Speciesism or strange thoughts from an occasional vegetarian

There are lots of things I don’t understand in the world.  One of the primary ones is “animal people”.

For example, people who treat their animals like people rather than pets.  I mean, I get some psychological reasons that one might do that, as a replacement for children for example, but I don’t understand it.  I don’t understand people who are against meat eating or wearing fur because they think it’s wrong to kill animals.  I understand people who don’t eat meat because they’ve got problems with the meat industry, particularly how it treats humans, but that’s about humans.  I  don’t understand people who really get themselves into financial trouble over creatures that probably won’t live much longer and are in pain.

Now, I don’t mean to say that it’s OK to abuse animals.  You know, I get that Michael Vick was not cool, and he was punished, so good.  But even that is something I don’t know how to summon real moral outrage for.

There are probably two main factors in this.  One, I am allergic to everything.  Two, I grew up in the South where the dogs I met were all hunting dogs.  They were loved, and they were useful, but they weren’t typically over-sentimentalized.  When they were 11 and got cancer, no one spent thousands of dollars on prolonging their life, they just put them down.  And of course the entire point of a hunting dog is to assist in the pursuit and killing of a different animal.

I am just as prone to squee at the cute face of a puppy or kitten.  I grew up on the beach, though, so I have a closer affinity to baby sea life.  Like Baby Sea Turtles.

I don’t think people should go around squishing them or torturing them or anything.  And I’m totally for preserving animals that are going extinct.  But if sea turtles weren’t endangered, and someone wanted to eat one, I’d say “OK, you’re a freak, but go for it.”  I mean, I read Hatchet, I know you can eat turtle eggs, but they sounded pretty gross.

I don’t lack sympathy for the idea that animals shouldn’t be locked up, I mean, I tried to keep a gecko and it was always trying to get out and I couldn’t stand it, it was too sad and there was no point in keeping it trapped.  I feel the same way about dogs and cats — it’s awful to keep them locked up in tiny condos and houses and not let them out to run and play in wide open spaces.  I know a lot of pet owners are really diligent about walking their dogs and playing with them and so on, so don’t take it as a personal attack, I assume you are a great pet owner, but is keeping a dog on a leash or in an enclosed space 24/7 really more ethical than eating a free-range chicken?

And let’s not get into the crazies that think that eating unfertilized eggs and honey is wrong.  If you don’t eat honey because you think bees are mistreated in captivity, you’re whackadoodle.

But you know, live and let live, you want to spend money on your pet, go for it, if you want to not eat meat, by all means.  I can even live with you telling me that I’m a horrible person because I like hamburgers.  Because I know I get to eat hamburgers and have honey on my toast.

But then we get into thornier issues that I really struggle with and that’s the idea that animals are better than humans.  I really take issue with people who think that there shouldn’t be animal testing/research and people who spend their money on animal issues while ignoring human issues aka PETA.

Animal testing saves human lives, and I’d much rather have something tested first on an animal than first on a person.  This seems obvious to me.  But then, allowing embryonic stem cell research also seems obvious to me.  But really, how is it more OK to try something out on a person than on a rabbit?  How can someone see these things as morally equivalent?  And, even so, it’s got to be tested, if humans and rabbits are morally equivalent, why not the rabbit?

And then there’s PETA, which I have an infinite number of problems with, particularly their retarded (it’s satire!) ad campaigns.  How can you spend money that goes to that crap, when there are so many humans in the world, in this country even, whose lives are much, much worse than most animals’ lives.  I mean, even if you think humans aren’t better than animals, don’t you think they’re at least as good?  Don’t they deserve food, shelter, not to be sold into sexual slavery?  Is it better to lock a human up for the rest of his life in a prison than to lock an animal up in a zoo?  Shouldn’t you worry about saving animals of your own species?

Is it really so ridiculous to make value judgements about which animals it’s less ethical to “mistreat”?  Because when you spend your money at PETA you’re saying “I’d rather save animals than humans.  A cow, a dog, a fish, a bee, these things are better than humans.”  And hey, we’ve all got to pick and choose our causes, can’t care about everything, and I think I’m OK with caring more about humans.

So, I’ve probably made some new enemies, sorry animal people, I don’t understand you.

About ashleyfmiller

I write, give occasional speeches, and am currently getting my PhD in Mass Communications from South Carolina. Before going back to school, I worked in Los Angeles in reality tv, web series, and film.

Posted on April 10, 2010, in Politics, Posts Worth Going Back and Reading and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. I give all my animals human names. My bird is named Geoff. One of my dogs is named Elizabeth. Growing up, all of our cats and dogs were named after Seinfeld (George, Kramer, Newman, and Jerry). We loved them, but we didn’t act like they WERE human, we just gave them human names.

    I’ve always felt like animals know that the name “Mr. Fluffers” or “Smoochy” or what-have-you were silly names, and they feel degraded every time they hear it. I imagine conversations sort of like this…


    A flurry of happy dogs and their owners.

    TWO DOGS come up and greet each other. The traditional butt sniffing ensues.

    Dog 1: Hey, what’s your name.

    Dog 2: Captain Awesome, what’s yours?

    Dog 1: Princess.

    Dog 2: Oh shit, thats sucks.

    Dog 1: You’re telling me. Especially, since I’m a boy.

  2. I guess it comes down to where you draw the us-them line. I know I don’t include bugs in the “us” – I don’t like to kill them, but I’ll do it rather than have them get stuck in my hair or bite me. But to me, dogs, cats, horses, cows, pigs, etc. are “us” – sentient, emotional beings capable of love and thought. Can’t eat them, hate to see their abuse.

    Haven’t made up my mind yet about chickens, turkeys, fish. Still absolutely hate the abuse – but I still eat them occasionally. I dunno – too stupid to live?

    • Nice to see you include pigs in the “us” category. Most people have no concept of how smart they are. I still eat them, though not that often.

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