Why do vegetarians, vegans, etc. propose a different set of rules for animals? After all, humans are animals too. Why can a lion kill and eat an antelope wheras a human cannot? Why does it matter that we do not 'need too'?

It matters that we don't need to because that means that the harm that we cause by eating animals (perhaps, depriving them of their lives, subjecting them to torturous conditions) is avoidable. We are responsible for the avoidable harm that we cause. And what about the animals? Are they excused their eating of other animals because they can't help it? I think that's a weird thing to say. Animals can't be held morally accountable; they simply aren't the kinds of creatures that can be morally blamed for what they do. (Which doesn't mean that we can't be held accountable for what we do to them.) So, it's weird to talk about their being exculpated by the fact that, say, they are carnivores. For animals aren't in need of exculpation: they aren't the kind of creatures that could be blamed or praised in the first place.

Are animals capable of perceiving beauty (or, for that matter, ugliness)? Not just in other animals but in their surroundings as well. Bill Ray

Non-human animals certainly react to features of their environment, features that we might judge to be beautiful or not. So if that counts as "perceiving beauty" then I would answer your question affirmatively. But if you're asking whether non-human animals are themselves capable of judging that some feature of their environment is beautiful, then I would say no. Not because I think that judgments about beauty are especially difficult or beyond the capacities of non-human animals, but because I think that the general practice of judging claims to be true is not one that I am comfortable viewing non-human animals as engaging in. (Of course, there are many people who disagree with this kind of view of non-human animals.)

As a veggie, I am continually conscious that I have made a moral choice which does not fit with society's morals on the issue (in general). I believe that in this world of choice, I can have an adequate diet without the need to kill animals. What does the panel feel about this issue?

For those of us fortunate to live in industrially advanced Western countries, your claim about being able to have an adequate diet without meat is obviously correct. That doesn't speak to the moral issue. I'm with you on that one too: I no longer eat meat (I occasionally eat fish, guiltily). If you ask me to offer a defense of this position, I'm not sure I could do it. It's odd: I have a colleague who is quite convinced by some of the arguments for vegetarianism -- yet he eats meat. I find all those arguments quite unconvincing -- and yet I don't. The relationship between philosophical reflection and daily life can be a complicated thing.

One further thought on this for now. In a recent post, someone asked about whether torture could be justified in a "ticking bomb" scenario. I believe that these kinds of situations are precisely designed to lead to judgmental paralysis (often because they result in a conflict between several important strands woven into the fabric of some concept). Philosophers are very good at constructing such situations in their attempts to work out what's central to some concept. So that can be a good thing theoretically, but, practically, it can be a disaster because it can encourage us to lose our confidence in our judgments about the vast majority (all?) of real world situations that we face. So, can we imagine circumstances in which so many important considerations in addition to animal suffering are in play that we're not quite sure what to say about eating animals? Yes, surely. But does that mean that we can't be confident in calling the system of factory farming as it exists right now in the United...

Why is human life valued more than animal life in the absence of religion? Are arguments based on our being intelligent or sentient valid, after all we make the rules. If you could ask an elephant it might offer other criteria to value species by.

According to some ethical theories that make happiness the central touchstone of morality, for instance utilitarianism, human happiness should not count more strongly than happiness in the non-human animal world. One quantum (as it were) of human happiness should contribute as much to the grand calculus of pleasure as does one quantum of rat happiness. Now, it may be that humans are capable of more happiness than rats; or perhaps, as John Stuart Mill argued in his Utilitarianism , they are capable of a kind of happiness that is of greater value than any happiness a rat could experience. But that's not to privilege humans; it's just to acknowledge a fact about their greater capacity for happiness. You wonder whether this might be unfair, because you wonder whether, if an elephant had written Utilitarianism , the theory would have looked a bit different (say, assigning great value to distinctively elephantine pleasures). But this is an impossible road. We are human, we are who we are,...

Would you agree that a cat or dog can love a human in the same way humans can love in a non-romantic sense?

No, I wouldn't. Humans are creatures with language and thought, and these features of our life permeate our loving. Dogs lack language and thought (in anything like the sense in which humans possess these), and so whatever it is that they are doing, it's not loving in the sense that we do this. Harder to answer is whether we love dogs in anything like the way in which we love another person.

Recent research seems to indicate that the religious sense is innate. If that is so, wouldn't it be likely to be true of animals as well?

If having a religious sense is innate in humans (and see here for more discussion on the obscurities of this notion), it doesn't follow that it's innate for non-human animals. Perhaps some song repertoires are innate in birds — but don't ask me to sing them.