My discussion these last few days has been concerned with the ethical obligations of those who would refuse, on moral grounds, to kill animals simply for the culinary pleasure of eating them. But the argument depends on people being able to read their own intuitions about killing. Could it be that they’re misreading those intuitions? Bryan L. suggests this when he writes:
It may be people are physically able to but just don’t want to because they’re squeamish about blood or killing, but not morally against it. I like the benefits of modern medicine and surgery but even if I were physically able to perform surgery I’m too sqeemish to watch, much less put my hand inside the chest of someone on an operating table, or work in a trauma ward.
Needless to say, if a person is simply squeamish about killing animals for the pleasure of eating them, then they could still benefit from the willingness of those who are not squeamish. Once in junior high (a time when I wore braces) I visited the dentist just after lunch without first brushing my teeth. (Such is the addled brain of a young teen.) The poor doc probably spent ten minutes flossing my teeth before he could get down to business. If I had to floss a strange set of teeth under those conditions I’d probably require sedation afterwards followed by weeks of therapy to cope with my PTSD. But if the dentist is not squeamish about it (and he can’t afford to be since he’s still making payments on that 1988 Porsche 928) then more power to him.
So if it is merely squeamishness that we’re talking about then we can benefit from the dentist and doctor and plumber and exterminator for their collective willingness to shoulder the tasks that make us squeamish. And if those folk then why not the butcher as well?
But here’s the problem. This response depends on our inability do discern non-moral aversion from moral aversion. Now let’s concede that our moral intuition is not infallible and thus it is possible to mistake squeamishness for a moral aversion. But that doesn’t preclude the fact that our moral intuition is generally reliable and thus generally to be trusted.
If someone asked you, “Are you merely squeamish about torturing people or do you really think it is always wrong?” you might pause for a minute to reflect on the question. But after that reflection you could reasonably conclude, “No, I think it really is always wrong.” And if you did conclude this then you ought not delegate the task of being the one who tortures to anybody else. The same goes with killing other creatures for culinary pleasure. If you reflect on your intuition and conclude that it reflects a genuine moral aversion rather than mere squeamishness, then you are obliged to follow that intuition to the point that you don’t benefit from the actions of those who do not share it.