Defining Animal Suffering and the Limits of Science

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***Note****

I had a hard time writing this article, for several reasons.

 First, the subject matter is naturally heartbreaking and I had to admit to myself not being strong enough to visualize the almost incalculable number of ways in which we torture and harm animals. This also gave me more reason and strengthened my resolve in writing.

Second, the search for materials on the subject yielded an overwhelming number of books, articles, opinion pieces and scientific research, an amount that would take several lifetimes to tackle in its totality. I soon decided to continue writing my own notions and consult the literature whenever I felt it was properly needed. Moreover and more interestingly, the barrage of material only seldom dealt directly with animal suffering, and would only lightly touch on the subject from various aspects, such as neurological anatomy, ethology, biology etc. I give my suspected reason for this lack within the article.

 Lastly, since the scope of animal psychology is potentially vast but still in its nascent stages, I had to confine myself to very obvious observations. More detail is sadly needed and I might expand on this in the future. Similarly challenging was the multitudinous variety of living organisms that we call “animals”. In many cases, I tried to make clear which group or class I was referring to, yet at times, often when comparing and equating animal behaviors to those of humans, I would particularly concern only the mammalian animals.

***I do not own the rights to any of the images, and have tried to credit their sources to the best of my knowledge. If you are the owner of an image and want me to take it down, I will remove it****

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  1. Defining Pain
  2. The Limits of Science
  3. Nerves, Nociception and Neural Density
  4. Suffering in Animals
  5. Measuring Physical Pain
  6. Psychological Suffering in Animals
  7. The Denial of Suffering and of Animal Understanding
  8. Solutions – Legal, Educational
[Jeremy Bentham on animal suffering. Source: peta.org.uk]

There is a need to define animal suffering.

Mankind could only place animals in slaughter chambers, lock them within torturous confinements and research labs, once they became being desensitized to animal wellbeing. That is, once they have grown to believe that animals are incapable of experiencing pain in the same way that people do. That is, that animals feel their own pain as more of a fleeting sensory experience; that they do not have a scope for suffering, as humans define it.

The goal of understanding and defining animal suffering therefore begets from its onset two unique problems: one, can we assess pain in an objective way in any organism? And two, can we use the human concepts we have for suffering and relate them to other animals?

I will attempt to answer both of these questions to the best of my abilities.

Since animal welfare has been and still is to a great extent a stifled field of study, research that wholly corroborates different assertion is very much lacking. Nevertheless, I will attempt to use the theoretical knowledge existing in scientific literature and where need be, step out of science and into the realm of experience and common sense, to make lucid what humankind has known for millennia and forgotten only recently. That is, that animals share humanity’s ability for pain, for suffering, and therefore deserve being treated accordingly by humans. I will propose a scale on which to objectively assess animal pain, as well as human pain, since none is currently agreed upon.

Defining Pain

Humans are inherently emphatic. Realizing joy or misery in others usually strikes as with those very same feelings within ourselves.

Seeing someone in pain can hurt us if we let it. This goes just the same for animals.

Humans can relate to nonhuman animals, and it appears that in this sense, empathy is shared among many species in nature, who offer cross species commiserating, playtime and what to the observant eye will appear as a form of sensed understanding.

Examples of animals who took in orphaned animals from other species are found in abundance. The mythical founding of Rome is based on the not so mythical act of a feral animal revealing its motherly side to be empathic for outsiders. Humans at times care for other animals as if they were their own kin, as pet owners many times refer to their dogs or cats as their children.

While cynics and skeptics often consider this to be “unnatural”, it is in fact the face of empathy, and it is so natural that many of us have been conditioned to disregard it.

The ability to torture animals and treat them as “automatons”, as Renee Descartes defined them, is made possible only due to an increasing process of forgetting and detachment that results in relinquishing our own place in nature.

David Abram eloquently revealed how humanity has estranged itself from nature and thus from its own origins and home. In his book The Spell of the Sensuous he analyzes how progressive man has historically and philosophically lost himself within his own thoughts and symbols, until he successfully managed to see the world around it as foreign and brutal.

Abram manages to show how mankind’s unique forms of expressions, namely language and tools, are devices that at once create an estrangement from nature, but at the same time reveal our inevitable place within and dependence upon the natural world. Drawing from philosophers like Maurice Merleau-Ponto and Martin Heidegger, Abram reveals how human language emerged from our primal sense of space and from realizing and coming to terms with our own physical presence in the world. Abram’s historical research of the origins of language reveals how it emerges in humans of many different cultures, first as an unfolding of natural expression, and then over time becomes for humans an instrument of used to conceal nature and to try and surpass it.

Language, as Abram reveals, is a symbolic mechanism which has turned from an instrument for humans to communicate and express themselves, to a symbolizing mechanism which alters our ability to see the world. Language creates ideals and detaches us from the actual thing that we see. For instance, saying to someone “I feel pain” conveys the message of our sensations, but it has little power to move someone to empathy as the guttural cry we might unleash or our tears when sensing pain.

Following these notions, I believe that language has replaced many of our sensed, felt and experience knowledge of our surroundings with conceptual structures, made completely from the symbols in our won brain. Our ability to sense and empathize with others has been replaced by surrogate mental images, and has, over time, undermined our ability to perceive with our intuiting bodies. This, I believe, is the historic and cultural process of losing our ability to empathize , which has led to relating to non human creatures as automatons.

I claim that animal torture is made possible for humans due to the facilitating of an underlying perception, which regards animals as lacking the ability to sense pain in the same way that human beings feel it. In other words we consider them as incapable of suffering. It is the only thing that makes us able to forgo our drive for empathy and replace it with indifference.

