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


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 –

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66 Responses to “Animals Can’t Think So It’s OK To Eat Them”

  • David Says:

    Well said!
    Or even worse; it’s killing for texture, not for the taste since seasoning is what sets the taste. Meat doesn’t “taste” good. No matter what a meat-eater will say.

    Marie Piekarski Reply:

    It appears some people are so immune to thinking or so selfish they totally ignore anything beyond their day to day desires.. and these are sipposedly “superior” beings??

  • Basmis Says:

    Great article!! It’s so true!

  • Kristen Says:

    Excellent post! Great argument!

  • Deleilan Says:

    Animals don’t destroy their environment or act against their own self-interest (unlike us humans) — isn’t that proof of their intelligence?

    Ben Reply:

    no – it doesn’t

  • bartk Says:

    [Babies and mentally handicapped people don’t think anything like human adults can. ]

    that’s completely a NOGO bio centristic nonsense argument for veganism, gee and by the way, once I saw this funny Ali G show in TV with a veggie and Ali G saying something like “Eat this chicken” Veggie: “No!” Ali G responding “Eat this chicken or I kill that other one…” ;)


  • Dakki Says:

    I am certain animals like chickens and animals raised in intensive farming facilities do not suffer. If you limit their experience in life, they would not miss it. What kind of life does a chicken have? Life in a cage every day. So, they are not losing much and will not suffer. Also, they are not intelligent, about equal to a fish. Cows are not more intelligent than a fish either if it is raised in a confined space. They do not experience life, so therefor, they do not miss what they never had. Pigs, well, they are intelligent as a dog, but again, confined space. So, basically what I am saying is that it is more humane and kind to the animal to deprive it completely. If your entire life is staring at the wall all day, then that is all you know and when you die, you would not suffer. If you look in the eyes of a farm animal, I do not see an animal, it is just blank. Eating it is it’s only purpose so we must eat it. Do not deny your nature, we are omnivorus. We eat vegetable and meat. That is our natural diet. Not once in our history have we lived without meat or animal. No reason to stop. Do not deny your tastes, it knows well from evolution. Eating meat is like becoming one with our nature. The animal gives its life to you. You take it, consume it, and use it’s energy to give you life so you can make the world better and to flourish on this wonderful planet. That is life. Do not deny life.

    wf Reply:

    Staring at a wall all day doesn’t mean that you cannot feel pain. It doesn’t mean there’s no drive to preserve your own life. Therefore, if your death involves pain, you experience fear and terror. Aside from this, if your life involves pain, you experience fear and terror.

    Locking an animal away from experiencing the joys of life doesn’t take away the desire for that life. Young girls kidnapped at an early age and made to live with a pedophile as his wife and kept sequestered away from other humans dulls their senses and deadens their emotions. Does that mean that their lives don’t matter? Because going by this argument, because they didn’t live, their lives and their desires don’t matter.

    A retarded boy kept locked in a closet his entire life doesn’t ever get to experience life, but the fact that he’s unable to experience life doesn’t mean he doesn’t yearn for it. Perhaps he doesn’t know what type of life he’s missing, or exactly what that life entails and includes, but that’s exactly the point. The entire possibility of life is removed from him, which isn’t humane. And the same thing happens with these animals. They’re disallowed to have any possibility of living the life they would normally lead. And the lives chickens would have had might not be much to you, but to them it’s all they have. To them, it’s the only thing worth living for. And because that one thing is taken from them, they develop disorders that cause them to bite their fellow inmates, or cause pigs to resort to cannibalism, or cause dogs in puppy mills to develop anxiety disorders that they wouldn’t have had otherwise.

    You say that if you look into the eyes of one of these animals, the eyes are blank. This is precisely the point. They aren’t in there, they aren’t active, because they’ve been torn down and had everything that meant anything to them ripped away, and couldn’t actively live. And that’s just the same look you’d see in that young girl 20 years after she was kidnapped. She isn’t in there, she’s dead inside. Any spark that once was in her young eyes is gone, and now they’re just blank. It wasn’t the kidnapper’s right to take her life away from her and turn her into an empty shell, and it isn’t our right to take life away from animals in the way that we do. It was alright in the early days when people hunted and only took what they needed, and thanked the animals for their sacrifices. But now, with our burgeoning growth, the world can’t keep up with our inexhaustible appetites, and as such we’re slowly devouring the world.

    Lindsey Reply:

    Thank you for replying to that.
    Very well said!

    Vanessa Reply:

    I don’t think we have done anything to ‘improve’ this planet, or the quality of life that any being has on it. What we have done can hardly be considered ‘flourishing’.
    We allow children of our own species to starve, suffer and die by the millions, we pollute and destroy everything in our paths, and we routinely kill each other.
    Anyone who considers that ‘flourishing’ isn’t thinking.
    Not a good argument for not changing if you ask me.

  • Marie Piekarski Says:

    People justify their consumption of animal products by using the argument “animals are stupid” one guy sneered “when animals can do calculus I shall stop eating them” using that same argument is it then ok for us to eat humans with low intelligence/mentally subnormal?

  • Herold Barton Says:

    Well I’m a 15 year old prolife vegan and I would like to Say that your 100% right and my parents will not agree with me (because their Catlhoic).But people have feelings to. Like UNBORN CHILDERN who are murdered by the millions each year and there is proof that the childern feel pain and learn in the womb. its alot like this argument, people believe what they want and come up with excuses to contune their false beliefs even if they agree or not.

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  • Carlton Says:

    But animals need a language to think in, if we could speak a language, we couldn’t think.

    Lindsey Reply:

    That’s not true. Thinking in language is only one way of thinking. It’s possible to think in pictures, as well. Some humans do not even think in words.

  • Tiana Says:

    I’ve recently gone Vegan, mostly for health purposes, but also because I don’t like the thought of killing anything. I think your post makes a logical, and good argument. It also brought to mind a similar argument to why abortion is wrong. And it made me remember, if we fight so hard for animals, we should also be fighting even more for human’s rights to live- those inside and outside the womb.

    Thanks for the thoughts and consideration.

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