What about Animals in Religion, do they matter?

This is one of the many questions that people in society today ask themselves and have quarreled over. It is becoming more common to ask these questions because the biggest animal right movements are happening today and are increasing in awareness and momentum. This is shown through changes being made in the live export industry, greyhound and horse racing industry, animal testing bans across well-known brands, community protests, education through social media and a significant rise in the Vegan population which is expanding across the world.

But, even though we are seeing a large increase in animal right movements, it is interesting to question why religion has not played a major role in this movement.

Religion, most often, focuses on love, serving others and compassion; but what I always questioned and found hard to understand was whether or not these morals were extended towards animals? As well as, do religious people believe animals have souls? Or, why don’t spiritual teachers talk more about our care of animals?

Buddhism and Animals

 

I would like to start with Buddhism and their Five Moral Precepts that they live by. They are encouraged to refrain from:

  • Harming living beings
  • Taking what is not given
  • Sexual misconduct
  • Lying or gossiping
  • Taking alcohol or non-medicinal drugs which weaken mindfulness and moral judgment

We can see that the first precept clearly states to ‘refrain from killing or harming living beings’. The key word here is ‘being’, which includes all living creatures including animals. In Buddhism, they are regarded as sentient beings and believe they possess Buddha nature and therefore can attain enlightenment (Buddhist Society of Western Australia).

Though not all Buddhists are Vegetarian or Vegan and although they would agree with the Buddhists teaching, the teaching does say to refrain or to reduce harm, so commonly that is what they will practice, if not become Vegetarian or Vegan.

 

Christian Teaching and the Subject of Dominance

 

The most common argument that Christians and Theologians, such as the famous Aristotle and St Thomas, make from reading Genesis which includes the three words ‘subdue, rule and dominion’ in relation to creation, is the understanding that humans have dominion over animals. With that, they imply that humans should be able to do whatever we like with them, which would include eating them, using their services for work such as on the farm, using their fur or hide for clothing or other materials, or using them for scientific experiments, among other things.

Though the book of Genesis (the first book of the Bible) uses these terms, it does not suggest humans to abuse or mistreat creation. This would be clearly inappropriate in the light of God’s creation which is in the image of God, indeed a God of pure love.

Unfortunately, these terms make it easy for us to justify our continued use of animals and make us feel less uneasy if witnessing animal misfortune at the cost of our own desires. However, with such interpretations of the Bible that can potentially lead to immense suffering to animals, more consideration, prayer, and understanding is recommended to be taken into account before making these life choices.

But what does dominance really mean?

Interestingly, the Hebrew word, ‘rule’ is r-d-h. However, Davis, author of ‘Scripture, Culture and Agriculture’, translates r-d-h and its prepositions to ‘mastery among’ rather than ‘dominion over’ and the Bible even uses the term when referring to a shepherd looking after his flock.

It is easy to assume that the term ‘master’ could also imply dominion and the use of others that are ‘lesser’ than us. On the contrary, Genesis 1:26 reminds us that our mastery among creation is conditional on our creation in the image of God. Which means that this hierarchy that we have over creation is actually subverted by mutuality, because the obedience by which creatures owe to humanity, is actually reciprocated by an obedience of humanity to creatures.

As it is also written in the Bible, ‘…do unto others, as you would have them do to you’ which applies to all human relationships (King 2016).

HealthPost natural supplements and skincare

Animal Suffering Versus Human Suffering 

 

We are continuously made aware that humans are superior to everything and everyone else in this world and this topic is especially brought up when talking about animal suffering. Society makes it seem that animal suffering is not morally significant because human suffering represents the worst type of suffering in the world whereas animal suffering is ‘middle class’. Is this idea rational? (Linzey 2009).

Of course, if we asked anyone, ‘do animals suffer’? The common answer would be that they agree that they do suffer. However, the argument would be that the subject matters less.

