Our relationship with animals needs year 1800 thinking

Re: Don’t feel too sorry for Fido (Our View, June 13)

Re: Don’t feel too sorry for Fido (Our View, June 13)

Recently this paper published an editorial arguing that we should rein in our concern for non-human animals, and deer in particular. “We are the superior species,” the writer proclaimed, “and as such we must make decisions based on what is best for us, even if that means our four-legged friends miss the picnic.” But in what sense are humans superior?

The Great Chain of Being, which placed humans above all other earthly creatures, was developed in the third century based on philosopher Plato’s teachings.

Modern biology has proven otherwise. Life is a tree, not a hierarchy.  Each living species occupies the end of one of its 8.7 million branches. None of the branches is superior to the rest in any objective sense.

It might be noted that we can reason and use language, unlike any other species. Doesn’t this prove our superiority?

Remember, not all people can do these things. Some people’s capacity to reason or speak is severely compromised due to age, illness, or disability, but this does not give us licence to ignore their interests. So we cannot pin our superiority to our reasoning or linguistic abilities, unless we are prepared to deny equal status to many of our fellow humans.

As Jeremy Bentham wrote more than 200 years ago: “The question is not, can they reason? Nor, can they talk? But can they suffer?” It’s time we heed Bentham’s advice, and expand our circle of concern towards all sentient creatures.

Akim McMath





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