or a guard could escalate and result in injury or death. Attempts to escape or resist law enforcement can also very easily escalate. And if snitches get stitches, that in itself can be a serious injury and result in death (one blow, even if not intended to kill, can do so with a bit of bad luck).

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Post by Red » Tue Feb 26, 2019 10:49 pm

Welcome to the forum, Zane.
Learning never exhausts the mind.
-Leonardo da Vinci

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Post by Zane » Tue Feb 26, 2019 10:56 pm

Thanks, Red.
brimstoneSalad wrote:
Tue Feb 26, 2019 2:08 pm
Why do you believe that?
My consumption is too tiny to send a market signal.
That strikes me as Panglossian. It's rather presumptuous (and self-centered) for someone to imagine she altered a market by choosing to go vegan (especially when tens of thousands of meat-eaters die daily).

I think the more compelling argument is that it's wrong to support animal-exploitation industries. If I sent ISIS $50 a month at its height of terror, the money probably would not have made the slightest difference as far as the Islamic State is concerned, but it's still wrong.

I used to be against Flexitarianism, but I've changed my tune. Instead of getting one person to go vegan, it's probably far, far more effective to get five people to go vegetarian one day of the week. Meatless Mondays could become a thing.
I think you're missing unintended consequences. When you frighten people you turn the public against you, and you can slow and interfere with progress on other fronts.
That's probably the most obvious consequence. One thing I like about utilitarianism is that it's an empirical moral philosophy, so while property destruction will certainly turn some people off, it should be weighed against its benefits. Having extremists dressed as ninjas destroying property could also make above-ground vegans seem relatively more pleasant and worthy of engagement. And people in the above-ground movement should condemn such violence in a sincere way rather than wink-wink, nudge-nudge. A team of rivals.
It's also important to consider that there's no way to reliably limit damages to property destruction.
In the case of arson there could always be somebody trapped in a building or the fire could spread out of control, even in the case of non-arson property destruction you could start a fire by accident or intervention by staff or a guard could escalate and result in injury or death. Attempts to escape or resist law enforcement can also very easily escalate. And if snitches get stitches, that in itself can be a serious injury and result in death (one blow, even if not intended to kill, can do so with a bit of bad luck).
Sure. As it happens accidental injury/death plays a central role in my story. Mistakes happen all the time, and we're responsible for the foreseeable consequences of our actions. A lot of meat-eaters will condemn an action that went sideways, yet make excuses for state violence that claims the lives of innocent Iraqis ("it was an accident"). Some ALFers have given the matter thoughtful consideration. There are people in the movement who are OK with property destruction, but morally oppose arson precisely because of the unintended consequences. Maybe an office building was cleared of humans, but what about mice? On some open rescues, activists will break open locks but bring replacements. This compares rather favorably with throwing tea into the harbor, an act of terrorism American children celebrate via re-enactment ( with the full blessing of their parents). ALF actions also bring attention and moral urgency to the issue at hand.

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Post by brimstoneSalad » Wed Feb 27, 2019 3:05 am

Zane wrote:
Tue Feb 26, 2019 10:56 pm
My consumption is too tiny to send a market signal.
The question is signal to noise, but there's *always* a point in that ratio where a single photon can make the difference between a signal being received and lost.
This is an issue of statistics, perhaps that you find counter-intuitive.
Zane wrote:
Tue Feb 26, 2019 10:56 pm
That strikes me as Panglossian. It's rather presumptuous (and self-centered) for someone to imagine she altered a market by choosing to go vegan (especially when tens of thousands of meat-eaters die daily).
Did you read the article?
You don't imaging that you *have* done it, but you understand the possibility of it happening. It doesn't need to actually happen for it to be the right thing to do.

Just like you can unload an automatic weapon into a crowded theater, miss *everybody* by dumb luck, but it was still wrong to do because of the chance of harming people.
Morality is always a probability game, we can never know certain outcomes.
Zane wrote:
Tue Feb 26, 2019 10:56 pm
I think the more compelling argument is that it's wrong to support animal-exploitation industries. If I sent ISIS $50 a month at its height of terror, the money probably would not have made the slightest difference as far as the Islamic State is concerned, but it's still wrong
The key word there is probably. Probably not. But it might have. That $50 might have made the difference in a key attack.

