Animal Liberation Page

Broadly there are two types of attitudes in our society towards the suffering of animals caused by our everyday lifestyles. The first are those who aren't aware of it and the extent to which it occurs, the second are those who have some idea but think that it is justified, or doesn't matter and can therefore be tolerated. For those in the first group who simply aren't aware, after you read this you might like to look at some of the sites in my 'Links' section. Once you understand exactly what is being perpetrated to non human animals by our culture, then you can be in a position to ponder whether their suffering is tolerable. It is those in the second group to whom this is addressed, they who believe the suffering we inflict upon animals is generally justified or ethically irrelevant. To them I speak for those who cannot speak for themselves.

People too often forget we are an animal ourselves, an ape, with similar biological makeup to most other mammals. Our central nervous systems and their connections to the brain are identical to many other species, as they were formed at a relatively early branch of the evolutionary tree and have changed little since that time. There is no doubt that other animals experience pain and a whole host of other sensations, studies in support of this are overwhelming. By their reactions we know they seem real to the animal experiencing them, just as the reactions of other humans seem real, yet on some purely philosophical level we could say that we can only assume other people or animals feel emotions as we do, we don't feel their pain ourselves so we cannot really know, though we recognise their responses.

The only question one might intelligently ask in this area is whether non human animals ponder their suffering from the 'higher level' that we ascribe to ourselves. Let us assume they do not, does lower intelligence mean they feel their suffering less? Does the lack of understanding the complexities behind ones pain interfere with the transfer of impulses through the nervous system? There is no evidence that this is true, it can only therefore be held as a philosophical position, rather than a scientific one.

Anthropocentric philosophies are most probably a convenient ethical delusion to make us feel better about our apathy in the face of animal oppression.

Even if the case is less clear than I believe, wouldn't we hope we lived in a society that demanded unshakable evidence for a proposition being used to justify suffering on the scale we currently tolerate? Scientifically there is no unshakeable evidence that they feel the pain of the battery cage, the coldness of the sows concrete floor, or the sharpness of the hook through the roof of a fishes mouth, any less than we do. So if we take the precautionary principal, this is no logical basis for the unneccessary suffering our lifestyles inflict upon animals. The overwhelming probability is that they feel pain, and if we would like to consider ourselves an ethical, caring person, we should do what we can to avoid unneccesarily contributing to that.

Are we the logical creatures we think we are, is there a logical basis for our treatment of animals? People will consume the products of intensive piggeries without question. Yet, if someone they interacted with were to keep their pet dogs packed together so they couldn't turn around in a room with a concrete floor and no sunlight (only beginning on the horrors of piggeries) until they started having psychoses, we would find it offensive. According to some studies pigs are more intelligent animals than dogs, so how can we then justify the different moral values we place on their treatment by our culture? We treat them differently because we interact with dogs on a daily basis, we know that they feel many emotions similar to our own, because we recognize the reflections of our own soul in their reactions to stimuli. It is the distance of the suffering in the piggeries from our daily lives, not the question of whether it exists, that allows us to tolerate it and still consider ourselves civilized and caring people. Out of sight out of mind says much about our morality, yet this is no basis for morality, especially of humans who would call themselves a 'higher' being.

An often used proposition (excuse) is that there is suffering in nature, so therefore any unneccessary suffering we cause is just part of the 'natural' order, and somehow exempt from moral justification.

This argument allows for all sorts of horrors to be perpetrated to humans themselves. Cannabalism, murder, torture, slavery, child abuse, rape, these things have been part of human cultures down through history. Does this mean they are natural and if so should we then say that because they are part of the 'natural' order, that we should do nothing about them as a society? If we accept that this is dangerous logic in respect to humans, it is hypocritical to propose the same logic somehow makes sense when applied to every other animal in the evolutionary tree.

What is natural is not necessarily what is moral, to humans or other animals. Even if it were, it would require a definition of exactly what is natural behaviour, something which science is not at a point to comprehend, therefore it is yet again no useful basis for human morality. To use the word 'natural' as a justification for the intensive farming systems that the vast majority of animal products come from, is an intellectual absurdity. And to say that pigs could theoretically be raised in more ethical conditions, therefore it's not immoral for you to continue to finance their current suffering, is in the realm of saying it is ethically OK to use slaves until they invent some way to harvest cotton mechanically. What matters is what you do now, in the real existing world, not some idealistic place where animals gratefully go to slaughter because of the wonderful life we have given them. If we are concerned with what is natural perhaps we should let animals be, to lead their natural existences, free from barbed wire, the brand, the intensive farm and the slaughterhouse.

So what do we as a society today gain from our abuse of animals, that it is so neccessary that each human life should correspond to hundreds of often torturous animal lives? We can fulfil all of our dietary needs much more efficiently with plant based foods, a number of Olympic gold medallists and world champions have been lifelong vegetarians. There are tolerable alternatives to the vast majority of animal based products, and given larger production no doubt the prices would be less than the resource intensive and inefficient production of animal products.

What is gained, is the logic behind so much of our society, economic value. Animals are abused for profit, generally the more barbaric the conditions, the bigger the profit margin and the cheaper the price to you. When economic interests and feeling, emotional beings intertwine with no regard to their suffering, exploitation is the predictable outcome. This is what people concerned with animal suffering are trying to fight against, unecessary suffering, suffering on a scale that only a commercial production system feeding a mass of unaware consumers can create.

We all are confronted with ethical decisions, every decision we make in our lives has a potential ethical dimension. By making choices in a compassionate manner we are able to affirm what sort of person we are, what sort of life others will have and what sort of world we choose to be. If there is any sort of meaning in this existence, it seems obvious that compassion is a large part of it, and that this compassion does not begin and end with the human species, it is about our attitude to life generally.

Living a totally cruelty free lifestyle is difficult in our current society, perhaps impossible, but starting on the road to reducing suffering is easy. Pick an animal product you use and figure out an alternative, find a vegetarian or vegan to help you. If you can't find an alternative, but also can't justify another being suffering for it, work towards giving it up. It probably won't make the difference between happiness and suffering for you, but it will make a big difference in another life.

We who have realised that compassion should not have arbitrary boundaries of race, religion and culture, should now take the next logical step and extend our compassion to our fellow species, who seek to be happy, as we do.

by Cameron Green

Cameron Green
Last Updated - Fri, 30 Jan 2015 07:04:32 -0600