Why is animal justice important?

The health and environmental crises of the past two years have taught us that our lives are increasingly connected across nations and generations. Many of our current activities not only harm vulnerable populations, but also contribute to global health and environmental threats that harm us all. And when disruptions occur, they disproportionately affect the most vulnerable among us. So many of us now understand that the pursuit of health and climate justice also requires the pursuit of social and economic justice. And in the same way, I believe, the pursuit of justice for humans also requires the pursuit of justice for animals.

Of course, animal justice is important on its own. Humans kill billions of animals a year, often unnecessarily. For example, we kill more than 100 billion farm animals and an estimated 1-3 trillion wild animals for food each year, despite the fact that we have increasing access to plant-based foods without cruelty, healthy and sustainable. We also kill countless captive and wild animals each year for research, clothing, and entertainment, as well as through habitat destruction, “pest” control, and air pollution. water and noise. We must reduce this damage as much as we realistically can, simply for the sake of our non-human victims.

But justice for animals is also important to us. Industries like factory farming, deforestation and the wildlife trade not only kill billions of animals a year, but also increase the risk of global health and environmental threats like pandemics and climate change. For example, since factory farming keeps animals in crowded and toxic conditions and administers large amounts of antimicrobials, it contributes to health threats such as bacterial and viral outbreaks. And because it consumes so much land and water and produces so much methane and nitrous oxide, industrial agriculture also contributes to environmental threats such as climate change.

And when epidemics or extreme weather events occur, they can also impact animals. For example, many animals died during COVID-19, either because they were exposed to the virus or because they were exposed to violence or neglect from humans, who viewed them as “vectors”. or couldn’t or wouldn’t care for them. Similarly, many animals have died in floods, fires and other extreme weather events, either because they were exposed to extreme weather conditions or, again, because they were exposed to abuse or neglect from humans, who viewed them as “invasive” or, again, unable or unwilling to care for them.

There are also more fundamental links between human justice and non-human justice. While human and non-human oppressions are different in many ways, they all stem in part from our fundamental tendency to build in-groups and out-groups, and then favor policies that benefit the in-groups more than the out-groups. Moreover, part of the way humans oppress other humans is to compare them to non-humans who are presumed to be “less than” due to social, biological, physical, or cognitive differences. In these respects too, efforts to end human and non-human oppressions are not only independently important but also mutually reinforcing.

What can we do to bring justice to animals?

While many fundamental changes will be needed to address these harms, we can make three general observations at this time. First, we must reduce our use of animals as part of our pandemic and climate change mitigation efforts. Reforming industries such as factory farming, deforestation and the wildlife trade is not enough to limit the damage to animals, global health and the environment. We need to reduce our support for these industries and increase our support for alternatives as much as possible, for example by divesting from industrial agriculture and investing instead in plant-based agriculture, plant-based meat and cultured meat.

Second, we need to increase our support for animals as part of our efforts to adapt to pandemics and climate change. Our current infrastructure is designed to accommodate some humans more than others and is also designed to accommodate humans more than non-humans. As we work to build a more resilient and sustainable infrastructure, we must consider the interests and needs of humans and non-humans. This will allow us to coexist better with other animals in the future, and it will also allow us to harm them less and help them more not only in normal times but also and especially in times of disturbance.

Third, we must do this work holistically, structurallyand comprehensively. When we consider human and non-human needs holistically, we can find common solutions to common problems. When we consider our needs structurally, we can create social, political, economic, and ecological structures that allow everyone to build resilience to the threats we face. And when we look at our needs holistically, we can build resilience not only against, for example, epidemics and extreme weather events, but also against ordinary threats like hunger, thirst, disease, injury, violence and neglect that these disturbances can amplify.

When we consider the progress we still have to make for humans, the idea of ​​making progress for other animals too may seem premature. But it would be a mistake to wait until we have achieved justice for humans to seek justice for other animals. Both projects are important, and we can move them forward more effectively and efficiently when we pursue them together. We must therefore expand the search for justice now by taking into account the interests and needs of everyone impacted by our activity and by seeking to build shared structures that can accommodate all of us, rather than just a privileged few.

Image selected by Jorge Maya to Unsplash

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