Suffering in common parlance combines the unpleasant exposure to both physical and psychological pain. It is because of this anthropocentric word that humans have excluded any organism that is not an exact physical and mental replica of themselves from the select group of beings who are perceptive and responsive to pain altogether.

We have somehow grown to believe that we alone are capable of suffering, since we are equipped with superior brain functions. This delusion is held all too readily nowadays, with many believing it is necessary or inevitable to kill animals for sustenance.

In a previous article, I claimed that humanity cultivates the notion of extreme apathy to the slaughtering of animals in the meat farming industry, as a remedy to its own guilt for killing animals. I have decided there as well to regard empathy for other creatures as natural and a-historic. It occurred to me then, that the ability to disregard suffering was a key element in our ability to sustain the torturing and brutalizing of other living beings through such a long period of time.

The time has come to reveal suffering and pain, first as characteristics of all living multi-celled organisms; and second, as an objective and classifiable sensation.

The limits of Science

The entry for ‘pain’ in Wikipedia illustrates a picture of a scientific community whose conception of pain is surprisingly indecisive and outdated.

While progress in brain and nerves medicine in the last decades has revealed a great deal about physical pain’s actual form and its unfolding route within living organisms, the science of measuring pain is still very much fumbling in the dark and even denies the possibility for achieving an objective assessment of painful sensations.

With pain being one of the closest and most basic sensations we know, this inability may possibly open up the realm of scientific ineptness. It is, as I will claim, an indication of the politicization of science, in that humans mostly employ it to fields that concern them and them alone.

The scientific study of pain generally assumes that since people react subjectively different to pain, it must be impossible to objectively measure pain.

Examples for this ineptness are frustratingly glaring in the case of measuring physical pain. One instance is the attempt to gauge different women’s responses to labor pains by burning their hands with a lighter in between contractions and asking them how these sensations compared.

The working assumption today is that if an individual reports they are in pain, we should take their word for it and treat accordingly.

These assumptions obviously make the practice of doctors and nurses very hard. Cases where this working guideline fails are instantly abundant. Reports of pain can be exaggerated, a quest for pain killers or drugs, they can be a psychological call for help or a hallucination.

The reverse is also true. Not reporting pain by an individual could hide the truth of an ailment. Add to this the existence of SEPA (genetic condition making a person unable to sense pain); or the cultural and ethnic effects of susceptibility to pain; or the fact that many humans, such as toddles, disabled people and injured people are many times incapable of expressing their pain accurately, and you will see the need for a more, well, scientific working criteria and usable scales for pain. All of this before discussing pain in animals.

Has science failed with assessing pain? Is pain simply not interesting enough for scientists to explore? Is science inadequate for the job, and should we search for ways of measuring pain somewhere else?

I think not.

Science has been surprisingly sluggish in creating calculable techniques for what it has known for a very long time; which is, that pain and many of our other physical sensations are carried through the fibers running through our body and connecting out innermost organs with the outside world, and allowing us to experience it on all sensory aspects – our nerves.

Nerves, Nociception and Neural Density

The surprising thing about the inability to measure pain is that scientists do know exactly through which pathways the body translates outer sensations to the form of inner physical discomfort, or pain. They also know what causes pain to be painful.

It is through our nerves, a very objective and accessible body part, that we experience pain as such.

Since the advancements of Spanish Neuroscientist Ramon y Cajal in the 19th century in revealing the branch-like structure of neuronal pathways, the nerve system has been widely explored, mainly in human beings.

[The branch-like structure of nerve fibers as illustrated by Ramon y Cajal. Source: Wikipedia Commons]

Mapping the nerve system has led to the foundational understanding of the relation between our bodily sensations and the linkage between the nerve ends in our body (all 7 trillion of them), our spinal cord and our brain.

When these nerve endings are stimulated to a damaging degree or effect, we feel a type of pain categorized as nociceptive. These are pains are created by such immediate harms as cuts, bruises, blows, stings, burns, i.e. sharp pains and local; yet some nociceptive pain can be more dull and spread over a broader region of the body, such as sprains  and minor burns.

Scientists classify pain into 4 categories, or types:

  • Nociceptive: a physical pain, often local (such as bruises, burns, cuts, fractures etc.)
  • Neuropathic:  damage or disease of the nervous system (sensations of burning,  stabbing, tingling and the likes)
  • Nociplastic – Like Nociception but without evidence for a source of pain (like fibromyalgia)
  • Psychogenic- pain caused by mental, emotional and behavioral causes (like headaches, back pain, stomach pain, but also all emotional distress pains, from heartbreak to hysteria)

Since the nervous system appears unquestionably responsible for the creation, the sensing and the prolonging of pain in humans, it would seem wise to look at animals’ nervous system and objectively use it to compare their capability for pain. This will lead us to understand whether certain animals meet the criteria thought by humans to be exclusively theirs, for being able to suffer.

Suffering in Animals

There are several reasons to assume that animals not only feel pain similarly or exceedingly to humans, but that they possess the unfortunate potential for suffering.

Slaughtered animals raised for their meat go through these events in their life:

Being shoved, pushed and beaten; being crammed with no space to move; being denied of the feeling of the sun and its nourishment and warmth; being forcefully fed; being mutilated in various body parts like chopping your facial organs and ligament ends to prevent you from scratching and clawing; being fed until you are unable to move properly; being incarcerated and forced to live inside your own excrement; developing sicknesses; being electrocuted; if you’re female there’s being raped repeatedly; and then there’s giving birth and your new born being taken away from you immediately; being forced into tinier compartments; suffocating; being finally tied and raised from your legs and hoisted into the air; having your throat cut and bleeding until you can no longer breath.

