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A Matter of Life and Death

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With the exception (for some people) of the violence of war, and the execution of violent criminals who are deemed to be morally incorrigible, the vast majority of us agree that it is unquestionably wrong to unnecessarily kill a member of our own species (except in genuine instances of euthanasia, which is a highly sensitive issue and remains illegal throughout most of the world).

We consider killing humans to be wrong regardless of the individual’s cognitive abilities, moral capacity, mental health, sex, race, nationality, age or sexual orientation. It doesn’t matter whether the person in question is terminally suffering from dementia, psychologically ill, severely retarded or a productive genius – we believe it to be seriously wrong in all cases. If we consider any given case to be particularly egregious, it is often due to the individual’s vulnerability, not to any mental or moral characteristics he or she may possess.

By stark contrast, the majority of us act as if there is absolutely nothing wrong with unnecessarily killing a member of certain other species of sentient beings. But what rational basis do we have for such a discrepancy in our perception? What quality is found in all and only humans that could possibly point to the conclusion that the lives of other animals are unimportant?

Intelligence or moral capacity as a criterion would make the lives of millions of humans (such as certain individuals suffering from dementia, those who are mentally disabled, and infants) equally expendable. Among human and nonhuman animals, traits such as intelligence and moral capacity exist on an overlapping continuum, making any line-drawing in this regard arbitrary.

But even if there was a distinct cutoff with regard to some criterion such as intelligence or moral capacity, would it matter when it comes to an interest in continued existence and not being killed unnecessarily?  When we stop and think about it, such a distinction wouldn’t matter in the least. This is because, just as eyes are sufficient for an interest in continuing to see, and ears are sufficient for an interest in continuing to hear, so sentience alone – the ability to experience one’s life – is sufficient for an interest in continued existence.

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200 comments

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6:52AM PDT on Jun 12, 2013

Thank you Angel, for Sharing this!

7:02PM PDT on Apr 20, 2013

Excellent post. Thank you.

11:56AM PDT on Apr 19, 2013

Thank you for the article. The continual justifications remind me of the question, "Why keep looking for the right way to do the wrong thing?" Please keep it up the thought provoking work.

1:38AM PST on Feb 6, 2012

Franco, you are still as out of line as ever. You're now referring to a comment made by Kye a month ago? I don't have a clue what on earth she's even talking about. What private e-mail, and if she was sending it privately to you, as it sounds like she's saying she did, there is no way it would be posted publically. Nobody ever "slandered" anyone, unless it's Kye, who was blocked by me from sending ME personal messages in Care.2 well over a year ago, as many of us resorted to doing for the same reasons.......receiving nasty, personal messages. Of course, you wouldn't know anything about sending nasty, personal messages, would you?

10:38PM PST on Feb 5, 2012

I was reading the comments and don't really want to join this slugfest; just wanted to thank Angel for your article. You articulated what I have been feeling for a long time; that animals have a right to live, no matter what. I am so tired of people justifying killing animals for whatever reason because they consider them "lesser beings".

7:18AM PST on Feb 5, 2012

Kye, don't feed the trolls. She will never stop. She is a nuisance but she is part of the community and the less we feed into her insecurities the better off the rest of us all are. I don't communicate with her in any way any longer.
Franco

8:00PM PST on Feb 4, 2012

So very true Emma.

6:50AM PST on Jan 20, 2012

our attitude towards animals illustrates our attitude towards life, towards sentience, towards phenomenal reality as we perceive - and create - it, and towards existence in general.

2:56AM PST on Jan 10, 2012

interesting article, thanks for sharing

11:13PM PST on Jan 9, 2012

I agree. Corporations use "happy" language to get humans to ignore the real facts -- that animals are sentient beings, as we humans are, and that their place on earth is just as valid as ours.

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