ST. LOUIS - I cannot observe an animals' expression - its eyes, its behavior, its purring, its social structure, its unwavering will to survive - and convince myself that it is anything other than a thinking, feeling, and emotional individual.
I cannot witness the millions of vegetarians throughout the world, the scientific studies, the evidence all around me, and convince myself that meat is nutritionally necessary. I cannot shop at the same grocery stores as everyone else, and see a nearly unlimited supply of fruit, vegetables, rice, and beans and convince myself that I could not live well without meat.
I know of many compelling reasons to abstain from animal products, but cannot think of a single good reason to use animals in this way.
Animal production has devastating consequences on the global environment. It manifests some of the most horrendous working conditions on the planet and creates negative health consequences for consumers. But even in the best of cases, given that the use of animals as products is not necessary, it is still unethical behavior.
In the best case scenario, farmed animals are exploited for their resources. In the worst case scenarios they are subjected to the most horrendous torture conceivable.
As the world's population grows, our thirst for flesh increases, big agribusiness is only becoming worse in its treatment of animals. You might be thinking: What about humanely farmed animals? But I argue that this, more than veganism, is a bourgeois notion. It is nearly impossible to know the source of most meat. In addition, meat cannot feed the world's population. It is environmentally unsound. And it is still exploitative.
Since consuming animals is not nutritionally necessary, it is only done for pleasure (taste, tradition, convenience), and exploiting a sentient being for pleasure is wrong.
Animals are individuals, not products. Unfortunately, the bodies of animals are used to provide privilege, luxury, and profit not to meet needs that cannot be otherwise met. Capitalism encourages us to value exchange above all else. It erodes the intrinsic value of social relationships, labor and materials that go into production.
Furthermore, it is the hierarchical structure of capitalism that allows us to believe that one class of humans can have, and should have, dominance over another. Similarly, it allows us to believe that humans should have dominance over other animals and the environment itself.
It allows us to ignore the individualistic nature,and the personalities of animals, and to view them as products. But by turning a critical eye toward our own choices in our daily lives, we can begin to dismantle this oppression, and lessen the suffering of animals and people throughout the world.
Rebecca Bolte is a small businessperson and an animal rights activist.
Photo: The author sees animals as thinking, feeling, and emotional beings. Blake Deppe/PW