Is there anything unusual about this image?
It is not unlike images we see everyday everywhere of nonhuman animals displayed as food. In advertising, we even see animals who are presented as if they are happy to have us kill them and use them for food. In this image of the puppy, there’s probably a couple of unusual and possibly uncomfortable aspects.
Firstly, in the West we rarely see the whole body of an animal on a plate including the head (except for maybe crustaceans or fish). Recently I was in Asia and I saw numerous examples of the bodies of whole animals in windows, or people eating hoofs or chicken feet etc. Westerners often find this quite confronting. One reason is that in the West we try to disguise animal products by making the animal less recognizable by removing parts of their bodies like feet, head, tail and serving them up as chunks of flesh. Amazingly many consider crustaceans and fish as not even being animals, and because they are not “like us” –in that they are not mammals— we don’t seem to have such an issue with their whole bodies on plates. This is part of our self-deception that when we disguise animals as unrecognisable sanitized chunks of flesh, then we do not have to acknowledge that we are killing and consuming sentient beings. It’s all part of our moral compartmentalisation and a way of dealing with our cognitive dissonance.
Second, in the West we do not consider dogs and cats as food, we view them as family members. In some parts of S.E Asia dogs and cats are food. There’s a few organisations in S.E Asia which are trying to shut down the dog meat industry in some parts of S.E Asia. However those who work in these organisations do not see anything wrong with going home and eating other animals who loved life just as much as we do and just as much as dogs do. Such is the power of speciesism.
A question we should ask ourselves is why do we not consider dogs and cats food?
The answer is our society has arbitrarily decided these particular species of animals are valued family members. As a society, we have been relentlessly indoctrinated to believe that some non-human animals are used for food; some NH animals are used for clothing and / or food; some NH animals are used for entertainment and / or food; some NH animals are valued family members and so on. But whether we view them as family members or not, they are all considered legally property by the law.
This belief that certain animals have a greater moral importance than other animals is an example of our moral compartmentalization. We eat, wear and use some animals, while viewing other animals as loved companions. The truth is, ALL animals including human animals, are of equal moral importance. The only place where they are not equal is in our minds, but it’s important for us to not to believe everything we think. It’s important to question all long-held beliefs.
“Do not believe in anything simply because you have heard it. Do not believe in anything simply because it is spoken and rumoured by many. Do not believe in anything simply because it is found written in your religious books. Do not believe in anything merely on the authority of your teachers and elders. Do not believe in traditions because they have been handed down for many generations. But after observation and analysis, when you find that anything agrees with reason and is conducive to the good and benefit of one and all, then accept it and live up to it.”
— Shakyamuni Buddha (500 BC)
Nonhuman animals all love life as we do and do not want to die; they have their likes and dislikes; they love their young; they have different behaviours and can do things we cannot do. Nonhuman animals do not need to be “like us” to have equal moral value, just as certain races do not have to be the same as us to be morally equal. Just as it is racist to view other cultures and races as lesser because they are not like us, it is speciesist to expect nonhumans to be “like us” — or whatever unfair criteria we place on them — before nonhuman animals deserve the basic right not to be used as property.
I’ve talked about this issue before and I’m sure I will be talking about this again, because it’s an important issue that we all need to consider.
Please let’s open our minds to the possibility that we have been duped into believing that nonhuman animals are our property to use as we wish. Let’s open our minds to consider that we have been victims of relentless propaganda which has led us to participate in unspeakable violence against billions upon billions of nonhuman individuals. Please let’s recognize that we (both humans and nonhumans) are all equally morally important. And the way to show our recognition of this is to go vegan and reject using animals for food, clothing, entertainment or other reasons. Becoming vegan is much easier than you think. Please go vegan. Here’s a very good resource