If we journeyed to other worlds and found animals, intelligent or otherwise, there would be an extended, global debate about how we should treat these creatures, just like we have now about the ethics of colonising or terraforming Mars (just in case there are microbes). Would they be ours to exploit, kill, displace? Do we have the right to colonise or terraform a world already inhabited by animals? The arguments would be long and loud. There would be no end to the conference panels, public debates, books, papers, articles, videos on how we should deal with extraterrestrials.
Yet we share this world with innumerable creatures that we treat like shit, and only a courageous few have the balls to stand up and say something about it. Mark my words, our descendants will look back on animal rights activists as the HEROES that they are.
Eating animals and using them for materials is simply wrong. It is destroying the biosphere that we all — humans and animals together — depend on. Perhaps we won’t realise that until it’s gone; then people will cry and wail: “Why didn’t the government do something to prevent this!?!?!” Well, that’s because that is not what governments are for. It isn’t up to the government to make this change, it is up to us.
Exploitation of animals is also extremely cruel, and I believe we won’t really begin to love each other and create a world that works for everyone until we include the animals in that goal.
We share the world with animals. They aren’t simply a resource for us to use up however we like, because when they are gone, it may be quite difficult to bring them all back. When entire ecosystems collapse, it will take some careful engineering to bring them back one species at a time. It’s certain that our descendants will bring back many of the animals that are now extinct, but it will involve extensive restoration of wildlife habitats, advanced genetic engineering, and an end to the wasteful use of land and fresh water for animal agriculture.
Animals feel fear and pain just like you and I. We have empathy; we know that we do not want our kids to feel fear and pain, so we protect them carefully. Why don’t we care about animals the same way? Because they have fur or feathers or scales? We’ve learned (or, are learning) to love all people the same, even if they look a bit different to us, or speak a different language, or wear funny clothes, because we recognise that we have more in common than we have differences. The next step is to understand that the same applies to animals. We have so much more in common with them than we realise. They are our friends and family that we share this Earth together with.
We really have to stop behaving like a cancer and killing this unique and beautiful planetary biosphere that we and the other creatures rely on, and start behaving like an intelligent and responsible species of the cosmos. If we want to enter the next phase of our evolution and expand into space, we must learn how to value good real estate, and there is simply no better property in this region of space than Earth. To love and appreciate our home world means respecting and cherishing the many beautiful creatures we share it with.
Nothing against cows, pigs, sheep, and chickens, but I think it would be a less beautiful world if these were the only animals left. I like the other ones, too, and I’m sure you do as well. Let’s learn to love and respect all the creatures of Earth, just as we would if we found animals on another planet.