Instigator
Points: 20

Governments should require that meat packaging include ethical warning labels

Finished

The voting period has ended

After 3 votes the winner is ...
Tejretics
Debate details
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Category
Society
Time for argument
Three days
Voting system
Open voting
Voting period
Two weeks
Point system
Four points
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Rated
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Contender
Points: 10
Description
"Ethical warning labels" refer to "labels that inform consumers of the physical and mental suffering involved in producing the animal products they are considering buying."
No new arguments in the final round. Character limited to 10,000 characters, i.e. if a post exceeds 10,000 characters, it is an auto-loss.
Round 1
Published:
Note:

This post will also soon be posted on my blog (http://www.gotejas.com...). Here’s confirmation that this is actually me (http://gotejas.com...). I have received permission from this site’s moderator to do so.

What is my advocacy?

I argue that the government should require the inclusion of ethical warning labels labels on any meat packaging, as well as on dairy and eggs. These would describe the experiences undergone by the animals from whom the food products were derived throughout the manufacturing process. Furthermore, these labels will be required to include images that vividly and accurately reflect the experiences of the animals throughout the manufacturing process.

The precedent for these kinds of labels already exists, with, for instance, warning labels on cigarette packaging and Fair Trade labels.

Why is this plan beneficial?

(1) Mandating ethical warning labels would protect the freedom of choice of consumers

A. Information is a necessary precondition for consumers to make free choices

Consumers should have the information about whether consumption of a particular product would offend their personal values. That’s because the free choice of consumers relies on them having full information about the product they’re buying.

Philosopher Thomas Wells explains that “if we are not sufficiently informed about both the negative and positive implications of the options we are presented with, we won't be able to relate those options to our own values and interests.” [1] Countries across the world recognize this principle through other labeling laws, that compel manufacturers to present information such as expiration dates, information about nutritional values on packaged food, or whether particular food is kosher or halal.

B. Ethical warning labels on meat packaging give consumers this information

Lots of people hold the value that, while meat consumption is okay, we ought not consume meat obtained in particularly unethical ways – some people, for instance, wouldn’t consume chicken if that chicken’s beak was cut off and the chickens from the farm in question were crammed together in a cage; others would refuse factory farmed meat in general.

However, these consumers don’t get information about the specific abuses that animals go through throughout the manufacturing process; at best, in the status quo, they get the information that they’re consuming a product that has meat in it. An ethical warning label would give them that information about the specific harm faced by the animals and allow them to make decisions for themselves, with full information about the fulfillment of their personal values.

(2) Mandating ethical warning labels would reduce animal suffering

A. Ethical warning labels would sensitize people to animal abuse

Two reasons. First, many people get information about animal abuse for the first time. Two-thirds of people are unaware that killing all male chicks on egg farms is standard practice. 33% of adults don’t know dairy cows are slaughtered when milk yield drops. 88% of people don’t know that most pigs are killed around fourteen years before their typical lifespan ends. [2] My plan would ensure that, every time someone walked into a supermarket and picked up some eggs, they’d see the information of the number of chicks killed in that farm and the images of hens packed into cages with their beaks cut off; it would also incentivize them to learn more about the manufacturing process. The presence of the plan, thus, creates significantly more discussion about issues regarding animal welfare in the meat industry.

Second, the plan breaks the dissociation of meat from its animal origins by inducing emapthy and disgust. A 2016 study by Kunst and Hohle found that “dissociating meat from its animal origins may be a powerful way to avoid cognitive dissonance resulting from this ‘meat paradox.’ … [D]escribing industrial meat production as ‘harvesting’ versus ‘killing’ or ‘slaughtering’ indirectly reduced empathy. Last, replacing ‘beef/pork’ with ‘cow/pig’ in a restaurant menu increased empathy and disgust, which both equally reduced willingness to eat meat and increased willingness to choose an alternative vegetarian dish.” [3] In short, people dissociate meat from its animal origins all the time and meat producers contribute to this dissociation; our plan forces people to engage with the fact that meat comes from origins of suffering and abuse. Moreover, the usage of visceral imagery and language is uniquely helpful. A Faunalytics study found that vegan outrage videos involving images of suffering were the most effective in convincing people to consider abandoning meat, eggs, and dairy products. [4] This is a really powerful method of inducing empathy and disgust.