In this argument, it is enlightening to compare this statement to other aspects of human life. For example, this way of thinking could be compared to white men (or women) believing they are superior to men of color, as well as the rich believing they are superior to the poor. These teachings, of course, do not align with Christianity or other religious values and so these examples can be used to understand how we perceive our suffering to the suffering of animals. These differences have nothing to do with our moral treatment towards others because we all originated from the same source of life. Therefore, we can see that our defects or perfections do not dictate how we treat each other and thereby the complexity of an animal’s mind has nothing to do with how they should be treated (Linzey 2009).

For such as the man is, he is as God made him and the very same is true of the beast’, Humphrey Primatt, 1776

Are Animals Inferior?

 

Aristotle states, ‘it is not sinful for a man to kill brute animals for by divine providence they are intended for man’s use according to the order or nature…’

What we can say to this statement is that just because animals are naturally inferior does not mean they should be treated morally inferior as well. There seems to be confusion between the moral treatments of others despite them being supposedly ‘inferior’.

If he is right and we do have power or dominance over animals, then it should not be assumed that we give up our morals and intend suffering upon those that are ‘less than’, or that our every use of power towards animals is justifiable, indeed it is about how we use our power morally over others.

C.S. Lewis, beautifully states, ‘It is our business to live by our own law and not by hers (nature)’

Even if these verses did not exist, it makes sense that any power that is exercised by Gods permission must reflect their own attributes which include love, generosity, mercy, and compassion. Indeed, it would be hypocritical if we would assume humans could treat animals with a lack of these attributes and in God’s will (Linzey 2009).

HealthPost natural supplements and skincare

 

Animals as Non-Rational Beings?

 

What is also a common topic among theological scholars and Christians is that animals are non-rational beings and therefore their suffering is less than of humans who are rational beings. This logic comes from the understanding that because humans are rational, we can experience being threatened or can be scared and suffer through anticipation of future pain thereby causing suffering. Animals, on the other hand, because they are not rational, do not experience these ‘extra’ sufferings that humans endure.

But is that really the case? If we consider wild animals being taken prisoner, or taken to laboratories to be studied on, they are left in cages on stone floors and unaware of what is going on. As a result, they experience the terror of not knowing, and because they are less rational, they have the disadvantage of not understanding their situation. Human suffering, on the other hand, can soften our pain by understanding the situation and reasoning with it, like if we went to the dentist and strange tools were being used on us, we can conclude this is safe and for our own benefit. Whereas animals, do not have such understanding and get performed on with these scary tools as well, but usually it isn’t for their own good and would be more so traumatic and painful (Linzey 2009).

Are Animals Moral Agents?

 

Because animals are not supposedly rational, we could say that they have no morals and thereby cannot live by them. However, though they may not be moral agents they remain ‘moral patients’ in that because they cannot choose morally, they can be harmed by the deliberate choices of moral agents. In saying that, we can understand that if animals are not moral agents, then they must be morally innocent (Linzey 2009).

As C.S. Lewis suggests, ‘so far, we know that animals are incapable of sin or virtue, therefore they can neither deserve pain nor be improved by it’.

Do Animals Have Souls?

 

Of course, no one essentially knows if animals do have souls or not. But this question leads me to think, does it matter? Does an animal not having a soul mean it is accepted by God for us to cause the suffering unto another or the understanding that animals deserve more suffering then humans?

Additionally, if animals do not have souls and therefore are not going to be recompensed in some future life for the suffering they have had to undergo in the present, it makes it even more sense that their suffering acquires even greater significance (Linzey 2009).

Again, C.S. Lewis answers this topic of question beautifully,

 ‘‘…if it means animals do not have a consciousness, then how is this known? They certainly behave as if they do, or at least the higher animals do. I myself am inclined to think that far fewer animals than is supposed to have what we should recognize as consciousness. But that is only my opinion. Unless we know on other grounds that vivisection is right we must not take the moral risk of tormenting them on a mere opinion. On the other hand, the statement that they ‘have no souls’ may mean that they have no moral sense makes the infliction of pain upon them not easier but harder to justify. For it means that animals cannot deserve pain, nor profit morally by the discipline of pain, nor be recompensed by happiness in another life for suffering in this. Soullessness in so far as it is relevant to the question at all is an argument against vivisection’.

 

Thank you!

