Introduction: Next of Kin
This project is focused around demonstrating the validity of my thesis statement:
The suffering and oppression that humans impose upon other animals is enabled by a destructive distinction that we have made between “them” and “us.” When we recognize our kinship with other sentient animals, and acknowledge that they lead purposeful lives independent of their usefulness to humans, we can learn to respect them and work to build a more just relationship with them. This means ceasing to hurt or kill them unnecessarily to obtain food.
In Chapter One, Humans and Other Animals, I look at the way humanity has conceptually distanced itself from other animals so as to justify its atrocities towards its fellow creatures. Language, consciousness, and rationality, being amongst the qualities most commonly voiced to show a vast gulf between humans and other animals, have deserved particular attention.
In Chapter Two, Ethics, having previously established our kinship with other animals, I look at the nature of human ethics and how they relate to non-human animals. The main purpose of chapter two is to show that, generally, non-human animals have been unjustly excluded from the realm of ethical concern, and to demonstrate that animals deserve to be treated as beings in their own right, rather than as means to human ends.
Chapter Three, Factory Farming, serves two primary purposes: it demonstrates the atrocities that denying our kinship with other animals has allowed, and it builds part of the basis for chapter four.
Chapter Four, Vegetarianism, pulls together many of the threads from the earlier chapters. In the United States alone, more animals are raised and killed for food every year than the total number of humans living on earth, and over 90% of these animals are raised in “factory farming” conditions. It is for these reasons that I chose to focus on vegetarianism as an important way to change our currently destructive and unjust relationship with our fellow creatures.