For want of a nail the shoe was lost, for want of a shoe the horse was lost, for want of a horse the rider was lost, for want of a rider the battle was lost, for want of a battle the kingdom was lost -- and all for the want of a nail.

A keen understanding of reality respects chaos theory and the possibility of even small impediments being magnified; or even the smallest of assistance too.

Probably won't happen? Sure. You can also fire a single bullet into a stadium and it probably won't hit anybody. Again, doesn't invalidate its moral weight.


Zane wrote:
Tue Feb 26, 2019 10:56 pm
I used to be against Flexitarianism, but I've changed my tune. Instead of getting one person to go vegan, it's probably far, far more effective to get five people to go vegetarian one day of the week. Meatless Mondays could become a thing.
That's reasonable. Five flexitarians probably do more than one vegan. But dismissing the probabilistic impact of somebody going vegan is a mistake.
Small probability isn't no probability.
I think you're missing unintended consequences. When you frighten people you turn the public against you, and you can slow and interfere with progress on other fronts.
Zane wrote:
Tue Feb 26, 2019 10:56 pm
That's probably the most obvious consequence. One thing I like about utilitarianism is that it's an empirical moral philosophy, so while property destruction will certainly turn some people off, it should be weighed against its benefits. Having extremists dressed as ninjas destroying property could also make above-ground vegans seem relatively more pleasant and worthy of engagement. And people in the above-ground movement should condemn such violence in a sincere way rather than wink-wink, nudge-nudge. A team of rivals.
That kind of Good-cop Bad-cop approach is possibly effective, but also possibly harmful. We really don't know.
And if we don't know, it doesn't make sense to put time and resources into it.

We *know* above-ground activism, particularly of the commercial sort of producing meat alternatives and pushing for increased wellfare, is effective. Why divert resources to something that may be as likely to cause harm as help?
Zane wrote:
Tue Feb 26, 2019 10:56 pm
On some open rescues, activists will break open locks but bring replacements. This compares rather favorably with throwing tea into the harbor, an act of terrorism American children celebrate via re-enactment ( with the full blessing of their parents). ALF actions also bring attention and moral urgency to the issue at hand.
Open rescue is another matter. Because it's transparent and they're not running from the police or resisting, it makes it much safer. It's more of a political move. Like "charge us for this symbolic act and lets fight it out in court". That makes sense, and it's much more sympathetic to the public than people in masks employing terrorism.

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Post by Jebus » Wed Feb 27, 2019 11:48 am

Welcome Zane.

Brimstonesalad made some good points. I hope you will agree.

Emotionally I respect "vegan extremists". If one decides to risk one's life and freedom to go to war, I can't think of any better reason. However, intellectually I have to disagree with their tactics as I think they probably do more harm than good. Perhaps in the future, there will be a time when violence is the most effective way of eradicating carnism. However, today it is not so.

brimstoneSalad wrote:
Wed Feb 27, 2019 3:05 am
Five flexitarians probably do more than one vegan.
Probably more like 1.5 flexitarians to one vegan (assuming the vegans and the flexitarians had similar backgrounds).
How to become vegan in 4.5 hours:
1.Watch Forks over Knives (Health)
2.Watch Cowspiracy (Environment)
3. Watch Earthlings (Ethics)
Congratulations, unless you are a complete idiot you are now a vegan.

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Post by Zane » Wed Feb 27, 2019 5:10 pm

brimstoneSalad wrote:
Wed Feb 27, 2019 3:05 am
The question is signal to noise, but there's *always* a point in that ratio where a single photon can make the difference between a signal being received and lost.
This is an issue of statistics, perhaps that you find counter-intuitive.
It seems you don't really understand the statistics in question. And, yes, I read the article, but found it lacking. If a business buys 1,000 sausages and sells 1,000 sausages, then it's almost certainly the case that someone wanted a sausage, and was told, "Sorry, we're out." In the real world, budgeting inventory is more complicated. Maybe they sell 950 sausages. The 50 left over are not necessarily going to spoil, so the business can maintain its standing order and sell the left-over fifty first. If there is a risk of spoilage, then the food is discarded as part of the cost of doing business (which is common in the restaurant industry).

