Updated: May 30, 2022
“All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal” – Animal Farm, George Orwell
The Myth of Animal Consent
Even privileged animals like cats and dogs are not free from modern cruelty condoned under an ancient principle know as Animal Consent. Johnathan Safran Foer explains that the myth of animal consent has many different versions, but all imply a “fair deal” and, at least metaphorically, animal complicity in their own domestication and slaughter. The first forms of animal consent were observed in ancient times, of religious and mythological sacrifice of various animals. With the start of farm animal domestication to factory farming as we know it, animals are considered to consent to their slaughter and sacrifice their life for us to eat. People who research this unwritten law describe the justification for eating animal’s as manifesting itself in many ways, including the idea that animals are volunteers, or that saying thanks for the food somehow makes the slaughter okay.
This is a relatively new concept to me, but the closer I’ve looked the more I see it, and have seen it, even before I knew what it was. For example, when the dairy farming vs Coles was making headlines in the media, I was at a training day with a work colleague. The catering was fantastic and we were both tucking in, I was all over the “vegetarian and dairy free” plate (because “vegan” is obviously too offensive to label a plate of sandwiches). My colleague had said that he had been raised on a dairy farm and as if aware of which plate I was eating from said, “The cows have good lives, they are in green pastures, eating all day long and have shelter at night, they also have full access to veterinary care – if they didn’t have us farmers they’d die”. I nodded my head, taken aback by the comment and aware that my rebuttal would not have been a socially acceptable. It took me days of thinking about it to pinpoint the flaw in this argument but during that period I actually questioned if my distaste for the dairy farming industry was unfounded. Until I realised, how do we know that cows value green pastures and shelter and being able to call a doctor when they’re unwell? We don’t really, we project our values upon them. And that bit is fine, because I’m sure cows and any animals, including human animals as well for that matter, appreciate us meeting their basic needs for safety and security. But it’s what we demand in return for providing these things that raises concerns of fairness and justice.
Though even farm animals are domesticated animals, it is usually pets we consider when we think about domestic animals. Erika Ritter describes pets as the animals that were not sacrificed, partly so that we could feel okay about killing the other ones. But the myth of animal consent could be seen to apply to dogs and cats too, as in return for providing shelter and food, we demand they serve us with their hunting or guarding capabilities and/or companionship. When people factory farm these animals, in puppy farms or mills for people to buy as pets, we see these companion animals reduced to the same mistreatment and common cruelty of farmed animals. The image above was taken last year at an illegal puppy farm in Little River, Victoria, not far from where I live. This puppy farm was in operation for 15 years, through online sales. Oscars Law activists got enough footage to press charges and the 73 year old man running the puppy farm pleaded guilty. But the punishment hardly fit the crime, as is so often the case in matters of animal welfare. The best way to counter this unethical industry is to rescue your next pet from the pound, instead of purchasing them online or from a pet shop or private breeder.
I have only one thing to say about dog meat and it’s expressed perfectly in this tweet:
Euthanasia over Suffering
Something that is a divisive issue even among vegans, is the pro-euthanasia stance of many animal rights organisations, including People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). If the choice between a dog living its life in a kennel or being euthanised arises, PETA not only opts for the latter but advocates for it. This hyper-rational crowd, who are happy to use “offensive” behaviour to make their point, are opposed to killing, but even more opposed to suffering. PETA doesn’t much concern itself with fighting for the rights of domesticated pet animals, but rather domesticated farm animals, who are considered, for lack of a better word, much less equal.
Thanks for reading,
References and Resources
Eating Animals – Jonathan Safran Foer
Erika Ritter: The Myth of Animal Consent Lecture: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pPk0w9_sa_M
Why Animals Can’t Sacrifice Their Lives for Us: http://freefromharm.org/featured-articles/why-animals-cant-sacrifice-their-lives-for-us/
Informative Video about Yulin Dog Festival and petition to stop it: https://www.change.org/p/mr-chen-wu-yulin-governor-please-shut-down-the-yulin-dog-meat-festival-in-guangxi-china
Illegal puppy farmer convicted, fined $5000: http://www.theage.com.au/victoria/illegal-puppy-farmer-convicted-fined-5000-20150518-gh4dyl.html
Know Your Best Friend: http://www.knowyourbestfriend.com/
Oscar’s Law is Australia’s most prominent anti-puppy farming campaign, to support them you can like them on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/OscarsLawAUS/info/?entry_point=page_nav_about_item&tab=page_info