The history of mankind is peppered with horrendous acts once deemed normal: slavery, child labor, and even cannibalism. Oftentimes, these atrocities were said to be essential for a functioning society. With the advent of science and consequent evolution of morality, and technology in place to spread ideas and arguments more effectively, these practices have been outlawed in most parts of the world. Animal agriculture, as well as other industries that exploit animals, will one day be seen as no different from other past abhorrent customs.
Thanks to neuroscience, we now know that the majority of animals are likely sentient. Sentience, put simply, is the capacity to “experience.” Some philosophers have worded it as “what it is like to be” something. From behavioral studies, we can conclude that other animals experience pain, pleasure, fear, and other emotions just as a human would. I argue that sentience is what entitles all animals to the right to life.
With that being said, I submit that animal rights are a logical extension of human rights with the following question: what is the trait that non-human animals possess that would justify treating humans in the same way if such a trait were true of humans as well?
Is it a question of intelligence? I suspect most people would find farming the most severely mentally disabled humans as morally despicable.
Is it the fact that non-human animals don’t belong to the human species? I intuit most people would object to the idea of their beloved animal companions being systematically murdered for food. Additionally, if we woke up tomorrow and for some reason our DNA sequence was altered such that we wouldn’t be considered human (but still looked and acted human,) I doubt we’d be willing to offer ourselves to the slaughterhouse, even with our morally significant trait of being “human” gone.
I would wager that, upon appropriate reflection and pushback, most people would not be able to think of a satisfying answer to this question. I certainly could not and doubt I ever will.
Going vegan is just recalibrating your actions to align with your moral values; that is why I will always be vegan.
The scope of victims, pervasiveness across the globe, and the longevity of the practice throughout history makes our treatment of other animals one of the greatest sins of all time.
What side of history do you want to be on?