is an Animal
All of your experiences amount to the emotions you feel in response to conditions. Everything that connects you to the world and the people around you is in your ability to sense -- your understanding and knowledge for sensation. Concepts of pain and happiness have meaning only because you have been through both, and you have made an understanding of both. We notice that others have this type of analysis of living by interacting with them. While it make take very little to see the similarity between ourselves and other people, this type of understanding does not usually extend to non-human animals.
In sadness, a human being's physical reaction could be crying or just being socially withdrawn. We don't immediately notice either of these when trying to interpret and understand the emotions of an animal. But, this does not hinder us from understanding their pain. In place of crying, there is a whimpering or howling. An animal may not be able physical weep like a human, but it has its own ways of showing that it is in distress. And to people, those signs of pain are often interpreted correctly. But, we do not make the same moral connection. The world's culture and society has not applied the same value to a non-human's suffering as opposed to a human's suffering.
But there is every type of science that tries to examine and investigate human pain and its potential solutions. In our physical pains, there is the study of medicine and anatomy, and in our emotional pains, there is the study of psychology and psychiatry. Our engineering is geared to prevent the tragedy of natural disasters and our political theory is directed towards what is best for all. There is so much in our universities and churches about preventing suffering to human beings. But this idea never extends to animals. It never considers their suffering and misery to be equal, even if it just like ours.
If there is a reason why we cannot relate to or understand animals, it is for the same reason we have difficulties in understanding other cultures. New and different behavior patterns are confusing, because we don't immediately see how they relate to a person's response to an emotion. Even though the methods and ideas may not be the same, it is certain that there is an equality of consciousness. The human being that is a stranger, no matter how foreign, is treated like a being with its own understanding of pain and self-interests.
One must not even look to foreigners for trying to look for misunderstanding between human beings. Between those on the bottom of society, who must work and produce everything, and those on top of society, who enjoy exquisite pleasures and hold disdain for "the ragged masses" -- here, too, there is a tremendous misunderstanding. It is not uncommon at all for a manager or a supervisor to look at their laborers as cattle. Just like those who slaughter animals, they doubt that what they exploit is even conscious or capable of misery. They treat is an object, controlled by them and belonging to them.
Civilization has always been about expanding our net of compassion. It has always been about including more into our consideration -- about making this consideration between groups more equal. It may be the separation of race, in segregation or slavery. Or it may be the separation of class, in capitalism or feudalism. These separations and distinctions, which make one group subordinate and dominated to another group, are based on devaluing another. They are based on considering someone else as less capable of suffering, as less deserving of joy, as unworthy of enlightenment and peace. And, in some cases, in entirely denying that the exploited even have a right to life.
Of all groups that have been pushed and kicked, that have been chained and shackled -- of all members of race, nationality, religion, and culture to be disregarded, abused, and completely dominated -- none can compare with the condition of animals. Theirs is a condition that has existed throughout all cultures. They have always been property, owned and controlled. Those cultures that consider them holy, like the Hindus, still sacrifice them by the millions. Even Native American religionists, who consider the earth to be sacred, see no injustice in killing the parts of the planet that are most capable of feeling.
The scope of this injustice is far wider, and its depth, too, far deeper. It is not only that animals are everywhere exploited for their flesh. But it is the amount that are lost in this process. Billions and billions are slaughtered every year. They fulfill no task more glorious than filling human bodies with cancers and diseases. In terms of suffering, there is no slavery, no massacre, and no genocide that even compares with the oppression of animal kind. The amount of animal life lost in a single week, or even a single day, would be comparable to the most tragic moments of oppressed peoples. But this is using suffering strictly as the basis of measurement for oppression.
The difference be humans and animals is as superficial as the difference between human beings of differing cultures, religions, or nationalities. The closer a culture is to resembling our own, the more we associate with it. The more we understand and sympathize with the emotions of its adherents. So, too, with animal kind. We see social behavior, such as families and clans, in all types of mammals and birds. And in watching this behavior, it doesn't take very long for us to figure out generally what is happening. Consciousness is so similar across the different species that there is an almost universal language pattern. Even without having any previous exchanges, animals know how to express rage, sympathy, and irritation at other animals.
In other animals, like reptiles and insects and fish, human beings become less sympathetic. The shape and form of the organism makes them less sympathetic to its suffering. Its misery is considered less valuable, because it is less able to communicate it. This is often the attitude of those who never really consider their relationship with animals as a social relationship. In fact, many of them do not consider it a relationship at all, because they do not recognize animal life as having its own independent self-interests.
If there is any reason for valuing a human being, then there is every reason to value all animal life. In our senses, our suffering, and our happiness, we are essentially the same. We socialize among ourselves, and we see this among animal life, too -- from the biggest, like a herd of whales, to the smallest, like a colony of ants. We see that they react to individuals in particular ways, that they retain memories of past events and use in determining their future. If we value human beings, if we give moral value to human life, then it must extend to all animal life.
We only value human beings because they are capable of love, happiness, and suffering. Our understanding and compassion for humanity would be a rickety foundation without giving equal rights to animal life. If we hold humans to be deserving of justice, because they have a consciousness, but we do not hold the same for animals, we would have a morality based on a contradiction -- we would have ethics based on lies. And then, whatever act we took on behalf of that morality, would necessarily be deformed, since it springs forward from a deformed morality.
Those who are unwilling to give this type of equality towards animalkind are generally those who do not value all human beings. Those who consider one race or nationality or religion to be supreme and dominant over all the rest. Where one states that one group of humans should control the other group, that one group is inferior and should submit -- these people often have no problem with giving no consideration to animalkind. If you can make a racial or nationality distinction between human beings, then there is no contradiction in making a distinction on grounds of species.
Animal life is capable of suffering and happiness, misery and joy, enthusiasm and hope. Sympathy comes from understanding these emotions, giving meaningful connections to them, and then acting through these thoughts. The first act that we can take in responding to our sympathy for animal life is in not eating in them -- in refusing to participate in the murder of billions. Extending our morality of consciousness to all life must necessarily start with Vegetarianism.