Recently I heard a friend of mine say that some people around the world still need to eat meat to survive. What kind of meat, I didn’t ask, but we do know that in some parts of the world the killing of human and non-human animals is rampant.
Could it be possible that killing and exploiting animals as well as killing and exploiting people are the only means of survival for some people? This may be possible in extreme cases. However, the justification of killing for purely survival reasons is a topic best left for a future discussion. The question I would like to address here today is this one:
Why do we condemn people who kill & exploit other humans but not if they kill & exploit animals?
First we need to address how our “special” treatment of humans is an arbitrary concept.
Here’s what I mean:
We are humans (assuming you’re a human reading this 😉 ) so we are biased towards seeing those most similar to us as having higher worth. This is a common psychological bias also known as prejudice. More specifically, seeing human animals as having higher worth than non-human animals is a form of prejudice called speciesism.
“The question is not, can they reason? Nor, can they talk? But, can they suffer” – Jeremy Bentham
“We may look different but in our capacity to suffer we’re all the same”.
In other words, human as well as non-human animals equally have the capacity to suffer and all desire to live. This has been scientifically shown over and over again and most of us tend to know this quite intuitively as well. Therefore, since all of us possess “sentience”, no animal, human or non-human, should have more or less of a right to live and be free of torment.
Prejudice has been discussed for centuries but let’s review how it applies here. If we give human animals a higher right in life than non-human animals because human animals are most similar to us, then it must follow that you should also give your race a higher right than other races since your race is most similar to you. This is a form of prejudice called racism, of course.
As well, it also must follow that you should give your sex a higher right than the other sex for the same reason. This is a form of prejudice called sexism. Once again, it must also follow that you should give your nation a higher right than other nations since they’re most similar to you. This is a form of prejudice called nationalism. I was a victim along with many other people, of a war caused by this exact type of prejudice.
Some people like to use the (prejudiced) argument that we have a right to “use” (including kill) animals since we’re more “intelligent”. If this is true, then adults have a higher right to a life free of exploitation (including being killed) than children since children are “less intelligent”. Also, most average people in that case would have a higher right to a life free of exploitation (including being killed) than mentally challenged people. Of course, in that case, most intelligent people in the world can look down on all of us so if you’d like to know if you’re safe under this type of prejudice, ask yourself: “Am I the smartest person in the world?”. If you’re not sure or if your neighbor doesn’t think you’re smarter regardless of your own opinion of yourself, run for your life.
Jokes aside, since none of these concepts are acceptable in our society, then the argument of intelligence has no merit here either. We do not have the right to “use” (or kill) animals because they’re “less intelligent” or because we perceive them that way.
Humans have killed as well as eaten and exploited other humans for thousands or even millions of years if we refer back to the Homo Erectus which existed as far as 1.8 million years ago. Even modern humans, Homo Sapiens, which have existed since 200,000 years ago were in constant conflict with other humans. Human cannibalism was present ever since (hu)man has existed. Rape, murder, oppression have all existed as well.
In modern day however, we aspire to live in a civilized world and we are moving in the direction of eliminating horrific behaviors we have exhibited throughout our evolutionary history. We now look at rape, murder, and oppression as something that needs to be eliminated if we are to live in a civilized world. We have made child molestation a crime, we have legally banned slavery, we have given women the right to vote, we condemn homosexual discrimination and hate crimes… We are fighting to evolve by eliminating all forms of prejudice because this is the only way we can live in a kind world which all of us long for (unless you’re a sociopath in which case the only world you’d like to live in is the one that serves only you at the expense of everyone else).
So we come back to the original question: “Why do we condemn people who kill & exploit other humans but not if they kill & exploit animals?”
The reason why we do so is because of a prejudice called speciesism. All sentient beings have the capacity to suffer so in sentience, we’re all the same. Killing and exploiting a human animal cannot be any more morally wrong than killing and exploiting a non-human animal. And if we feel it’s unacceptable to us that human animals are ever killed and exploited, then it must follow that killing non-human animals is unacceptable as well. Along with all other forms of prejudice, speciesism needs to be eliminated if we are to live in a truly congruent, peaceful world.
Furthermore, the enormous environmental damage caused by fishing and animal agriculture has been well documented. As the UN’s Nobel Prize winning scientific panel on climate change warned – people need to stop eating meat if we are to avert an ecological disaster.
Additionally, the problem of world hunger is made worse by animal agriculture as well. It takes several pounds of plant protein fed to an animal to get just one pound of animal protein. This plant food is taken away from the poorest on the planet. Six million children die of starvation every year for this very reason.
The question I post to myself is: What am I going to do today to make this world a better place?
Off to eat some kale then and party up with some stylish non-leather boots!
~ Andrea Kladar
For more information on how to live a cruelty free life please visit: