We have a long-overdue ethical debt: to listen to arguments we have refused to hear, to care for what we have obtusely ignored, and to act on the knowledge of our bad practices that we can so easily attain.
MARTHA NUSSBAUM: Animals are in trouble all over the world. Our world is dominated by humans everywhere: on land, in the seas, and in the air. No non-human animal escapes human domination. Much of the time, that domination inflicts wrongful injury on animals: whether through the barbarous cruelties of the factory meat industry, through poaching and game hunting, through habitat destruction, through pollution of the air and the seas, or through neglect of the companion animals that people purport to love.
In a way, this problem is age-old. Both Western and non-Western philosophical traditions have deplored human cruelty to animals for around two millennia… But by and large these voices have fallen on deaf ears, even in the supposedly moral realm of the philosophers, and most humans have continued to treat most animals like objects, whose suffering does not matter—although they sometimes make an exception for companion animals. Meanwhile, countless animals have suffered cruelty, deprivation, and neglect.
Today, we have, then, a long-overdue ethical debt: to listen to arguments we have refused to hear, to care for what we have obtusely ignored, and to act on the knowledge of our bad practices that we can so easily attain… New forms of animal cruelty turn up all the time — without even being recognized as cruelty, since their impact on the lives of intelligent beings is barely considered. So we have not just the overdue debt of the past, but a new moral debt that has increased a thousandfold and is continually increasing.
Because the reach of human cruelty has expanded, so too has the involvement of virtually all people in it… The extent of our own implication in practices that harm animals should make every person with a conscience consider what we can all do to change this situation. Pinning guilt is less important than accepting the fact that humanity as a whole has a collective duty to face and solve these problems…
What do we do now?.. There is so much to be done that there is more than enough for everyone, and we all need to work from our own starting points and with our own skills. My law students will go out and try to grapple with the myriad of legal issues about animal treatment that are now before us. Others can join or financially support one of the many excellent organizations working on these issues, for example the Humane Society of the United States.
Others will focus on efforts to protest the factory farming industry and limit it by laws that some states have now passed, or focus on efforts to raise political and consumer consciousness about plastic wastes and their disastrous effects on marine creatures. Some will adopt and love a shelter animal. Many will teach their children about these issues and expose them to films and videos that show both flourishing animal lives and the terrible ways in which we have insulted and interrupted them.
Justice is all of us — and a choice. It’s a choice to become friends of animal lives: with wonder, compassion, outrage, and hope. We need to make it now. SOURCE…