Freedom cannot exist unless all of us are free, including animals.
Just last month, harlequin flags and fervent pride saturated cities, along with sweeping parades that thrummed with spirit, in celebration of the LGBT-community and the social headway that’s been forged so far. Yet if crusades of liberation have taught us one thing, it is the difficulty in being conscious of the ways by which we disfavor lives around us, “until they are forcefully pointed out to us,” according to author Peter Singer. Since the 1970’s, a longstanding war of words has existed, one that tries to dissect the intrinsic rights of animals and our moral obligation to protect them. The placement of animals in a even-handed moral system is almost wholly a philosophical concern – from Kant to Rousseau, a number of diverse theories arise, all of them asking questions of rationality, autonomy, and self-awareness.
As highlighted on PETA’s website, “Almost all of us grew up eating meat, wearing leather, and going to circuses and zoos. We never considered the impact of these actions on the animals involved.” When cognizant of the grim reality of puppy mills and factory farming, it’s nearly impossible not to contemplate the suffering of animals. However, even after weighing these very real consequences, most decisively carry on as though they don’t exist, maybe believing that “just animals” aren’t sufficient to warrant any drastic alterations to a lifestyle.
Perhaps the fundamental violation here isn’t the disturbing imagery of abuse seen in the viral videos that float around, but our blind participation in a system that dilutes animals to resources.
Our childhoods were brightened with pieces of seemingly imaginative literature where animals resonated human emotion, had their own character quirks, and were capable of conversation. Blogger Linda Besner notes, “Aesop’s fables and aboriginal creation myths are narratives driven by animals whose cunning, greed, humor, or kindness show us why the world is the way it is. Pet owners talk to their cats and dogs like friends, and grieve them like family.” But as soon as we accept animals as bodies for our disposal, their futures are in jeopardy.
There are economic drawbacks to consider with the anticipated idea of animal welfare, specifically for those who are financially linked to animal industry; someone opposed to the concept of animal rights may feel just as strongly as an activist on behalf of the animal’s interests. The answer to this dilemma lies in how justified the human race is in granting moral consideration to non-humans. From a perspective of justice, no-one can be free until everyone is free, and this encompasses non-humans.