Since I posted Veganism: The Fundamental Principle of the Abolitionist Movement yesterday, I have received a number of emails from people who found the analysis helpful to their thinking about the issue. A number of people have asked questions which, although different in their particular aspects, focus generally on two issues—the status of animals as property and the rape analogy. I am offering this to address these two general issues.
Animals as Property
First, some people have asked me to explain in greater detail the point about animal welfare failing because animals are property.
In an extremely abbreviated nutshell: Animals are property; they are economic commodities. Because animals are property, they are regarded exclusively as means to our ends. Animals have no inherent value; they only have extrinsic or conditional value to the extent that we value them. As far as the law is concerned, nonhuman animals are no different from any other of the things that we own.
There is, of course, a factual difference between animal property and other sorts of property in that unlike our cars, iPods, etc., nonhuman animals are sentient. They have subjective awareness. They have interests. There are things that nonhumans want, desire, or prefer—in particular, they have an interest in not suffering, not experiencing pain, and continuing to live. In this important way, animal property is different from every other sort of property. A cow is a sentient being who is subjectively aware and can suffer; an iPod is not a sentient being and has no subjective awareness. There is nothing that an iPod wants, desires, or prefers.
The problem is that it costs money to give protection to animal interests. For the most part, we only protect those animal interests that we get an economic benefit from protecting.