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I think our first ethical priority is to stop doing harm, and right now in our
factory farms billions of non-human animals are being treated in ways that
if our victims were human, we would get the perpetrators locked up for life. And the
sentience (and what it's worth the sapience) of a pig compares with the
pre-linguistic toddler. A chicken perhaps may be no more intellectually advanced or
sentient than a human infant. But before considering the suffering of free living
animals we need to consider I think the suffering we're causing our fellow
creatures. Essentially it's a lifestyle choice - do we want to continue to exploit
and abuse other sentient beings because we like the taste of their flesh, or do
we want to embrace the cruelty free vegan lifestyle. Some people would focus
on treating other sentient beings less inhumanely. I'd say that we really need an
ethical revolution in which our focus is : how can we help other sentient beings
rather than harm them? It's very straightforward indeed to be a
vegetarian. Vegetarians tend to statistically live longer, they record high IQ scores,
they tend to be slimmer - it's very easy to be a vegetarian. A strict vegan
lifestyle requires considerably more effort. But over the medium to long run
I think our focus should be going vegan. In the short run I think we should be
closing factory farms and slaughterhouses. And
given that factory farming and slaughterhouses are the greatest source
of severe chronic readily avoidable suffering in the world today, any talk of
intervening compassionate stewardship of the rest of the living world is fanciful.
Will ethical argument alone persuade us to stop exploiting & killing other non-human
beings because we like the taste of their flesh? Possibly not. I think
realistically one wants a twin track strategy that combines animal advocacy
with the development of in-vitro meat. But I would strenuously urge anyone
watching this program to consider giving up meat and animal products if you are
ethically serious. The final strand of the Abolitionist Project on earth
however is free-living animals in nature. And it might seem ecologically
illiterate to argue that it is going to be feasible to take care of elephants,
zebras, and free living animals. Because after all - let's say there is, let's say
starvation, it's in winter, if you start feeding a lot of starving herbivores - all
this does, it will lead the next spring to a population explosion followed by
ecological collapse & more suffering than before. However what is potentially
feasible, if we're ethically serious, is to micromanage the entire living world - now
this sounds extremely far fetched and utopian, but I'll sketch how it is
feasible. Later this century and beyond, every cubic meter of the planet is going
to be computationally accessible to surveillance, micro-management and
control. And if we want to, we can use fertility regulation & immuno-
contraception to regulate population numbers -
cross-species fertility control. Starting off presumably with higher vertebrates -
elephants for instance - already now - in the Kruger National Park for example - in
preference to the cruel practice of culling, population numbers are
controlled by immuno-contraception. So starting off with higher vertebrates but
eventually in our wildlife parks, then across the phylogenetic tree, it will be
possible to micromanage the living world. And just as right now if you were to
stumble across a small child who is drowning in a pond - you would be guilty of
complicity in that child's drowning if you didn't pull the child out - exactly
the same intimacy over the rest of the living world is going to be feasible
later this century and beyond. Now what about obligate carnivores -
predators? Surely it's inevitable that they're going to continue to prey on
herbivores, so that means one might intuitively suppose that the
abolitionist project could never be completed. But even there, if we're
ethically serious there are workarounds - in-vitro meat - for instance
big cats if they are offered in vitro meat, catnip flavored in-vitro meat
they're not going to be tempted to chase after herbivores. Alternatively, a little
bit of genetic tweaking, and you no longer have an obligate carnivore.
I'm supposing here that we do want to preserve recognizable approximations of
today's so-called charismatic megafauna - many people are extremely unhappy at the
idea that lions or tigers or snakes or crocodiles should go extinct. I'm not
personally persuaded that the world would be a worse place without
crocodiles or snakes, but if we do want to preserve them it's possible
genetically to treat them or provide in vitro meat so that they don't actually
do any harm to sentient beings. Some species essentialists would respond
that's a lion that is no longer chasing, asphyxiating, disemboweling zebras is
no longer truly a lion. But one might make the same argument that
a homo sapiens who is no longer beating his rivals over their heads, or waging war or
practicing infanticide, slavery and all the other ghastly practices of our
evolutionary past, or for that matter wearing clothes, that which are that
someone who adopts a more civilized life style are no longer truly
human - which I can only say good. And likewise if there is a living world in
which lions are pacifistic, if a lion so to speak is lying down with the lamb I would
say that is much more civilized.
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