Even if we don’t care about animals, their lives have inherent value. Their lives matter to them whether we value them or not. We are often surprised when told that animals possess human-like intelligence, or demonstrate strong affection towards their families. These stories awaken the realisation that animals are alive, and help us to relate to them. However the only characteristic necessary for us to show them respect is that they are sentient.
Animal Sentience Matters
The fact farm animals are sentient beings is not only intuitively known, it has been scientifically proven that animals have consciousness and experience emotions similar to humans. They have nervous systems and complex brain functions. They are self-aware. They have characters, personalities, idiosyncrasies and temperaments. They feel at times embarrassed or proud, scared or brave. They experience physical and emotional joy and pain. They are mothers and fathers, sons and daughters, brothers and sisters. They build homes, play games, search for food and care for their young.
A Cow’s ‘Sophie’s Choice’
Cows form a strong bond with their newly born calves. Consider this story from a vet who recalls a dairy cow’s ‘Sophie’s Choice’. Based on a small family farm, it was customary for the cows to be let out to pasture at night and then kept inside for milking throughout the day. This mother had birthed during the night and brought her calf in from pasture the next morning. As routinely happens on a dairy farm, her calf was sent to slaughter and yet, each day her udders were almost dry. After 11 days, the farmer became suspicious and followed her out to the field that evening. There he discovered that she had given birth to twins and had concealed her other calf out of sight in the trees, where he had hidden quietly during the day, awaiting her return each night.
“Think for a moment of the complex reasoning this mama exhibited: First — she had memory — memory of her four previous losses, in which bringing her new calf to the barn resulted in her never seeing him/her again (heartbreaking for any mammalian mother).
Second — she could formulate and then execute a plan: if bringing a calf to the farmer meant that she would inevitably lose him/her, then she would keep her calf hidden, as deer do, by keeping her baby in the woods lying still till she returned.
Third — and I do not know what to make of this myself — instead of hiding both, which would have aroused the farmer’s suspicion (pregnant cow leaves the barn in the evening, unpregnant cow comes back the next morning without offspring), she gave him one and kept one herself. I cannot tell you how she knew to do this—it would seem more likely that a desperate mother would hide both.”
— Holly Cheever, DVM
Despite this mother cow’s brave attempt to save her calf, and the intervention of the young vet, he was also taken from her and sacrificed to the veal industry.
Loving Mother Hen
Think about the origin of the term ‘mother hen’. Hens are protective mothers. They fuss and worry around their young, clucking in gentle almost purring sounds to their unhatched eggs and newly born chicks. Despite being hatched in large metal drawers similar to filing cabinets and not having the luxury of learning to talk from their mothers, even farmed chickens develop language that includes over 20 different calls and complex social structures, ie the ‘pecking order’. Newly hatched chicks exhibit self control, the ability to count up to five and can recognise structurally sound objects. These skills are beyond the average three-year old human baby. We all know the proud, strident crow given by the rooster at dawn to signal the start of a new glorious day. Yet few of us know that a rooster is a gentleman and has intimate discussions with his mate when he invites her to eat before he does.
The Memory of Kids
Because we rely so heavily on science to tell us what is self-evident, scientists have proven that mother goats recall their babies’ bleats for at least a year after mother and kid are separated. We can only imagine the additional suffering these mothers must have endured in order to prove to us what any naked heart must know. Also documented is the ability of sheep to remember 50 faces, for up to 2 years.
Animals Have Inherent Value
Animals are like us in so many ways. However, the fact they possess human-like characteristics should not be the basis of how we value them. We need to care about animals because they care about their own lives. Their lives matter to them whether we value them or not ie they have inherent value. The very least we can do is to acknowledge their right not be used as our resources.
When we internalise this truth, not as an intellectual theory, but as a technicolour concept that enables us to truly meet them as personalities and recognise them as moral persons, then we can no longer see non-human animals as something to eat, and we have no other choice but to go vegan.
If you care about animals, then the least you can do is not eat them. To discover the truth behind the animal agricultural industry, please visit our animal videos page.
– Neuroscientists Declare Animals Have Consciousness
– Crafty Chickens Use Complex Clucking
– Sheep Are Highly Adept at Recognizing Faces
– Mother Goats Do Not Forget Their Kids
– Cow Proves Animals Love, Think, And Act
– Peaceable Kingdom: The Journey Home
– Newly-hatched chicks have skills that even three-year-olds fail to match