Nonhuman Beings as Scapegoats
Animals: Tradition - Philosophy - Religion Article from


Stephen Kaufman, M.D., Christian Vegetarian Association (CVA)

Nonhuman Beings as Scapegoats 

Last essay I discussed how animal advocates are often scapegoat victims. I suggest that an important foundation of animal exploitation and abuse is that nonhuman beings themselves are victims of scapegoating. Guilt reflects a conflict between what we do and what we believe is right. Most people agree that we should not abuse animals, yet most people want to enjoy the (supposed) fruits of animal abuse, such as experimenting on animals, eating animal flesh, and consuming other animal products. One effective way to resolve this internal conflict is to blame animals for the abuse they receive.
Often, people regard animals with contempt, attributing to them ugliness, stupidity, cowardice, and a host of other features. Calling a person by the name of an animal who is routinely abused by humans, such as “pig,” “chicken,” turkey,” and “cow” is meant to convey disregard. Nonhuman beings have no way to counter these simplistic and generally inaccurate stereotypes.
It is unclear whether or not such stereotyping derives from scapegoating – the process of transferring blame. A more clear manifestation of scapegoating is how those bent on abusing animals tend to project human attributes of which we are often ashamed onto animals. Therefore, nonhumans are often seen as sexually promiscuous (and therefore immoral) or ruthlessly violent. Humans often regard behaviors that are natural and adaptive for animals as evidence of immorality, and therefore animals deserve whatever treatment they get. Ironically, humans have choices as to whether they will be sexually promiscuous or violent, whereas nonhumans act according to their natures. Whether or not we should be ashamed of our sexuality or when we use force, projecting this shame onto nonhumans is unwarranted and constitutes scapegoating.
Next essay, I will explore how people derive a sense of self-esteem by harmfully exploiting nonhumans. 

Go on to: Animal Abuse and Self-Esteem
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