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Can we deprive animals of the right to live ?

By Matthieu Ricard on September 25, 2018

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Leonardo da Vinci wrote in his notebooks: “The time will come when people like me will think of the murder of an animal just as they think today of the murder of a man.” And George Bernard Shaw said, “Animals are my friends, and I don’t eat my friends.” It’s not a matter of denying that there are differences in intelligence between animals and human beings, and that relatively speaking a human life is worth more than the life of an animal. But why should the right to live be the prerogative of humans alone?

All living beings want happiness and try to avoid suffering. To assume the right to kill animals by the million all the year round, therefore, is no more than the law of the jungle. Just a few centuries ago, the trade in “black gold,” slaves from black Africa, was considered acceptable. These days, there’s still slavery in India, Pakistan, the Sudan; children are sold to work in factories or in the fields, and young girls for prostitution. But elsewhere, generally speaking, slavery is seen as an abomination.

What do people do when they’re exploited or oppressed? They get organized, form trade unions, protest and rebel. Animals are incapable of any of those things, so they’re exterminated. This ought to be completely rethought.