These are just some of the misery that meat factory animals have to go through.

There are other countless atrocities that humans commit and inflict upon animals in leather and fur factories, laboratory animals used for testing of all sorts, from pharmaceutical drug testing, cosmetic testing to tobacco and toxins testing; by hunters and poachers, by people in the entertainment industry, from circuses to movies who exploit animals of all kinds; there are race tracks and exotic trade markets and countless other uses in which men use and abuse their neighbor life forms.

While to many this is enough to throw their hands in the air and believe that it is the way of the world, I believe many today are rising to a new understanding, evidenced mostly by the rise in the interest in veganism and stopping animal consumption throughout the world, a form of quiet protest.

[Increase in worldwide searches for ‘veganism’ since 2004-now. Source: Google Trends]

The use of animals by human beings reveals humans’ shameful hypocrisy in treating animals.

On the one hands, we use animals for tests of products intended for ourselves, for people, as in laboratory experiment for drug trials.

Yet, we are unwilling to admit that animals have the same capacity for pain and suffering as humans do. For if we would – this would deny us of our guilt-free ability to treat them as our prisoners, as inanimate objects available for our every whim.

This in a nutshell is human cowardice. We would vindicate torture, rape and cruelty by labeling them as ‘scientific’ if we only thought that it will save our own skin from harm.

Measuring Physical Pain

I do not suggest throwing out science and its research out the door.

Science as a system of thought has the great merit of the capability to change in accordance to the world. Since reality is always a matter of change, this feature elevates science to one of the best systems for coping with life that mankind has achieved.

Nevertheless it has many shortcomings, the greatest in my idea is the opposite of changeability which is idealism.

Science’s mechanism is many times observational, yet its language of expression is mathematical. These are incommensurable methods, since mathematics is an idealized form, one which seldom exists in nature (there are few “exact” things in the world that are not created by man. Math’s most fundamental law, A=A, is almost nowhere to be found in nature).

So, if scientific rigor can map out the workings of the nervous system and its link to the sensation of pain, we might as well continue and classify all animals based on their capability for pain – i.e., based on the complexity of their nervous system.

[Neuronal complexity in living beings. Source: Peter Waldhous (2015) via Wikipedia]

Science’s slow progress in measuring pain has to do with its quest for finding absolutes. And unfortunately in the assessment of pain even in human beings, that endeavor is not possible.

Reported pain, as we have seen, is skewed and perceived differently by people due to various factors, which at times includes even their ethnicity. Hoe can scientists assess pain in animals?

I claim that, while this bafflement indeed characterizes modern science’s notions regarding the evaluation of pain in nonhuman organisms, it is quite literally a copout.

For scientists have no problem whatsoever using other living beings and equating them to humans when it suits projects.

For example, if scientists are adamant about testing human medicine on animals, why can’t the comparison work in reverse? If animals have a similar mechanism for the appearance of side effects as do humans, we can surely expect a similar sensation of pain from them.

From Wikipedia, List of Animals by number of Neurons (emphasis mine):

“it has been suggested that the total number of neurons in the pallium or its equivalents may be the best predictor of intelligence when comparing species, being more representative than total brain mass or volume, brain-to-body mass ratio, or encephalization quotient (EQ). [1] It may thus be reasonably assumed that the total number of neurons in an animal’s corresponding sensory-associative structure strongly relates to its degree of awareness, breadth and variety of subjective experiences, and intelligence.”

Classifying animals based on neuronal density as a measure for their sensitivity to pain is so reasonable that it seems implausible that it wasn’t already done.

Yet no scale for animal susceptibility to pain is available, which begs the question whether outer forces, commercial and political are at play.

Nevertheless, we can extract the information from the neuronal classification of organisms that is available everywhere and suggest our own scale, as tentative and informal as it may be.

The non-sensitive – Fungi and plants.

Since organisms from the flora and fungi kingdoms have no nerve endings, they are incapable of feeling pain. This does not deny that they “die out” when cut away from their source of nourishment, but it does mean that they don’t feel it as anything like pain or suffering.

So, despite the act of severing their life supply by plucking or picking fruit from trees or their roots, they do not sense immediate pain the same way that we do. 

This could answer arguments by carnivore apologists who claim that plants feel pain too and so they have the “right” to kill and eat animals.

The Least Sensitive – Insects and Bugs

With the tiny Tardigrade starting the list of known organisms with nerve cells, with 200 neurons, insects take up the majority of the list’s bottom, reaching up to 1,000,000 neurons with the common cockroach.

Does having 1,000,000 neurons in comparison to Humans’ 10 billion or so means that they are 10,000 times less capable for pain than we are? It might be a stretch, yet I would argue that we might indeed utilize this list for the comparison.  

You might note that the list is indiscriminate of size, with ravens having a whopping 20 billion neurons in their brains and Orca whales topping the list with 43 billion, roughly twice as many as humans’ neuronal count.

Psychological Suffering in Animals

A theme of this article has been the failure of science to convey any wisdom regarding even our most intimate sensations.

An entire area of experience which science has not yet fathomed is psychology – a field which contains thousands of descriptions for emotions, feelings and sensations that we grasp with on a daily basis, and yet are all considered unsound by the standards and mathematical language of science.

Most humans would not dream of saying that suffering does not exist, simply because it is immeasurable.

Heartbreak, lust, envy, regret, anger, rage, as well as joy, laughter, exhilaration, love and pride, are all part of our experience and we can all relate to them in a semi-objective way; that is we each know what other people are feeling when they describe their feelings in these terms.

