How many Journal readers were distressed to see a photo of two men in the process of slamming a roped-and-tied baby animal to the ground in a ranch rodeo competition? This photo appeared on the front page of last Friday’s sports section, but from my perspective, there’s nothing sporting about it.
I encountered this sad photo just a couple hours after listening to a “Big Picture Science” podcast titled “Animals Like Us” on public radio. In it, biologists, bioethicists and others observed that the more we learn about sentient nonhuman animals, the more their emotional lives resemble our own. Elephants and orcas grieve, rats laugh, chimps experience joy. Cows are much like us: bright and emotional individuals with distinct personalities, good memories and an affinity for play and holding grudges.
Perhaps even those who support animal agriculture by consuming its products might object to this gratuitous abuse of calves and other animals who serve as unwilling props for human entertainment. Enter the knowledge translation gap – the idea that, although the empirical evidence exists showing animals’ complex cognitive and emotional lives – they have feelings, they suffer – a gap in human understanding and acceptance also exists. This enables us to maintain a double standard: abuse we would never allow our companion cats and dogs to endure is accepted for “food animals” who are equally as sentient.
Our world is increasingly violent. If that photo disturbed you, don’t look away from the immeasurable harm perpetrated against sentient nonhumans. They need your compassionate voice.