animals don’t care?

There’s commonly an argument presented that cows / lab rats / cats / pigs / lobsters simply “don’t care” about some injury being done to them by experiments or farm life.

First, as proof to the contrary… humans are animals, and we care. Any solid argument that animals don’t care must provide solid evidence that we are somehow unique, proof that a specific mechanism exists uniquely in humans.

Second, not caring doesn’t mean giving consent. Some humans occasionally have bouts of strong depression. They might care about anything at all, and am basically incapable of caring for general purposes. I am a slug, and won’t really react differently than a despondent animal. However, killing a depressed person would be murder, and today I’d certainly want such a murderer to receive swift justice.

It’s bullshit. Humans did not invent pain or consciousness, nor completely change the biology of our lower nervous systems. I seriously doubt someone who’s been thinking of anti-AR arguments for even a few hours has proof to the contrary. We like to think we’re different biologically, but the differences are small and not always relevant to our major ethical concerns. Besides, treat a human “like an animal” for a while, and it’s well-known that the aforementioned human will “act like an animal”. Dealing with captivity doesn’t exactly require a college degree.

Almost all animals to hide pain, injury, and anything else that paints them as a victim. For example, consider a housecat. They live a rough-tumble-life, and beneath the fur are often wearing bruises, minor joint injuries, pulled muscles… when’s the last time you treated a cat for one of those, much less asked your vet for advice on dealing with them? There’s almost no evidence that they feel any less pain from those injuries – and there are reasons to think they’re more sensitive. They do, however, show signs of handling it well psychologically, in the same way that humans might. With major pain like broken limbs, cardiac pain, and similar, they act more like humans. When given post-surgical pain meds, a moderately high dosage for a while improves their prospects… just like with humans. They use the same pain meds (mostly) that we do, and there aren’t significant differences between the respective parts of our nervous systems.

Yet through it all, your housecat will hardly utter a peep out of pain or abuse. That’s simply not how they respond emotionally. They respond by hiding themselves or the injury, by submitting, by trying to curry favor, by what we’d normally call “toughing it out”. Animals do not live in democracies or anarchist utopias, much like humans did not for most of civilization. They live in hierarchies with clear social positioning and rules of social behavior. Crying out for every pain would be like someone crying out for their freedom every time they saw a list of rules about anything. It doesn’t get the desired attention, so it’s not an obvious thing to do. “Normal” humans don’t even think about it. For animals, don’t expect them to cry out even if retrieved from an overcrowded house thick with ammonia, covered in fleas and long-lasting injuries, and starving. Regardless of how well they respond to improvements (often they’re very happy), they do not complain under normal circumstances. Doing so can get them hurt or killed, even amongst human beings. It does not advance their prospects, unlike for a human crying out in pain. Even humans only react by crying out while among other humans, not nearly so much without their company.

Nonetheless, some still make the argument that animal abuse cannot exist (or cannot be as severe as human abuse) because an animal is unconscious (in some form… I’ve been waiting half my life to hear some evidence of the claim). Logical extension of that logic means that it’s ok to experiment on, injure, and rough up unconscious or less intelligent humans. I think many would agree that doing such things to an unconscious (sleeping) human may be even worse than doing them to a conscious human – because unconsciousness removes the ability for realistic, practical self-defense. The ability for creating an artistic masterpiece or advance science doesn’t really matter. It would disturb some if intelligence or particular moral creed did matter.

Tuesday ~ June 8, 2010 by b

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