"The Cove" is a documentary that I watched yesterday that follows the journey of lobbyists, activists and filmmakers as they attempt to delve deeper into a cove in Taiji, Japan to discover the answers to: what is going on behind these rock walls and imposing Japanese guardsmen? where are the dolphins being taken? why are you being so protective and guarded? and what have you got to hide?
This documentary really questions your beliefs on animal rights. What makes one creature more worthy of being alive than another? Who is allowed to determine, evaluate, and possibly, terminate, the progress of life for any fellow creature on this planet? My personal view is that the intelligence of any animals other than humans is seemingly always, always, assumed to be inferior to that of humans, and this basic assumption is what gives a person an excuse to think it is okay and socially acceptable to terminate the life of another living creature on this planet.
Also, why is there such a strong outcry when people are confronted with news of whale killing in Japan but livestock are being killed every minute for mass consumption by the same people? Perhaps the general society (i.e. the majority of the population that are exposed only to the media and their own social upbringing) is not given enough information about the origin of their meat and poultry and hence remain ignorant of the procedures taken in harvesting and producing a plastic-wrapped and labelled product conveniently placed on the shelf at their local supermarket. If more people were allowed to decide which meat they should buy, not on the basis of comparitive prices or quality, but on the pure basis of origin of the animal and killing procedure used to harvest the meat, then the suffering and unjust killing of animals would be greatly reduced. (Of course, this also raises the question of what is a socially just way of killing an animal.)
The root of this problem of animal rights lies in the complex nature of human beings and their selective empathies towards other living beings. If man is allowed such intelligence and high self-awareness of himself and his relative phsyical and spiritual position to other beings, should he not also be designated responsibility for keeping his actions limited in such a way as to cause the least harm, pain and suffering to other creatures on this planet? There is not, and there never will be, enough knowledge on the degree of intelligence of other animals and every living creature on this planet should be allowed the same degree of respect and compassionate as fellow humans of similar intelligence.
In my opinion, the most harmless and harmonious way to live on this planet is peasant style in autonomous societies, where animals are killed and plants harvested only as needed by each individual society. Of course, this seems impossible given the increasing consumerism needs of individuals (including me) that requires continuous, perhaps unnecessary, procurement of animals, minerals and plants to satisfy the housing, clothing and leisure needs of society.