This article was originally posted on The rEvolutionary Wellness website. Minor edits have been made for organizational clarity.
I'm looking forward to attending a film titled "Speciesism: The Movie" on Wednesday. I put together some thoughts in response to the following preface:
"Speciesism: The Movie" explores philosophical questions about what, if anything, makes the interests of members of our species more ethically significant than the interests of other animals -- a notion that (at least Western) religious traditions appear to take for granted.
The Interests of Animals
Humans enjoy rewards from many of the same stimuli, along with a vastly more complex system of social rewards that correspond to how we evolved to cooperate in social units (for example, experiencing what we perceive as "fairness" generates emotional rewards for humans, but would have no meaning to a cow).
So the variety of ways in which life can be rewarding or unrewarding generally increase as you move toward more complex organisms. And in any case, we can assume they will follow from the conditions and behaviors that were most successful for the organism as it evolved, since that's what the brain had the opportunity to learn to specifically encourage.
The Limits of Animal Interests
But everything dies, eventually. And for that matter, most ways to die in nature involve a significant degree of suffering, whether it's being eaten alive, starving to death, drowning, dying of disease, or freezing. In fact, we should expect that most natural mechanisms of death would correspond with suffering, because it's the brain's job to do everything possible to discourage the animal from letting those things happen.
Our Ethical Responsibilities & Opportunities
Given our awareness of animal life experience, humans have a unique capacity to actually provide animals we raise with a life meeting or exceeding the average level of rewards expected in a natural environment, and culminating in the least possible suffering in death, if we were to actually prioritize this and make a sincere effort at implementing it (instead of our horrendous industrial farming blunders). And given recent revelations about the health benefits to humans of eating ethically raised animal products (paleo-based nutrition concepts and the acquittal of cholesterol and saturated fat), I believe this should be our focus as we move forward.