People refusing to eat meat affirm a truth that many others find fanatical: that eating meat is wrong. And while this opinion may consign us to the status of overly emotional dilettantes, I have not come to my conclusion based on my emotions but rather the emotions and feelings of animals, otherwise known as sentience.
Photo Courtesy Farm Sanctuary (www.farmsanctuary.org)
All living, breathing beings are sentient. While the degree of intelligence varies by species, each is imbued with the ability to feel pain, respond to threatening situations and experience heightened emotional states, just like us. When eating a steak, you’re consuming the bodily remnant of an animal who was self-aware, loved, was highly sensitive to pain, felt sadness and joy and avoided threats. What’s more, you’re consuming a being who endured both mental and physical agony just to become your dinner. While a cow may not be able to have a conversation or solve a math problem, shouldn’t sentience make their life worth something? Imagine eating your dog or cat. Unthinkable, right? Like me, you’d exhaust any financial resource necessary to save and preserve the life of your companion animal. In western culture, dogs and cats hold a special rank in the human family and are afforded much consideration. Yet, in many non-western cultures, slaughtering them for human consumption is completely acceptable. Is it defensible that, since we’ve placed dogs and cats in a “do not eat” category, it’s fine to kill other animals of equal or greater intelligence simply because our companions have fallen arbitrarily into a group of favor? According to the Cambridge University Veterinary School, pigs “have the cognitive ability to be quite sophisticated. Even more so than dogs, and certainly three-year-olds.” That’s a three year old human being, by the way! Researchers have taught pigs to play video games with joysticks, where they beat dogs in both speed and accuracy, and have also suggested that pigs can...
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