Part of the problem here goes to the Sorites Paradox. If I give you a penny, you're not rich. If I keep giving you pennies, eventually you will consider yourself rich, but there's not really a single penny that pushes you into "rich" territory. It's vague.
You don't imaging that you *have* done it, but you understand the possibility of it happening. It doesn't need to actually happen for it to be the right thing to do.
People use the same misguided logic to justify voting. No, your vote will almost certainly not make a difference (unless you reside in some bumblefuck town with a population in the single digits). The far more real possibility is that your individual behavior did not affect anything. That's not to say I disagree with your conclusion; veganism (and voting) is the right thing to do, but for other reasons -- specifically the one I mentioned.
A keen understanding of reality respects chaos theory and the possibility of even small impediments being magnified; or even the smallest of assistance too.

Probably won't happen? Sure. You can also fire a single bullet into a stadium and it probably won't hit anybody. Again, doesn't invalidate its moral weight.
This is a false analogy. Of course shooting a bullet in a stadium presents a credible risk to life. Even the mere crack of a gun shot causes harm.
That kind of Good-cop Bad-cop approach is possibly effective, but also possibly harmful. We really don't know.
And if we don't know, it doesn't make sense to put time and resources into it.
The good cop, bad cop is only one element. I do find it strange you're so ready to believe that a single person going vegan can have a positive and dramatic cascading effect, but setting fire to a slaughterhouse stirs only negative possibilities in the imagination. That's looking at things morally, not statistically.

It's like how people argue torture/"enhanced interrogation" does not work, therefore we shouldn't do it. Well, if torture never works, then it's a really easy question to resolve. The more interesting -- and honest -- approach might be to concede that torture could work under certain (rare) circumstances, but it does not necessarily follow that it should be legal. Back to the original post, this is one of the things I liked about Singer's Practical Ethics. He'd consider a genetic IQ gap of one standard deviation between Blacks and Whites, and then try to figure out what follows from it. The process is honest -- going where the evidence leads -- so the conclusions are not necessarily pre-determined. These questions are really easy to resolve if we flatly say "terrorism doesn't work."
We *know* above-ground activism, particularly of the commercial sort of producing meat alternatives and pushing for increased wellfare, is effective. Why divert resources to something that may be as likely to cause harm as help?
I disagree with the last part of that question: it's not clear to me ALF-style activities are as likely to harm as to help. In terms of resource diversion, one could readily concede that above-ground activism is generally more effective while maintaining it's perhaps reached a point of saturation. This is precisely where the "one more" could make a difference -- at the margin.

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Post by brimstoneSalad » Wed Feb 27, 2019 9:03 pm

Zane wrote:
Wed Feb 27, 2019 5:10 pm
It seems you don't really understand the statistics in question. And, yes, I read the article, but found it lacking.
It's always both astonishing and frustrating when I meet somebody so committed to the 'your actions don't matter' mindset. Even extending it to voting... sure, there are some districts where your vote is less likely to have an effect, but polling is imperfect and *you do not know* that it won't.

If there's a better way to explain it so that you may understand it, I'd love to update the article.
Zane wrote:
Wed Feb 27, 2019 5:10 pm
If a business buys 1,000 sausages and sells 1,000 sausages, then it's almost certainly the case that someone wanted a sausage, and was told, "Sorry, we're out."
Yes, and do you deny that if *enough* customers ask for sausages, or the business sells out at a certain point early in the day/week, that the owner will decide to buy an additional case?
And that if fewer ask or it sells out later, the owner may opt not to buy additional cases next time?

There's always a tipping point for empirical consequence like that. The tipping point is chaotic in that it depends on many variables (even the mood of the store owner at the time), but it still exists.
Zane wrote:
Wed Feb 27, 2019 5:10 pm
In the real world, budgeting inventory is more complicated. Maybe they sell 950 sausages. The 50 left over are not necessarily going to spoil, so the business can maintain its standing order and sell the left-over fifty first. If there is a risk of spoilage, then the food is discarded as part of the cost of doing business (which is common in the restaurant industry).
And do you deny that there is a point at which *so many* are spoiling that sausages are no longer profitable?
Again, there's always a tipping point, be that positive or negative (ordering another box, or one less).

Sometimes that decision might not even be made at the store, but at a higher level -- regardless, nothing is set in stone, and every less person buying sausages increases the probability of change. Stores can and do stop carrying things. They can and do start carrying more of things.
Zane wrote:
Wed Feb 27, 2019 5:10 pm
Part of the problem here goes to the Sorites Paradox. If I give you a penny, you're not rich. If I keep giving you pennies, eventually you will consider yourself rich, but there's not really a single penny that pushes you into "rich" territory. It's vague.
That resolution applies to concepts that exist as a continuum. Richness is relative, and it exists on a sliding scale.

