[Image Description: This photo shows a row of light pink pigs in small rebar cages. The pig closest to the camera appears sad.]
Whether you’re vegan or nonvegan, animal welfare proponents would have you believe that the wrong in this picture is that these pigs are confined and not freely roaming on a pasture.
They’re confined. They appear to be suffering. And “current research provides compelling evidence that at least some animals likely feel a full range of emotions, including fear, joy, happiness, shame, embarrassment, resentment, jealousy, rage, anger, love, pleasure, compassion, respect, relief, disgust, sadness, despair, and grief.”¹ A quick conscience check tells us that this isn’t okay.
But if these pigs were freely roaming on a pasture until they were 1-2 years old before they were killed, would that make killing them okay?
Sentience, as defined by Google Dictionary / Google Search, is the ability “to perceive or feel things.” And clearly these pigs are perceiving their surroundings; clearly, they are feeling emotions. And the thing about those who possess sentience is that they value their lives. Their lives.
So regardless of the conditions they lived in or whether they were allowed to move more, these pigs value their lives. And their lives belong to them.
Early on in life, children are taught not to take what is not theirs. And one of the most egregious crimes one can commit is murder—to take the life of another. The charge of murder does not go away because the victim’s species is other-than-human.
As an animal rights proponent, I am someone who isn’t satisfied with the unjust aims of animal welfare. Helping animals isn’t simply about making the conditions they experience before we kill them better, it’s about challenging ourselves and our society to stop using them as resources and killing them at all. So I’m curious if you’ll take a moment to ask yourself this question: If an animal lives in possibly better than torturous conditions for a couple years, would that make killing them okay? If you answered no, you already believe in veganism. And I encourage you to request a free veganism starter kit.
¹ Marc Bekoff; Animal Emotions: Exploring Passionate Natures: Current interdisciplinary research provides compelling evidence that many animals experience such emotions as joy, fear, love, despair, and grief—we are not alone. BioScience 2000; 50 (10): 861-870. doi: 10.1641/0006-3568(2000)050[0861:AEEPN]2.0.CO;2