Sentient Beings As Stress Balls In Aberystwyth
The price of stress relieving squishy balls must have sky-rocketed post-brexit for the university of Aberystwyth to sink their alumni donation money into hiring out real-life furry squish balls. Exam time can be stressful, after all, and what better way to relax and unwind than using sentient beings as objects of therapy.
Now don’t get me wrong. I’m sure some of you reading may be thinking “what’s wrong with petting dogs?” Absolutely nothing. Indeed, we are obligated to care for all domesticated animals brought into existence as our property and not permit any more to come into existence for our use as resources. This means adopting and fostering homeless animals and giving them all the love in the world. They are in the mess they are in because of us and we are obligated to take care of them.
However, this Aberystwyth case is yet another example of how we exploit animals in need as objects of utility, whereby their only value is seen as that which benefits humans. It is no different to using dogs as “guide dogs” or “police dogs.” We unjustly treat these animals as our property, and render them subservient to our every whim on account of the fact that we deem humans to matter more morally. The fact of the matter is these animals value their lives as much as much as any human, and to “train” and enslave them into a life of “service” is inherently unjust. It denies their equal moral value as sentient beings. It robs them of the authority to value their lives as they see fit – something that should never be taken from any sentient being.
For the purpose of being used exclusively as resources, all sentient beings are equal. We would not pay for homeless children from an orphanage to be shipped over to a university to “ease [the] stress” of students, whereby the sole purpose of the orphans being there is to sate the desires of other humans. We would not forcibly enslave a human to spend her entire life being another human’s eyes. We would not force a human through “training” and enslave them into a dangerous job working for the police force. All of these actions we would rightly deem as being violative of the rights of the used.
It is no different and no less immoral in the animal context.
The rhetoric in the Aberystwyth article indicates a profound ignorance to the fact that animals are sentient beings deserving of respect. The dogs are referred to as nothing more than vessels for increasing oxytocin levels and decreasing cortisol levels in students; their value deemed no greater than the “colouring stations” that have also been placed around the campus to “give students a break from their studies.”
Changing our perception of animals as things – or vessels for the fulfilment of human desires – requires a shift in moral thought. It means recognising sentience as the only characteristic required for equal inherent value, and that using animals exclusively as resources in any way is a denial of the very real interests, preferences, and desires that all sentient beings possess.
On a fundamental level, the desire to not suffer and the desire to continue existing. On a secondary level, all other interests that make each sentient being individual and different, whether that’s building a nest of twigs in the topmost branches of a tree, or scratching in the sand with a friend. All of which we deny the existence of when we assume animals to be our property.