 

Thank you for reading this blog and I hope you got something out of this topic today! There really is so much more to learn on the subject and I will continue to write more about this subject if you’re interested. If you do want more on this topic, please feel free to leave your ideas or views on the matter in the comment section below! I would love to hear what your thoughts are regarding this topic and if you would want to learn more.

 

Yours Truly,

 

Danielle Packer

The Earth Co.

 

References:

King, S.W., 2016. Vegangelical: How Caring for Animals Can Shape Your Faith. Zondervan.

Linzey, A., 2013. Why animal suffering matters: Philosophy, theology, and practical ethics. Oxford University Press.

How is Vegan Leather Made? – An Inspiring New Movement

More and more people are turning away from animal products and trying to find plant alternatives. This is not just with food but also with bags, shoes, hats, wallets, clothing, make-up and skin care. The list goes on!

It is crazy to think how much we have continued to rely on animals for our ‘needs’ and with an increasing population, that ‘need’ will grow, which means more suffering for animals.

One particular fabric that has sparked interest in consumers that are seeking animal product alternatives is switching from leather (made from the skins of cows,

deer, elephants, snakes, crocodiles and others) to Vegan leather.

Now what is Vegan Leather you say? Is it really just as good as normal leather, and if so, what is it made out of?

I was very curious about all these questions too, and decided to research what I could about this topic of Vegan leather and see if it is not only durable like normal leather but if it was environmentally friendly.

I found out that there are various types of Vegan Leather:

1.       PVC Leather

2.       Micro-fiber Leather

3.      Suede Leather 

PVC Leather

It is a plastic called Polyvinyl chloride and is the world's third-most widely produced synthetic plastic polymer, after polyethylene and polypropylene.

PVC is a thermoplastic (can become soft when heated) made of 57% chlorine (derived from industrial grade salt) and 43% carbon (derived from oil / gas). It is less dependent than other polymers on crude oil or natural gas, which is non-renewable, and hence can be regarded as a natural resource saving plastic, in contrast to plastics such as PE, PP, PET and PS, which are totally dependent on oil or gas.

It is a flexible plastic that is made from PVC Resin, fillers and additives to manipulate leathers softness, color and texture.  Once the desired fillers have been added, PVC is used as a coat on one side of a fabric backing.

 

Micro-fiber leather

Microfiber is a synthetic fiber which is very fine in fact it has a diameter of less than ten micro-meters. This is smaller than the diameter of a strand of silk, which is itself about 1/5 the diameter of a human hair… that is crazy small!

What is interesting about this fiber is that it is made out of the same materials used to make plastic would you believe!? It is a natural by product of petroleum production. Now don’t freak out! It is actually a great environmental solution because after the oil is processed, there is a type of 'sludge' residue left over . It is collected, then refined and then used in one of two processes. The first is to make plastic and the second is to be spun into fibers which is woven into materials. If it wasn’t used to make fabric, they would just dump it into landfill!

This all began in the 1970’s where they primarily used microfiber to make carpet and upholstering furniture.  Now, due to the continuing refinement of the this industries production, microfiber can be made into almost anything! From sheets, mops and car seats, to bags, wallets and shoes!

It use to be dumped into the environment, but now it is able to be created into something durable and very well used.

 

Vegan Leather Brands

 

Some vegan leather brands use more synthetic processes including the use of PVC and use a lot of polyurethane to make cheaper and therefore low grade products which will consequently lack durability tests such as peeling, crocking, and tensile strength.

Whereas other brands such as Doshi use microfiber leather and microfiber suede (a type of microfiber but made out of millions of microfibers) which are the only true animal leather alternatives as they were intentionally made to mimic the hand feel of leather and often outperform leather in durability tests. They avoid using pure non-microfiber polyurethane in almost all of their products and almost never use PVC (polyvinyl chloride). Doshi only uses a small amount of PU (polyurethane) with some of their microfiber products but avoid it when they can, microfiber suede on the other hand does not need any plastic at all.

In regards to other contributing environmental factors, microfiber uses no pesticides and there is no dying of the ‘fabric’ unlike cotton where thousands of water can be contaminated and leached out into water ways.

