(US-ut) In our dealings with animals, good feelings count
- [opinion from Salt Lake Tribune]
Shoppers who walk into a Whole Foods Market can no longer purchase
live lobsters. The company - the world's largest natural foods grocery
- recently banned their sale, citing concerns that lobsters are not
treated humanely enough en route from the boat to the dinner plate.
Why this concern for a crustacean? Because scientific evidence
indicates that lobsters feel. They have a nervous system and senses,
including vision, touch and chemical perception. They approach good
things and avoid bad things. They can live a century, they learn and
they remember. There is even evidence that they play.
The capacity for feeling both good and bad things - the scholarly term
is "sentience" - is central to the ethics of how we treat animals. If
you're sentient, you have some quality of life at stake, and you
deserve moral consideration.
What are the implications for humankind's relationship to animals when
we acknowledge and embrace the richness of their sensory experiences?
It is sometimes convenient to exclude animals from our sphere of moral
concern - as we do, for example, in the making of foie gras or lobster
salad or in the meat industry in general. But is it right?
Because animals can enjoy life, our moral obligations to them are
greater. We may not have an obligation to provide pleasure to animals,
but actively depriving them of the opportunity to fulfill natural
pleasures - as we do when we cage or kill them - is another matter. As
we awaken to the rich landscapes of animal sentience, it only follows
that lobster tanks and foie gras are on their way out.
Jonathan Balcombe is an ethologist and research scientist with the
Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine and the author of
"Pleasurable Kingdom: Animals and the Nature of Feeling Good." Readers
may write to him at: PCRM, 5100 Wisconsin Avenue NW, Suite 400,
Washington, D.C. 20016; Web site: www.pcrm.org.
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