"In these last few minutes you have left, I'm going to try and explain to you my justification for holding this stun bolt gun to your head. The simplest way I can put it -- and, believe me, I know I have to dumb things down for you -- is we humans have moral status and you non-humans don't. The thing that gives me moral status is my ability to step away from my actions and contemplate them, whereas you're just a bundle of sensations. You're 'engaged in conscious activities but you're not conscious of them' is how the philosopher Christine Korsgaard puts it. Let me give you an example. The stun bolt gun I'm pressing against your head is causing you fear. I can feel you tremble, I can see your eyes round with terror. The reason for this irrational terror is you lack the ability to step back and understand you're one of the few cattle fortunate enough to be raised and slaughtered humanely. When we're finished here and your flesh gets chopped up and wrapped in cellophane, there's going to be a little sticker that says, 'Certified Humane,' which will tell people you were raised and slaughtered in a manner that met the Humane Farm Animal Care Program standards. If you possessed the capacity to understand this, you'd be calm and thankful right now. You'd understand you're getting the best possible treatment from considerate people willing to pay a little extra for your flesh to ensure you have a happy life. Come to think of it, that's another thing that separates us human animals from you non-human animals. The capacity to feel gratitude. When someone does me a good turn, I thank them. But look at you quivering and shaking in fear, completely lacking in gratitude to all those folks willing to provide you with this humane termination of your life. You also don't appear the slightest big grateful that I took the time away from my busy schedule to explain all this to you when there's a backlog of other cattle I have to slaughter humanely. You still don't get the distinction between us, do you? I'll try one last time. Not only am I about to fire this captive bolt into your brain, I'm also capable of contemplating that action and deriving pleasure from it, which gives me the moral status you lack. Well, I think that's enough philosophizing for today."
Two New Essays on Open Democracy
1 month ago