The Animal Crisis Is a Human Crisis

The systems that harm animals go hand in hand with systems that harm humans. Combating them requires inter-species solidarity.

Alice Crary and Lori Gruen in the Boston Review: Today it is undeniable that the human use and destruction of animals and their habitats, including practices that result in mass animal deaths, have existential implications not only for non-human animals but also for human beings and the entire planet.

Human activities are polluting and destroying animal habitats on land and sea at such a rate that we are confronting what some scientists call a sixth mass extinction. Pollution is heating the seas and leaving them strewn with plastics that degrade ocean ecosystems, while the size and number of fertilizer-laden, run-off–triggered, hypoxic aquatic “dead zones” continue to grow. The wide-ranging destruction of land-based ecosystems is also intensifying. Anthropogenic destruction of animals is enormous, deliberately perpetrated in laboratories, hunting grounds on land, in the sky, and in the oceans, and aqua-farms and land-based industrial farms.

‘We all are in the same boat’: Painting by Irshad Salim (2008)

Factory farming alone, increasingly global in its reach, accounts for the slaughter, worldwide, of around 200 million land animals every day, and the industrialized harvesting of the sea accounts for the extermination of more than 1 trillion creatures annually. These technologies are some of the largest contributors to greenhouse gas emission, pollution, and the decimation of animal habitats.

For the past fifty years, the discipline of animal ethics has been a key site for addressing this human-caused animal crisis. One strand of animal ethics is preoccupied with suffering—suffering that occurs in slaughterhouses, laboratories, and other sites of animal confinement. Another strand counters this focus on the elimination of suffering by urging that we instead emphasize respect for the rights and dignity of animals. While contributions to these strands of animal ethics have contributed to increased recognition of animals’ plights, they mostly presuppose frameworks that obscure the nature of the problem. Many practices that harm animals are embedded in institutions that also systematically harm socially vulnerable human beings. Analyzing these mutually supporting systems of harms to humans and other animals is imperative so that we are equipped to meaningfully intervene in the injustices animals and human out-groups are facing. More here.

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