‘Orangutan Boxing’ And Non-Veganism: What Do They Have In Common?
They’re the moral equivalent.
A zoo in Bangkok called ‘Safari World’ has come under fire from “animal rights groups” around the world for hosting a “sport” called orangutan boxing.
A UK leader for the International Fund for Animal Welfare said “it is shocking that such cruel and exploitative treatment of animals continues for the so-called entertainment of tourists.” PETA is claiming that the orangutans being forced into the “sport” aren’t doing it for treats, they’re “doing it out of fear that they may received electric shocks, cigarette burns, or beatings during their training.” As expected, the implication from both of these welfarist groups is that there is a supposedly non-cruel and non-exploitative way to use animals, whether for entertainment or something else.
The use of orangutans in any way – not just boxing – is morally unjustifiable. We reject it because orangutans are sentient beings which we recognise as meaning they have moral value. We don’t consider them to be things. As such, we accept that it is always wrong to inflict unnecessary suffering and death on them. We recognise that our pleasure or amusement do not constitute an adequate justifications for denying the value of orangutans and treating them as objects for our entertainment.
But if orangutans matter and if it’s wrong to inflict unnecessary suffering and death upon them, it’s also just as morally wrong to inflict the same upon other sentient beings. Every sentient being values his or her life, just like the orangutan, just like the human. That’s what it means to be sentient – the being possesses inherent value. In other words, that being values his or her life, even if nobody else does. We recognise that in these niche cases where fetishised animals are exploited, but the same stands for every other animal we exploit in our daily lives.
If you believe that orangutans matter and that it’s wrong to exploit them, you are committed to being vegan. When we’re not, we participate in the exact same infliction of unnecessary suffering and death that we decry in the case of the orangutans. We have no need whatsoever to use animal products. We all accept that pleasure and convenience are insufficient justifications for inflicting suffering and death, yet the only reasons we have for not being vegan is that we “enjoy the taste” of animal products. Whether we’re getting pleasure from watching orangutans boxing, or consuming a meal filled with animal products, both actions are the moral equivalent of each other. Both are unnecessary and assume animals to be things, or objects for the fulfillment of human desires.
If you think orangutans have moral value, you necessarily accept that every other sentient being has moral value. If you accept that sentient beings have moral value, you are committed to going vegan.
Anything less is to say you respect animals, yet engage in actions that represent the polar opposite.