Many also subscribe to religious beliefs according to which various gods created other animal species for human consumption and which fundamentally distinguish human life and animal life predicated on the religious belief that we are different in kind rather than merely in degree.
Contrary to the beliefs of the radical fringe of the animal rights movement, that moral burden does not require that we all become vegetarians to avoid eating other animals. It simply means that we have an objective ethical obligation to take reasonable steps to avoid causing the species we choose to consume any more trauma and physical pain than absolutely necessary. This principle actually predates modern society as it is evident in the laws practiced by Jews, for one example, since before the Common Era.
While certain elements of Jewish dietary laws pertain to distinguishing by species which animals are permissible to eat, other elements of the Jewish tradition of kashrus relate only to the conditions under which animals authorized for human consumption must be killed. Generally, those religious laws prescribe specific procedures to ensure a painless and quick death, including the methods of sharpening the knife used for slaughter and the exact stroke used by an individual trained in the art (Tripp 2003).
Many human societies have traditionally ignored any such moral issues, most notably, numerous parts of Asia where practices that would be considered absolutely horrific and criminal in the U.S. are still perpetuated rather routinely. In the poorer sections of Taiwan, it is still possible to purchase meat that is taken right off a living donkey or mule; in fact, the animals are literally cooked bit by bit. Patrons pay for a selected portion, such as a flank, and a bucket of scalding water is poured over that area before the cooked flesh is sliced from the restrained animal (Tripp 2003).
In Japan, chefs practice the art of cooking live fish over low heat so gradually that they manage to serve it cooked and still writhing in pain as it arrives on the dinner plate.
In both China and Japan, St. Bernard dogs are raised for human consumption because that particular breed is very large and muscular. Instead of raising the dogs humanely, they are purposely traumatized because of the belief that the adrenalin released by fear causes their meat to be more tender and succulent. They are brutalized during slaughter instead of killed humanely for the same reason. In many southern American states, steers endure having their testicles purposely cut off just before their slaughter for the same reasons. As cruel as these practices are, there is absolutely no scientific evidence that any of the underlying reasoning for these practices is even remotely true factually (Tripp
Establishing Logically Valid Criteria for Humane Standards by Species:
Whereas many in this part of the world recognize the obvious difference between the most egregious examples of animal cruelty and appropriate ethical standards, they are stymied in their efforts to understand the finer distinctions that apply. In that regard, one of the most often-cited focus seems to be on the initial selection of species as fit for human consumption or not, instead of on standards and practices that relate to the animals authorized by law and societal mores for human consumption.
The problem with that perspective is simply that any survey of cultures worldwide reveals that human cultures differ substantially in this respect and that the designation of animals as being fit or unfit for human consumption is primarily a function of tradition and socialization and not objective ethical principles of any kind. In most of the U.S. The consumption of dogs and cats is regarded as barbaric, regardless of any issues of humane treatment or slaughter. Meanwhile, Americans consume pigs and cows by the millions every year, despite the fact that pigs, in particular, are no less intelligent than the smartest dogs and no less capable of forming bonded companionships with humans when given the chance (Bright 1994; Moussaieff-Masson 1995).
To the objective ethicist, the disparate treatment of swine and canine in American society is incapable of being resolved logically. In fact, the horror that would be associated with stripped dog and cat limbs hanging in the butcher shop window while cow meat and ham hocks evoke no such reaction at all is purely a matter of social learning and subjectivity. In truth, the humane slaughter of dogs and cats for food is less morally offensive by any logically consistent criteria than the inhumane slaughter of cow, pigs, and horses.
Establishing Logically Valid Criteria for Humane Standards by Intelligence:
One of the other most common criteria suggested for distinguishing ethical dietary practices with regard to consuming animal species relates to their intelligence (Winter 2002). In that respect, animals that humans consider highly intelligent, such as primates and dolphin are believed to be inappropriate for human consumption whereas animals of lesser intelligence are less entitled to ethical consideration.
First, there is no connection between the ability to suffer and intellectual sophistication and many animals that are substantially lower on the scale of animal intelligence than pigs or dogs demonstrate signs of physical suffering that are unmistakable. Second, even the definition of intelligence is profoundly biased by virtue of the human tendency to equate humanoid similarity with "intelligence." However, even by the most biased definition of intelligence capable of being tested in animals, octopi and squid should both be entitled to more consideration than dogs and cats, according to research into their respective ability to recognize individuals and to solve problems devised to test animal intelligence (Bright 1994; Tripp 2003).
Finally, human distinctions about the respective ethical duty owed to specific animal species are also highly influenced by our perception of their degree of "cuteness" in our eyes. In that regard, we are much more inclined to appreciate the sensibilities of animals that vocalize, simply because that is how human beings communicate; and we are more likely to express empathy to animals with expressive eyes and facial features that are closer than those of other animals to our own. This also is a completely fallacious criterion for differentiation, given the examples of dolphins, whales, squid, and octopi.
Understanding the Logical Basis of the Ethical Concern for Animals:
The logical basis for the ethical concern for animals is not a function of their biblical purpose, their relative intelligence, or their particular species. All of these rationalizations are extremely subjective and infinitely variable among different human societies and cultures. The moral obligation to minimize the trauma and physical suffering of the animals we consume simply by virtue of the concept of empathy and the basic appreciation of the fact that most biological organism experience the intense pain of being slowly ripped apart, or boiled alive, or slowly suffocated, or from being subjected to forced confinement in distressing and uncomfortable conditions before being slaughtered brutally approximately the same way we might experience the exact same circumstances.
There is nothing inherently unethical or immoral about raising horses for slaughter in the exact same manner as traditional cattle or fowl. For that matter, there is nothing objectively offensive about slaughtering and consuming cats and dogs exactly in the same manner as pigs. The objective ethical issues relate exclusively to the amount of suffering inflicted on the animals we choose to slaughter for consumption. Ethical principles would require horse processing for human consumption that is fully regulated, simply to ensure that animals destined for the dinner table are not subjected to any more suffering than absolutely necessary, particularly when it is reasonably avoidable.
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