B. Effects of this sensitization

First, this would significantly reduce meat consumption. Sources [3] and [4] clearly illustrate the mechanism for this: when people realize how their meat is produced, they’ll choose more vegetarian and vegan alternatives, and reduce their meat consumption. This is a tremendous good, because it saves multiple animal lives. Indeed, a single person turning vegetarian would, on average, save between 371 and 582 animal lives per year. [5] While I realize that most people won’t completely turn vegetarian, the amount of reduction in meat consumption is still quite significant.

Second, even if it didn’t reduce meat consumption, it would change the kind of meat people eat. People would notice in these labels that, for instance, chickens suffer a lot more than cattle do in farms and that more chickens need to be killed for the same amount of meat than cattle. Thus, a person who generally eats more chicken would now shift to eating more beef. This would have a significant impact in terms of lives saved and suffering reduced. [6]

Third, this sensitization creates pressure on producers and suppliers to source their meat in more humane ways. It’s pretty well-established that there’s a profit incentive to engage in practices which end up causing more animal suffering. [7] However, the presence of ethical warning labels counters that with an alternate profit incentive. The more humane meat is, the more demand there is for it, when the plan is implemented. That means demand doesn’t reduce as significantly and shareholders don’t pull out. Thus, producers and suppliers source meat humanely, and animal suffering reduces.

Fourth, as a result of more sensitization to animal suffering, there’s more political capital for animal welfare regulations. Currently, these regulations aren’t passed because they cost money and because there’s pressure from organizations such as farmers’ unions against them. The presence of these labels would mobilize public pressure for governments to pass more policies to protect animals, such as requiring stunning before slaughter or mandating the presence of CCTV cameras inside factory farms. In France, for instance, animal rights group L214 released a series of videos of animal abuse inside these farms, creating pressure to mandate CCTV cameras in slaughterhouses and a parliament report recommending more mechanisms to reduce abuse and improve transparency. [8] The plan would spread such graphic images through labels to far more people and create much more discussion around such policies.

Fifth, sensitization to animal suffering among the general public would increase support for animal welfare advocacy groups and charities, causing more membership and more funding. The impact of this could be huge: the most effective charities save up to eleven animal lives per dollar [9] according to some figures.

C. Preventing animal abuse is morally desirable

I think this is fairly straightforward, but just to be thorough, here’s one warrant for this. The basis for moral considerations generally surrounds mental states – we recognize that suffering is intrinsically bad and that pleasure is intrinsically good, and seek to avoid them; thus, the most morally desirable actions maximize positive mental states (such as pleasure) and minimize negative ones (such as suffering).

Philosopher Christine Korsgaard explains, “When you pity a suffering animal, it is because you are perceiving a reason. An animal's cries express pain, and they mean that there is a reason, a reason to change its conditions. And you can no more hear the cries of an animal as mere noise than you can the words of a person. Another animal can obligate you in exactly the same way another person can . . . [s]o we have obligations to animals.” [10] It’s for this reason that we grant severely mentally enfeebled individuals and infants rights.

Thus, the plan protects thousands, if not millions, of animals from death and suffering.

(3) Mandating ethical warning labels would result in more sustainable agricultural practices

A. Reduced meat consumption advances environmental protection.

Meat production accounts for about 14.5% of human-caused greenhouse gas emissions. [11] Furthermore, overgrazing detrimentally affects multiple wildlife species by altering cover and food supplies. [12] Research also finds that raising livestock damages aquatic ecosystems. [13] In short, reducing meat consumption would be massively beneficial to the environment.

B. The plan improves food security outcomes.

Fiona Harvey of The Guardian explains, “The massive increase in meat consumption in rich countries in recent decades has led to spikes in the price of grain, used for animal feed, as well as leading to widespread deforestation and pressure on agricultural land.” [14] Lowered meat consumption uses agricultural land more efficiently and ensures better food security outcomes.

For these reasons, vote Pro.


Published:
Introduction

Pro provides an intelligent and well-presented argument replete with relevant quotes from apparently reliable sources. However, his central thesis is deeply misguided because the universal introduction of ethical warning labels would be insufficient for ending animal cruelty, which we seem to agree is a noble and realistic goal, as well as the central issue behind this debate. At best, the introduction of ethical warning labels would provide a stepping-stone for eradicating animal cruelty by strengthening public sentiment towards stronger measures, but said stronger measures could be implemented without having been preceded by ethical warning labels. Therefore, I assert that while ethical warning labels may be a pragmatic option for milquetoast animal rights advocates, persons who are truly concerned by animal suffering ought to demand immediate imposition of harsh, direct measures against animal cruelty.


