Advices and Queries 17 states:
Do not allow the strength of your convictions to betray you into making statements or allegations that are unfair or untrue. Think it possible that you may be mistaken.
Since my convictions on the subject of our fellow species are indeed strong and have become more so over the years I often ponder over this paragraph and especially when I am at Meeting.
Will there ever come a day when I consider that my deep concern for the suffering of other animals is mistaken?
Perhaps I may one day look at a photo or video of a sheep suffering in an abattoir and think: A bit gory, but what does it matter, it’s only a sheep. These things happen. On seeing a crazed monkey or contorted rat pinioned in a laboratory: Distasteful, but medical research has to go on, or we’ll never find a cure for cancer. Faced with the image of a solitary wolf in a zoo: It’s conservation and teaches children about wildlife. Besides, animals don’t feel the same way humans do…
Animals are different, they can’t think. They have no duties, so can have no rights; they have no souls.
We hear these statements made constantly, often as though the speaker has just discovered a wonderful and novel truth and wishes to illuminate the issue for us.
I feel a sardonic response rise in me: Oh yes, why didn’t I realise that myself? Of course, when was the last time the cats bought me a drink? And they never pay rent! Unlike us, they haven’t engaged in wars of religion either! They must be very ignorant, benighted souls.
So will I ever begin to think that trying to defend and speak up for those whom we have made vulnerable, and who have no voice, is misguided?
If, in fact, I stay true to my convictions, will I come to understand the stance of those numerous people who not only do not share this concern, but attempt, by a judicious ignoring of the issue, or by a gentle condescension, to imply that this is not a valid concern, or at least, should be very low on any list of priorities.
Because, of course, humans come first. They matter. Not to put too fine a point on it, the lesser creation are of lesser importance and maybe if and when we sort out the myriad problems – often self-inflicted – which plague human animals, we could give a bit of thought to the thousands of other non-human sentient beings which are desperately trying to share a world we seem to have appropriated and are in the process of wrecking.
Marian Hussenbux. April 2006