And since Freud, human emotions were granted the legitimacy of being investigated, systematized, even quantified in an endeavor which may have not received the stamp of hard sciences, but nevertheless has acknowledged their existence and scope.

It might not come as a surprise, then, that scientific language only begins accepting certain experiences after they become powerfully manifested and voiced by people in dominant cultures.

Animals, unfortunately for them, speak in many voices but it seems that mankind is choosing to deafen its ears to those voices and cries.

This muting is only possible due to man’s confining his consciousness within his created symbols and his estrangement from his own animal nature.

In reality, man’s emotions have nothing particularly unique about them. I claim that human emotions are as animalistic as our susceptibility to pain.

Psychological pain is the aspect of discomfort that can be defined as “suffering”.

Yet, it is often wrongly perceived as a uniquely human trait that involves the higher interpretative faculties of our advanced new cortex.

I would like to distinguish between such reflective and analytic constructions that are a part of psychological pain, and the emotional, instinctive, psychosomatic (bodily) sensation of psychological pain.

The erroneous conflating of these categories under the notion of “suffering’ has caused humans, I claim, to insist that psychological pain is a phenomenon which only pertains to people.

In other words, we were led to believe that since animals do not have reflexive abilities as we do, that they are incapable of identifying their own pain as anything more than momentary, or physical; that they have no emotions or feelings, since they do not reflect on them as we do, and that their pain cannot linger into the form of misery and suffering.

This is wrong both factually and logically.

Factually, various animals are known to exhibit emotions clearly and distinctively, in both behavior and actions. Ethology, the science of studying animal behavior reveals many examples of emotional expressiveness in many different organisms.

As observed by ethologists, animals have their own mechanisms for symbolizing.

Konrad Lorenz revealed how certain behaviors become engrained symbolicaly in a group of animals’ existence in a process which he referred to as a ‘ritualization’; a sort of primal patterned language.

Animals such as geese display mimicking or unique gestures to convey the notion of victory in combat, of laying eggs, of their place in a group’s hierarchy and other motions convey a sort of symbolic awareness. This awareness indicates the ability to indeed attach reflectivity to emotions, or at least to physical sensations, in a fashion that reminds us of our own sensibilities.

Even logically, believing that animals are incapable of suffering is a willful blindness to their basic animalistic nature.

The desire of a mother to nurture her newborn is innate, basic and required for her physical wellbeing based solely on bodily changes to her organismic functions during the time of carrying, from lactating to hormonal changes. Removing baby calves from their mothers in the dairy industry is an atrocious act of denying a living organism its basic bodily rights, similar to shutting his air tract.

Emotional suffering exists without reflective consciousness. It is in a lingering and persistence of felt pain, discomfort and unrest and the denial of any possibility for its release.

[Mark Twain. Source: peta.org.uk]

As I am writing this a strange notion makes itself possible.

I suspect that humans have felt that locking and torturing animals is somehow acceptable or tolerable because we are in some way testing animals to see if they will exhibit human like responses to their pain.

On a primordial level, we are expecting animals to “level up” and are waiting for them to be able to express themselves in a language that we understand.

This might also reflect a deeply rooted animosity we feel towards animals for their mirroring of our own inability to understand them.

Perhaps this is only felt by western and industrialized people nowadays, who have grown apart of the natural world to an extent of not even thinking about it as cohabitating the earth. Yet, on a fundamental level, we might feel it is justified to torture someone if they do not tell us (in our own language) to stop.

This might seem silly, but I feel that humans have been led to believe that language signifies our ability to know more than nature, and so animals who do not know our language have no ability to know what’s good for them. That is, just like we will engage in painful and unnatural actions, like surgery, vaccinations etc. to prevent pains, we have convinced ourselves that other organisms simply do not know better since they lack the language to say so.

In light of this, it is quite possible that we disregard animal psychological and emotional pain since, in our own human western culture, we try to deny misery and suffering ourselves.

We try to cure any bad emotions with pills and therapy sessions, believing bad feeling are an ailment.

Contrarily, we do not even know how to cure most chronic pains, and our elderly population is left to spend its last decades mostly in quiet agony, awaiting death.

The Denial of Suffering and of Animal Understanding

We have mostly excluded death from our vocabularies, along with old people. Denying animals of this right to be defended against suffering reflects greatly on humanity’s inability to deal with emotional pain.

We have come to believe that animals are incapable of emotional suffering, in a way, since we have grown to deny it of ourselves. And just like with testing pharmaceutical drugs on animals, we humans choose to project our fears on other organisms instead of facing them bravely.

The idea that animals are automatons, as was contended by Descartes, is a reflection of man’s aspiration to be above pain; of his belief of the possibility to become rid of suffering and in some way his desire to levitate above earthly misery.

There is no wonder, then, that the most poignant argument for animals being subservient to man’s whims is in the religious book of Genesis.

In early man’s attempts to explain his place in the universe he must have been devastated for not being able to comprehend the language of animals.

The story of the expulsion from paradise might be read as mankind’s inability to understand the language of animals, or more accurately man’s need to listen to his inner voice, or ego, and not to the talk of the animal world.

The snake starts as a compatriot of Adam and Eve, sharing a common tongue with them, yet after both proto-humans listen to the animal instead of God, they are punished. It is interesting that they are both punished explicitly with suffering and sensing misery, while the snake is only cursed to dwell in the dirt and be killed by humans by bashing its head.

And so, in Genesis 3:

16 Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.

17 And unto Adam he said, Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life;

The idea that animals are not part of this sorrow and that this sensation is only applicable to our human conscious is deeply linked to the fear of animals turning from friends into strangers capable of killing.

