Human supremacy is bullshit! A passionate animal liberationist explains the moral philosophy she lives by and how she came to commit herself to it. According to her, all sentient beings are our equals and should be treated as such. As long as a being is actively trying to stay alive, that being is a “person” whose personhood calls for respect. Different beings have different levels of personhood but nonetheless each person deserves the right to a meaningful life. No person should be owned, experimented on, imprisoned in a zoo, displayed in a circus, hunted for his fur, tortured for her milk or eaten by humans.
Simba is my adopted sister from another species, my equal with more fur and a tail. She is entitled to her own decisions and rights. She is a person just like you and me.
I have been told many times that this is an unnatural way to treat a dog. If you ask me, it is unnatural for us, humans, to see ourselves as the masters or owners of other beings. To me, Simba is a person with a unique character, more unique and original than most. Her experiences are as the same value as mine and her desire to stay alive and enjoy life to its fullest is just as passionate as anybody else’s–if not more. She forms meaningful relationships with people around her and communicates positive feelings like love and empathy probably more often than I do. She expresses negative emotions like fear and anger more honestly than most of us. I can’t see any reason why someone who shares so many qualities with humans doesn’t deserve equal respect and right to a meaningful life fitting her needs as an individual.
Simba is a very organized and punctual person who prefers when things are done at the same time everyday. For her happiness, which she displays with the sweetest authenticity, her timetable must be respected. The dog and human walking time is a date. It’s a promise to a sister, a friend who will expect me to keep my promise and who tries her best to keep her promise to me.
Simba is a funny person. She plays jokes on me like running away with my blanket in her mouth if I don’t wake up to the alarm or destroying my slippers if I stay under the shower for too long. She asks for respect from her family and if she feels disrespected, for example if all her family is in a room and she is not allowed inside, she ruins the carpet to communicate her frustration and anger.
I don’t close doors on Simba. I don’t forbid her from sleeping on the couch, or in my bed even if it means I have to squeeze myself in the bed corner. I don’t deny her any food–whether it be expensive sushi or a dish which took me 2 hours to prepare –unless it would create a health risk. Whatever I eat, she is worthy of eating as well. The way I see it, Simba, the little furry connoisseur of food who always wants to try my food even after she’s had plenty of dog food, enjoys food far more passionately than I do. So sharing my food with her is my way of maximizing the general happiness in the world, in utilitarian terms. I didn’t train her, because I find it disrespectful to bribe a trusted and honest friend into doing things that do not have a purpose for her. I only try to share with her some survival knowledge, through positive reinforcement, like the necessity to stay away from cars or the dangers of eating random things on the street.
As expected from a healthy relationship between two people, this love and respect is mutual. Simba shares her belongings with me and invites me out to play. She enjoys my company and shows her love for me every chance she gets. If I’m feeling bad, Simba is by my side, giving me affection and showing that she feels my pain. She gives me unconditional love and I do my best to reciprocate her kindness and compensate for the cruel world us, humans, have created for the non-human people like Simba.
I have always been one of those people who stop and caress animals on the street. But I wasn’t an animal liberationist or a vegan before I met Simba. Seeing how much life means to her and how intently she pursues happiness made me recognize the injustice in the notion that non-human animals are inferior and their lives insignificant. In South Korea people consume dog meat which to me means if my sister were born in a different continent she would have had a very high chance of becoming a main course. Some people have pigs as companion animals and love them as I love Simba. All the beings in our world have personalities and loved ones. A hen has chicks she wants to feed and protect. A calf has a mother cow whose affection he yearns for.
Nobody who has ever been around a dog can claim that dogs do not feel happiness and disappointment or have goals they aspire to. So why should a dog’s happiness be any less important than mine? When making moral decisions I take into account the needs of other sentient beings and weigh the situation in order to create the maximum amount of happiness (or the least amount of suffering) in the world–whether it is human or animal happiness is irrelevant. The fly that just flew inside my room is only looking for food to stay alive, which is a respectable goal that I can identify with. I don’t see myself entitled to killing the fly because she entered my space without my permission. That would be an extreme punishment for a small offense. I cannot eat meat knowing that it is, in reality, the flesh of a tortured sentient being who wanted nothing more than to stay alive. Which is more important: my enjoyment from a meal or another person’s right to life? When I refuse to eat meat I perhaps lose a certain kind of pleasure, which can easily be made up for with vegetarian options, but when I don’t refuse to eat meat another being loses its life, its everything. Buying animal products is equal to creating the demand for unnecessary suffering of someone else, someone different from me in some ways but the same as me in her will to live.
There is no rational explanation as to why human animals are superior to non-human animals. If you think animals are inferior because they are less intelligent, then why don’t you experiment on or eat human infants, who are far less intelligent than Simba? If you believe that human infants deserve moral treatment and protection of rights because they have the potential to grow into intelligent humans in the future, then what would you suggest we do to permanently mentally retarded members of the human species? If you base the possession of rights on being born with human chromosomes, what makes number of chromosomes which result in different physical appearances morally relevant? If we leave the religious argument that animals were created for human use aside, then I see no moral or rational grounds for the prejudice against and treatment of animals.
Speciesism, discrimination based on the species that a being belongs to, is just as immoral and irrational as racism and sexism. I find it absurd that people who object to the idea that members of a certain group are superior because they were born with a certain skin color or certain genitalia, can easily accept the oppressive idea that members of a certain group are superior because they were born with a certain number of chromosomes which resulted in membership in a certain species.
Every form of discrimination imposes that we focus on the differences instead of the similarities, but we should know better than that. Sometimes society fails to see the immorality in its practices – but that doesn’t mean unethical practises don’t exist. In today’s world the relationship between non-human animals and human animals is based on exploitation and oppression. Animals are being enslaved, mistreated, abused and killed for the most trivial purposes like a fur coat, tiger bone wine, foie gras or entertainment at a circus or bull-fighting arena. Humans see themselves as the masters of non-human animals just like the white men who thought they could own black people or the Nazis who believed Jews could be experimented on. When we look back on this shameful past we exclaim, “How cruel!” just as future generations will exclaim something similar when they look back on our treatment of animals.
The life of every non-human animal matters in the same urgent and compelling matter as the life of an innocent human. We need to put an end to this cruelty right now to save as many lives as possible. I am calling out to all the moral and compassionate people of our world: Please do not turn a blind eye to the suffering of other people, the non-human people!