“Animal advocates” across the globe are once again outraged with the Chinese, after a story appeared in the Mirror showcasing terrible pictures of a puppy who had been shot with arrows by a Chinese meat trade hunter. Thankfully, the dog was picked up by a passerby and taken to the vets, and he/she is on the road to making a full recovery.
Is it wrong what happened to the dog? Of course. Did the actions of the meat trade hunter violate the fundamental rights of the dog? Yes. Are the actions of the meat trade hunter any different in a moral sense to the intentional and unnecessary suffering and death we inflict on animals when we are not vegan? No. The meat trade hunter views dogs as replaceable resources, just like the rest of society (in both China and everywhere else in the world) views cows, pigs, chickens, sheep, goats, fish and all other commercially farmed animals as replaceable resources. Are there any differences between dogs and commercially farmed animals that would warrant differential treatment for the purpose of being used exclusively as resources? No.
Dogs and commercially farmed animals are all sentient beings with fundamental interests in not suffering and continuing to exist. As sentient beings, who are at the very least subjectively aware and who have individual preferences, desires, and wants, they possess inherent value; they value their lives irrespectively of whether any other being decides to attribute an external value to them. Sentience alone is what gives these beings the right not to be commodified or treated as property, just as it does with humans. Irrespective of individual characteristics, all humans possess fundamental interests in not suffering and continuing to exist, and we recognise that if we commodify humans or treat them as property, we are denying the existence of the inherent value that sentience gives rise to. We are treating them as if they had no interests in life, as things. In commodifying a sentient being (human or non) we are saying that that being has no value other than that which we grant the being for our purposes. This contradiction is, in essence, denying sentience.
In terms of the moral value of life, the dog has no greater or lesser value than any of the animals that humans commercially farm in the western world; and humans have no greater or lesser value than any of them either. It is morally wrong to commodify any sentient being – regardless of species – as to do so is to deny that being access to their most fundamental interests in life. Interests that, irrespective of other individual characteristics, are equal in weight whether the sentient being in question is a mouse or a human. All sentient beings do not wish to suffer, nor have their life taken from them, nor be denied access to any secondary interests they may possess that rely on having their fundamental interests respected first. Regardless of how we humans interpret their lives, they all value their lives in their own ways, just as much as we value ours.
So why do so many “animal advocates” decide to promote xenophobia and racism towards the Chinese instead of pointing out to people that if they believe what happened to this dog is wrong, they are committed to being vegan? Why do we believe that the dog meat trade “is disgusting and brings a horrible reputation to China” while we simultaneously exploit and kill over 56 billion land animals and over a trillion sea animals every year for no other reason than taste? These are rhetorical questions. There are no good answers. The mainstream “animal movement” profits greatly from xenophobic campaigns directed at ethnic groups, but this is neither morally justifiable in the human context, nor the animal context. The sad reality is that these campaigns do nothing but perpetuate violence and discrimination amongst humans and violence and speciesism towards animals. This is a price that the mainstream “animal movement” is willing to pay in order to make a quick buck.
If you are not vegan but you are upset about what happened to this dog, I ask that when you sit down for dinner tonight, consider that the animal who gave you her body, and who was exploited and killed for her secretions had every right to her life as did the dog. When you get dressed in the morning before work, consider that the leather shoes you’re wearing, the animal skins or fibres in your clothes, the cosmetic products you used in the shower that were tested on animals and contained animal ingredients, all came from animals who valued their lives as much as the dog. Convenience and pleasure do not justify violating another sentient beings fundamental rights. Convenience and pleasure do not justify inflicting suffering and death. We recognise this where an animal we fetishise is concerned, it is no different where any other animal is concerned either.
If you think what happened to this poor dog is wrong, you either go vegan, or continue participating in exploitation no different to that which the dog endured. There isn’t a third option. If you are content to continue exploiting other animals for unnecessary purposes, you may want to start thinking why it is you believe the dog to be different. There are no answers that don’t represent violations of rights for pleasure. There are no answers that don’t assume human supremacy over other sentient beings based on arbitrary characteristics beyond sentience. There are no answers that don’t represent a willingness continue bullying the vulnerable through valuing ones own preferences over the fundamental interests and rights of others.