In my previous post, I commented on Morrissey’s disgraceful comparison of the victims of the recent terror attacks in Norway to animals killed for consumption in fast food restaurants. I thought that the egregiousness of this comparison, and the concept that humans are more important than other animals was self evident. Apparently not. My comments provoked a hive of debate on Facebook (mainly with Hayley Stevens) and I’ve been asked to justify my belief that humans are more important that other animals by Hayley and Matt Holland. I’m not one to turn down such a monumental challenge so here is a long explanation, and for the sake of brevity, a short explanation.
Which is more important?
The Long Explanation
Before I start, I should say that this is not going to be a critique of vegetarianism. There are many arguments for and against vegetarianism, I am simply going to concentrate on the importance of humans compared to other animals. When discussing ‘importance’, it’s essential to define the context. I know that in the context of the entire universe, pretty much all life is worthless. We are all organisms on a little planet that orbits a bog standard star set in one of many billions of galaxies. One day our sun will expand and that will be the end of us. But of course, you can’t judge worth in that context. Whatever criteria we imply to worth, we can’t get away from the fact the it is we human beings who are defining it.
And so I come to my first point: imagination. Humans have the power of imagination, and as far as I’m aware (please correct me if I’m wrong) animals do not. The power to visualize things that we do not directly experience is what caused humans to flourish in the first place. It is an incredible ability in the animal kingdom and it leads me to my second point, which is cognition. We humans, as well as possessing imaginations, are also self aware. We have the ability to question our own existence, and we have concepts such as ethics and compassion. Animals (certainly ‘lower’ animals such as insects) do not possess such concepts. The concept of free will is one that has taxed philosophers for millennia, but it is clear that we are not automatons like most animals are.
My third point is potential. When a human is born, it has the potential to go on and do so much more than any other animal can. It could grow up to make contributions to science, medicine, the arts etc, enriching not just it’s own life but the lives of all around them, human and non-human. Animals can make a difference, but not consciously and not on the same scale that humans can. In this respect, both humans and other animals have “worth”, but humans have much more worth than animals, making them more important.
So in summary, humans are more important than animals because of traits such as imagination, intelligence and technology. I’d love to hear any arguments to the contrary. Once again, I can’t stress enough that this is not a critique of vegetarianism.
The Short Explanation
We went to the fucking moon.
EDIT: Hayley Stevens has since written about this post on her blog by changing the contents of a previous post.