When you think about it…should animals be thought of as commodities for business and human enjoyment?

Photo by Farm Sanctuary/Flickr

Humans have a complex and varied relationship with the rest of our kindred in the animal kingdom. Any moment in our modern lifestyles can reveal a different way that humans are using animals, from the leather in our shoes, the tests done on our cosmetics and household chemicals, to the food we eat and what choices we make for entertainment. As a species that has made it a mission to remove ourselves from the will of nature, what implications does this have as to our responsibility to other animals and the rest of the natural world?

The tendency for humans to abuse animals in industry is widely pervasive. Cruelty to circus animals has been well documented as common in practice. Dolphins, chimpanzees and other wildlife held in captivity for use in entertainment lead shorter life spans and have been shown to have a drastically decreased quality of their emotional and psychological well-being. Animals used in research suffer horrible laboratory-inflicted illness and injury, often to be revived just long enough to last through a study’s completion before being euthanized. Poultry, pigs, cattle, and other animals on massive-scale factory farms live short lives in cramped conditions before meeting their end at the slaughterhouse. Animals raised for their fur live in similarly wretched conditions and are disposed of for the perceived value of their skins. In all such examples of industry, the nature of dominating animals as profit commodities in industry seems to preclude an inevitability of exploitation and abuse.

For example, A recent lawsuit alleges that an association of dairy companies slaughtered more than 500,000 dairy cows in an effort to inflate the price of milk. The lawsuit was brought by a Los Angeles firm on behalf of consumers against Cooperatives Working Together, a group which includes the National Milk Producers Federation, Dairy Farmers of America, Land O’Lakes, Inc, and Agri-Mark, among others. The plaintiffs have presented documents in evidence of the cows being killed under the guise of an industry welfare program, in which cattle were prematurely slaughtered as a measure of ‘retirement’.

Doesn’t this type of reckless abuse point to a greater concern: that when animals become a business commodity to be measured in terms of their marketable utility, the reality of misuse is certain? We are raised in America with an image of all the animals of the farm living in harmonious symbiosis with the farmer, but the reality is that the factory farming of today can offer the animals involved no benefit.

Perhaps the place we have created for ourselves in the modern world implies a duty to be stewards, not merely taking nature under our dominion as we have been.

When you think about it…making living creatures a business commodity for the purposes of food, fashion, or entertainment will always carry the consequence of exploitation and disregard.

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