Are we more intelligent than animals, and if so, does that give us the right to eat them?
I don’t know how many times I hear the argument that humans are at the top of the food chain because we are the most intelligent, but it holds no weight at all as far as I’m concerned.
As Einstein once said
“if you judge a fish on their ability to climb a tree, they will spend their whole life believing that they are stupid.”
Granted, we have achieved some fantastic things that set us apart from other species. The biggest ones, I believe, are complex language and our grasp of conceptual thought – although both can apply to a lesser degree in the animal kingdom.
So why is it we think we can eat animals of lesser intelligence? And what is ‘lesser intelligence’, and how far down the animal chain do you go? To insects?
And on that basis, we’d be eating dogs before we ate pigs because pigs show a much higher intelligence than dogs and, indeed, even a three-year-old human.
Sadly intelligence seems to define which life is worthy of living and which isn’t – and yet, if we can use this reasoning to justify killing pigs, then it should apply to all animals across the spectrum as we very arrogantly put ourselves at the top of the intelligence ladder.
Now all animals have cognitive abilities, even insects – the one food source that doesn’t is plants because they lack any cognitive ability.
And if you’re wondering what cognitive ability is, let me clarify:
“the ability of an individual to perform the various mental activities most closely associated with learning and problem-solving.”
Science now understands that animals (including sea creatures) and insects show problem-solving skills. Not only that, but many can use tools to reach a desired outcome.
So going back to what Einstein said about the fish climbing the tree. Each animal has the intelligence to learn and solve problems within its specific environment, and others, like pigs, show a more advanced intelligence in solving more complex types of puzzles.
I don’t know why we find the need to put intelligence as a reason for dominance over other species except as an excuse to eat them or use them for our own gains – experiments, entertainment, fashion and even as work animals.
Here are some thoughts you can put to the next person who tries to argue with the intelligence excuse.
- Does intelligence define the worth and value of an individual’s life, and if so, why do we not eat dogs instead of pigs, as pigs are of higher intelligence?
- Does it mean that someone of higher IQ has dominance over someone of lower IQ, and therefore we can do whatever we like to that person?
- Does someone with learning difficulties have a lower value, and therefore their life is worth less than yours?
Now you can also ask – What if you could live in a world where you didn’t inflict pain and suffering on those of lesser intelligence and, at the same time, improve your health and even your longevity? Wouldn’t that be the most intelligent thing to do?
And … really? Are we really the most intelligent species? Yes, we’ve invented some pretty cool stuff, we’ve gone to the moon, we’ve got advanced technology, we can perform surgery (although we’re still lagging in curing illness), we can write, and we can read.
But here’s the kicker. Most of us would never be able to survive in an animal’s world simply because we have lost the ability to live with nature.
Take a look at what we’re doing to the planet. We are the only species actually destroying the only home we have. We have this innate ability to consume without acknowledging the consequences. The impact our actions are having on the resources that keep us alive – the rainforests, the oceans, the soil, the water etc. kind of tells me that we are really the least intelligent species. Maybe we should start acknowledging this.
Fee O’Shea is a Gold Card (senior citizen) carrying author of six books, including ‘The Rise of the Modern Vegan’. She is passionate about all critters (including humans) and can be seen out chalk bombing the streets or talking to folk about veganism. Fee also speaks at events for those interested in their health or the vegan lifestyle.
Fee’s website: https://goldcardvegan.com is a res