Animal Liberation has a lot of handicaps. First and most obvious is the fact that members of the exploited group cannot themselves make an organized protest against the treatment they receive (though they can and do protest to the best of their abilities individually). We have to speak up on behalf of those who cannot speak for themselves. You can appreciate how serious this handicap is by asking yourself how long blacks would have had to wait for equal rights if they had not been able to stand up for themselves and demand it. The less able a group is to stand up and organize against oppression, the more easily it is oppressed.
-Peter Singer, Animal Liberation
It's no secret that when it comes to animals and their treatment in the world, I have some pretty strong feelings. I am not down with eating animals, experimenting on them, or using them for our entertainment.* A lot of people point to the Biblical reference that God gave man dominion over the animals. I am obviously not a Biblical scholar by any stretch of the imagination. However, I've read that the original translation of the word was more akin to "shepherd" or "steward." We could have used that kinder, gentler definition, but we didn't. We went with the "do what we like with them" translation. And once we accept and believe that animals are here to suit our needs, we can convince ourselves that our treatment of them does not matter. They are a resource. Nothing more, nothing less.
I found this anonymous quote online. It sums up my thoughts pretty nicely:
If you consider dominion (e.g. domain, supreme authority, sovereignty), then you should ask: what do you consider this word to mean? Dominion could be the benign notion of responsible stewardship over other things and beings. On the other hand, historically dominion has been used to justify atrocities such as slavery, heinous levels of exploitation, and genocide. Because humans are technically omnivores and we can exist on a mostly (vegetarian) to exclusively plant + algae/yeast based diet (vegan), we have some choice what type of diet that we select. An important question to ask is: what happened to the animals on your plate? In the days of Christ animals were not factory farmed in the cruel manner that they are today. Factory farming of animals is excessively cruel and matches the definition of dominion as an atrocity on other beings. In contrast, if killing is not offensive to you and you accept that animals do face predators in nature, then your discomfort over eating meat may be assuaged by limiting meat and only purchasing meat that came from small local free-range farms or was hunted as game or that was fished in oceans and lakes.
Why am I thinking about this stuff? Well, I think about it a lot, to be honest. I just don't say it out loud very often because I know my views are a little extreme by society's standards and I do have an interest in having friends, having a job, etc.
I am taking my daughter to our county fair next week. We already have our tickets and everything. However, I am now having a sizable ethical dilemma because I've learned that the fair will feature a bear act this year. I've already written to the fair organizers to complain. I don't want to disappoint my daughter by boycotting this year's fair, but if the bear act is back next year, I will actively boycott. I mean, we go to the fair to ride the Ferris wheel and to eat fried Oreos. We didn't need anything added to the offerings, particularly not abject cruelty.
I am horrified that a civilized society would find this to be an acceptable form of entertainment. I already know that "their" arguments are:
- It's educational. Bullshit. I can learn about bears in a million different ways without them riding a bicycle for me. If a bear doesn't do it in the wild (and I'm pretty sure they don't wear collars and ride ten-speeds in the deep woods), then it's unnatural and wrong.
- They are well cared for. Of course they are going to say that. The circus people say the same thing. Do you think they are going to say, "We force them to submit to us physically and then reinforce this control through whatever means necessary?"
- It's family entertainment. Again, we'll just stick with the Ferris wheel and a funnel cake, thanks.
Performing bears. Ai-yi-yi. Am I the only person who thinks this is nuts? Why can't our county fair stick with bringing in has-been rock bands from the 80s like all the other fairs?
*Except for putting my dogs in Halloween costumes for photography purposes.