I heard a “delightful” animal anecdote today about a Canadian goose who had been rescued as a young bird by a family of animal-sensitive humans. They had found him injured beside his crushed sibling, took him home, and raised him as a companion animal. The point of the anecdote was to relate, with due amazement, this bird’s remarkable behavior that includes the utmost attachment to his saviors: he follows them everywhere, acting more like a faithful and well-trained family dog than a wild bird. I am the odd man out, I suspect, in my reaction to the story. It just makes me sad, not charmed. I don’t think that this one bird is a genius goose. I don’t take him as the remarkable contrast to the typical “bird-brained” animal just because he shows interests, such as an attachment to other creatures, which bespeaks a true degree of intellect and emotion. People need to find this goose sui generis or rara avis (the better Latin phrase in this instance). How can your generic goose be like this clever goose when we stuff geese into cages and force feed them to swell their liver so we can feast on foie gras or make their carcass the centerpiece for a Christmas meal? We like to think they are not “smart” or capable of affection and that this one goose is simply remarkable. He is a goose and his behavior is not astounding any more than the behaviors of so many animals, such as cows, pigs, and turkeys, when they are not consigned to cruelty and cages. I have a cockatiel who knows my son and likes him more than anyone else. When he hears his voice he flies to him even if he is several rooms away; I might offer that as an “amazing” animal exhibition, but I don’t think it is at all except to people who insist on denying the depth of an “animal’s” existence (forgetting we are animals too) which makes eating them so much easier. I wish I could be exempt from hearing such stories as it only disturbs me. Oh well I am doomed to be disturbed — hunting season is coming to New York State… oh that pesky deer population, must bag a few as a service to what? Our yards? One last thought, now that I have segued to hunting: humans have proven that one of the most firmly entrenched needs for many is to feel superior to someone else: whites had to feel superior to blacks or indigenous people or any one they could find; one tribe or religion had to feel superior to some other; men had to feel superior to women. Even some mean girls have to feel superior to other girls and on it goes. People might not like to admit that they have fallen so low as to need to be better than other species, but I think so. Hunters need to feel superior to other animals. One lucky goose and millions of very unlucky other creatures.
Seneca gave advice on how to achieve tranquility through the use of reason, which means thinking rather than feeling. We see from Seneca’s letters and essays, that there are various ways to exercise reason to gain tranquility depending on the situation. For example, one can reason that there are things over which we have no control, and if we do not have control, then dwelling on those things is completely pointless. Remember the axiom: there is nothing more pointless than pointless thinking. When faced with the really cruel strokes of fate (death of a loved one, disease, disaster, just to name a few), it might be useful to also think about the reality of suffering: we all suffer, suffering is the way of nature of which we are a part, and however horrible things seem to be, they could be worse. Suffering also could be reckoned to have its benefits in improving us as human beings. There is a Latin phrase that states, not to know what happened before you were born is to remain a child. I would say that not to have suffered is to always remain a child.
Another bit of advice to maintain tranquility when tested by external events is to consider how trivial most of the things that we fret about actually are. Seneca unequivocally states that most things are trivial. To support that statement, we need only gain perspective by comparing our modern day situation with that of other people struggling to survive in harsher places or even people in earlier times. Such a reality check with what the human condition can be like should help restore our tranquility when faced with trivial disturbances.
I have recently expanded that line of thinking to consider most of what affects us as trivial when considering the dire circumstances of other species. To me (post Animal Liberation) the human species is not the only one that counts: it is not the only one that has interests, relishes life, or suffers. The human species is superior only in certain ways (other species are superior in other ways), but no aspect of human superiority justifies the principle of “might makes right,” extending carte blanche to oppress because we can. Therefore, I need only think of the confinement and torture of nonhuman species to realize how trivial my concerns are. Unless I am a prisoner of a cruel tormentor who confines and tortures me and threatens me with a brutal death—and of course there are unfortunate humans in that situation—my life, as compared to that of farm animals, poses only trivial problems.