[Jacopo da Ponte Bassano – Garden of Eden. 1573. Source: Wikipedia Commons]

This fear is depicted in the Garden of Eden story. It is a story explaining the loss of connection with the animal world and in so doing, the detachment from its many voices and the punishment of having to be subordinate and listen to an inner voice. This is a true expulsion from paradise.

To the religious, God governs animals as well and ordains them to live in subordination. However, and more surprisingly, the secular modern man and woman have grown to treat their ego, or mind as a similar type of Godlike voice, which is denied of animals and therefore sets them apart from humanity in a similar fashion.

In this estrangement from the natural world, few religious or secular sects have been able to reestablish the correspondence between man and animals. Of those who have maintained the connection I can think of the Pythagoreans in the classical world and of Jainism nowadays.  

The ability to sense psychological pain reveals that animals can be mentally and emotionally broken down. Taking away natural behaviors, like the feeding of babies, roaming freely outside, grazing and just being out in the sun are all forms of suffering that alas, even humans can understand.

Solutions – Legal, Educational

If the density of the nervous system is indeed the objective measure for pain, the ability to comprehend animal pain and compare it to our own perceived pain becomes feasible.

It is time to set the legal grounds for the assessment of animal suffering, relying on the rules we have already created specifically with humans in mind, and define them as governing animals of certain classifications. These are urgent and immediate actions we must take:

  1. We must introduce the universal scale for pain into our courts and legal system, and we must categorize different organism at various stages of neural development as a measure of susceptibility to pain. This measure would account for the age of the organism, from birth, to adulthood and onto old age. It will acknowledge animals as living beings who, through no fault of their own, are being used by humans.
  2. This categorization will have to enter drastic changes into the way we have grown accustomed to treating animals. Since dogs, for instance, display the same mental abilities of a two year old human child, they need to receive the same legal rights as does the human child. That means to immediately ban the eating of dogs in eastern countries like China and Korea; to ban the use of dogs as laboratory test subjects for the cosmetic industry or the pharmaceutical industry; to raise the punishment for dog murderers to a life sentence in prison; breeders, and people running “puppy mills” will be subjected to the strictest requirements, ending the use of breeding pets for profit.  With the heightened requirements for canine rehabilitation and nurture, local municipalities will be given grants by the government to spay and neuter strays to prevent an outgrowth of the dog population.
  3. Other animals will receive care and judicial protection based on their category for pain and suffering tolerance on the scale. Factories for raising farm animals for their meat would be mandated to meet the requirements for basic biologic necessities, or else terminated.

To some futuristically inclined researchers, my suggestion would seem to have come too late.

David Pearce, the advocate for trans-humanism, claims that we are close to developing the mental tools for being satisfied without any consumption of meat, or utilization of animals.

His notion of hedonism eliminating our need for meat consumption seems to me to be romanticizing technology.

As many futurists often forget, mankind normally does not keep up with the advancement of its technologies, and isn’t morally advanced enough to use them for the bettering of the planet.

More often than not, we use every new technology to amplify and enhance our most basic and primeval of traits.

The consumption of meat, I would assume, allows people to release the anger and frustration within them in the form of gnawing of flesh. I think a pill would not extinguish this desire, at least not in the foreseeable future. 

Beyond legislative changes, an educational change is desperately needed.

Yet this is not a curriculum change, or a shallow change to be incorporated in mere public schooling.

This must be a statewide legislative duty for parents, teachers and people who are responsible for the socialization of children, to show them around nature and introduce them to as many other animals as possible from an early age.

With the industrial revolution, something has been robbed of us which was our natural yearning and need for conviviality with our natural surroundings.

With our own surroundings becoming commodified, most western countries are in grave danger of becoming similar to Japan; a hyper technologic, bleak and alienated society with a currently negative birth rate and ever increasing death by suicide.

The torturing of animals is the forgetting of nature. It is mankind’s getting lost and stranded outside the basic elements of his creation, to an endless imaginative space within his own mind.

Ernest Becker has researched this vastness of imagination in his immortal book, The Denial of Death. He claimed that man’s ability for endlessness has deemed his plight in the world to be existentially impossible.

Man futilely tries to achieve endless greatness and merit in the world, while rejecting the limited and ending nature of both the world he inhabits and his own life.

Understanding our own mortality, through the connection with the natural world, I believe, will be the philosophical framework suitable for finally ending man’s use of animals and causing them suffering.

[George Bernard Shaw. Source: peta.org.uk]

Bibliography:

Abram, David. The Spell of the Sensuous. 1996 – in Amazon

Becker, Ernst. The Denial of Death. 1973 – in Amazon

The Bible, King James Version.

Online Sources:

The Nervous System :

Free Nerve Endings – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Free_nerve_ending

Parts of the Nervous System in Dogs – https://www.msdvetmanual.com/dog-owners/brain,-spinal-cord,-and-nerve-disorders-of-dogs/parts-of-the-nervous-system-in-dogs

Important Nerves in the Human Body and what they do – https://www.northeastspineandsports.com/important-nerves-in-the-body-and-what-they-do/

Nerves and Nerve Ending in the Skin of Tropical Cattle – https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/76410/

List of Animals by Number of Neurons – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_animals_by_number_of_neurons

Nervous System – http://www.scholarpedia.org/article/Nervous_system

Nervous System (Organismal Biologu) – https://organismalbio.biosci.gatech.edu/chemical-and-electrical-signals/nervous-systems/

How are Brain Mass (and Neurons) distributed among Humans and the Major Farmed Land Mammals? – http://reflectivedisequilibrium.blogspot.com/2013/09/how-is-brain-mass-distributed-among.html

