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I think it's just very inconvenient that animals can have feelings and can suffer. Once you accept this then suddenly a lot of things become ethically very problematic, e.g. zoos, circus animals, pollution, a lot of farming practices. Much easier to deny that and claim that humans are special and only they can suffer.

Which is ironic, because I have many old relatives who used to live on farms, and they are all very attuned to the feelings of animals. They can tell when one is in pain, how to take care of it, etc. Note that it is not at odds with the fact that there are raising the animal for meat, in some cases.

What is problematic is when decision chains get abstracted out and decisions depersonalized, and a bunch of company executives in a room decide how many chickens they need to fit per square foot of space in order to turn a profit next quarter, rather than those decisions being made by the people who take care of the chicken every day.

In that light, the psychology and social systems at play in industrial farming isn’t too different from that of prisons, internment camps, etc. Lives that are abstract numbers in profit equations to decision makers who don’t have to see up too close what those numbers really represent.

Tyson Foods, the biggest chicken firm, gives (sells) chicken to family owned farms that make the decision to cram the chickens in small space, and then Tyson Foods buys back the big chickens. The business is done in a way so that Tyson Foods has all the upside and little downside. I do not think they bore themselves with the logistics of raising chickens, they think of how to market their chicken scam to other family farms.

Thankfully several zoos have become wildlife rehabilitation centers, and some that hold on to the traditional model (like SeaWorld) are being publicly shamed. The biggest circus is all human. Progress is slow, but it is happening.

Many people are happy to admit and even enthusiastically embrace the concept that dogs have human-like emotions, but they will still resist that about farm animals and wildlife.

I think this is more of a new thing. I've talked about this stuff with people who are now in their seventies and eighties, and they basically seem to get that animals suffer in substantially similar ways to humans.

The difference is that humans are broadly capable of understanding the moral consequences of their actions, and in the west we seem to have developed the concept of showing mercy to animals (stunning and sticking rather than bleeding animals out through the neck while conscious).

While some animals have more complex proto-moral behaviour, they would not be able or willing to extend these same courtesies to us, in the reverse circumstance.

Able? No. Willing? Possibly. Maybe the desire to not cause suffering is so common in moral frameworks because it is hardwired into us and into other animals, almost like an instinct-based universal morality.

We inject a lot of assumptions about the nature of non-human animals in these discussions in what I think is an attempt to keep them as mentally distinct from ourselves as possible.

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