Humans and animals deserve equal respect

The thinking process that brought me to my current perspective on animal equality started the summer before sixth grade, when my family was on vacation in Michigan.

We walked into our cottage after a night out to find the floor covered by hopping sand fleas that had found their way to the light while we were away. My sister squealed and started jumping up in the air, stomping on the fleas. My parents laughed and joined in.

As I watched, I was overwhelmed with horror. My family was joyously, carelessly massacring hundreds of innocent little fleas whose lives were ending gruesomely for no reason other than the fact that they were numerous and seemingly insignificant. Tears streamed down my face.

Since that day, I’ve had many revelations that have reformed my perspective on animal equality over and over again, up to the point where today I feel that they are on the same level as human beings – no more and no less.

What you have to realize when you’re comparing humans to animals is that humans are a type of animal – not a plant, not a fungus, not a demigod, but an animal. Many, maybe most people acknowledge this scientific fact. However, almost all still feel that our species is superior to others, whether it is because we are so intelligent, capable of so much emotion or able to do so many things with our frontal lobes and our opposable thumbs.

While these things may be true, I do not feel like they put us a step above the animal kingdom – nor that such advantages give us the right to manipulate and oppress other animals on a whim. The fact that humans have frontal lobes that give us greater mental capacity and the ability to think abstractly does not make us better – just different. All animal species that exist on this planet exist for the same reason that we do: somehow our genes all survived the natural selection process. Therefore all deserve equal merit.

Many claim that animals don’t have thoughts or emotions, and don’t care if they die. However, most animals have neurons, and therefore thoughts (which revolve almost entirely around survival). Perhaps those thoughts aren’t as substantial as ours, but that’s any person’s opinion (which I doubt any animal actually cares about).

Even if animals don’t have thoughts, again, that doesn’t make them inferior – just different. They live a different way we do, but they still live.

It’s also apparent to me that most modern animals feel emotions. I saw a photo on deviantart.com of two canaries – one dead, and the other standing stoically next to his body. According to the photographer (who had accidentally struck the male canary with her car), the female did not move from her mate no matter how close she got with her camera. She stayed with him as the photographer drove away. If that is not some kind of emotion holding her to her mate in the face of terror, then it is something just as meaningful. It is therefore unethical to torture or kill animals, as it causes real suffering.

The next time you see a spider crawling around on the floor, freak out, and desperately try to crush it so that you don’t have to watch it walk to and fro anymore, think about this: you are ending a life because you find the body housing it to be “gross.” Many may find obese people running up and down the shore in their immodest swimsuits to be “gross,” but of course it would be utterly despicable to crush them (even when such folk create their bodies themselves). That would be completely irrational.

Remember when you find yourself petrified or disgusted by a spider hanging by a fragile thread in the corner of your room – it means you no harm, and there is no monster in the room besides the creature that kills for no good reason at all.