The Vegetarian Amputee Chef–A Personal Thought Experiment:

I’ve posed this hypothetical situation to several people before, but I’d like share this with the vast realm of online peers on WordPress and consider a wider range of perspective from this global collection of worldviews…I’m also a bit curious to see if there is some general consensus independent of one’s dietary preferences. Feel free to comment with any opinions or additional input on this matter…

First off, I want to emphasize that I am completely against animal cruelty, and although I am not a practicing vegetarian, I respect the virtues and dedication of those who are. I also understanding that vegetarianism stems from a vast range of beliefs–from religious affiliations, to health concerns, to environmental principles. This particular scenario deals specifically with the aspect of vegetarianism that meat consumption is unethical–with an underlying moral premise that animals cannot explicitly consent to being killed for humans to eat/use their flesh. With that, here’s a little something I call The Story of the Vegetarian Amputee Chef: Herbert I. Vorr is a five-star chef who happens to be a vegetarian of the aforementioned demographic–while Herb has always been curious about trying meat, he would never betray his ideals and eat a non-willing creature. One day, he severs his arm in an accident. The doctor is unable to reattach Herb’s arm, so the limb is amputated and kept on ice to preserve the flesh. Herb’s open-minded doctor suggests that, being a master chef in top physical condition, Herb might want to consider taking his discarded arm into the kitchen as an opportunity for him to prepare a gourmet meal with flesh that came from an organism with the ability to decide its own culinary fate: As a part of Herb’s body (his own flesh and blood) is the source of this meat, his recent circumstances have provided an exception to his self-determined lifestyle.
Discounting the cannibalistic implications of the issue at hand, does going along with his doctor’s recommendation allow Herb the chance to partake in meat consumption–as a deliberately consenting individual–while justifiably staying true to the fundamental nature that represents his vegetarian beliefs?

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8 thoughts on “The Vegetarian Amputee Chef–A Personal Thought Experiment:

  1. Courtney Krueger

    He is staying true to his personal beliefs and reasons for being a vegetarian, but he does not stay true to others’ definitions of it. Now you don’t say whether he had previous beliefs about being a cannibal so there is no way to know if he went against those beliefs in this regard. The doctor is crazy for suggesting and convincing someone to take part in cannibalism of themselves.

    I don’t know if you’ve heard of this, but there is a small culture in Asia which I can’t remember, but if an ailing elder is getting sick, the best cure is to cut a chuck of flesh out of their thigh and make a special soup with it. Maybe you can look into that for me and see if they are a somewhat vegetarian culture and how that ties in with cannibalism?

    Reply
    1. mattkunz Post author

      Would it not hold true for others’ definitions regarding that discrete aspect of vegetarianism that solely focuses on the consensual dilemma of eating organisms that are unable to reciprocate the choice for them to be eaten? As crazy as the doctor’s suggestion may appear at face value, let’s suppose in this obscure facet of reality that the matter of cannibalism regarding one’s own body is a non-issue…so his primary role in this situation is to play devil’s advocate, because at the end of the day, what’s done is done and Herb had a perfectly good opportunity to indulge in something that needn’t be off-limits if he so chooses.

      Reply
  2. Courtney Krueger

    Well sure if vegetarians ONLY cared about a willing victim if you will, then sure, what he did was fine. Also that everyone is hunky dory with cannibalism. I feel like that unrealistically narrows the definition of vegetarianism and you are also completely ruling out the concept of being grossed out by cannibalism so your thought experiment works if you leave out all those variables but I feel as if you can’t forget about all the other things such as:

    Animals are not willing participants in their deaths.
    You don’t need to eat meat because there is enough nutrition in plant matter.
    Animals are not here just to be our servants, they don’t live just to feed us.
    Animals deserve a certain amount of freedom and certain rights.
    The raising of animals contributes to pollution of water and air unecessarily.
    Meat takes more calories to make than it contains. (unless the only thing that grows in your area is grass… in that case let the cows loose) You could take all that grain being eaten and feed the world.
    Eating meat is unhealthy.
    Eating meat is a gross idea in itself, can’t think of eating a living creature’s muscle tissue.

    Cannibalism spreads human disease.
    The body is sacred/not to be messed with.
    Society has general rules and taboos about what you can and can’t do with your own life and body. (suicide, funeral traditions, suicide when faced with illness, abortion, pregnacy decisions, the ethics of doctors who usually won’t cut off a limb just because you ask)

    This isn’t a physics problem where you can just assume some variables are negligible to the final answer. You have to take everything into account or you are left with such a narrow definition of reality that anything can happen it it if you want it to.

