Individual nonhuman animals are sentient; they have interests in their own continued survival and freedoms, just like each individual human animal does. Humans are not superior to nonhumans in any objective, factual sense. They can only be made to seem so if glimpsed through the lens of arbitrary irrational criteria and subjective personal opinion (and self-serving opinion at that).
This means that we can’t morally justify intentionally harming animals without also leaving the door open for moral justifications for harming humans. We then can’t claim that we ourselves should be protected from the threat of being harmed; any criteria we use to justify denying animals the right to not be harmed can also be used to exclude our own claim to that right.
Nor should we want to deny them the same rights we have. “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” is The Golden Rule for a reason. Most people know intuitively that we should not harm others for no good reason. The only questions we need to start asking ourselves are “why shouldn’t animals qualify as ‘others’?” and “what constitutes ‘a good reason to harm’?”
Regardless of any other definitions, “others” must include “all sentient beings”, and “a good reason to harm” MUST NOT include “merely for our own pleasure or other trivial selfish interests and desires.” To make but 2 examples, we have no dietary need for any animal substances at all; neither do we have a real need to mount the head of a slain animal on our wall. If we have no real need to harm sentient animals, then doing so merely for a trivial interest is immoral. Their right to not be harmed naturally supersedes our interest in harming them.
The objective truth is that all nonhuman animals have the right to not be intentionally exploited in any way by humans merely for our own pleasure or other trivial interests. This includes being used for “food”, clothing, entertainment, or medical research subjects. Either they do have the right to not be used for these things, just like we do, or neither nonhumans nor humans have that right. We can’t have it both ways.
In relation to children, explaining that they would not want themselves, their family members (including nonhuman animals they may love) or friends to be harmed is often the best way to explain why all animals should not be harmed. Children are born innocent by default; it usually takes quite a bit of persuasion and indoctrination to get them to engage in behaviors like hunting or slaughtering animals in any way, and it’s only made easier when they admire and want to either emulate or gratify an older role model, or both.
However, most children believe that the people they admire or love are commonly above any error or wrongdoing, unless and until they are disabused of this notion. In the situation where an older hunter is indoctrinating a young child in the idea that killing animals is somehow necessary, it’s paramount that it be explained to the child by another person that’s trusted by the child that the older hunter is not necessarily a bad person, but that they merely have the wrong ideas about whether it’s good to hurt innocent animals, and why their ideas are wrong.
The reasoning should be made clearly and strongly, so that the child knows that all killing of nonhuman animals except in self-defense is unnecessary, and therefore immoral. This reasoning should be extended to human animals as well.
If our species as a whole continues to believe that humans are superior to animals and that it’s therefore morally justifiable to harm and otherwise exploit them merely for reasons such as species membership or rational abilities, then we will continue to believe that it’s morally justifiable to harm and otherwise exploit each other for whatever arbitrary reason we deem acceptable. Which is why we already have so much racism, genderism, homophobia, ableism, tyranny, mass murder, and all the other human rights atrocities we commonly abhor.
When we teach our children, and ourselves, to stop exploiting nonhuman animals, we as a species begin to see how the exploitation of other humans in these ways can be ended. When we truly believe that these atrocities we are committing need to end, and we decide to match our actions to our beliefs in this regard, the only logical choice is to completely stop using animals for food, clothing, research or entertainment.
This is not a question of merely being “kind” or “loving animals”, it’s a question of moral justice, which is the most important thing for every human to observe. In my opinion, it’s the very heart of what it means to call ourselves human.
I hope that we can agree that this issue is something that anyone who wants to be a part of a just society should take to heart.
If you’re not already Vegan, and you think animals matter morally, then please go Vegan. It’s easy and great for you, incredible for the animals, and wonderful for the planet. If you’re already Vegan, please educate non-Vegans about why they should go Vegan. Please rescue, volunteer, adopt, foster, spay, and neuter the nonhuman refugees of domestication whenever you can. Please feed your nonhuman family Vegan where you can. These things are the most important, morally responsible things to do and are desperately needed by everyone.
To learn more about Abolitionist Veganism and the issues I’ve outlined in this post, check out The Master List Of Vegan Info:
Disclaimer: My only goal with this list is to produce as comprehensive a resource for Vegan information as possible. I am 100% Abolitionist Vegan and 100% against exploitation of nonhuman or human animals, any type of violence against human or nonhuman persons or property, welfare regulation, any form of speciesism, ethnic bigotry, genderism, ableism, heterosexism, etc., any of the large governmental or non-governmental nonhuman animal organizations, “happy meat,” vegetarianism, veg*nism, Meat-Free Mondays, or other forms of reductionism and anything else that makes it seem like any form of violence or exploitation of animals is ok. If any of those positions are endorsed on any site in this list, or any language is used to imply that, it’s not that I included that link because I agree, but simply because I don’t control every bit of information on all of these sites.