Sunday, June 6, 2010

Dead Birds

I wrote a long post about this and it somehow got deleted and I don't think I have it in me to write it all out again. I'm going to sum it up now.

Photos of the birds suffering and dying in oil are horrible. I agree.

I've seen these photos linked on Facebook quite a bit recently. It makes me sad too and I understand the urge to post the photos and make sure others know what's going on.

It's important to share in the communal outrage.

I feel that outrage. But I also feel something else.

On one hand, it's frustrating to see outrage over the photo on the left and silence when it comes to the photo on the right.

On the other hand, the amount of concern for the animals affected by the oil leak proves that people can and do care about animals even if they don't personally know them. This gives me hope. I wish that everyone could connect the dots and realize that the animals we exploit on purpose are every bit as sentient, thinking and feeling as the Brown Pelican drowning in oil.

There is no moral distinction between the bird on the left and the birds on the right. Both deserve the right to live free from unnecessary suffering and death. Both deserve our consideration and sympathy and empathy. Both live(d) brutal existences (one accidental, one intentional) caused by humans.

The big difference between these two situations is that one is an accident and other is on purpose. Billions upon billions of animals unnecessarily suffer and die every year on purpose.

Which do you feel worse about? But more importantly, why?


Anonymous said...

I'm just curious, but do you use oil products much?
I don't mean to be rude or offensive with this but if both cases are equal, then wouldn't it make as much sense to abstain from oil products to spare the life of the bird on the left (as well as the environmental impacts of the oil industry), as it would to abstain from animal products to spare the lives of the birds on the right?

Like I said, i'm not trying to start anything, I'm just curious.

Al said...

That's a good question and it's something I actually wrote about in the first, much longer, draft of this post that I lost.

I'm not saying both cases are equal. I'm saying that the photo on the right is worse because it's intentional.

When I pay for oil, I'm not paying for an oil company to have an accident, spill oil into open water and kill birds. It's an accident. There's no intention involved.

With animal agriculture, on the other hand, there's intention. When you pay for animal products you are paying for someone to intentionally cage, cause the suffering of, and kill animals.

To use an analogy, inherent in our car driving is the possibility of accidents. If I'm driving down the road and accidentally run someone over, I'm not morally culpable because I did not intentionally run that person over. I chose to drive a car and accepted the risk that I might run someone over, but that doesn't mean that I can be held morally responsible for that accident.

If I ran over someone intentionally in my car, then I am morally culpable.

One is an accident, the other is something I TRIED to do.

The oil spill was an accident. Animals are dying because of something that is not inherently part of the oil industry. Yes, it happens too often and yes, we need to find alternative, safer ways to produce energy.

But the animals that are killed for food are not killed accidentally. The fact that it's intentional makes it worse. It's something that can be stopped.

Accidents happen. Intentional actions don't just happen. We can change our intentions, but we can't change the fact that accidents happen (though we should try as hard as we can to).

Hase said...

As usual (I don't mean to be boring, bit it's true....), I totally agree with you, Al.

Jacqueline said...

Excellent point and good post, thank you!

Anonymous said...

I agree too.

To me, the oil spill pictures do not spur any emotion in me because i know that the conditions in factory farms are more far worse!

I find it totally surprising that people react so violently towards the oil spill but do not seem to be bothered about the chicken that they eat. Hmph!