Slavery and Slaughter: Animal Ethics

indexWe kill animals, insects, bacteria, plants, and more without remorse or care. No tears are shed for the wanton slaughter of insects or the mass extermination of trees. Every season we harvest our genetically engineered (or selectively bred) animals and plants. No one has nightmares over the death of a spider who was stepped on; a casualty of coincidence. And I don’t see media decrying the abject domestication and persistent war against dangerous and helpful bacterium. As every day we wash our hands at the sink we are obliterating countless cellular and complex organisms.

For the most part I kill living things with glee and enjoyment. I go to the trendiest restaurant for new methods of boiling lobster alive or skinning some exotic plant in a fabulous new way. I pay good money for this experience.

indexNow, if this were an image of a thousand puppy corpses I would get death threats.

There is a line drawn here, between those organisms worthy of our attention and those who are merely tools for our survival. A pig is a tool for our survival, whereas a dog is worthy of our attention. One can be consumed, another cannot. As we become wealthier we are afforded the privilege of caring about the ethical treatment of our enslaved mammal (or plant) friends. But it has gone even further. It has gone beyond just the method in which we kill them or even if we should consume them at all.

Our treatment toward animals has become more decedent and more meaningless. At least with meat we are fulfilling some nutritional need. At least when I kill a head of cattle I can say, one life sustained another. But other forms of animal slavery are more perverse. That is, using animals as a fashion accessory tailored to our pleasure.

We selectively breed dogs and cats to produce certain physical traits that we find appealing. I want a dog which can withstand the cold, has a mild demeanor, and looks cute. Regardless of the health consequences I trend forward. I want it to be massive, an agile swimmer, and very strong. I do not care if it only lives on average for 10 years, I want to genetically engineer a Newfoundland so that I can use it as a tool to rescue drowning humans in the freezing Atlantic Ocean, or just as something fun to play with.

Dogs, like any consumable product, are rated on scales of dependability, fur quality, demeanor, intelligence, and much else.

A popular dog breed (say a golden retriever), with a healthy genetic lineage can fetch a top sum when purchased as a puppy.

UntitledHmm, interesting stats here but I prefer 4 star train-ability and a darker coat…
to match my wife’s purse.

My point here is that very few humans actually need dogs. Sure, there are a few tribes around the world who use them for hunting. Sure, the blind can use them as a guide around busy streets; or the emotionally unstable can use them as trusted friends. But for the vast majority of people, dogs serve no purpose other than our amusement.

As a trend, humans manipulate the world around them. From plants to animals, we selectively breed things to fit our needs and ensure our survival. The almond was not a food item our ancestors just found on the ground, it took thousands of years of unconscious selective breeding and harvesting to produce the modern almond (the wild variants are still toxic). Dogs and cats are no different.

Humans, as masters of our environment, manipulate and change the world around us. We build massive dams, construct houses, build roads through woodland, and exterminate animals on a whim. But, there is a trend building in popular culture, about the evils of our desire to manipulate those around us.

We cannot just build a dam in a river without thinking of the environmental consequences.

We cannot simply clear cut a forest (in the United States) without plans of rejuvenation and nearby territory for the animals to disperse.

Our shared attitudes about the world around us are changing as we become more interested in preserving the natural order, rather than conquering it. Like a bloodied general conquering a new empire, his opinions of his subjects begin to soften as his power is assured; inching toward compassion.

We are moving beyond saving trees or lakes. We are beginning to say, you know, maybe not torturing birds before we consume them for dinner would help me sleep better; but we must acknowledge the reality, as long as we can use animals to save human lives, they will be subject to scientific experiments and cruelty. We are not this far yet.

imagesBecause the truth is, I’d sacrifice and torture thousands of these little guys
just to save a single family member. You would to.

But our next step, if we can move beyond that, is that we will no longer accept enslaving other animals to fit our unending desire for control and pitiful attempts at companionship. The purchase of pets will be seen as a cruel and archaic practice, made by a decedent and careless humanity. There will come an age in our life time when we look back at our care of domestic pets and say this was wrong. But it will only happen when we are wealthy enough to afford it.

Like most politicized citizens, I plan on doing nothing about it. I will let the tide of animal ethics wash over me once it reaches critical mass and say onto my grandchildren “I always held these opinions, but did nothing about it.”



  1. I’m not sure buying a pet from a rescue centre really fits into the idea that owning pets is human exploitation of animals as it is a solution to that problem.

    1. Per the article, you are looking at it to many steps from the source. The problem is domesticated animals; building an institution where countless domesticated animals are forced to endure lives trapped in an animal shelter is one result of that. “Saving” animals from shelters is certainly better than not “saving” them, but the injustice lies with the necessity to “save” them at all.

      We’ve built a system of animal ownership which is not only immoral and decedent at its core, but also results in even worse cruelty for many animals (when looking at shelters, puppy farms, etc).

  2. Thanks for writing about this. I think there are tears being shed for the slaughter of insects and the extinction of certain plant species. I think there is a genuine collective shift toward compassion and concern that is taking place and there are a lot of reasons why, including maybe this sense of having conquered and now cared. We’ve also seen the environmental result of industrializing and exploiting other species in every way possible. We have media that confronts it with us in ways that make us uncomfortable. We also are simply evolving toward more interconnection and compassion (in my opinion) which encompasses connection and compassion for ALL beings. I think it is fascinating to watch and participate. And you definitely aren’t “doing nothing about it.” You wrote this, didn’t you? 🙂
    I really look forward to reading more of your thoughts.
    ~~~S Wave~~~

    1. Thanks for stopping by, I appreciate you sharing your thoughts on the importance of life; no matter its form. It is a rare opinion to hold I think, as most of us establish some hierarchy and arbitrarily draw a line in the sand and say “anything below this is not important”.

      Take care

  3. The entire ethical problem is that humans use animals as, as you say, “tools”. No sentient being has the right to use another sentient being as a resource. There is no nutritional requirement for meat, dairy or eggs–absolutely none whatsoever. And there is no ethical difference between a dog and a pig. You perceive one as “pet” and one as “food”, but that is nothing more than *your* perception–in other places, people eat dogs. It is certainly not a justification for eating pigs. There is no justification for eating animals–you eat them because you can. We enslave and torture over 50 billion sentient beings every single year for no other reason than we can. It is NOT for “survival”–in fact, it’s destroying us.
    In regard to the caption on the picture of the rat being used in a biomedical experiment, killing rats does not “save” humans. In fact, animal experimentation has led to quite the opposite. But even if it did, it is immoral to take the life of one sentient being to save the life of another. There are other ways of finding “cures” and “treatments” than killing other sentient beings.
    And the ending to this post was just sad–“I plan on doing nothing about it”. Considering that your eating habits (habits, not requirements) result in unnecessary pain and suffering for animals, destruction of our planet, damage to human health, human suffering, I’d say that you, and all of us, have an obligation to do something about it. We all have an obligation to be vegan, and it’s so incredibly easy.

    1. Hello there, I appreciate your passionate thoughts. There is one point I’d like to make and that is, animal testing has saved human lives. Here are the big ones

      Therefore the question is, would you use an organ transplant from another human, even though the medical procedure was heavily tested on animals before human use? Or would it be okay because at that moment you are no longer using animals for the treatment (even though their blood is on the saved lives afterwards)?

      Would it be okay to push the fight to eradicate polio, even though the vaccine was generated via torture and enslavement of countless monkeys and mice?

      The list is long and varied. I am interested in your stance here.

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