One difficulty results from reckoning how much worse life could be by looking at the miserable lives of others; to foster tranquility, that line of thinking requires a degree of selfishness. In contemplating the abuse of other species, I can realize how trivial my problems are, but at the same time, unless I am entirely self-centered, I become very disturbed. Such a disturbed mind is antithetical to tranquility, particularly at night when trying to sleep. I guess that Seneca would remind me, as I mentioned at the beginning, that the reasonable mind does not dwell on things beyond one’s control, and saving other species in one fell swoop, or even saving one pig (apparently from my experience), is beyond my control. Seneca did address the idea that one could fall into a state of disgust with the world when taking a look at humanity at work. I must advise myself (as Stoics are responsible for making their own additions to their philosophy) to reduce the pointlessness of such thinking by taking action, however little, and by thinking that the world has changed for the better. There is the potential for the slaughter-house to close because it doesn’t take everyone, just enough people with a conscience. No great change ever saw unanimity, just a sufficient number. Someday, perhaps, one will wonder how we ever tormented fellow creatures with the revolting goal of cutting up their bodies into parts and putting their flesh, teaming with bacteria and on the way to rotting, into our mouths to chew and digest.
It is the common view that the culture of a society or group is special, valuable, and worth preserving. The term culture is vast, encompassing all aspects of daily life, as well as history and beliefs touching the larger issues of law, morality, and an afterlife. Given the breadth of what constitutes culture, in considering our culture as valuable we pave the way to affirm a host of behaviors and beliefs in one fell swoop without giving them any thought.
That common view might well be erroneous, so that, to the contrary, the culture of any given society (or large chunks of it) might not be in the least necessarily or inherently special, valuable, or worth preserving. Why should the practices from a long time ago, in more ignorant times, hold sway over a thinking individual years later in a different time and even a different place? The even more insidious role of culture it to circumvent the use of reason –when one can’t muster a good and non-self-serving reason for some act or idea, he or she resorts to the safety blanket of culture. I should give examples here, but then I would seem biased against one set of cultural values over the other, so I will say generally, any cultural practices that perpetuate oppression or cruelty, subjugation of one group over the other, or defy any rational explanation need to be questioned and not accepted.
Two examples of culture have come up lately in the news that exemplify my contention that we should step back and stop waving the banner of our culture like it was a grand accomplishment and consider it for what it is: a load of ideas from other people, who might have gotten things very wrong. First, the story in the New York Times about the Chinese eating dogs illustrates the way we use culture without thought to obfuscate an unfathomable amount of suffering and a practice that could easily be considered repulsive. The Chinese find it culturally acceptable to eat dogs; Americans find that abhorrent because in our culture we have an affinity for dogs. In that difference of views, one might contest that the Chinese are not wrong in eating them, why? Here it comes: “ it’s their culture.” I would say, “so what;” of course it is, but that does not make it right. However, are we right, and is our cultural practice of not eating dogs better? It is better that we don’t eat dogs, not because we culturally find them non-edible, but because not eating them shows a side of compassion and empathy that any society would want to encourage, since those are two good and non-self-serving qualities that make the world a better place.
However, another story in the New York Times flips the scenario between American and foreign culture, putting the empathy and compassion on the other side. The article lends a critical tone to the cultural practice of Hindus not being able to kill cows. American culture is all for killing cows. I must acknowledge that the reason Hindus do not kill cows might not comport with my ideas of reasonableness, being (I suspect) a religious practice adopted without question. However, if Hindus were to question the received practice, the conclusion to not kill them could be the same. By the same token, our predilection for cow-killing needs to be questioned. Eating dogs strikes us as horrible, but cows are sentient creatures, not as dumb as we like to think, that have interests and affections and that most importantly fear death and can suffer (and of course do suffer at the hands of dog-loving Americans by the millions).
Maybe eating dogs makes as much sense as eating cows or not eating cows. The point is all three cultural groups need to question the practice and not trot out the old excuse—it’s our culture. Cultural examination should, like charity, begin at home; let’s consider our practices of not eating dogs, but eating cows and pigs and birds. Food is one of the most central aspects of culture, to the extent that people say they have enjoyed a visit to a foreign land (or not) because of the food. People commonly choose a travel destination for the food. I find all of that a bit silly. Elevating food to a passion does not comport in the least with my Stoic side, but I realize that I am the odd man out on the topic of feeding oneself. Hence given the importance of food and its centrality to culture, let’s take a look at what we are doing under the blanket of culture. One way of questioning the acceptability of animal consumption is to imagine a school field trip to a factory farm or slaughter house. “Children, we visited the bakery and the fire station last year. This semester, as part of our nutrition unit, we will visit the factory farm and its associated slaughter house to see where our meat comes from. We will need chaperones and are having a hard time finding parents who want to make this trip, so please encourage one of your parents to come along with us.”
