Animal welfare is the biggest bullshit ever.
Animal rights is the way to go.
No ‘bigger cages’, no ‘free range’ or ‘organic’. It’s all part of the same exploitative system.
Animals are not products.
Animals have a right to live.
Animals are not ours to use or buy.
Human welfare is the biggest bullshit ever.
Human rights is the way to go.
No ‘bigger cages’, no ‘open borders’ or ‘higher wages’. It’s all part of the same exploitative system.
Humans are not ‘workers’.
Humans have a right to live.
Humans are not ours to use or buy.
Relevant to Maymay’s observation that humans are animals. With a toxic superiority complex dating back to Aristotle. I forget to say that because it seems so completely obvious. But human liberation = animal liberation. These ideologies need to go together. Unquietpirate reblogged an excellent post explaining how that works. To wit:
As long as it is considered acceptable to ignore the interests of others based on such an arbitrary distinction [perceived humanness], it will always be possible to define and mold the hierarchy to include or exclude others based on the interests of those with the most power. In other words, the problem isn’t that some people mistakenly fall into a lower level of the hierarchy than they deserve, the problem is that the hierarchy exists.
And just to be clear, the distinction is arbitrary. Humans, after all, are animals. Because of this, humans often act and look like animals. If all it takes to have your interests become worthless is to be labelled as “animal”, then the only thing that those in power need to do in order exclude you from moral consideration is to point at the ways in which you are like an animal. And they are guaranteed to find them. This happens all of the time. It is why people in marginalized groups often become, understandably, upset when some vegans make comparisons between them and non human animals. They are well aware of how arbitrary and tenuous their classification as “human” is. And yet, on the other side, when trying to explain to vegans why the interests of animals shouldn’t matter, people are incapable of presenting a distinction that doesn’t also exclude some of the already most marginalized humans.
We cannot simply keep fighting to make sure that those who we have arbitrarily decided are deserving can get to and stay at the top of the hierarchy. As long as it is considered acceptable for the interests of anyone to be devalued and ignored, we all will be at risk. But even if that weren’t the case, the idea that it is ever okay for the interests of some to be categorically valued over the interests of others is abhorrent.
In the most pragmatic terms possible, this is why throwing more stigmatized groups under the bus is an inherently self-defeating strategy. As long as society has a category of “okay to abuse. Okay to hurt,” devalued, sentient beings are at risk of being demoted into it. When that isn’t challenged on all fronts, the prison just keeps getting bigger.
So I’m going to be a bit pedantic but I hope my larger point gets across in this stream of consciousness.
Hierarchy is not the problem. Hierarchy is simply a way of making comparisons between like and unlike things. We will always need to do that because there will always be like and unlike things needing comparison. After all, you wouldn’t want to eat a steel pellet even if it looked like a grape and you wouldn’t get very far expecting a pig to respond to questions in your human language.
For example, it seems obviously ridiculous to people living in the age of Tumblr for us to, say, put pigs on trial in human courts, but that’s exactly what Europeans did for a very long time:
On September 5, 1379, two herds of pigs at a French monastery grew agitated and killed a man named Perrinot Muet. As was custom at the time, the pigs—the actual murderers and those that had simply looked on—were tried for their horrible crime, and sentenced to death. You see, with their “cries and aggressive actions,” the onlookers “showed that they approved of the assault,” and mustn’t be allowed to escape justice.
But the monastery’s prior, Friar Humbert de Poutiers, couldn’t bear to suffer the economic loss of all those pigs. So he wrote to the Duke of Burgundy, pleading for him to pardon the onlookers (the friar would allow the three murderers to suffer their fate—he was no scofflaw, after all). The duke “lent a gracious ear to his supplication and ordered that the punishment should be remitted and the swine released.” Records don’t show just how the three pigs were executed, though it was common for offending animals to be hanged or burned alive for their crimes.
Such is Europe’s shameful and largely forgotten history of putting animal “criminals” on trial and either executing them or, for plagues of insects, ordering them to leave town not only by a certain day, but by an exact time. Such irrational barbarism is hard to fathom, but as early as 824 all the way up to the middle of the 18th century, animals were held to the same moral standards as humans, suffering the same capital punishments and even rotting in the same jails.
What’s bizarre about this today is not that a system of law which dolled out punishments for real or imagined crimes existed, but that non-human animals were subject to that system same as any animal whose species happened to be human was subjected to it. This raises a fantastically peculiar question: if we accept that we have “progressed” beyond the “barbarism” of those times, does the narrowing of the judicial system to human animals present a net “Good” or “Evil”?
Your answer of course depends on a number of other assumptions that you have already implicitly made without realizing it. Is the judicial system itself a just way of meting out punishments for breaking certain rules? Who made those rules anyway? Who agreed to them? It’s certainly true that there are many laws on the books that neither you nor I agreed to, laws that, in fact, were written by people generations ago and who are no longer alive today, yet we are still bound to those laws without much fuss, despite the equally obvious fact that it seems silly to many of us that we ought be bound to the agreements or judgements of our ancestors in many other respects.
We could compare the treatment of animals today to the treatment of animals in the past. Today, factory farming is arguably much more brutal than the relatively simplistic agrarian farming techniques of the so-called Dark Ages. And on top of that, non-human animals were even granted full-fledged legal rights back then, albeit their inability to meaningfully navigate a system whose language they could not speak is surely cause for ethical concern. Even if we took the system itself as just, I can’t find a single record of an animal putting a human on trial for the killing of its family members. All cases of animal trials I know about have the animal as the defendant, usually charged with killing or maiming some human animal. So, obviously, another ethical concern is the unequal application of the law.
And while it may seem obvious to us now that the reason for this probably has something to do with the fact that pigs can’t speak in human languages or hire lawyers, I find it hard to believe that most people living in September of 1379 were ignorant of those specific facts, y’know?
Nevertheless, over time, what remained of this system was the continued unequal application of laws. We still have a system of crime and punishment that punished some more than others. We still have a system of law that most of never agreed to and that we have no recourse against. After all, to what court other than a government one can you appeal for redress of grievances against the government’s own laws? And still, that part doesn’t seem insane to most people, even though by all reasonable accounts it is a farcical apparition of “justice.” Even that article I linked doesn’t call criminal “justice” systems insane. To that author, only putting non-human animals on trial is insane. Putting human animals on trial in an equivalent way today as we did then? Why, that’s just par for the course, all the way to 2014!
So. That’s weird.
Especially for a people whose founding national principles are fairness and freedom from tyrannical rule.
TL;DR: The hierarchy of “human versus non-human” is not inherently bad—it can’t be, because it’s irrefutably true—but when we consider the actual history of how that distinction has been applied, what we find is that we are not only much more similar to pigs than we would have thought, we are also treated much more like we once treated pigs than we ever imagined.
And that? Well, that would certainly seem to be cause for concern for everyone who still believes humanity has “progressed” beyond those “barabric” times. Just sayin’.