    Reply
  3. mattkunz Post author

    It’s true I’ve narrowed this down to a specific “theme,” as I’m sure the various other themes I gave mention to right from the start don’t entirely compromise the full breadth of what it means to be a vegetarian for each personal motive, respectively. Being grossed out or not isn’t a very compelling aspect in this moral/ethical context, and I’m sure you could find a million other nuances that might sway Herb’s final decision that don’t originate from the root of his vegetarian stance…perhaps he had a tattoo on that arm, and the ink is otherwise innocuous for that purpose but he would have a lethal allergic reaction if he ingested it. Maybe he has some obscure phobia about touching limbs that aren’t connected to his body…I think you see what I’m getting at. The list could go on like that forever, but are such instances (however farfetched they may be) really a valid hindrance to the ethical nature of the subject at hand?
    True, animals may not be willing participants in their deaths, but what beings are? All that comes to mind right now for me are suicidal people and maybe Jesus. Look, I agree with everything you’re saying about the living conditions of “farmed” animals and the nutritional detriment of those organisms due to such practices. Interpersonal cannibalism has questionable sanitary value, and human beings are precious in their entirety. However, I did lay out a set of known variables, and correct me if I’m wrong but I’m pretty sure the parameters of this instance are honed in to the exclusive class of vegetarian conviction which Herb subscribes to. Would it be a cut-and-dry answer for all classes of vegetarians across the board? Absolutely not. Would it be a sociocultural taboo and/or insensitive to others’ religions and personal beliefs? Hands down. But Herb isn’t a farm animal wallowing in his own filth and confined to what he can eat or how much he can move around. On the contrary, he is in peak physical condition and he knows the full life story of what could potentially be his next meal. Did I mention the man was a five-star chef? I don’t think Herb would set out to prepare a meal with all the best skills he could employ, and then end up being grossed out by the final result. But if that were the case, he’d have no choice but to shoulder the blame…

    Reply
    1. Courtney

      In a world where it is ok to murder your wife if she cheats and your wife cheats so you kill her, did you do anything wrong?

      In a world where it is encouraged to eat your parents after they die and you choose not to, are you a bad person because you don’t want to release their souls to the afterlife?

      Is it ok to steal and distribute a rich man’s earnings in a pure Communist society?

      Same questions.

      Not saying you don’t have great points it’s just your narrowing of the definition is what is making your case.

      Now was that a purposeful pun at the end? Almost missed until I read it all again. 😛

      Reply
      1. existentialpace Post author

        Yeah, you caught me…but I don’t suppose it would have done much good to put my foot in my mouth about that, would it have? Granted, I have created a “controlled environment” here, if you will, but it’s all in the spirit of subjective relativity. It’s not for me to judge whether or not it’s wrong to go against the grain as far as moral universals are implied to be, because the truth is I’m not in the position to make general claims about objective truth based on my own inner truth. I don’t care whether people think Herb’s in the wrong from their perspective (with its own respective worldviews and attached biases), but simply whether it’s right to him…if he’s still being true to himself. That’s what I’d be interested in hearing peoples’ thoughts on, regardless of where they stand in the matter. Because I think when it all comes down to it, we stand where we stand or we sit down in our arbitrarily assigned seats. Even if I did have to go out on a limb to get to that point in the thought experiment in the first place 😉

      2. Courtney

        So you are doing the puns on purpose. 🙂

        You’d be surprised of the things people can rationalize to themselves. I’m ok, it’s not anxiety I just need to learn how to relax a little. If I just steal this $10 to buy gas to get to work I’ll never have to do it again so it’ll be ok. That guy is evil and the world would be better off without him so I will be doing the world a favor by killing him. I’m scared of my own shortcomings so it makes it reasonable to overly control my girlfriend into not having any male acquaintances. So the fact that this guy has been able to reasonably well rationalize eating his own arm isn’t that special in terms of his mental ability to do so as that is quite common. He is special in that he is of a limited group of people who have had the circumstance and desire to come to the same conclusion. A lot of beliefs and events and skills had to be in exactly the right place before he would even have difficulty making the decision.

        Also, slightly unrelated is the hope that everyone can be a willing participant in their own deaths. Clinging to life filled with regret of things undone or very suddenly without warning or in confusion after the mind has wasted away are bad for the person and everyone around them who cares for them. May everyone come to terms with death before they pass and have it be in relative comfort. There are many more people than suicidal people and Jesus who do in fact participate and make decisions about their deaths. Many people spend their older years coming to terms with it and hopefully are able to accept it and not stress about it too much. I hope their family can come to that same acceptance. It is beautiful to see when it is there even as they are dying.

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