How can we defend a part of our culture that we have to keep hidden away? Culture dumbs us down and suffocates our own faulty of reason. Reason (of the sort that embraces the value of compassion over self-serving interest) might dictate a few conclusions along the following lines: if something is so horrible that I could not stomach seeing it, then it is not something that should be tolerated; if what I am doing in eating meat necessitates the suffering of millions of sentient creatures then that is not compassionate, but supremely selfish and I should stop it; if there are so many good things to eat that do not inflict suffering, that reduce greenhouse gasses, and that support good health then I should eat those things and not animals; if I can be compassionate rather than cruel and self-serving, I should do that because a world based on compassion creates a better place to live.
Someone’s beloved culture at one time whole-heartedly supported human sacrifice, gladiatorial games, the subjugation of women, slavery, racism, anti-homosexuality, bull-fighting, bear baiting. Reason taught the wrongness of those practices. Consider giving reason a chance against culture to subvert the most pervasive of non-compassionate and bloody of practices at work in America today.
What books have had the greatest influence on your life? That sounds like a prompt for a college admission essay. Many long years away from college applications, I can now easily answer that there are two books. The first is The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy, by William Irvine, which then led to another, The Essays and Letters of Seneca. (I might more correctly say I have three influential works, except those two I take together as responsible for revealing Stoicism to me). The second is also in the philosophical genre: Animal Liberation, by Peter Singer.
What the two have in common and what makes them truly influential is that they caused me to question an entire way of living and to make me change for the better. They both also put together in a cogent and rational scheme disparate ideas that I had formed on my own, but which I did not fully understand or trust. In particular, with regard to Stoicism, I discovered, as I had partly surmised, that no one was responsible for anyone else’s tranquility. We are each responsible for our own state of mind and we can influence our outlook by resorting to reason over emotion. Hence, I had, even pre-Stoicism, suspected that taking your troubles to a therapist or counselor, that complaining generally to others, that extolling and indulging your emotions, including the vaunted ones of joy and romantic love, were detrimental to my state of mind. I had wondered about the point of worrying and hoping—and indeed, discovered the Stoic view that nothing is more pointless or aggravating than ruminating over things beyond one’s control and that hoping causes us to live a life in suspense. I had often thought that if any given day was my last, I should not want to live it differently than any other day –and right I was; Stoicism would counsel to live each day as your last because it could be your last. Also, I had learned on my own the hard way how foolish and empty it is to seek notoriety or the good opinion of others, which Stoicism affirmed. Last, in this cursory summary, I found in Stoicism a context for two axioms I had developed on my own: regret nothing because, if what you did was reasonable, you would do it again; and everything is an end in itself. Culture, perpetuated mass ignorance, and the media had rendered such ideas the objects of a meandering, scavenger hunt in the dark.
Reading Irvine and Seneca transformed my outlook. I rethought a status quo that was not doing me any favors. Ditto for the second influential work, Animal Liberation. Another part of the indoctrination I received from culture, the media, and big business interests was eating animals and the attendant notion that the human species is somehow not an animal species like the others, but rather something special and above the rest. First, as for the eating of animals, I think children would have a natural revulsion to eating the flesh of an animal, but we trick them out of it by disguising what they eat in sight and name. Therefore, I ate cheeseburgers and bacon and poultry. Nonetheless, hints of what I was really doing crept up from time to time. I decided, one type of animal at a time, not to be part of an animal’s slaughterhouse experience and began to see the animal not just the dish. I was confused, however. Was there any justification to eating some animals based on their lower intelligence, on how they live and die, or on my own sense of necessity? How did we get to the point that practices that most people would recoil from in horror were commonplace and accepted? I read Singer’s book, and all of those questions were answered. The revelations had an impact on my daily life and outlook because the concept of speciesism made perfect, rational sense. An anti-speciesist attitude gave a daily voice to the basic moral axiom that disregarding the interests of others to serve your own interests at their great expense is not the moral or good way to exist.
