So we're writing argumentative essays for my English class. My professor wanted us to start by writing from our own perspective, without any research or sources. This is what happened.
We humans tend to see ourselves as separate from the rest of our world. We see ourselves as being beyond nature and above other animals. We use this to justify exploitation and abuse of the creatures we think of as “lesser.” The reality is that we are as much a part of nature as all of the other animals and the similarities we share with them are far greater than the differences between us. We are hurting ourselves and the planet as a whole by denying our connection to the other species who share the Earth with us. The human race will only be able to advance is we learn to respect other animals and end our exploitation of them.
We humans have so separated ourselves from other species that the word “animal” has come to mean any creature who is not human, when in fact we ourselves are animals. As much as we may want to believe that we are so very different from other species we really are not. Anyone who has taken the time to get to know any nonhuman animals is aware that, whether those animals are apes, dogs, pigs or any other species, they have thoughts, feelings and needs just like we do. We tend to recognize these things in the animals we think of as “pets.” We admire them for their loyalty and notice their unique personalities. The truth is, these things are the same for all animals. We just choose not to see them in some species.
Usually, when we choose not to see the intelligence or awareness in a particular species it is because we want to use them for some purpose that we believe will benefit us in some way. Farmed animas are especially hard hit by this. We like to think that farmed animals are stupid and not entirely aware of what is going on around them. We like to believe that they do not have emotions, that they have no need for things like love and companionship, that they do not understand things like boredom, loneliness or despair. There are few people in this word who have ever taken the time to get to know farmed animals on a personal level but those people know very well the extent to which these animals feel. Pigs have the intellectual capacity of three year old human children and an equal sense of curiosity. Cows form bonds with their calves as strong as any between a human mother and her child. Roosters have a strong sense of responsibility and will gladly risk their lives to protect their hens. We think of things like curiosity, love and responsibility as human qualities, but they are not. These are animal qualities; humans just happen to be one of the many species of animals that has them.
Every day we abuse and exploit other species in countless ways without even thinking about it. We use them for food, clothing, entertainment and research without ever questioning our right to do so. What makes us believe we have this right? What truly separates humans from other animals? The only answer seems to be intelligence, but does the fact that we are smarter than other animals really give us the right to use them and destroy them as we please? Should more intelligent humans have the right to enslave less intelligent ones, or to kill them? So what is it then that entitles us to use other animals the way we do? The answer is nothing.
There is more than morality though that should compel us to end our mistreatment of other animals. Our own survival depends upon it. Our abuse of other species is, literally, killing us and the planet. Almost all of the problems in our world today are related to our use of nonhuman animals, in one way or another. Consumption of animal products has been directly linked to heart disease, cancer, diabetes, strokes, obesity and osteoporosis. All of these diseases could be nearly eradicated if we just stopped eating animal products, but instead we torture and kill even more animals in the name of research trying to cure them. Animal research gets us nowhere, because despite our many similarities with other species, the slightest difference can cause a treatment to be effective in one species and ineffective, or even toxic, in another.
Besides the many health issues it causes, animal agriculture is to blame for a multitude of other problems as well. It is the number one contributor to global warming. It causes contamination of ground water and crops and leads to deforestation. It also plays a key part in world hunger. Impoverished countries use their land to raise cattle for export to the United States and other countries, thus using up the land that could otherwise be used for growing crops for the people who live there.
There are many tolls that our mistreatment of nonhuman animals take that are quite obvious and concrete. One that many people are not aware of though, is the emotional toll it takes on us to live in a society that is built upon violence. Do we really want to live in a world where everything form our food, to our clothes, to our medicine is drenched in blood? Do we really want to raise our children to believe that killing is wrong, but only sometimes?
The only way humanity will be able to overcome these problems is by rediscovering our connection to other animals. With respect and compassion for other species, we can become better than we are. Only by saving other animals, can we save ourselves.
*Photo- Theresa from Farm Sanctuary, Watkins Glen. I think I've used this one before, but she deserves to be seen again.
Image credit: Tobias Akerboom (at hutmeelz)