Aug 5 2009

Animals Can’t Think So It’s OK To Eat Them

by Lindsey

I just received a comment on another post that expressed this view. I’ve found that many people hold onto this idea and use it to justify continuing to consume animal products. Here is how I responded.

First of all, there’s absolutely no way to know that animals don’t think. Just because they don’t communicate in any verbal human languages does not mean they don’t think. For all we know, cows are smarter than Einstein, but they choose to never talk and to instead eat grass all day. Anyhow, there is actually plenty of scientific evidence that animals do think. Pigs can play video games for a food reward. Rats can solve mazes. Gorillas can communicate with humans using sign language. And even if we could prove that animals couldn’t think, the important thing is that they certainly do feel. Babies and mentally handicapped people don’t think anything like human adults can. Should we kill and eat them too? The ability to think like a human should not be the grounds for moral consideration. What shapes most moral codes? Usually, they are tied in with feelings. They often have an ultimate goal of maximizing happiness and/or minimizing pain and suffering – both which deal with emotional or physical feelings. Let’s say there is someone who can only think and not feel at all (kind of like an android or complex computer) – no pain, no emotions, no desires – murdering this “person” wouldn’t be so bad (as long as they had no family who could feel emotions and grieve) precisely because there could be no fear, disappointment, or pain, but switch that hypothetical situation around – if someone could not think at the level of a human being but could feel 100%, death would still be a terrifying, painful experience. And that is why we base morals on feelings.
It is obvious that animals feel pain and emotions. This requires far less proof than the claim that animals can think. Anyone who has ever lived with a cat or dog knows that animals have emotions and can feel pain. Animals also have families and care for their offspring, just like humans do. They also show great distress when they or their offspring are in danger, just like humans do. There is even an account of a cat who kept returning into a burning building to carry each of her kittens to safety, even though she was already badly burned.
The thing is we don’t need meat to live. The only reason we kill is for taste. Is it truly worth putting a sentient being through hell (and I do mean hell – just to have a few minutes of pleasure?

Here is an excellent post that elaborates on the issue of the value of human vs. nonhuman life –

Aug 3 2009

Vegan FAQ #2 – What are animals here for?

by Lindsey

Last month, I came across this comment on a Philadelphia Vegan Examiner post.

sooo… i don’t understand the “exploited animal” thing.

is a dog that serves as a seeing eye animal, a dog that is well feed/cared for/loved, and then put to sleep at the end of his/her life exploited?

what is the role of an animal? are pets okay? are they not supposed to play a role in our society at all? we domesticated animals to serve a purpose in our society, was that wrong?

i guess what i don’t understand about vegans is what they think animals are for. i mean, i think everyone earns its keep. like on a farm. horses work, chickens give eggs, dogs herd and protect.

Here is my response. I may want to elaborate more on this in the future, but I think I already hit one of the most important points that I would have wanted to make in that post.

Vegans are concerned because animals are exploited for unnecessary commercial products. The fact is that we can live healthfully and abundantly without consuming any animal products.

You can’t compare seeing-eye dogs and dogs as pets to animals exploited for food or clothing products. Dogs in these cases are usually seen as more than property – a beloved member of a family, like a child. Do you consider it “exploiting” your children because you force them to live under your care until they’re adults? Vegans are divided on the issue of seeing-eye dogs, but at least the dog is performing a very noble service that GREATLY helps a person and GREATLY enriches his or her quality of life for many years. Farm animals are usually treated terribly, kept in awful conditions, and killed in pain and dread just so someone can have a momentary gustatory pleasure that’s not even healthy – like a burger or a sausage.

As to your question – “why are animals here?” Let me ask you why are you here? Why am I here? Why is anyone here? There is no objective answer to this question. Wouldn’t it be best if we all let each other (including our fellow earthlings) decide the peaceful course of his or her own life?

Also, chickens don’t “give” eggs as much as you don’t “give” eggs to anyone when you ovulate. They are your eggs, not anyone else’s. Eggs are just part of a chicken’s menstrual cycle, and the nutrients found in eggs are there for the baby chick to eat as he or she grows. Not all dogs herd and protect. What about chihuahuas? Should we find them another purpose – kill them for meat perhaps? Most horses only work because we’ve forced them to and “broken” their spirits into being terrified to do anything but what we tell them. It’s almost as if you’re saying if something doesn’t have a clear purpose for human benefit, then we need to give them one no matter how much it infringes on their right to live life as they want. What would you say about a severely mentally handicapped human who can’t do much of anything and has no living family? What is that person here for? They can’t work a job and contribute to society. They don’t have a family to make happy. In fact, they’re probably a drain on society because tax dollars have to support them. But why do we allow them to live in society and still support them? Because life is valued by many as sacred. And vegans extend that reverence for life that most humans have for other human life to include animals as well. Believe it or not, some people used to say, what good are black people for anything other than to pick cotton as slaves? It’s the view that we can define another sentient, emotional being’s life that gets us into trouble.