I stopped eating meat on Thanksgiving Day, 1996. I wish I had done it earlier. I did it for ethical reasons, not health issues. It’s always struck me that vertebrae animals have consciousness and, as sentient creatures, feel pain. I’ve been around them enough to know they feature personalities from somber to gregarious, suspicious to fawning. Despite what you hear about sheep, I had one that was quite the bully. I’m not censuring those who eat meat. It’s simply a personal decision I made born of compassion, though eventually I might have arrived at the same decision for the sake of the earth, or even for better health.
I love all animals, though most of my life I’ve been a dog person. I just lost my Bichon buddy several weeks ago after twelve years and though I know time softens grief, he’ll always be somewhere in my thoughts and, certainly, every Bichon I come across will rekindle memories of my faithful, gentle friend.
In a wider scope, there are undomesticated animals that utterly fascinate me, particularly for their remarkable intelligence, emotion and sensitivity; for instance, apes, whales, dolphins, and elephants. We know that elephants can weep, mourn for their dead, have long memories, and practice a complex social life.
If elephants have consciousness, and other animals as well, shouldn’t it change how we treat them? Our dilemma stems from our walling ourselves off from them, since anthropomorphizing them, or using words projecting human parity like “love,” “sorrow,” and “regret,” brings them disturbingly close and imposes guilt. Accordingly, the Canadian government dubs that nation’s annual seal pup clubbing via neutral words like “cull,” “harvest’” or “management plan.” It’s been said many times that vegetarianism would prosper were we to consider that what we eat may once have possessed a face.
Of course there are those who regard ameliorative efforts to change the lot of animals from prey and product to fellow creatures and companions as an attack on humanity’s rightful role to primacy and a romp in sensitivity. After all, they’re “simply” animals and we’ve been eating them from prerecorded history, though it begs the question and may point to our ecological follies in substituting anthropocentrism for a rational alternative underscored by climate change.
In an extended, informative analysis, “Do Elephants Have Souls?,” published in The New Atlantis (Winter/Spring 2013), ” managing editor Caitrin Nicol prodigiously uncovers evidence that elephants indeed think with all its implications. More....