Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Respect for Those Other Sentient Beings

My friend Candi, whom I admire, has a deep respect for non-human animals and has raised her daughter, Sarah, to feel the same. Sarah's goal in life is to be a cat lady (a noble aspiration in my opinion).

Raising two Rhode Island Red chickens has shown me that chickens are more intelligent and communicative that I'd realized. I haven't personally become acquainted with fish, but Candi and Sarah have and I was surprised to learn more about that species in an email from Candi:

I also bought Sarah gold fish and they lived a very long life. We gave them to a friend of ours when we left for Wyoming and they were about 10 years old when they finally died and she said they grew to be about 5 or 6 inches long. I remember that every day when I would feed them they would swim up to greet me. One day I had a green mud mask on my face when I went to give them their feeding. They both took one look at me and swam and hid in their little cave. It was so funny. They were terrified of my green face! Up to that time I didn't realize that they could actually detect my features. I thought they weren't aware who was feeding them only that they were being fed. Animals are so much more aware then people give them credit for. Most people put cats, dogs, and horses in one category and every thing else in another. But after observation and all the reading I have done I think they all are very aware and intelligent but it's just different in each species. I believe each species is just unique.
I was still thinking about Candi's experiences with the goldfish, when my copy of "The Week" magazine arrived with the following editorial statement entitled, "Meat Eaters".
With a mix of fascination and disgust, my daughter’s vegetarian friend was eyeing the raw pile of meat marinating in a bowl on the kitchen counter. “What’s that?” she asked. Maddie’s parents have raised her as a vegetarian of conscience, so to her, beef, chicken, and pork are indistinguishable mysteries—oozing evidence of the murder of one of our animal friends. Even as an enthusiastic carnivore, I find it unsettling to see my dinner through Maddie’s cruelty-free eyes. Before their trip to the grill, my chicken breasts in savory soy/mustard sauce look so much like…slabs of muscle. If I didn’t sometimes feel a craving for meat deep in my brain, I might even feel a twinge of guilt.

As well I should, says fellow carnivore William Saletan in Slate.com. Saletan is a man given to wrestling with ethical dilemmas, and he’s concluded that someday, our great-great-grandchildren will “look back at slaughterhouses the way we look back at slavery.” No radical vegan, Saletan acknowledges that human beings have evolved to crave meat. Human DNA has at least eight genes designed to help us process animal flesh. But now that we no longer need to eat meat to survive, Saletan contends, it’s become morally suspect to slaughter and devour billions of chickens, cows, and pigs. We are learning that animals are capable of complex thought and communication; there’s even growing evidence that they can fear their own deaths. So what to do? Saletan hopes biotechnology can save animals from our primitive appetites. Through cloning and stem-cell techniques, scientists are already learning to grow meat in a petri dish. If it comes to that, though, I think I’ll pass. Rice and beans can be awfully tasty, too.

William Falk
I recently wrote that I hoped that in the future, we'd look back on factory farming in disgust as we now view previous generations who engaged in human slavery. I seriously doubt that Saleten reads my blog, so I assume that this comparison between human slavery and animal slaughter is becoming part of our cultural consciousness.