Doshi uses high quality microfiber and suede leather, and has now found a way to minimize their environmental footprint even more by selecting a refined microfiber from Japan where the production significantly minimizes their water-use and solvents which in comparison to other vegan leathers, increases sustainability by fourfold!

 

About Doshi

Not only is Doshi always trying to find ways to decrease their environmental footprint and increase sustainable production methods, they look after their workers by regularly visiting their factories in order to ensure environmental practices are being implemented as well as ensuring their employee’s are working in safe and fair conditions.

Additionally, Doshi aspires to make massive change to the world and have already done so by creating a program called The First Five for the World Initiative where they donate 5% of all sales to responsible non-for-profits working to benefit the lives of animals, people, and the environment. What an incredible Initiative!

They have already made contributions with:

  • Farm Sanctuary
  • Compassion Over Killing
  • Toronto Vegetarian Food Bank
  • Mercy For Animals
  • India Development and Relief Fund

They do all of this and still make sure their prices are reasonable for consumers, because they care about the quality of their product, the ethics and environmental footprint consequences to make the product. It is not every day you find a brand who is more concerned about making a difference in the lives of others then creating profit.

 

Thank you!

Thank you for reading this blog and I hope you found it informative!

Please feel free to comment below your thoughts on this topic, I would love to hear from you 🙂

 

Yours Truly,

 

Danielle Packer

The Earth Co.

 

 

Do Fish Feel Pain When Hooked? The Big Debate

Okay, so I wanted to write a post telling people about how they shouldn’t’ think that just because a fish does not have many…if any… facial expressions, does not mean they cannot feel pain or suffer.

It is very common for people to be pescetarian or for people to question why Vegans or Vegetarians choose not to eat fish, and it is due to this common misconception that people believe fish do not feel pain.

So why is it with fish where we just don’t feel as much empathy as with other animals like dogs, cats, cows, pigs, and sheep?

I assumed it was because they do not do much, make any noise, or do not show expression.. that type of thing!

So when I started researching this topic I discovered that this topic sparks a lot of debate.

Victoria Braith Waite wrote a famous book called, ‘Do Feel Fish Pain?’, she is mutual on the issue and provides a lot of information for and against the studies of whether fish feel pain.

In this book, many of the studies had the ideology that if fish can feel, they can feel pain, and consequently, that feeling pain IS an emotional experience. This is how we deal with pain and there is a great amount of evidence showing this with images taken from our brains as we experience pain and it reveals a great deal of activity in the areas associated with emotion.

The forebrain of the fish works very much like our limbic system (the limbic system supports a variety of functions including emotion, behavior, motivation, long-term memory, and olfaction), which affects how fish learn about processes that have an emotional bias such as fear. It took so long for researches to come to this conclusion because they didn’t know what the fish forebrain did, it looks similar to other vertebrate’s forebrains but as researchers began to explore it deeper, it became clear that its organization was different.  This made it harder to predict where the limbic was in a fish and so consequently, this confusion was and is partly why other researchers have disagreements about whether fish feel pain.

Fish have a simple system in regards to the numbers and connections seen within the brain and this might limit the kinds of information they process so showing that fish have an area specialized to process negative, fear-related stimuli is a major finding. Therefore, just because fish have a simple brain, does not mean they do not feel any pain.

 

Two Types of Pain

What I found very interesting was the two areas scientists needed to address with this question. Marian Dawkins, a British biologist who is a professor of ethology at the University of Oxford stated that there is a need to look into two areas of this fish being able to experience pain question:

(1) Objective form: could be described as the body being in an emotional state such as frustration, when the body is awkward, but it achieves this state without consciously thinking about or analyzing the frustration.

(2) Subjective emotion: could be described as is feeling what it is like to feel something – interpreting and being consciously aware of the frustration

These are two areas that need to be looked into before science can 100% confirm that fish can feel pain and suffering. There is clear evidence that fish feel an objective form of emotion but to say there is sufficient evidence of a subjective form, well that is less certain.