The Stoic and the non-speciesist attitudes that I have acquired from reading do intersect. For one, Stoics denigrate affairs of the palate. I had (even pre-enlightenment) felt that the momentary taste of bacon could not be worth an animal’s suffering or life; a momentary taste should not be accorded much importance. Stoics are not slaves to appetites. Epictetus, by the way, considered meat as appropriate for wild animals and not for humans. A Stoic outlook also encourages thinking and not accepting or following the mentality of the herd. Seneca abhorred the slaughter of men and beasts in the Circus, although the “games” were considered a necessity for the Roman mob. He thought that watching the shows constituted punishment. I would say the same for visiting a factory farm or slaughterhouse. Come to think of it, we might consider it as an alternative to jail for all but the brutally-minded (murderers and such who might find it right up their alley).
The Stoic attitude comes in very handy in facing the shortcomings of existence, and the knowledge of speciesism does underscore a vast human shortcoming. To deal with that reality, I remind myself to do what I can within my control and to not torment myself with matters beyond my control. I can no more stop the suffering today than Seneca could in his time and my ruminating on it into the wee hours of night is pointless thinking. Ruminating can best be offset by some action in the daylight however small—a letter written, a petition signed, an animal not eaten. Another Stoic approach to achieving tranquility is to realize how good your life is by reckoning how much worse it could easily be; just by the subtraction of one hundred years, current daily life is an entirely pleasant prospect. I enjoy unimaginable comforts and privileges that make my life seem like an Eden compared to the typical or even upper class life of past centuries. By the same token, if I include the existence of other species, my troubles are indeed trivial. How could I not feel tranquil in comparison? I am not crammed into a cage, at the mercy of strange other beings, cut off from my own kind, my young taken away prematurely, deprived of doing anything that comes naturally, and doomed to a frightful death. The insipid triviality of human affairs as compared to the suffering of other species strikes me forcibly all the time. The government can take my phone records; the price of something is going up – all the fodder of mundane human life is as nothing in comparison. Last, in the realization department, if I needed yet another proof of the non-existence of anything approaching a compassionate supreme being . . . but I don’t and no one really does.
I would not have written about these books on my college application essay. I would have had dinner with a friend to complain and eat some animal parts in a sauce. Better late than never and maybe even more to come.
A reader raised several issues that I have considered, which has led to this post.
You noted three main issues in a response to one of my first posts on animals. You stated that I was chiefly concerned with pain and suffering, but suggested that there were other issues and queried, “Do animals have rights?” You continued to link rights with the power to reason. You also posited that the forces of evolution outweigh our ability to be moral.
After reading “Animal Liberation” by Peter Singer, I do have a response, which I will give here but not to the exclusion of the complete and convincing discussion of such questions in that book. If I could ask that anyone, at any time and place, to read only one book, that would be it.
Humans favor their species because doing so serves their interests, but to do so is as immoral as favoring one’s race over another or one’s sex over another. The notion of morality used in that statement comes from the notions of Jeremy Bentham and other Utilitarians, that the good of any one individual is of no more importance than the good of any other. Or as Bentham put it: “Each to count for one and none for more than one.” Now why should animals be included in “the one”? We are all animals and though we have the power to enslave them that does not mean it is the moral thing to do because they suffer and inflicting suffering on another creature runs against the most basic notion that keeps civilization together: we should consider another’s interests just as we would want our interests considered. Our self- serving ideas of the special status of our species is in large part a product of the Judeo-Christian tradition. Whether to justify slavery or the subjugation of women, that good ol’ religion always has a part to play. Any question that we are somehow not animals was settled in the 19th Century by Darwin and others. Hence we have “speciesism:” the favoring of our species over all the others.
As for evolution corrupting our reason and compelling us to eat meat (if I read the thought correctly), alleviating the suffering of farm animals and even refusing to eat them does not put us at any evolutionary disadvantage. We are not in any event pitted against chickens, cows, and pigs in an evolutionary struggle to survive. I would say we improve, i.e. evolve, as reasoning and moral creatures by abstaining from meat eating; such abstinence also improves our health and would work wonders for the environment (read about the resources used and greenhouse gasses generated in raising animals for meat).