Nociceptor – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nociceptor

Henry Head – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henry_Head

Santiago Ramon y Cajal – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Santiago_Ram%C3%B3n_y_Cajal

Neuron Doctrine – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neuron_doctrine

Pain and Suffering in Animals:

Dogs’ Intelligence On Par With Two-year-old Human, Canine Researcher Says – https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/08/090810025241.htm

Pain and Ethnicity – https://journalofethics.ama-assn.org/article/pain-and-ethnicity/2013-05 

Cruelty to Animals – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cruelty_to_animals

Pain in Animals – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pain_in_animals  

Suffering – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Suffering

David Pearce (transhumanist) – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Pearce_(transhumanist)

Eradication of Suffering – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eradication_of_suffering

Animal Emotions: Exploring Passionate Natures/ Marc Bekoff –

https://academic.oup.com/bioscience/article/50/10/861/233998

The Long Game: Reducing Meat Consumption by 2100 – https://faunalytics.org/the-long-game-reducing-meat-consumption-by-2100/

Will the Future forget about Meat? / Chris Taylor – https://mashable.com/feature/dear-22nd-century-future-food-meat/

 

Eating Animals and our Dishonest Discourse

In recent years, the question of eating animals has been stirring intense debates. Conversations about consuming meat usually end in a disgruntled clash between two sides – namely vegans and meat eaters. While both parties in this argument display their stand adamantly, I argue that dishonesty and self-deception is behind each of their arguments and that much like animals, the real arguments are left unheard..

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It is easy to see why the question of eating animals, since its surfacing, has remained in the focus of both public and private discourse in recent years. Eating animal meat relates to our most basic of functions, that of nourishing and surviving.

While debates surrounding the eating of animals appear more omnipresent and fervent today than ever before, a sort of stalemate seems to have been reached. Whether on the media, or in conversation with friends or co-workers, speaking about consuming meat will most likely end up in a clash of ideas between a vegan and a carnivore diet. A sense of unbridgeable doom will hover over the topic, causing people to try and avoid it entirely.

Yet the real problem is not with the topic – it is with the fact that both “sides” are engaged in a dishonest conversation, both to their audience and to themselves.


1. The Arguments are Dishonest

Whenever eating animals is discussed, one is almost guaranteed to hear any of the following lines of thought:

  • Man was/wasn’t meant to eat animals
  • Eating animals is healthy/unhealthy
  • Growing and slaughtering animals is good/ bad for the economy
  • People have/haven’t been eating animals for years
  • Killing animals is moral/immoral
  • Man has/hasn’t the right to kill animals

These claims might wear the guise of scientific research, they may involve reliance on experience or, more often than not, on hearsay and speculation. But the truth is, they are all irrelevant.

The desire to be absolutely right leads the proponents of veganism-carnivorism to seek and employ hard “proof” from the realms of science, medicine and history.

Eating animal products might be associated, rightly, with bad heart condition and early deaths in humans, while a shortage of vitamin B12 will be, rightly, linked to a vegan diet; the animal slaughtering industry is responsible for much of the deforestation, polluting and ruining of the earth’s resources, while eating animals has been found in most cultures ,around the world for thousands of years; man’s stomach and teeth, as well as his evolutionary connection with primates place him closer to herbivores than carnivores, although his ability to heat his food and to successfully consume more species than any other natural predator sets him apart from most other animals.

With each side continuously finding more research, case studies and natural observations to serve as evidence for their particular belief, debates remain conflicting and very much stalemated.

The desire to find “proof” from the hard sciences in order to reveal whether the eating of meat to be ultimately wrong or right, natural or unnatural – is in itself an act of self-deception.

The reason why so many speakers find themselves divided into only two camps, is that the majority of people do not dare utter any complex or unresolved feelings in regards to eating living creatures.

(The term *living creatures* is of itself complex and needs further explication. Is the killing of shellfish similar to slaughtering pigs, for example? Does picking plants and vegetables constitute as killing? For the sake of basing a standard for consideration, I will later write on this with a focus on what constitutes as “suffering”, suggesting that it’s possible to define and classify suffering based on nerve complexity in living organisms. For the ideas presented in this paper, I will suffice with referring to living things as a generalization).

Since, what can any person say when they obviously feel emphatically sad to see the torture and mutilation of helpless beings– when in fact that person’s cravings necessitate this evil? The eating of animals almost demands that we admit to a guilt which for many is too much to handle.

In dealing with this guilt, most people choose from only two options: either becoming a carnivore, thus opting to remain voluntarily ignorant and cruel, in order to justify the craving for eating animals; or becoming a vegan, and thus opting to be intentionally aware, though grief-stricken and burdened, abstaining from animal products entirely in order to justify a moral choice.

Despite the both being viable paths on their own right, each choice is an extremity, and its proponents consider it the only possible path – indeed, as an ideal.

In the attempt to rid ourselves of the guilt of eating animals, these two arguments have by now become a fixed framework for thinking, manipulating opinions and swaying the topic into something it is not, only to vindicate people’s coping mechanism.

Our guilt for torturing animals for their meat is very much covered up by the arguments of both carnivores and vegans.

Whether meat is healthy or unhealthy, historically proven or not, economically sound or not – are all but justifications to rid ourselves of guilt.

We do not surface this guilt in conversation since we know that dealing with it demands not knowing what to do or think; it also opens up the possibility of feeling we are wrong, and need to change or lives and ourselves.

Guilt is hard to accept, and both carnivores and vegans often utilize their chosen path to deflect and push guilt away from them as much as possible.

The debate is dishonest first and foremost because of guilt.

Sadly, in the process of choosing between these extreme options, any uncertain, reserved or questioning opinions become lost.

