Who Are the Animals People Abuse?
Animals: Tradition - Philosophy - Religion Article from All-Creatures.org


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

Who Are the Animals People Abuse?

Last week, I suggested that humans hold in contempt those animals people abuse and kill. Why should this be? If humans felt perfectly entitled to harm nonhumans, then there would be no need to also hold these nonhumans in contempt. Most people don’t have contempt for a tree they might cut down, because most don’t believe that trees have feelings that can be harmed in a moral sense. I think contempt toward nonhumans reflects humans’ ambivalence about abusing them, and those who mistreat animals recognize that doing so raises moral concerns. Animal abuse becomes justified if animals “deserve” such treatment.
The specific charges humans levy against animals, I think, tells us little about animals but much about humans. People often claim that nonhumans have unattractive attributes and use animal names as insults against humans. For example, calling a person a “pig” indicates that they are gluttonous, a stupid person is a “turkey,” a grotesquely fat person is a “cow,” and a fearful person is “chicken.” These attributes do not define the named animals, whose physical and behavioral attributes are appropriate for their species and are conducive to survival.
Perhaps if we exposed the lies about the nature of God’s animals we could awaken moral sensibilities that would help prevent animal abuse. I will reflect on this more next essay. 
Many people regard nonhumans as instinctive, machine-like creations. In truth, they show feelings and desires that are obvious to anyone paying attention. They also show intelligence, concern for others, and even moral behavior.
For example, a series of laboratory studies (which I should note was ethically dubious) illustrated moral character among monkeys as well as an important degree of abstract thinking ability. In one study, rhesus monkeys, upon pulling one of two chains to get food, observed through a one-way mirror a second rhesus monkey receiving a simultaneous electric shock. One chain caused a fellow monkey to receive an electric shock, and the other did not. Ten of fifteen monkeys preferred the non-shock chain, and two monkeys did not pull either chain, preferring instead to go without food for 5 days and 12 days. Self-starvation was more likely among monkeys who had previously received electric shocks themselves. (See Masserman, Jules H., Stanley Wechkin, and William Terris. 1964. “ ‘Altruistic’ behavior in rhesus monkeys.” American Journal of Psychiatry vol. 121, pp. 584-585.)
Similarly, in the documentary People of the Forest, an adult male chimpanzee watched over and protected an unrelated, crippled, adolescent chimpanzee from the torment of other adolescent chimpanzees. (See Van Lawick, Hugo, director. 1991. People of the Forest, Discovery Channel Video.)
Next essay, I will reflect on intelligence among nonhumans.

Go on to: Intelligence and Moral Rights
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