What is wrong with reacting emotionally to the suffering of animals?
Is the suffering of animals inferior to the suffering
that humans would feel in their place?
Animal suffering is completely unnecessary, because adults don't need dairy
products or meat for a healthy meal at all, and least of all in the excessive amounts in which we consume them nowadays.
Are animals our equals?
In his book "Animal Liberation" Peter Singer
devotes many pages to examples proving that animals
are equal to humans and therefore have rights.
At Animal Freedom we say that animals have rights
-a priori-. They don't have to prove they
deserve them first. We also say that animal rights are
really human rights, meant for humans to be able to
talk to other people about their conduct towards animals.
Some "pet owners"
(a term that in itself implies little equality between
man and animal) treat their animals as equals. Emotionally,
their pets have the same value to them. In itself there
is nothing wrong with that, as long as these people
give the animals the opportunity to display their natural
behavior. "Pity remains the same emotion, whether one
feels it for people or for a fly".
Leo Tolstoi. It is in some people's interest to award a lower status to animals. These people
do things or have done things that harm animals. For instance
eating meat from industrial farming, or having their pets
put down by vets to save the expense of treatment. They
justify their behavior by telling themselves that animals
are not people and that they are of a lower order. This
tendency toward justification is nestled inside human
genes, as it were: conquerors treat losers as slaves,
white people treat black people the same way, and men
feel superior to women. But it is not so securely nestled
in the genes that we cannot get rid of this tendency.
Civilization is learning, and includes among other things
the acceptance and treatment of others as equals. It requires
even more inner growth to treat animals as equals and
still respect their freedom.
Treating animals as equals also means taking your own
emotions toward animals seriously. You can love animals
and have compassion with animals in industrial farming.
There is no reason to be ashamed of this, more so, you
should be ashamed if you don't feel compassion, because
this is a sign that, from a misplaced sense of superiority,
you are suppressing or eliminating compassion.
Who is normal: someone who feels emotion out of pity for
the suffering of animals and expresses this, and takes
action for animals out of compassion? Or is someone normal
if he neatly but indifferently buys meat from industrial farming at the supermarket every day?