Zombies and Animal RightsPosted by Carter Dillard, ALDF's Director of Litigation on October 31, 2012
|(Photo by Marcos S. González Valdés)|
What could zombies possibly have to do with animal rights? OK, bear with me: One of my guilty pleasures is watching The Walking Dead, a show chronicling the adventures of a group of survivors in a post-apocalyptic world. In one episode the survivors are forced to hide under cars on an abandoned highway when a group of zombies appear out of nowhere, wandering up the road. After the zombies have passed one of the survivors tells the others the “herd” of zombies has passed, and the survivors agree that “herd” is a fitting term.
A herd of zombies, like a herd of cattle, or buffalo.
For a lot of folks that probably feels like a fitting term. As they did for Descartes, animals–especially ungulates–seem like insensate automatons, so different from us, unable to communicate or really relate to us, or be convinced by rational argument, and only intent on consuming what they can. Of course, this view of animals has nothing to do with reality. Animals are, in general, self-aware, empathetic, and highly-socialized, with a complex consciousness comparable to our own.
But reality has never stopped people from believing what they will. If you have ever seen late night talk show hosts quiz the general public, you will learn our species is, on average, misinformed but undaunted. Education, awareness, and the truth do not get in our way of doing things–even when we have formed a personal bond with animals. Bill & Lou are a well-known and popular pair of oxen that have been dutifully plowing the fields at the Green Mountain College eco-farming program in Vermont. Recently their caretakers have announced that they will slaughter and eat the oxen despite offers from sanctuaries to take them.
And here is the irony. While comparing animals to zombies makes no sense, insensate and unfeeling consumers of the world around them, and impervious to reason, is an apt description of humans at their worst. From the perspective of factory farmed animals, for example, humans are probably a lot like zombies: voracious automatons incapable of empathy, lined up by the hundreds of millions in fast-food drive-thrus bent on eating the flesh of others. Of course it doesn’t have to be that way. We can educate ourselves and learn to empathize with animals, care for them, or when they prefer, leave them alone. For those of us that won’t, being undead, or unfeeling and irrational, is a fitting analogy.