Author Archives: Laurel Sutherland

Anger and Aristotle’s Virtues – Nicomachean ethics

If you cannot be extremely angry, how can you ever challenge injustice the world?

According to Aristotle, one must live in accordance with certain virtues in order to attain happiness. He explains that happiness is the the only “complete end”. That “since there is evidently more than one end, and we choose some of these (e.g wealth), for the sake of something else, clearly not all ends are complete ends; but the chief good is evidently something complete” (Aristotle 117). He continues: “Happiness, no one chooses for the sake other than itself” (Aristotle 118). Unfortunately, according to Aristotle, we cannot really achieve that happiness without respecting and living by certain virtues. And if we do as Aristotle suggests, we can never find out what we truly stand for. We can never combat injustice in the world, because it cannot be challenged without defying one crucial virtue: good temperament.

“With regard to anger” Aristotle writes, “there is an excess, a deficiency and a mean”. The “excess” is “irascibility”, the deficiency is “inirascibility” and the “mean” is “good temper”. If we live by these means, and strive to never be “irascible”, the world will never change. We will all live our daily lives in a facade of “good temperament”, and brush away issues of concern without a second thought.

Every person who has been influential, powerful and admirable has been angry. In fact, the most influential individuals have been just what Aristotle condemns: irascible. Take Gary Yourofsky, one of the most prominent animal rights activists of our time.  He appeared in the Oakland Press in 1999: “Yourofsky traces his interest in animal rights to the early 1990s. His stepfather volunteered as a clown in The Shrine Circus and offered to take him on a tour. Yourofsky said he was shocked to see an elephant chained to a post with scars behind his ears” (Wisely 1). At that point, Yourofsky, realized his discomfort and his anger. Instead of brushing it aside in order to maintain good temperament, he explored it: he began researching animal abuse. “The more he learned, the less he liked. He believes speciesism is a form of discrimination that causes sexism and racism”  (Wisely 1).  Yourofsky was livid. He had identified a huge injustice in our world, and his anger would motivate him to attack it.

“In 1996, Yourofsky founded a group called ADAPTT”, writes Wisely. He continues: “the group, which claims about 1,000 members nationwide, hopes to stop animal use in medical research, product testing, circuses, rodeos and other forms of entertainment” (Wisely 1). Yourofsky transformed his fury into a beneficial organization that improves and protects the lives of other sentient beings.

He has also appeared in the Daily Tribune of Royal Oak Michigan. “For the last two years,” author Cathy Nelson writes, “he has been, arguably, the most recognizable and talked-about member of the animal rights movement in Michigan. Yourofsky’s notoriety was heightened last year when he was sentenced to six months in prison for his part in a 1997 break-in at a Blenheim, Ontario, fur farm where 1,542 caged minks were set free” (Nelson 1). Yourofsky was so angry, so furious that he defied the law. Yet it was well worth it – he was accomplishing his goal.

If  we live in accordance with Aristotle’s virtues to be happy, our “happiness” will render us indifferent. We will never tackle injustice, because we will never allow ourselves to feel the anger needed to identify it.

                                                                                    Works Cited
Aristotle. “Selections from Nicomachean Ethics.” Moral and Political  Philosophy. N.p.: n.p., n.d. 117-18. Rpt. in Blackboard. N.p.: n.p., n.d. Web.
Nelson, Cathy. “Taking It to the Limit Driven by a Passion for Justice, Royal Oak Activist Does Whatever It Takes to Protect Rights of Animals.” The Daily Tribune [Royal Oak, Michigan] 27 Feb. 2000: n. pag. Web. 25 Oct. 2014.
Wisely, John. “Activist Risks Life, Liberty and Lawsuits to Protect Animals.” The Oakland Press 1 Aug. 1999: n. pag. Web. 25 Oct. 2014.


Ethical Relativism and Meat

      Benedict’s “In defense of ethical relativism”, suggests that individuals act based on the norms deemed “acceptable” by their cultures. They do not formulate their own beliefs regarding what is morally correct, but rather adhere to what their cultures have previously branded “normal”. “Most individuals are plastic to the moulding force of the society into which they are born” (Benedict 56). I will support this claim using a specific example: the difference between acceptable meats in the United States and China.

      Author John Feffer describes which meats are “normal” in our culture. They include: “chicken but not crow, beef but not horse, venison but not reindeer, lamb but not mutton, legs and wings and rumps but not hearts or lungs or tongues” (Feffer 1). We are taught and conditioned to believe that some animals are “edible”, while others, quite simply, are not. He continues: “anonymous livestock and wildlife are fair game, but pets are a different matter, and dog in particular remains taboo” (1). In the United States, many people find the prospect of eating dogs and cats absolutely horrendous. Most love dogs as companions, not as Sunday dinner. Dog meat is virtually nonexistent.

     Although Feffer is completely aware of the norms regarding dog meat in our culture, he chose to ignore them. He ate dog. He shares his experience: “whenever I mention to my friends that I have eaten — and enjoyed — dog stew, they look at me with the sort of horror reserved for hangmen and white supremacists” (Feffer 1). Americans view Feffer’s choice to eat dog meat with disgust. They find it abnormal and repulsive. Most eat meats based on the norms established by our culture. They share the same sentiments regarding which types of meats are edible and which are not.

    In China, the cultural norms regarding meats are vastly different than those of the United States. Many individuals eat dog stew on a regular basis. Eating dog meat has been widely accepted and promoted by the Chinese culture for many years. It is a tradition. Author John Sudworth explains that: “the practice of eating dogs goes back centuries” (Sudworth 1). In fact, most do not know when it began. “If you ask a local when the tradition of eating dog meat began, then you’ll be met with a dumbfounded expression” (Young 1). There are many dog meat festivals that locals attend. Around “ten thousand dogs were slaughtered” for a dog meat festival this past June (Kaiman 1). The dog meat is especially popular since many believe it has both warming and cooling properties, which are very important to the Chinese culture. “According to Chinese folk dietetics, which classify every food according to its heating and cooling properties, dog is one of the ‘hottest’ meats around, best eaten in midwinter, when you need warmth and vital energy, not in sultry August” (Dunlop 1). The Chinese culture has clearly instilled in its people that eating dog meat is normal and also beneficial to health. Therefore, “for many in the city, eating dog meat is a hard habit to break” (Young 1).

    Individuals truly do make decisions based on the cultures in which they live. In the United States, our culture has taught us to view dog meat in a negative light. Thus, dogs will remain house pets and far from the kitchen. Yet in China, eating dog meat is respected for it’s “healthy” properties. Eating dog meat in China will remain a tradition for years to come. While some may deviate from cultural norms, as John Feffer did, most will never act as boldly.

                                                                                                           Works Cited

Benedict, Ruth. “A Defense of Ethical Relativism.” Anthropology and the Abnormal                  

                   (1934): 49-56. Blackboard. Web. 6Sept. 2014.

Dunlop, Fuchsia. “It’s Too Hot for Dog on the Menu.” The New York Times. 4 Aug.

                   2008. Web. 6 Sept. 2014.

Feffer, John. “The Politics of Dog.” The American Prospect. May 2002. Web. 6 Sept.


Kaiman, Jonathan. “Chinese Dog-eating Festival Backlash Grows.” The Guardian. 23

                     June 2014. Web. 6 Sept. 2014.

Sudworth, John. “Chinese Dog Meat Dilemma: To Eat or Not to Eat?” Web log post.

                      BBC News. 20 June 2014. Web.

Young, Connie. “Canine Controversy: Chinese Festival Serves up Dog Meat.” CNN

                    World. 23 June 2014. Web. 6 Sept. 2014.