Section 1. Point-by-Point Rebuttal of My Opponent's Contentions

1.1. "Mandating ethical warning labels would protect the freedom of choice of consumers"

Pro states that, "Consumers should have the information about whether consumption of a particular product would offend their personal values," and then asserts that, "An ethical warning label would give them that information about the specific harm faced by the animals and allow them to make decisions for themselves, with full information about the fulfillment of their personal values."

But information on systematic cruelty to animals in factory farms is widely available. Finding this information is as trivial as inputting a term such as "factory farm animal cruelty" into one's preferred search engine. It is not the government's place to inform consumers with facts that most of them can easily find out for themselves, except to protect them from scams or dangerous goods and services.

If one believes that the government has an ethical duty to inform the public about systematic cruelty to animals in factory farms, it would be more sensible to encourage the government to use media intended for outreach, such as the Public Broadcasting Service or billboards or advertisements on privately owned television stations. If properly done, this could not only reach a greater audience, but provide a greater quality and quantity of information, for very little shock value can be compressed into a label.

My opponent also claims that "the free choice of consumers relies on them having full information about the product they’re buying." What is meant by "full information?" It is impossible to provide the full information about any product on a simple label. At most, it might inspire consumers to perform independent research. For an ethical warning label to give what could justifiably be called "full information," it would need to laboriously document every detail involved in its item's manufacturing.

Later, Pro notes that, "Countries across the world recognize this principle through other labeling laws, that compel manufacturers to present information such as expiration dates, information about nutritional values on packaged food, or whether particular food is kosher or halal." What he does not note is that, while marking food as kosher or halal indicates its religious acceptability, this has nothing to do with the objective ethics and empirical truths of animal cruelty. Therefore, these labels are not precedent for ethical warning labels, unless my opponent wishes to argue not from secularism but from a specifically constructed Jewish or Muslim framework in which religious acceptability is equal to objective ethical value.

Speaking of objective ethics, Pro points out that, "An ethical warning label would give them that information about the specific harm faced by the animals and allow them to make decisions for themselves, with full information about the fulfillment of their personal values." But the purpose of law is to impose society's values on others. If someone's "personal values" favor purchasing unethically sourced animal products, then society should require them to change their eating habits. If animal cruelty is as severe a problem as the opponent suggests, and I agree that it is, then it is unethical to allow anyone to assist in perpetuating it.

1.2. "Mandating ethical warning labels would reduce animal suffering"

No, it would only inform the public about animal suffering. Animal suffering could only be reduced by the factory farms themselves, due to government action or public outcry. The former is what Pro is proposing anyway, and see Section 2.2. for why more direct government action would be better. The latter could just as well be incited by other forms of outreach.

1.3. "Mandating ethical warning labels would result in more sustainable agricultural practices"

This assertion is correct, but is superseded by the agenda explained in Section 2.2.


Section 2. Novel Arguments

2.1. The Harm to Humans Outweighs the Help to Animals

I preemptively apologize for the long philosophical tangent I am about to undertake prior to introducing the actual argument of this section.

My opponent takes a basically utilitarian ethical perspective in the following sentence: "The basis for moral considerations generally surrounds mental states – we recognize that suffering is intrinsically bad and that pleasure is intrinsically good, and seek to avoid them; thus, the most morally desirable actions maximize positive mental states (such as pleasure) and minimize negative ones (such as suffering)."

What Pro neglects is that if an entity's mental state is considered ethically relevant, this implies awareness on the part of that entity, and "awareness" is not a binary parameter. For example, a typical human is more aware than a typical dog, which is more aware than a typical catfish.

Mathematically, I use the following formula to calculate the objective suffering experienced by an entity:

S = p * a

where S is the actual suffering experienced, p is the amount of suffering the entity thinks to experience, and a is the entity's amount of awareness. This formula cannot be considered fully practical because the specific values for different entities and types of suffering have not been determined, but it is clear that an entity's awareness is an amplification factor for the objective gravity of its perceived suffering. Thus we can derive that it if a typical human and a typical dog experience the same amount of perceived suffering, the human's suffering is objectively worse because the human has a higher awareness value.

