Monthly Archives: April 2011

On Equivocation Regarding “What Animals Care About”

I often hear animal advocates, in response to a point made by another animal advocate, say or write “The animals don’t care about [what we think].” For example, “The animals don’t care that they are property.” (They just don’t want to be tortured and killed.)

On one hand, this is obvious. Nonhuman animals aren’t thinking about the legal and economic structures of their slavery, their moral status, or what plans human animals have in store for them, perhaps until they smell the stench of death and blood on the slaughterhouse floor.

On the other hand, it is stupidly disingenuous in that it equivocates between what the animals are aware of (i.e. “what they care about”) versus what is in their best interest (what they would care about if they were aware of our concepts and what we are thinking, which has very real consequences). For example, “the animals don’t care” if everyone is vegan, or if they are property, or what their current moral status is, but that is solely because they don’t use our language or concepts. However, it is in their best interest if everyone is vegan, if they are not property, and if they are considered persons in the moral community.

So, if you have been guilty of suggesting that nonhuman animals don’t care about . . . [what we think], please keep in mind that many of us can see through your bullshit. What matters is what nonhuman animals would care about if they used our language and concepts, not what they are aware of regarding our beliefs, thoughts, and concepts. What matters is what is or would be in their best interest.

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