This is due to the limbic-like area in the fish forebrain (which controls body temperature, reproductive functions, eating, sleeping, and any display of emotions) where studies show that fish can view and avoid an aversive situation such as avoiding electric shocks. This experiment certainly seems to suggest fish have the capacity to feel subjective pain.

To be entirely sure, however, there is no design test to provide solid evidence for subjective pain, but in saying that, there is no evidence to test this on ANY non-human. They would even struggle to do this with a human if we could not understand our language.

On the other side of the argument, there are other professors such as Dr. James Rose, a professor of Zoology and physiology at the University of Wyoming, who have stated that the difference between humans feeling pain and a fish feeling pain is due to the fish brain lacking a frontal lobe (which is a part of the limbic system).

For example, when humans get hurt or react to harmful stimuli, they experience feelings of pain. So the same could be said for animals and their reactions to harmful stimuli. However, Dr. Rose is stating that reactions to harmful stimuli are protective responses that can happen to any form of life that is not able to perceive pain, such as fish. All animals have this common characteristic to be able to detect and respond to harmful stimuli

He states that because fish do not have a frontal lobe they do not have the neurological capacity to experience the unpleasant psychological aspect of pain. This point is apparently important because he believes that because many people believe fish experience pain because some of the lower, subcortical nervous system pathways important for nociception (harmful stimuli) are present in fish. Dr. Rose argues that this argument has no validity because, without the special frontal lobe regions that are essential for pain experiences, lower pathways alone can’t produce this experience.

So we have these two views and both are interesting and have their merits.

However, the majority of the science is pointing to the evidence that fish do indeed experience pain and suffer even without the frontal lobe and instead use their forebrain which acts like our limbic-like area.

Countries around the world have legally recognized fish as beings that experience pain and suffering, such as in the UK and Australia.

The RSPCA, (Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) in Australia answers the question “Do fish feel pain’ with this statement:

“The answer is yes. Scientific evidence that fish are sentient animals capable of experiencing pain and suffering has been building for some years. It has now reached a point where the sentience of fish is acknowledged and recognized by leading scientists across the world.”

what Does This Mean For Recreational Fishing?

So what does this mean for us if we deem fish as beings that can feel pain and suffer? It makes us think about our ethical obligations to them, how we treat them in recreational fishing, fish sports, and aquaculture.

It may impact the moral concerns of those that participate in recreational and sports fishing because if fish suffer and are subjected to pain then the use of fish anglers and other methods of fishing need to be looked at and asked, is this moral, is this causing serious harm?

If fish can feel pain, then special considerations in the fishing industry need to be taken place that might not have even been considered before.

 

Take Home Message

Overall, there is increasing neurophysiological and behavioral evidence, evolutionary considerations and emerging Bayesian brain theories which suggest that if fish can feel, they can feel pain.

As well as, if we are not entirely sure or where there is doubt, we need to accommodate the possibility that fish can feel pain and practice our obligations to minimize our harm to them. Because the latter, if deemed wrong down the track, would have brought harmful behavior to innocent and vulnerable beings.

Thank you for reading and I hope you learned a thing or two!

Please feel free to comment your thoughts on this debate, I would love to hear them 🙂

 

 

Yours Truly,

 

Danielle Packer

The Earth Co.

 

References:

 

Braithwaite, V., 2010. Do fish feel pain?. OUP Oxford.

Key, B. (2015). Why fish pain cannot and should not be ruled out. Animal Sentinence, [online] (3). Available at: https://animalstudiesrepository.org/animsent/vol1/iss3/14/ [Accessed 8 Sep. 2018].

Rose, J. (n.d.). Do Fish Feel Pain?. [online] Anglingmatters. Available at: http://www.anglingmatters.com/DrRoseReport.pdf [Accessed 8 Sep. 2018].

RSPCA. (2016). Do fish feel pain? – RSPCA Australia knowledgebase. [online] Available at: http://kb.rspca.org.au/do-fish-feel-pain_447.html [Accessed 8 Sep. 2018].

Varner, G., 2011. Do Fish Feel Pain?. Environmental Ethics, 33(2), pp.219-222.