I now wish to go further and state that causing widespread mild or moderate suffering among humans is worse than causing widespread severe suffering or death among domesticated animals because the average human awareness value is so much higher than the average awareness value of a pig or cow or chicken or any other domesticated animal.

Pro's proposed ethical warning labels would contain "images that vividly and accurately reflect the experiences of the animals throughout the manufacturing process" and would be visible "every time someone walked into a supermarket." This would expose millions of people to gory and possibly traumatizing images, which could certainly have a deleterious psychological impact on high-empathy adults, but more concerningly would affect the emotional development of children. Imagine a world wherein young children would be assaulted with images of animals being viscerally mutilated every time their mother fills up a bag of groceries! According to my formula and educated guesses for the values of its variables, these effects would be objectively more problematic than the animal maltreatment itself.

2.2. Demanding ethical warning labels is insufficient, indirect, overly pragmatic, and unwilling to "rock the boat"

I now return to the crux of my position, given in bold at the end of my opening paragraph. It permits me to sidestep the pro-animal-welfare arguments my opponent rightly makes, because advocating for immediate measures to directly curb systematic animal cruelty in factory farms provides all of the benefits my opponent ascribes to ethical warning labels, and more so.

By "immediate measures to directly curb systematic animal cruelty in factory farms," I mean authorizing, enabling, and requiring the government to: 1. keep full information on all practices in factory farms; 2. implement a strict code for humane behavior towards animals in factory farms; and 3. take swift and strong action against any violators of said code.

No sane person would suggest that the government should work to merely "curb" the frequency of murder or rape or torture of humans, rather than taking reasonable action to prevent it from ever occurring.

Pro might counter that ethical warning labels are a pragmatic solution because, since animal cruelty cannot be eliminated entirely, we should at least try to reduce it. The problem here is that people are vulnerable to mindlessly preserving the status quo. Warning labels on cigarettes have not eliminated smoking, and that abominable habit seems here to stay for the foreseeable future. Similarly, if ethical warning labels were placed on all meat products, there would undoubtedly be an adjustment period of strong social reaction to them, but soon things would return to normal, and there would still be people purchasing unethically sourced meat products, which can be produced and therefore sold at lower cost per unit, making them more appealing to consumers.

I also contend that, given the magnitude of systematic animal cruelty in factory farms, it is tremendously inconsiderate to demand anything less than an immediate and complete stop to it. The animals are suffering, they are suffering horribly and now, and each second that they continue to suffer is an argument against all other courses of action.

With this in mind, vote Con.
Round 2
Published:
== Overviews ==

Observation 1: Con should be bound to defend their counterplan throughout the debate

Con has advocated a counterplan (“CP”) of tough animal welfare protections. Since Con’s case has been based on that advocacy, limit them to that advocacy – from this point on, this debate is a comparison between two advoacies.

Observation 2: Con’s CP contradicts their position on animal rights.

Con says that “awareness” is an important criterion for rights and that “causing widespread mild or moderate suffering among humans is worse than causing widespread severe suffering or death among domesticated animals.” Con then proceeds to limit their advocacy to a counterplan that would inevitably cause “mild or moderate suffering” among humans. Why? Because tough animal welfare regulations would inevitably increase the costs of production on meat manufacturers, forcing cuts in wages and some layoffs. Because they would increase the strain on the managers of these companies. The fact is that pervasive “mild or moderate suffering” among humans would be created by their CP, much more so than the sadness some empathetic people feel under my plan.

Since I’ve established that Con should be bound to defend their CP, this overview completely deals with the idea that awareness is a criterion for rights at all, or that mild human suffering matters more than severe suffering among animals.

