Discuss our various attitudes toward animals. Some aspects you may want to focus on: In what ways are we different from animals, in what ways are we equal? How should we treat them? What is the role of suffering in all of this? What do you make of speciesism?
Animals should be treated with the same basic respect that we would want to be treated with ourselves. There really aren’t that many things that separate us from animals because realistically, we are also animals. One could argue that humans’ communication skills set us apart, but animals communicate as well, we just can’t understand them in the same way. Would you like to discuss the ability to develop and use tools? Because I can find you a few different examples pretty quickly of animals using tools, and even makeshifting tools to use. We do have opposable thumbs which makes manipulating those tools significantly easier, but primates have that same ability as well. Animals have social hierarchies, customs, and rituals, just like humans do. They form emotional connections and actively demonstrate intelligence, much in the same way that humans do.
For the same reason we find it morally reprehensible to torture, hunt, and kill human beings, we should feel the same when it comes to animals. Animals feel pain and fear just as humans do, but they lack the awareness or ability to choose cruelty just for the sake of being cruel. That’s one major example of how humans do actually differ from animals; their ability to be cruel simply for the sake of being cruel, to torture for enjoyment and kill for the thrill of it, rather than out of necessity. In this way, animals are far superior to humans, at least in my opinion. Choosing cruelty through ignorance for the sake of profits is just as morally unjust as torturing humans for fun. The number of animals per industrial agricultural site has grown significantly since the start of regulations with the actual spaces the animals live in not growing at the same rate, resulting in higher rates of disease outbreak, resistance to antibiotics, lower quality of life, and lower quality of nutrition due to restricted and specialized diets.
Speciesism has become a very commonplace thing in humanity. The lucky breaks we had that allowed us to propel ourselves to the top of the food web by being able to defeat any natural predators we may have had gives us a false sense of superiority over the animal kingdom. Because we developed control over some other species, we feel that they are worth less and are treated more as objects instead of the living, breathing beings that they truly are.
There cannot be life without death, and there can be no death without life. However, just because it must occur doesn’t mean we shouldn’t honor the life that was lived before death; especially when it comes to a life that was given so that others may live. If we can believe that Jesus was a real person who sacrificed himself so that we may be forgiven, we can treat the animals that we chose to raise just to sacrifice with the same beliefs and respect that “good Christians” give “the good Lord” who they believe has divine power over all of us. The topic of religion, hypocrisy, and cruelty associated with it is another topic for another time, but aspects of religious attitudes that we should live and lead with love are just as applicable to the topic of animal rights as they are to that of human rights.
Industrial Agriculture 101. 2020. https://www.nrdc.org/stories/industrial-agriculture-101