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Ontario Federation of Agriculture Claims Animals Don’t Think or Feel

The Ontario Federation of Agriculture claims we don't know if nonhuman animals think or feel, so therefore they don't. Both are anti-science, defy reality, and are inane.

MARC BEKOFF: A report called OFA [Ontario Federation of Agriculture] submission to the Standing Committee on General Government regarding the Security from Trespass and Protecting Food Safety Act (Bill 156), which contained a quotation emphatically stating, “We simply do not know if animals are capable of reasoning and cognitive thought,” shocked me. I immediately read through the report and lo and behold, the authors did make this unscientific and ludicrous claim. And, not surprisingly, there isn’t a single citation in the entire in-house report. Here is the full quotation, because I don’t want people to think I’m fabricating what these thoroughly uninformed people wrote.

“The concept of ‘sentient beings’ refers to beings with the power to reason and think. The term also implies beings with an awareness of their surroundings who respond to sensations, have cognitive thoughts and have the capacity to perceive and experience life subjectively. Feeling is a subjective state, available only to the animal feeling it. As animals and humans are built and function differently, it is unfair to automatically attribute the sensations experienced by humans to be the same as those experienced by animals. Humans have the ability to communicate their experiences, and what they feel. Since animals cannot communicate with us, there’s a huge assumption by animal activists that animals have emotional responses and the ability to reason and think, in the same way that humans do. We simply do not know if animals are capable of reasoning and cognitive thought, therefore we cannot attribute human qualities of reasoning and cognitive thought on animals as the activists would like.”

Intelligence is a slippery concept and should not be used to assess suffering. Asking if chickens suffer less than pigs, or if pigs are as smart as dogs, is meaningless and idle speciesism. In addition, the way in which people treat or mistreat other animals and how they feel about it isn’t a matter of how smart they are. Rather, nonhumans are sentient beings, and it’s a matter of how they suffer, not if they suffer. So-called dumb animals experience deep and prolonged suffering, and, in fact, they’re not really dumb! The Ontario Federation of Agriculture claims we don’t know if nonhumans think, so therefore they don’t. Both are anti-science, defy reality, and are inane…

I wanted to know more about what was happening on the ground in Ontario, so I contacted Camille Labchuk, a lawyer and the Executive Director of Animal Justice. Here’s some of what she wrote. The Canadian province of Ontario is currently trying to ram through an ag-gag law in the midst of a pandemic… The legislative hearings on Ontario’s ag-gag bill have given us a rare glimpse of the utter indifference that many farmers still have for animal suffering, and indeed their denial of basic science about the emotional and cognitive abilities of animals. Canada unfortunately has some of the worst animal protection laws in the Western world, and Ontario’s ag-gag bill is about to make a bad situation far worse…

Animal sentience and animal emotions matter very much; animal sentience is not science fiction, and the life of every single individual matters because they’re alive and have intrinsic or inherent value… Their misguided views support and will continue to perpetuate the extremely cruel and brutal treatment of “food animals” and ignore a wealth of scientific data. It’s high time to bridge the “knowledge translation gap” and use what we know to truly help other animals. The “knowledge translation gap” refers to the practice of ignoring tons of science showing that nonhumans are sentient beings and going ahead and causing intentional harm in human-oriented arenas. SOURCE…

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