Article by Jennifer Paterson, artwork by Cris Hogarth

We are animals. That is a fact.

But somewhere in our short universal timeline, we set ourselves apart from non-human animals and ranked the importance of these beings based on what they can do for us. This, of course, varies between cultures and religious beliefs, but we’ll focus on the North American status quo.

Chickens, fish, cows and pigs are the more popular food animals of choice. They are regarded by most of having little or no importance other than their so called intended purpose: to feed the ever growing human population. In other words, their lives aren’t important.

We all have a central nervous system. Animals feel pain. All animals are made to feel so they may respond with nature’s safety mechanism of fight or flight.

Fear plays into fight or flight. It is an emotional response to imminent danger or a threatening situation. We’ve all seen pictures of dogs cowering with their tail between their legs and cows bawl for days when separated from their young. Have a look at a pig in transport. The fear and confusion in their eyes is palpable.

Beyond fear and negative emotions, animals also show great affection for their young and other species, including our own. Cats purr and stretch out on our laps in enjoyment, chickens will do the same if you give them a chance! We marvel at interspecies affection and yet we do it all the time, only with species of desired companionship. In doing so, we are rating the importance of the lives of these animals.

But what places a cat’s life ahead of a chicken’s? What justifies the taking of a pig’s life over that of a dog? Is it okay to take one’s life away because we want something from them?

Social philosopher Joel Feinberg said, “The sorts of beings who can have rights are precisely those who have (or can have) interests.” I believe we can agree that animals do have vested interests in their own lives, as well as others.

I could explore this subject endlessly, but the question to end all questions is: If we don’t have the need to take an animal’s life, then why do we?

Jennifer Paterson is a freelance artist/activist in Winnipeg centred around animal and human welfare. She can be found on Facebook as JM.Paterson.

Cris Hogarth is an up and coming comic book illustrator. Follow them on Twitter, @MsElectricFlame.