Some people innately have an affection for animals and find the thought of their suffering hard to bear and the idea of chewing their dead flesh repulsive; I am in that camp. However, beyond that, I had always wondered how we thought what we did to them was defensible. I thought for a time we had greater rights because we are smarter—irrelevant. Various animals differ; we all have different abilities and traits (even among our own species that is true) but we all have the capacity to suffer and we humans have the gift of preventing it—if we just will.
Dear Animal Rights Organizations,
After becoming aware of and deeply disturbed by the suffering of animals in factory farms, I sought out organizations that would help me agitate against agri-business. I donated to the Humane Society of the United States, Farm Sanctuary, and Compassion over Cruelty. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals was next on my list, but I think that organization would have the same shortcomings as I am about to express with regard to the others.
The tried and true approaches to change, which all rights movements have used, are lacking in improving the lot of millions of suffering farm animals. When I contributed to the above-named organizations and got on mailing lists, I was ready to join the legislative lobbying campaign for a federal bill to prevent cruelty to farmed animals, to show up at the pig factory in Iowa to protest, to travel to the gathering on a lawn hosted by Ellen Degeneris and Peter Dinklage and Beyonce to raise awareness about the suffering of farm animals. None of that, nothing similar, nothing at all pro-active politically or far-reaching in the media to raise awareness is in the works. Instead what I found as the strategy for farmed animals is promoting vegetarianism, one person at a time. I am a vegetarian and am glad to promote it, but that is not going to be at all effective to change the practices of factory farms and slaughterhouses.
Where are the full page adds in major newspapers? Why didn’t the recent story about factory farmed chickens present a great opportunity to attack the practices of raising them in metal warehouses? Talking about the disease in the chickens and avoiding the issue of how they live and die is like investigating boll weevils in the cotton while ignoring the conditions of the slaves who picked it.
Please give people like me a change to act and to act in ways that get attention—without that chance, however much we hand out vegan recipes and remain positive we will have to live our lives knowing that every minute that passes marks a universe of unaddressed suffering.
How many of you bloggers have received creepy comments? In a way it shows that one has achieved some success to have enough of an audience to even evoke a response, however unsavory. I received one from a self-proclaimed sadist who stated that while roaming naked around his slaughterhouse at night he relished to taste of human flesh as much as animals. I paraphrase, but that is pretty much verbatim. I thought for a few minutes about posting it as satire, along the following lines: those who accept the realities of slaughterhouses and eat meat are satanic and could easily make the step to eating humans, a la Jonathan Swift’s “Modest Proposal.” That would be very heavy-handed and off-putting, not to mention bad satire; the problem with bad satire is that the reader misses the criticism of the cultural or social issue at hand and takes the words at face value. Upon such reflection, I did not print it. In any event, I think the guy was either a weirdo or looking for shock value. After reading about the practices of factory farms and slaughter houses and forcing myself to watch a few moments of videos of the lives of farmed pigs, this guy’s images are a Disney movie.
Seneca wrote letters as a way to convey Stoic ideas. Here is a letter to a friend of mine. I did not send it to her, although maybe I should.
When we last spoke and I asked if you had started raising chickens yet you told me about a friend who has them whose advice to you was to remember that “they are just chickens.” I recall having asked if one of your chickens were to die, would you mourn it or eat it and thought it might depend on whether you had given her a name. I think that when someone says that an animal is just a chicken of just a pig or just a cow they are putting the animal in a category that is not human and therefore inferior and, further, not worthy of compassion. I have found in reading on the topic of ethics that such a mindset can be termed “speciesism.” Just as there with racism and sexism, one group (Homo Sapiens) accords greater rights and preferential treatment to themselves to the disadvantage of others. Speciesism is justified on the grounds that other species are not as intelligent as humans. However, the question for an ethical person is not whether animals are as intelligent, but whether they can suffer.
How have I made it this far in life without ever having had a name for the self-serving preferential treatment of one’s own species? I am becoming more and more aware of how much I am a product of culture, habit, expediency, and thoughtlessness. We think that we go to college to learn to think critically and that we are informed and intelligent, making decisions about our lives. Most of the time I believe we are not thinking at all, but with heads down carry out the orders of others, even the cruelest and most mercenary in our society. If we are the intelligent species, the ones capable of ethical actions, we might act on our abilities more and question if we want to participate in the process of untold suffering wrought by factory farms. On the more immediate level, if you get your chickens it might be a start to seeing farm animals as animals, which we all are, and not as insensate products.