Observation 3: Con’s CP isn’t mutually exclusive to my plan

It’s possible to pass both animal welfare regulations and place ethical warning labels on meat packaging. In particular, from this point on, I’m going to advocate a perm, wherein my advocacy will be to pass both my plan and Con’s CP together – I’m going to explain why this combination of the two advocacies is more beneficial than the CP through the unique benefits of my plan. However, in particular, I’ll say one thing about the perm here: without the perm, the CP doesn’t work. Why? In short, it isn’t permanent. Politicians will always have the power to repeal the CP and there’ll always be political capital to do so – farmers’ unions, powerful corporate lobbies, and many other special interest groups will advocate for the repeal of such laws. The perm does two things to ensure that these regulations remain permanent and aren’t repealed in the future: (1) It shifts public opinion – I gave you two warrants for why this sensitizes the public to animal abuse. This creates political capital to maintain these regulations into the future. (2) It weakens the lobbying power of companies, when they lose profits in the short term and shareholders pull out, limiting their money, and when public backlash forces them to lose the high political influence which they currently hold. Note that none of Con’s second contention or their rebuttal to my second and third contentions holds if the CP’s regulations are repealed in a few months – which means Con’s CP itself is a unique benefit of the plan.

== Rebuttal and case extensions ==

(1) Animal welfare and the unique benefits of my plan

A. Why is protecting animals the most important issue in the round?

The effects on animals are the most important impacts in this debate. Pro says that the mental states of animals aren’t as ethically relevant as the mental states of humans because of a lack of “awareness.” Many responses. First, this is an incoherent standard. I have no clue what “awareness” means. Second, Con doesn’t really prove the claim that awareness matters enough to suggest that moderate suffering by humans outweighs massive suffering by animals.

Second, Con’s big warrant for this standard is the suggestion that “an entity's awareness is an amplification factor for the objective gravity of its perceived suffering.” However, Con doesn’t prove that the amplification of suffering is of such high magnitude that we should weigh a bit of sadness felt by empathetic humans over the constant fear of death and the mass killing of animals. We wouldn’t do that with other beings with awareness (e.g. infants, mentally enfeebled individuals). In addition, Con doesn’t prove the link between “awareness” and pain at all. Both Con and I agree that reducing suffering is a good. I think it’s reasonably clear that the suffering of animals is greater: (1) Just out of the magnitude of the harm – in the best case scenario with meat, animals live under the constant fear of death until they are killed. (2) Sheer number: in the US alone, there are 9.2 billion animals in factory farms. So even if widespread moderate suffering by humans outweighs widespread extreme animal suffering, animals who suffer overwhelmingly, overwhelmingly, outnumber humans.

B. Unique benefits of the perm

Beyond OV2, the perm has some unique benefits to the welfare of farm animals. First, it would change food patterns and reduce meat consumption. Con says this is untrue, because people will just become desensitized and that “soon things would return to normal, and there would still be people purchasing unethically sourced meat products.” Two responses. One, the initial shift away from meat consumption or toward exclusively humane meat production practices would force corporations – who care about short-term profits – to shift to humane practices, which would then become the new normal and people would want to preserve that status quo. In particular, once the animal welfare regulations are passed, people wouldn’t want them to go because they would’ve learned about the harm that animals face. Two, many people would stop consuming meat altogether, and this is a huge impact, because it would mean significantly lower numbers of animals die and live in fear of death – this debate isn’t just about making practices more humane, it’s about saving animal lives. Three, it would change the kinds of meat people eat. Con completely drops this impact – that people would eat more beef and less chicken, they’d get used to that, and animal lives would be saved in that process. Second, my plan would increase support for animal advocacy groups. Con ignores that I made this point: even the small amount of charitable donations would save animal lives.

At bottom: (a) The CP won’t sustain without my plan along with it. (b) The CP saves animals from torture, but it doesn’t save their lives – my plan does. (c) Protecting animals is this debate’s most important issue.

(2) Sustainable agricultural practices

It was devastating to Con to drop this point for two sets of reasons.

A. The effects on wildlife

The real point where meat consumption causes animal suffering is this. “To support a global rise in per-capita meat-eating, livestock farming continues to expand, shrinking and fragmenting natural habitats in the process. And when cramped predators adapt by preying upon livestock, some ranchers go to extreme measures to keep them away, such as strapping pouches of neurotoxins to the necks of grazing lambs, or calling upon the United States Department of Agriculture to shoot down predators from government helicopters.” [1] Moreover, “[a] staggering 60 per cent of global biodiversity loss is down to the food we eat. We know a lot of people are aware that a meat-based diet has an impact on water and land, as well as causing greenhouse gas emissions, but few know the biggest issue of all comes from the crop-based feed the animals eat.” [2] Nearly 40% of the earth’s land is taken up by livestock farming – in the process, systematically resulting in ecological collpase and threatening the extinction of a variety of endangered species. [3]

B. The effects on humans

Section 2.2 doesn’t “supersede” one of the largest food security threats that humans face. It also doesn’t supersede one of the largest contributers to climate change – an existential threat to humanity. It’s really devastating to their credibility that Con thinks a few empathetic people being sad outweighs people not being able to put food on the table and facing extreme weather events. And just to be clear, these are overwhelmingly harmful effects on humans – much more harmful than the psychological harm Con wants to talk about. So even if you buy that humans have significantly more moral worth than animals, you can vote Pro.

