In the post, McArthur uses a fairly recent incident of the escape of one lone bull to illustrate the strange compassion disconnect many of us humans have with animals. Jay the bull escaped a horrific fate when the truck he and 34 other cows were in (on their way to the slaughterhouse) crashed and caught fire. Jay was horribly burned (many of the other cows were burned alive; the "survivors" were captured and sent on to the slaughterhouse), but he managed to elude authorities until he was caught and taken to an animal shelter. He was lucky. And he was saved in part because many people spoke out on his behalf (presumably impressed with his courage and tenacity). But what about the billions of other animals we in the U.S. eat for food each year? Or those whose skins we wear? Or those we use for experiments or entertainment or deem pests? Why was Jay, and others like him, so lucky?
Part of it has to do with our inability to empathize with large numbers of others. As I've written about before, we connect with the one, not the many. But McArthur poses other potential motivations for our skewed justifications of whom we value and whom we don't:
"We should question our compassion for these animals. Or rather, we should question why our empathy begins and ends with those who have executed a dramatic escape. Aren't the more meek and fearful as equally deserving of their own lives? Why aren't those who have no opportunity for escape equally deserving of our pardon? What is it that we prize in these animals, really? Do we show these animals compassion because it gives us an outlet for the deep grieving we harbour for the harm we cause others but are afraid to admit? Does it makes us feel kinder than our consumer choices show us to be? Is it that we simply love a good story of courage, adventure and escape in which we can play a part by speaking up for the individual involved? Or is it that we understand that animals are sentient beings who can feel fear ( something with which we empathize ) and when they show us this emotion, our compassionate selves can't help but cry out in response to their needs? It seems we are compassionate towards other non-human beings who exhibit characteristics such as bravery simply because it is a characteristic we value in ourselves. It's a narrow, and typically human way of looking at things; valuing something or someone because it resembles us for a moment."
Read the complete post.
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