I’ve been thinking back to a post I read a few months back on Sister Y’s blog The View From Hell (see my blogroll) concerning our greater willingness to put a sick and suffering animal out of its misery than we are to show a similar mercy toward, say, Grandma.
These thoughts came bubbling back up due to a cross-reference with the recent article on Antinatalism, the Greatest Taboo (see blogroll again) regarding the controversial activist who’s offending people by offering overly fecund and irresponsible drug addicts $300 for permitting her to provide them with free surgical sterilization. I was watching my cat roll around on the floor today, and I wondered why it was OK for me to spay her without her consent (hell no), much less paying her $300, while some consider it ‘Nazi-like’ to suggest to addicts who have abandoned multiple babies.
Why is it that we tear up and reach for the knife when we think about kittens being born into a world where they’ll be unloved, uncared-for, and homeless… but the thought of preventing babies of our own species, who are arguably far less able to care for themselves than young kittens, to be born into a world where they’ll be unloved, uncared-for, and foster homed actually pisses people off? Since when is preventing human suffering the province of Orwellian, knee-jerk-response-invoking villains?
What’s the deal here?
It seems we either value human life itself more than we value animal life, or we pity animal suffering more than we pity human suffering (unless, of course, that animal is not a pet species but a food animal, in which case it can be stuffed in a tiny box and roll in its own feces amid a cloud of flies until it’s big enough for us to eat it, as long as we don’t have to witness this or, even worse, butcher it ourselves).
Or is it both? That doesn’t seem to be a logical answer; if we feel our species-mates’ lives are intrinsically worth more than the lives of an unborn kitten, then why wouldn’t we feel greater empathy for their pain? So even if our empathy for other humans’ pain outstrips that which we feel for even the cutest of fuzzy creatures, we’re willing to let them suffer as long as it means they have lives. WHY?! Is it because other humans’ existence, as miserable as it may be, somehow fulfills our need to feel that somebody somehow will continue our existence or consciousness in some way after we die? This answer, if true, is horrifying: we want our fellows to suffer because it gives our lives meaning.
Oh well, at least we’ve spayed a few cats. Have lots of kids, maybe they’ll buy my books!