Any idea straying from this binary pairing of veganism-carnivorism is made to almost appear irrelevant. And thus, the way to a deceitful portrayal is paved.

Unfortunately for the creatures who suffer the most, this fake argument winds up helping those who have built an industry on their torture and who need it for their gain.

2. Moving beyond the Deceit

The underlying tone behind every argument surrounding the eating of animals is guilt, on both sides.

The real conflict, with which every emphatic human is cursed, is that eating animal meat feels good and natural, yet the killing of animals is done so brutally in inhumanely that it enrages us and makes us distraught. and confused.

Most people cannot stay in such a state of inner conflict for long. It drives us to choose one path that pacifies us, maintains our sense of self, as well as our sense of self-righteousness.

To be able to subsist and eat, we indeed need to justify our way of “solving” this matter, at least to ourselves.

This is why, whenever people discuss eating meat, an underlying tone will be a mutual recognition that a process of justification has taken place and an acknowledgement that the other party has made up their mind completely and without a doubt.

Such resolution is indeed required by our psychological need to be intact. Most people would not dare say “I don’t know”, or “I haven’t made up my mind yet” regarding the food that they eat – what we consume must be 100 percent approved, both mentally and physically, before we are able to intake it.

Can we acknowledge our guilt and move further in our understanding?

If we cease rationalizing the deeply intimate topic of eating animals and instead consider how we feel about it, people from all views will generally agree on these two basic assumptions:

  1. That people have been eating animals all over the world for many years.
  2. That treating animals like inanimate objects is monstrous and unjustified.

Every argument on the matter should start with an agreement on these two things, in order to allow for a productive exchange.

Agreeing on these two maxims throws all irrelevant justifications out the window.

It shows that no matter what science has to say about humans “being meant” to eat animals or not – the fact of the matter is that is happens nonetheless.

Agreeing on these two maxims also opens the door to recognize all things which hinders a sincere conversation about eating meat.

It abolishes the guilt that is in the way of discussion and sheds light on the single factor which is behind our dishonest discourse about eating animals – the factor creating our sense of guilt in the first place.

The thing hindering the genuine debate surrounding eating animals, the one in charge of our current dishonest discourse around it, is a relatively new mode of raising and producing animal meat – the modern factory farming system.

In a fantastic reversal of natural order, we in the west have come to accept and to justify a system so inhuman and astray from the natural order as the mass slaughter factory system.

While most people agree on the cruelty and alienation from nature that is factory farming of animals, when questioning this system the same people will be quick to absolve it and offer even more rationalizations for its existence.

With guilt successfully encountered, another powerful objection to our discourse over eating animals starts to reveal itself. This time it is fear.

Our acceptance of such a system, agreed by most to be cruel and alienated from nature – reveals an even more uncomfortable truth for most of us – a hidden servitude lying underneath the perceived freedom granted to us by the Capitalist mode.

The real reason why we are left to debate over lies is the fear that we cannot do anything about the “system” of mass scale slaughter because we depend on it completely for our own survival.

The industrial farming mechanism confronts us with our deepest feeling of powerlessness.

That is the fact that western man and woman have grown completely and utterly dependent on outer sources for their food – that we are, in fact enslaved to those corporations that slaughter and torture animals to deliver it to them.

3. Them and Us – Fear and Industrial Capitalism

This, in fact is the lie of industrial capitalism.

We in the last generations in the west have grown to accept the mode of food production by inhuman means as a necessary law of nature.

Perhaps to our amazement, the mass slaughtering factories has only been in existence for no more than 100 years.

In its short existence, the slaughter-industry has managed to convince so many of us that there was never another way of getting food, or any other artifacts of consumption. And the biggest lie of all is that we believe it.

Before its arrival, and in fact still found to this day in many non-industrial cultures throughout the world, people either took care of the animals which they later ate, or they hunted them.

Our discourse over factory-farming animals is subdued and relegated to veganism versus eating meat because it is a way of deceiving ourselves into thinking that we have many options, that we are in fact in control over our diets, and that we are enjoying the fruits of industrial progress.

The reality is that we have no control over the food that we consume .It is made with our complete ignorance of it, and thus our inability to decide what we intake puts us at the mercy of growers ad food corporations.

We in the western world are, in fact, in servitude to our masters the food suppliers, and they have the power to starve us when they please. A powerful and rich western man is more enslaved in terms of food than the lowliest farmer family growing its own food.

Western people’s fear and inability to face their servitude to the big companies is not subjected only to food, of course, but is echoed throughout all places where mass production has conquered.

Ever since the mass-scale mode of industrial manufacturing began making a lot of money for a handful of people, we have been driven to distance ourselves not only from our food, but from every artifact that we consume and use.

The furniture we buy now is made on an assembly line and mostly last only several years before it breaks down – causing enormous and unnecessary destruction of the planet’s natural resources; as happens with the disposable electronics we buy and the minerals and metals being quarried and mined for their operation.   

The artistry and craftsmanship of the past has all but vanished to make way for uniform, bland, uninspired things with which we now surround ourselves, only to replace at each opportunity. While the artisan’s chair might be looked at again and again and reveal ideas, spark the imagination and become infused with memories, the assembly line chair carries no meaning, and is nothing but utilitarian.  

No more artistry, no more memories, no more man. We become functionary.

Life in an industrial environment becomes less worth living – it is less filled with things that we like. In such a surrounding, happiness becomes momentary and fleeting.

Back to animals – hunting was the longest one would be involved and occupied with getting food.

A process of hunting in many tribal cultures is a ritual experience in which one envelops themselves in wild nature, to become more and more attentive to the ways of the animals.

