Most people in New Zealand love their family pet. They typically say that they cherish the environment and the animal world. They are disheartened and outraged when elephants, whales, koalas or pandas are mistreated because they consider themselves a lover of animals. Conversely, most New Zealanders have a double standard when it comes to the severe suffering and mistreatment of farm animals. They avert their gaze.
Why is it that we drink the milk of bovines and not drink chimpanzee milk? Most people would find the idea repugnant but great apes are biologically a lot more similar to humans. Even drinking human milk seems gross to a lot of people. The lactose in cow’s milk is ideal for baby calves but causes bloating, diarrhea, gas and stomach pain in many humans. The bottom line is that humans only need to drink milk from human mothers when they are babies but we are conditioned by society into thinking that drinking cow’s milk is normal and beneficial to our health.
Pigs and dogs have a similar level of intelligence. Most New Zealander’s would never consider inflicting the inherent suffering involved in the farming of pigs (and other “farmed” animals) on dogs. Most people would find hot dogs, made from actual dog meat, unpalatable. How about some cat pie? New Zealand society is indoctrinated into thinking that our current status quo is commonsense but the truth is that there’s extremely random and contradictory speciesism at the root of the beahaviour.
A fundamental question is, why do we treat animals as a resource? Animals aren’t simply biological ‘machines’. It is scientifically proven that other animals feel pain and they suffer just as much as the human animal. Animals are sentient, experience consciousness and have a complex central nervous system – they are not unfeeling slabs of timber, or chunks of metal, disconnected from experiencing pain and emotion.
Many hunter types justify our treatment of animals as the ‘law of the jungle’. We (humans) are at the ‘top of the food chain’. But does that make it right for us to mistreat and kill other animals? If, in an alternate evolution, Neanderthals were the dominant species and they took to farming homo sapiens, wouldn’t we consider that brutally cruel and inherently perverse? As it turned out, wherever homo sapiens turned up, then other homo genus species soon disappeared. Our “superior intelligence” won the species battle against our distant cousins (ruthlessness and xenophobia likely had a lot more to do with it).
We all have a choice to be a true lover of animals. A cannibal isn’t a humanitarian, an oil magnate isn’t an environmentalist and a meat-eater isn’t an animal lover.
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