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Animal liberation from below: Toward a radical interspecies municipalism

Moral agency may be what gives us ethical duties, but it is not what makes us valuable. Much of what makes my own life worthwhile — joy, play, meaningful work, loving relationships — is shared widely across species.

DAYTON MARTINDALE: ‘In social ecology, humans and our societies are seen as a “second nature” that arises out of nonhuman “first nature.” While social ecologists want ethical relations with first nature, they generally have little to say about animals in particular. Ecofeminist Greta Gaard writes, “for many social ecologists, as for many leftists, animals fall in the space between ‘humans’ and ‘nature’ (or in the case of social ecology, ‘second nature’ and ‘first nature’), and consequently the topic of animal rights is never addressed”…

Thus, “speciesism” is not arbitrary, but rooted in a significant difference between humans and other creatures. This line of argumentation is fairly common, so it’s worth examining it in detail. Most alarmingly, after declaring the special status of “mentally competent adult human beings”… As political philosophers Sue Donaldson and Will Kymlicka note in Zoopolis: A Political Theory of Animal Rights, it is precisely such vulnerable groups that our ethical theories should seek to protect, not exclude. Moral agency may be what gives us ethical duties, but it is not what makes us valuable. Much of what makes my own life worthwhile — joy, play, meaningful work, loving relationships — is shared widely across species…

A short article like this might not convince readers to embrace animal liberation. But we can agree that the status quo for nonhuman animals is untenable… Few would defend the treatment of cows, pigs, and poultry in industrial farms, and investigations have shown that most “humane meat” isn’t treated much better. This is not even to get into the environmental and public health impacts of modern animal agriculture; on land use grounds alone the practice is woefully inefficient, and a primary driver of climate change and species extinction.

Some maintain that reformed grazing practices will make animal agriculture sustainable (though the evidence remains spotty). But there is little doubt that the actually existing meat industry is harmful. Even if grazing animals does provide ecological benefits in some regions, this does not automatically imply we should breed, imprison and kill them for food… It is impossible to live a life utterly free of harm to our fellow beings. But our societies must strive to minimize or avoid, to the extent humanly possible, the killing of any thinking, feeling creature—be they human or not’. SOURCE…

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