In one of the best contributions yet to the NYTimes's nod to philosophy, The Stone, Rutgers's Jeff McMahan provides an excellent example of how philosophy is done, carefully teasing out the implications of the moral imperative to reduce the unnecessary suffering of innocents -- including innocent non-human animals.
In his essay, "The Meat Eaters," McMahan suggests:
There is therefore ... reason to think that it would be instrumentally good if predatory animal species were to become extinct and be replaced by new herbivorous species, provided that this could occur without ecological upheaval involving more harm than would be prevented by the end of predation.
The responses have been predictable -- predictably awful and misdirected, that is. It is especially disappointing, however, that the often thoughtful Andrew Sullivan has responded to McMahan's essay with one of the most common -- and abjectly bad -- rejoinders, namely:
How about starting with ourselves?
Anyone actually paying McMahan's essay the compliment of reading it with the attention it deserves would have noted, however, that McMahan begins by granting that his bold suggestion is one that assumes that we have already recognized that,
to be entitled to regard ourselves as civilized, we must, like Isaiah’s morally reformed lion, eat straw like the ox, or at least the moral equivalent of straw.