“Can we recognise animals as subjects with agency – without turning them into humans?”

7, 500 years ago in central Europe, Dairy Farms popped into existence and mankind discovered cows milk. Flash forward to the present, and there are now so many cows bred specifically for meat and dairy that they are literally causing a hole in the ozone layer.
Not all of us have had the displeasure of seeing exactly how these products came to be on our shelves in the supermarket, even ones who have still happily consume and continue to contribute to the demand, while the rest are content to sit idly by, munching on flesh and preferring to not think about where it came from.

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Animals have always lived among us, as far back as 10,000 years ago when cats were first domesticated in ancient Egypt. Even then, arguably less evolved as we are now, we were able to look beyond our greed and recognise animals for what they were – companions.
So why do we continue to pick and choose our favourites? What contributing factors come into play when we decide to play God with different species? Who gets to live and who dies?

As humans, we often form attachments with non-human beings or objects, anthropomorphism is older than the internet itself. We adopt dogs, cats, guinea pigs, ferrets, rabbits and even rats to love and form relationships with (I have two cats myself) and yet when faced with the thought of consuming that beloved pet, it’s seen as unbearable, hideous, inhumane. Why?
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It is easy to see why we form these kinds of relationships when you grow up in a world ruled by disney and cartoons. Where your best friend is a little dog with little problems – just like you. Children empathise with these characters, and this form of media is what creates that curiosity and understanding that paves the way for the bonds we have for animals later in life.

In her book Perceptions of Animals in American Culture‘, Elizabeth Lawrence states that: “Among the explanations for why we in Western culture, and particularly in contemporary American society, neotenized our animals as we do is our need to gain a sense control over them. As docile and playful ‘children,’ they may be relegated to a separate category, without full citizenship in our world”.

I agree with this argument, non-human animals are considered second class citizens in our world. The fact that we consume them alone is a testament that we see them as less than we are.

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