The actual kill carries with it the immediate sensation of guilt accompanied with relief, which are the reasons for carrying out absolving prayers and rituals to the soul of that animal which you will consume.

These make you one with the slayed animal (notice the relation between “consume” and consummate”) and able to live off of them.

The meat of a wild animal being hunted would last you for months of sustenance, and its preparation also a process taking a long time.

All of these are things that keep you connected with the memory and the living world, to the cycle of taking-a-life-eating-remembering-dying-being-eaten, that eventually gives meaning to consuming animals.

Both the artist and the hunter can put themselves in touch with the things they consume, and thus enjoy meaning in what they bring inside their existence.

Most of us living in the modern west have distanced ourselves so completely from what we consume that we have denied ourselves the joy of understanding, the meaning behind seeing it and producing it ourselves.

We have become what we eat – a joyless being, moving from one meal to another, surrounded by things that have no personal meaning to us, that we did not create or take part in.

4. What the Machine Eats – Our willful Enslavement

The desire to be right and keep your ego intact isn’t just caused by the guilt of killing animals. It is brought on by the feeling of helplessness at the face of the big industrialist machine – the corporatized and alienated world of money in which we now live.

Many of us take it as a given that nothing can be done to change big companies and corporations, since they control the means of production. With western man and woman not knowing how to raise animals or grow their food, they are utterly dependent upon outside companies for their survival. With this kind of slavery, it almost makes sense to choose the biggest and, in fact most distant of food manufacturers, in order to detach oneself from acknowledging this servitude.

The feelings of guilt and ineffectiveness lie at the heart of our discussion of eating meat. That is, people living in cultures that cultivate their own food and raise their animals do not question the validity of their actions. They are close to their origins of sustenance and can account for how their food is made. We in the industrialized west are left in the dark, alienated and remote from the things that we intake and make part of ourselves. We are thus driven to rationalize and make excuses, scientific as they may be, whose purposes are to justify that predicament which we know in our heart makes us so miserable.  

The big companies, of course, know that this is guilt and are happy to exploit it. Corporations that profit off animal torture tend to display the argument in the media as having only two sides: a vegan option on the one side -appearing too hard and fanatical for most people – and a carnivorous one, socially and commercially justified, on the other.

If you look at how the subject has been brought up in the media, it is almost always portraying veganism as a sole counter stance to factory harvesting of animals. Most times the same media outlets are sponsored by one or more big dairy or meat companies that profit from the animal imprisonment.

The reason that we feel so powerless facing the big companies is that we have enslaved all of our social systems, as ourselves, to the power of its capital.

Legal systems in most western societies are basing their rulings concerning animals on utilitarian – meaning how much money they generate – reasons. Animal abusers are sentences to miniscule punishments since we allow larger corporations to do so on a regular basis. Instead, as every human being is naturally inclined to think and feel, animals should be treated as sentient, feeling beings with a capacity for suffering and joy – much like small children, in their defenselessness against humans.

In very much the same way, the political sphere, the public sphere and any type of discourse we allow to reach a mass audience is still very much in denial or silent (meaning – dishonest) about animal suffering. This is a moment in time in which people have the obligation to demand what they know is right, and act upon it.

In fact, what the large corporations are afraid of, as is any politician, lawmaker and public figures, are large groups of people making similar actions. Affecting how much money goes into the industry has a domino effect that affects all other walks of life concerning animals and ourselves.

Since it is money that affects how society treats animals, we can and should take action by pulling our money from torture companies and placing it where we can get our food and allow animals the dignity and safety they deserve from us.

The industrial farm system is appalling yet despite its machinations there are effective ways to make it stop. It is sustained by the money poured into it – as is anything in the capitalist sphere – it needs capital in order to grow. Spending our money somewhere else is the best way to have a saying where big companies are involved.

5. Stopping the Machine – Ways of Action

Here are a few possible solutions that would change the course of industrial farming within several years.

In order to prevent animal torture, one can:

  1. Buy from a small, local farms, which guarantee their animals a place to range free, and live a life closest to its natural habitat.
  2. Learn how to cultivate and grow food and raise animals by yourself. Raising a small number of animals in the space and conditions they require for a good life is a way of eliminating the power of grow farms and reconnecting with how mankind consumed meat through most of history.
  3. If there is plentiful free range animals where you live with a legal option to do so, hunting is one way of not taking part in industrial farming. It also acknowledges animals as free to roam and is the least wasteful of all manners of attaining animals for eating.
  4. Cutting down in any shape possible – with so many other plant based sources of nourishment today, eating less animal meat, let alone animals from industry farms, is better for them with its side effects being a boost to your health.
  5. Stopping eating meat. The choice that many people are already taking these days, severely hurting the slaughter industry and raising the numbers of plant-based options by thousands of percents.

This change should also generate the creation of an agreement system, in which small growers and sellers of food realize that any attempt to monopolize by returning to mass slaughtering will lead to people stop buying from them and to discontinue their business.

The social and financial “side effects” of these actions are enormous, including helping local businesses and destroying mass-scale slaughter companies. It is a way of bringing about ecological recuperation and even assisting in ending hunger, by taking the power away from food monopolies and cartels.

Health benefits will undoubtedly rise as well. With the torturing of animals stopping, the auxiliary industries which sustain imprisoned animals with their drugs will cease to gain money, which will benefit the health of humans consuming animal meat.

The biggest effects of this change would be in our regaining our own humanity, as well as our connection with our natural surroundings. We will no longer be quibbling over justifying the eating of animals but will be taking command of our actions.

We will finally be able to look at ourselves, and at the animals around us, as deserving a decent life together.