There is a consensus: meat consumption is one of the key contributing factors of the sixth mass extinction. [4] The number of animal deaths is on an unprecedented scale in human history – and the existence of animal rights means we ought prevent that. Con dropping C3, at this point, systematically dooms their case.

(3) Consumer rights

On psychological harm, Con doesn’t really do much work explaining why this psychological harm is significant at all. They just assert this “affects the emotional development of children” and could be “traumatizing,” with no warrant whatsoever. Perhaps some people would be sad, at best – that doesn’t come close to outweighing the huge impacts above.  

The consumer right I protect is the right to information. Con’s only response to this is to say “this information is easily accessible.” This doesn’t engage, at all, with the empirical evidence I gave you in the last speech that tons of people don’t have some of this information: Two-thirds of people are unaware that killing all male chicks on egg farms is standard practice. 33% of adults don’t know dairy cows are slaughtered when milk yield drops. 88% of people don’t know that most pigs are killed around fourteen years before their typical lifespan ends. I’m not, to be clear, suggesting that people have a right to consume meat that was sourced unethically – I prevent that as well. I’m suggesting that people have a right to decline to consume meat that was sourced unethically.

Con’s CP isn’t mutually exclusive to my plan, but it’s only meaningful when coupled with my plan. Vote Pro.

[1] http://www.csmonitor.com...
[2] https://www.theguardian.com...
[3] https://edition.cnn.com...

Published:
Pro has thoroughly demolished my already rickety arguments.

Because I have the decency to take this L on the chin rather than waste everyone's time: I concede. Vote Pro.
Round 3
Published:
Thanks to Thoth for the gracious concession and for a very fun debate until then.

Vote Pro, thanks. 
Published:
What he said.
Added:
For what it's worth, I think the case I'd run from Con on this is:
1. This is coercive and the government ought not place such an explicit value judgment on meat consumption
2. In the short term, this tanks the meat industry, hurting workers in the industry, food security, and cultural groups for whom meat is important
3. Even if we cared about animal rights, this hurts animals:
(a) In the long term, this desensitizes people to meat consumption and damages the animal rights movement by creating backlash, hurting the organic shift that would've been far more sustainable than the immediate shift created by this plan
(b) This would disincentivize small meat businesses and butchers from registering under the government, particularly in developing countries, preventing animal welfare regulation
Instigator
#5
Added:
--> @the_bat_man
I select the text and then press the "B" button in the upper-left-hand corner of the text editing box.
Do you not see a text editing box when you go to post your arguments? That could be the problem.
Contender
#4
Added:
--> @Thoth
How do you make the text bold?
#3
Added:
--> @Thoth
I've had loads of fun too.
Instigator
#2
Added:
--> @Tejretics
The topic at hand is an interesting issue which I had never pondered before accepting this debate. I am looking forward to reading your contentions, Tejretics.
Contender
#1
#3
Criterion Pro Tie Con Points
Better arguments 3 points
Better sources 2 points
Better spelling and grammar 1 point
Better conduct 1 point
Reason:
Con concedes
#2
Criterion Pro Tie Con Points
Better arguments 3 points
Better sources 2 points
Better spelling and grammar 1 point
Better conduct 1 point
Reason:
Con forfeits and Pro provides sufficient reason to have the packaging.
The approach Con should have taken is the nihilistic, meat-endorsing one. This is actually a debate where the objective truth is Con but subjective truth for a non-psychopath is Pro. This comes down to how much we care about animal suffering.
Con could have won but I will respect their right to forfeit.
#1
Criterion Pro Tie Con Points
Better arguments 3 points
Better sources 2 points
Better spelling and grammar 1 point
Better conduct 1 point
Reason:
Thoth conceded the debate.