Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Absolutes and Relatives

One of the topics I often end up discussing is eating horses. As somebody who considers horses to be working and companion animals, people expect me to argue against anyone eating them.

To which my response is often 'I'm not going to let a Hindu person tell me I can't enjoy a hamburger'.

Food taboos are perhaps the most classic example of 'relative morality' on this planet. On Iceland, where it's all but impossible to raise cattle, people often do eat horse (No mystery meat for me while I'm there...I've tried horsemeat and I did NOT like it. At all). My personal morality states that you should not eat an animal that has been treated as a 'human companion'...that is to say, a pet or working animal. I'm not against consuming horses that were raised for meat. Or dogs, for that matter, although I'm not sure I'd want to try dog. Carnivore meat can be funky. (I also won't eat elephant, primate or cetacean meat, although I haven't been in a position of turning any of them down yet).

It's fashionable in some quarters to say all morality is relative, but that's obviously bullshit. Everyone agrees that murder is bad (there might be some disagreement around the edges as to what constitutes 'murder'...some people, for example, believe ANY killing of another human is murder. We call them 'pacifists', usually). Most would also agree that you shouldn't take somebody else's property. Other aspects of morality are clearly relative, including whether you should marry your first cousin...or a member of the same sex.

The question is not 'is morality absolute or relative'...because the answer to that would be 'yes'. It depends on the precise morality you talk about. And I'll continue to eat beef and turn down horse meat...and continue to support the right of others to eat horse if they choose (although I'd rather they ate horse raised for meat...riding horses are fed all kinds of medications that simply should not be in the human food chain).