Cruelty to Animals is Based on What?

Dear Love, Friends, Family, and New-comers:

Dear Amber,

I wrote this years ago, I think when I was a vegan:

From: (LiveJournal Comment)
Date: 2006년 8월 22일 오후 9시 46분 39초 KST

Somebody replied to your LiveJournal post in which you said:

What is the logical basis for our subjugation of animals? Well, the first obvious answer is the age-old practice and belief that the utilization of animal skins, oils, and meats were essential for human protection, sustenance, and survival. And until substitutes were found, it is almost indefensible to say that it wasn’t true. It is certainly true in primitive cultures that lack access and even understanding of alternative technologies.

But after the age of agriculture was established and after soybeans, nuts, and green leafy vegetables have been determined to be enough to supply humanity with protein and calcium; after we have discovered that we can furnish ourselves with adequate clothing without the procurement of animal-derived materials, what is the moral justification for taking contol of and killing animals, especially by modern, twentieth century societies capable of documenting animal complexities in intelligence, societal organization, and the experience of emotions and pain? This question is especially relevant now that science is showing how similar some creatures in the animal kingdom are to us, and since some animals are proving to be more and more intelligent with each passing year.

The intelligence issue and the issue of a soul seem to be mitigating factors. For it seems it is not possible to suggest with a certain degree of certainty that one needs only observe the relationships between many parent animals and their offspring to see a level of care and protection, and other behaviors that might only be–for practical purposes–described as love, to reach the conclusion that they are deserving of their freedom from we who in many cases no longer need to harm and control them.

Purely for an exercise in logic an moral thinking, let us assume for a moment that if we could further develop our communication with animals beyond assigning them simple tasks, teaching them simple musical repetitions and rudimentary expression; beyond communicating with them using codes, that we would be inclined to discover beyond our present visual observations, how they feel. And if we could directly communicate with them, such that we were expressing semi-sophisticated concepts, at least to the extent that that they could convey their desire to survive, I think our perception of their intelligence would likely–in my opinion–vastly change. Their physical behavior and reactions to pain are enough to prove this ‘desire’, or a corrolary emotion, but I think that communication and expressed emotion are the final barriers between us and our exercising true compassion toward animals.

If our perception of animal intelligence and emotional desire were to change for the better, perhaps only by degrees even, we would likely be at a loss to explain our treatment of them.

There is still, however, the religious belief that some follow-which says that God has made humanity lord and steward over the other animals, and this more than intellectual and emotional intelligence is likely what allows us to subjugate and mete out cruelty on animals. And the reason this is justified is that this religious doctrine says that animals have no soul. I think that many people do not realize that “the soul” in classical times, basically meant setience, and or purpose-driven consciuosness and locomotion.

Well, what is the soul if not an ancient explanation for our which in reality is an ancient explaination of our emotional consciousness, finally emanating from the mind? One could argue it’s proof of existence is the mind and our sentient state. And indeed if we approach the matter scientifically, than that is all it is (that we can really prove, I mean), and thus we have to consider whether or not the animals among us are also sentient. They have brains, emotions, and intelligence. For, they are certainly aware, conscious, and bonded to their offspring and bearers in emotional states, and as we have discussed, they are intelligent; vastly so in some cases.

This leaves the qualifying major differences between us and the other animals, our levels of intelligence, and perhaps our manual adaptive dexterity, as defined by physical structure. Those things if anything, make us adaptable, and thus superior in organization, creation, and thus technology.

But what if we discovered some of the animals-say dolphins-could be communicated with beyond the levels in which we communicate with them now? And what if we discovered that after a time, we could facilitate ourselves with the ability to communicate with more than the dolphins? I am not suggesting that we would have philosophical ‘conversations’, but beyond this, a level of intelligence communicated to us in evidence far greater than is in existence now–and for more than the most intelligent animals, like dolphins and primates–what would be the justification for our subjugation of them? For our using them for clothing, food, transport, etc.?

Personally, I am more in favor of using their ability to experience pain, and their affection for their offspring and their bearers as measures to determine whether we are cruel to them or not, but for many, that is not enough. That is why I have considered the intelligence issue.

Sincerely wishing you love, peace, and joy,
Carl Atteniese

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