There are many polemics between vegans and omnivores. One that appears more often than not is the claim by omnivores that humans have the right to kill animals because we are intellectually and morally superior to them. They also claim that it is fair that those who are stronger and more dominant survive in the food chain. Let’s take a deep breath and discuss these two “arguments”.
1. Humans as a species are intellectually superior to animals and therefore have the right to kill them.
This argument sounds very dangerous! Some people obviously forget that even among themselves, these arguments about the superiority of certain people over others have led to various horrors, such as racism, slavery, the Holocaust, and other forms of discrimination that unfortunately still occur today in the modern world. The question is, what does intellectual superiority have to do with the right to kill? If we really considered it justified to kill beings who are intellectually inferior, then those in society with a lower IQ would not be having a good time at all. How about we all have IQ tests, and whoever has an IQ below 80 ends up as steak on the grill? Clearly, intelligence as a criterion by which to measure the value of one’s life is a flawed argument.
We have people in society who have an extremely high IQ but lack compassion and tolerance. History is full of characters who were very intelligent but committed horrific crimes. So what would be the criterion of superiority that could ever justify killing? Can an intelligent excuse be found at all for killing innocent animals?
Some of the most intelligent people of mankind, Nikola Tesla, Leo Tolstoy, Albert Einstein, and Da Vinci, believed that eating meat was not a good choice. A wise man would not turn his body into a graveyard of animals and would not eat something that harms their own health.
If we assume that one who is intellectually superior to us has the right to do with us whatever he wants, we can also imagine the following scenario: One day, aliens descend to earth. It appears that they are superior to men, both emotionally and intellectually. They give us intelligence tests to solve in half an hour and through these, they realize how stupid we are compared to them. Does that give them the right to then imprison us, torture us, and eat us when they are hungry? I believe these aliens would be so intelligent that they would realize that with great power comes greater responsibility.
2. Those who are stronger and more dominant survive in the food chain.
Another argument that omnivores like to mention to justify killing animals is evolution. They believe that the foundation of evolution is the struggle for supremacy and survival. That argument could work at a time when man still lived in a cave and fought for survival. Today, however, it is absurd to talk about “survival” because, for most people, plant-based foods are readily available. It has also been scientifically proven that in these plant foods, man has all the necessary nutrients to survive. Most of us do not live on a desert island where there are few food options except, say, some wild chickens or pigs. Even in that rare case, few would have the ability to kill these animals for food on their own.
Man is the only living creature that is incredibly self-destructive. Due to his choice to kill animals and eat meat, he destroys both nature and health. Is self-destruction intelligent behavior?
Humans are generally considered the most conscious beings on planet earth. If awareness is on a higher level, then empathy should also be on a higher level. The role of the “stronger” should be to take care of the “weaker”; to feed them, to heal them, to protect them. The best indicators of intellect and morals of a being are reflected in relation to those who depend on their help and certainly, those who need our help are animals.
Humans are not born carnivores but become meat-eaters through their upbringing. It is therefore good to read books to children that affirm positive attitudes about animals as beings worthy of tenderness, care, and the right to life. Among these books is An Unordinary Lion, a picture book about the king of the jungle who decided to get out of the food chain motivated by his health and empathy for other living beings. Of course, we will not interpret the story literally because it is unlikely that a lion will eat grass and fruit, but this fable metaphorically represents human beings who are considered superior to all others but whose point of view can change to a more empathetic perspective towards beings who are different to their own kind.
If we look at any difference at all between humans and animals, we can say with certainty that it is the possibility of a choice which humans have and animals themselves do not have.
The photo “The Star Track” by www.extremetech.com