Animals and Their "Destiny"

Stanley M. Sapon PhD | 09/11/09

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It is an unquestionable reality that all animals that "render service to humans..." that is, who are used by humans... in any fashion whatsoever, will have their bodies, their genetics, their reproductive systems, their offspring, etc., managed, manipulated and mutilated in ways that will cause them pain throughout their lives. They will not be permitted to die a "natural" death at the end of the life-span Nature has decreed for their species. It is the norm for animals that are useful to humans, to be put to death when their "productivity" or "usefulness" declines and the cost of keeping them alive exceeds the dollar-yield of their flesh, their eggs, their milk, their wool, their honey, their entertainment value, their labor or other sorts of "usefulness." It is also (with the exception of used insects, like bees and silkworms) customary for the dead bodies to be eaten... either by humans, their pets, or other "useful animals."

Another way of telling these truths, is to simply say that all animals that are used by people will wind up sooner ..not later.. on a hook in a slaughterhouse, on ice in a supermarket or in a bucket of "raw materials."

Hens that lay too-few eggs are killed to become pet food or chicken soup. Horses that can no longer work, run, entertain in circuses or rodeos, or produce estrogen-laden urine to make Premarin become horse-meat and horsehide leather and gelatin and glue. Dairy cows whose milk production declines are killed to become low-grade beef for hamburger, pet food or food for minks being raised on fur-farms. And these minks themselves, once they have been killed and their pelts removed, provide a profitable byproduct for the mink "rancher" who sells their flesh as food for other captive animals.

It is an undeniable fact that there is simply no such thing as a "benign use" of animals. As soon as a living creature acquires some degree of usefulness to humans, the needs of the animal immediately become secondary to the wants of the humans. It may occasion a momentary twinge of regret when human wants override the animals' needs, and the animals suffer, but people's wants and interests come first.

There are some who are not willing to buy and consume what comes out of the slaughterhouse, but are willing to drink cow's milk and eat hen's eggs - products that provide a steady and profitable supply of what goes into the slaughterhouse. If the full implications of what is involved in the production of veal is so horrifying that one cannot even think of buying veal, how can one reconcile the fact that if it were not for strong demands for milk, yogurt, butter, cheese and ice-cream, there could be no veal industry that requires the torment and killing of baby cows?

Designing, breeding, using, buying and selling sensate creatures is to assume full responsibility for bringing them to a life of torment and putting them to death in agony and terror-- all for human convenience, enjoyment and profit. Can we accept this as legal and moral? Of course it's legal: As long as you own something, you can do what you like with your possessions. The word chattel, meaning personal property, is an alternate form of the word cattle. Is it morally acceptable to own living creatures? The ethical defense most frequently offered is that animals, although like us in some ways, are quite simply "lesser beings." They may share some of our physical senses, like those for light and heat, hunger and thirst, and a drive to reproduce perhaps, but they certainly possess no "sense of self," or any genuine soul or spiritual existence.

For more than two centuries of American history the breeding, buying and selling, use and disposal of living beings was considered to be morally acceptable, even when the sensate creatures were human beings. A Virginia law of 1740 declared slaves to be "chattel personal in the hands of their owners and possessors for all intents, construction, and purpose whatsoever." The "industry," known as "the slave trade," was justified on the grounds that African Blacks, although like white people in some ways, were actually "lesser beings."

There were, however, two prominent differences between the breeding, using and killing of people and animals. The first is the fate of the cadavers. To the best of my knowledge, it was never considered appropriate to kill and eat the body of a slave who could no longer "earn his or her keep," that is, when the cost of feeding and housing slaves exceeded the value of their labor. Beyond the fact that slaughtering and eating slaves seemed terribly like cannibalism, what made this so unlikely was the fact that many slaves in America were also converted Christians who attended church, prayed, sang hymns called "spirituals" and insisted upon burying and mourning their dead. While they may have been taken as Lesser Beings, it was grudgingly conceded that perhaps they had souls and a spiritual life.

And second, since they came to speak the language of their "owners," it was difficult to refute their mental life, however limited it was considered to be.

The animals we use, abuse and destroy by the billions face a future of suffering with no hope of redemption. Since people recognize no "religious practices" in cows and sheep and chickens, and precious few clergy proclaim and defend the existence of their souls and their spiritual life, their liberation will be late in coming.

And since they can never talk or write the language of their "owners," they can never speak in their own defense or on their own behalf.

It remains for us to do the writing and the talking that will awaken consciences, stir compassionate feelings and lead to further thinking, writing and talking. There is an old Latin proverb that reminds us: "Qui tacet licet" --- "One who keeps silent gives approval." If we are aware of the truth, but keep our awareness to ourselves, we give life to ignorance, falsehood or profitable deception.

This is one case where silence is not golden. It behooves us to find the courage to break the silence and speak the truth.

Learn more about Dr. Sapon at his website Vegan Values.


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