When you introduce harder empirical effects that are granular, things change.

This kind of thing is everywhere in physics, particularly quantum and particle physics.

Ever heard of Millikan's oil drop experiment?
We're talking a case where the difference in an electrons is the difference between falling under the force of gravity or levitating given a certain voltage applied to the plates.

So what's particle physics have to do with cases of sausages? Discrete quantification.
The fact is we're not dealing with a smooth continuum of sausages, but a choice to order more or less by a discrete quantity a certain bulk. That's what makes it inevitable that ANY relevant variable in isolation, if it crosses a threshold, will have a huge effect.
The probability of being the person who pushes consumption over that threshold may be small, but the effect is proportionally large to make up for it.
Zane wrote:
Wed Feb 27, 2019 5:10 pm
That's not to say I disagree with your conclusion; veganism (and voting) is the right thing to do, but for other reasons -- specifically the one I mentioned.
In my experience, people who limit their reasons to be vegan are at higher risk of recidivism. Polls bear this out as well.

The fact that our actions have a statistical effect, even on granular systems, is undeniable. This combined with the moral necessity of considering probability rather than unknowable actual outcome speaks very strongly to being a responsible consumer as the right thing to do without leaning on more controversial moral theories (which you're appealing to).
Zane wrote:
Wed Feb 27, 2019 5:10 pm
This is a false analogy. Of course shooting a bullet in a stadium presents a credible risk to life. Even the mere crack of a gun shot causes harm.
You're talking panic?

So you fire it off at the same time as half-time fireworks. Then is it morally permissible as long as you get lucky and hit nobody?

It's very concerning to me that you seem to be rejecting the probabilistic nature of moral responsibility.
Zane wrote:
Wed Feb 27, 2019 5:10 pm
I do find it strange you're so ready to believe that a single person going vegan can have a positive and dramatic cascading effect,
That's not speculative, it's basic economics and probability. These are all known factors.

Of course, a single person being vegan but being an asshole could have negative effects beyond the positive economic effects. That's something else.
Zane wrote:
Wed Feb 27, 2019 5:10 pm
but setting fire to a slaughterhouse stirs only negative possibilities in the imagination. That's looking at things morally, not statistically.
Setting fire to a slaughterhouse has known moral risk, while the benefits are highly speculative and offset by equally plausible drawbacks.

This isn't comparable to accepting established economics and probability.
Zane wrote:
Wed Feb 27, 2019 5:10 pm
It's like how people argue torture/"enhanced interrogation" does not work, therefore we shouldn't do it. Well, if torture never works, then it's a really easy question to resolve. The more interesting -- and honest -- approach might be to concede that torture could work under certain (rare) circumstances, but it does not necessarily follow that it should be legal.
We can use all of those arguments against violent activism.
That we shouldn't do it for other reasons.
But ALSO that the net empirical effect is likely bad.

It's important to have a fallback if somebody finds your original approach to be unconvincing. There's no reason to abandon the evidence.

Likewise, it's a weaker position to argue your more controversial moral position, and then if rejected have nothing empirical to fall back on. Not everybody is going to agree that it's still wrong if it doesn't have an effect.
Zane wrote:
Wed Feb 27, 2019 5:10 pm
We *know* above-ground activism, particularly of the commercial sort of producing meat alternatives and pushing for increased wellfare, is effective. Why divert resources to something that may be as likely to cause harm as help?
I disagree with the last part of that question: it's not clear to me ALF-style activities are as likely to harm as to help.
It doesn't have to be clear. It's fine to be agnostic. But unless you're prepared to put up evidence that those tactics are effective then it doesn't make sense to promote the devotion of resources to them.
Zane wrote:
Wed Feb 27, 2019 5:10 pm
In terms of resource diversion, one could readily concede that above-ground activism is generally more effective while maintaining it's perhaps reached a point of saturation. This is precisely where the "one more" could make a difference -- at the margin.
If it reaches a point of saturation at some time, that might be an argument. There's no reason to believe that currently: quite the contrary polls indicate a surprising level of public ignorance, and there's no indication that the meat alternative market is stagnating.

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