Humans and animals aren’t equal and why would they be? Not even Humans and humans are equal. Humans can order animals’ fried bodies (with customised skin crispiness) on touchscreen devices made by enslaved Chinese children, devices they can then use to watch sexy drug addicts have semi-consensual sex while they wait for humans to cycle-deliver the animals’ cooked bodies. The cycling humans are among the most fortunate 0.1% of beings ever to have existed, on £7 p/h with no holidays, no sickness pay, and usually no tip, because, well, we’re not American. Although it sounds like the company they work for probably is.
It’s admissible that the crispy rumps riding ‘bitch’ in cardboard boxes through selected cities spent their immediately pre-marinade days rolling in their own shit, but that’s usually presented as a positive (“Like a pig in shit”). The shit-rolling thus offers a convenient division between Humans and animals: Rolling in shit is seen as positive abandon of burden, yet simultaneously something none of us would ever do. What’s the real philosophical difference then between the lives of the luckiest animals and the unluckiest lower case humans? A homemade shit-bath is something a capital letter Human could avoid (and not evade) by clambering up a ladder stolen from an Englishman, blamed on a Polishman. However it does draw parallels with – Famously, for example – An Amazon warehouse employee’s existence. But one trace of Pigshit on a Prime customer’s order and you’ll be at home stitching kangaroos onto your jackets quicker than your supervisor can sprint the length of the warehouse with two overrated box sets.
I used to like the Thomas Babington Macaulay quote “The measure of a man is what he would do if he knew he’d never be found out.” I went off it when I realised that what I’d do if I knew I’d never be found out was pretty awful. This quote is usually read with “what he would do” meaning crime or transgression, and “be found out” meaning a punishment or judgement. But there’s another side, where “what he would do” means favours and acts of kindness, and “be found out” means being rewarded or praised. This brings me to my thoroughly un-pretentious World Peace theory via a small Moral Philosophy sidestep – Replacing the influence of punishment and shame i.e. “If he knew he’d never be found out” with the influence of necessity i.e. “If he has no necessity to do it” – Necessity heavily compresses the moral behaviour spectrum. Doing something positive under duress is less laudable than doing something positive entirely unnecessarily, unnoticed or against the grain of family members or colleagues. Equally, there’s a moral difference between killing a stranger in cold, calculated blood, and self-defence killing a burglar who has a gun to your head. Besides the main difference of please just don’t do the first one, you fucking maniac.
This links to World Peace via another quote, from Gandhi: “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.” Yes we are top of the food chain, the most intelligent being. We’re not required to kill, torture, or enslave any being in order to remain absolutely fine, our whole lives. The element of necessity is absent from the Moral equation. So it becomes a choice: Do we use our elevated position to aid and nurture or to control and exploit? More generally, how do we treat the weakest among us? Where precisely is the crossover, from the unluckiest humans to the luckiest animals? Where do the whipped Amazon warehouse sprinters collide with the free-range-pigs-in-shit? Where do the UK’s best treated cows meet the humans currently in what is not innocuously being called “The Jungle”? Often those aspiring to great harm will de-humanise their victims. Whether it’s Hitler and The Jews, The Sun and the refugees, businesses and their customers, or the UK army and anyone darker than Dulux Caramel Cream, de-humanisation – portraying people as sub-human, is essential in disabling perpetrators’ emotions.
The difference between a pig and a lobotomised child is not in sentience but in instinctive ‘value’, i.e. Presumably the child means more to its parents than the pig does to its farmer. So what if the child’s an orphan? At what point does it stop being OK to kill the being in question? Or more interestingly, at what point does it start being OK to kill the being in question? It’s difficult to refute that killing something without necessity is immoral. Yet there are still dog owners procuring spaces in luxury kennels for their 4-legged pals, only to go away for the weekend and knowingly eat the burst liver of a tortured, exploded goose. On toast.
The Western viewpoints on why to eat a pig but not a dog, a cow but not a horse, all shake under the blankets of tradition, alongside slavery, capital punishment, homophobia and unequal rights, or upbringing, alongside religion, anxiety and prejudice. These arguments are easier than simply stating that there may exist in the Human psyche an urge to exert power and control over ‘lesser’ beings. Tradition is responsible for an enormous amount of the death, violence, repression and ignorance worldwide on a daily basis, and nobody’s upbringing is watertight. When toddler James Bulger was kidnapped and killed in February 1993 my Mum showed me the newspaper article, saying children are being stolen and hurt, using it as convenient reasoning for me to accept being clipped to the rather outdated reins that I’d recently been resisting. I was 4 years old. And I trotted round that Darlington shopping centre like a chubby, cheese-loving horse
Besides a tiny number with valiant but skewed principles, we all place animals at different points of value and worth beneath Humans and humans alike, and that’s OK. The difficult question is where to draw the line.
World Peace Step 1: By whatever margin, we all place Humans above animals on our internal, moral scales of sentience, worth, value, and importance. Naturally, instinctively, unchangeably so, due to an evolved cocktail of survival instinct, ego and protecting ‘the tribe’. We could begin do better at protecting animals and what is, we’d do well to remember, a shared environment. But we’re never going to protect equine or even canine life more than human. Therefore, it follows that if how we value animals rises, how we value humans must rise too. If how we value animal life can rise, it can not overtake or surpass how we value human life, it must instead nudge how we value human beings from underneath, shunting it higher up the ladder. The same ladder the Humans used to clamber out of the shit-bath, yes, but it’s a step in the right direction. Which for a spider, is 8 steps in the right direction. So don’t kill it. Fuck off home and have some crisps.