The Absurdity of Non-Vegans Picketing Animal Abuse
Non-vegans are the first to admonish others for the infliction of overtly gratuitous animal “cruelty.” Indeed, as in the case of a recent dog murder, they may even stand with pickets outside courthouses claiming that there’s “no excuse for animal abuse.”
The superficial nature of such moral protests are attributable to the blatant nature of the wrongdoing in question. When someone sticks a nail through a dogs head in a park, or cuts off a dog’s ears for the purpose of a selfie, the subsequent public outcry is an inevitable consequence of the accepted conventional wisdom that it’s always wrong to inflict unnecessary suffering and death. People recognise that our pleasure does not constitute an adequate justification for engaging in such behaviour. Indeed, many non-vegans who oppose the infliction of gratuitous suffering and death consider the perpetrators to be sadistic.
Why is it then that these very same non-vegans are unable to see the identical nature of their own animal exploitation when there is no compulsion whatsoever to consume animal products? Indeed, all evidence points to the consumption of animal products being detrimental to human health. The use of animals in their daily lives is every bit as unnecessary as the suffering and death they condemn and maintain there is “no excuse” for. So what gives?
In essence, they harbour a set of beliefs that are considered to be the default position for everyone living in modern society – animal welfare. This position is so entrenched that it is enshrined in our laws and legal systems. It is a position that accepts speciesism as legitimate and that perpetuates differential treatment amongst morally indistinguishable beings. Instead of recognising that all sentient beings (human and non) have fundamental interests in not suffering and continuing to live, and that they all possess inherent value giving rise to a fundamental right not to be used as a thing, as property, we instead deny the existence of such interests and moral value.
As per the animal welfare position, we are told that because animals are not sufficiently like us, they do not have an interest in continuing to live and so therefore we do no harm in depriving them of their lives. Even if this were the case (which it is not), we would still have to face our own conventional wisdom dictating that unnecessary suffering and death is wrong. As discussed before, there is no necessity or compulsion involved in animal exploitation. And this is where the tension between the public’s default welfarist thinking and their conventional wisdom clashes. They recognise that unnecessary suffering and death is wrong, yet have been taught to believe that their speciesism is justified in light of the supposed differences between humans and animals for the purpose of being used as resources. On a superficial level, they already reject the default welfarist thinking on account of their opposition to the infliction of gratuitous suffering and death involving fetishised animals. If they did not believe that animals had an interest in continuing to live, it would make no sense for them to get upset about a life being taken.
On a deeper level, however, on account of the assumptions made by animal welfare with respect to the value of animal life, a certain level of speciesist thinking kicks in and allows people to process the arbitrary lines we draw between different animals. We treat the fundamental interests of some animals different to others, and the welfarist paradigm offers a comfortable context in which to facilitate such thinking.
This is why we have hundreds of thousands of non-vegans signing a petitions looking to excoriate the perpetrators of obvious and gratuitious suffering and death without recognising the implications of that concern in their own lives. It is an incredibly superficial moral concern that is prevented from going deeper on account of welfarist assumptions that legitimise speciesism.
The issue is clear. If we combat animal welfare by educating the public about the need for abolition and the link between inherent value and moral rights, we suddenly bring peoples moral concern for animals into fruition. It is the welfarist assumptions held by society that inhibit peoples concern to go deeper than the most shallow of moral waters.