Anyone out there in the State of New York? I received this notice from the Humane Society of the United States. There is a proposed bill to lift a ban on snare traps for coyotes. Please urge NO on A927a/S2953a by calling 888 570 6848.
I have thought further about a vegan lifestyle, partly in reaction to the comments (which are always appreciated) to my previous post. The vegan lifestyle is based upon the premise that we should not make use of animals, which includes raising bees for honey, wearing silk and wool and other animal based products, and, of course not eating animals or animal-based products like milk and eggs. As one comment suggested yesterday, animal rights might not be implicated in all those activities.
The basic premise of veganism is in fundamental disagreement with the human-animal contract of domestication, which posits that humans will raise and care for animals in exchange for what they can give us—food, clothes, shelter, transportation, companionship. Of course, such a “contract” is a human idea and therefore, like all contracts where one party has the sole drafting control, is skewed in that party’s favor. Of all the provisions of this arrangement, going to slaughter to become food is the one least likely to be acceptable to animals and the most repulsive to people who observe it in action. In the modern age, with the choices we have for eating (even given the immoderate, might I say absurd, importance we place on eating) slaughter is not justifiable, if it ever was at some other time or place. In this category, factory farms are the big evil in treating animals like unfeeling commodities and selling us a bill of goods about how crucial it is we keep eating them.
Diary production is a vegan (although not a vegetarian) concern because cows in factory farms are kept in confinement, are forced to give birth annually, and lose their young prematurely. As I write that, I would like confirmation that what I have stated is accurate and that there are no circumstances under which cows could produce milk without suffering (although I would not take the word of the diary farmers’ association alone). For example, I don’t relish the thought of breeding an animal, but procreation is nature’s way to sustain a species and if we want more animals there is no other way; also I don’t know when a calf would leave its mother under more natural circumstances? All young do eventually leave their mothers. If a year is too early, then would it be a viable model to leave them together longer and then harvest the milk?
Even more than diary production, I wonder about the following. Is it cruel to raise sheep only for their wool if they live in the fields and are inconvenienced only periodically to be shorn? Even the Farm Sanctuary web site on raising sheep says that they must be shorn once a year. I have heard that many get cut while shaving, but don’t we all? Without being glib, I think that sheering might not be cruel. Likewise, if chickens are free range, is it inhumane to take their eggs? And whatever the discomforts (I would not countenance pain or mental suffering) the animals experience in being shorn or in giving up eggs, they do receive protection from predators and shelter — that is assuming the conditions of their sacrifice are not bad and the benefits are liberal.
When it comes to honey and silk I start to doubt. I do recall being disturbed about the cost to bees in making honey, and, having sugar, see no need for honey as an antiquated source of sweetness. As for silk, maybe if I saw a video of the way the worms are treated I would feel differently, but I do not have a concern for insects as I do for animals for reasons of their differences in brain power, their relationships to others and to humans, and their short lifespans. At this point I start to feel that vegans have veered into reductio ad absurdam. However, whether or not this appears to be inconsistent, I do abhor the treatment of lobsters (admittedly not insects but not cute and fuzzy or feathered). Keeping them alive in a tank of water without food (I assume they are not cared for in that environment) and boiling them alive horrifies me.
Although I have not encountered horse ownership in my reading, vegan logic would disapprove of horseback riding. The horse has to work in some way—few are the people who keep horses as pets; but is that cruel? We humans have to work. I wondered when the carriage-horse ban was passed in NYC what would become of those horses as well as heavy draft types ill-suited to do anything else. If conditions were regulated and not harsh, was pulling a carriage so awful? They are not elephants performing in the ugly circus, they are doing a job for which they have been bred and raised. Perhaps it was not tenable to make their work conditions humane and abolishing the carriage trade was the only solution. I can imagine that any working horse might prefer to roam free in the herd, yet nowhere does the potential upside for the animal appear greater in the contract with humans than with the horse (maybe because I actually know something about them). The horse running free that gets Lyme disease dies a slow and painful death. That disease is not a product of confinement, but nature. The horse that injures himself (which they are prone to doing) lags behind and becomes easy prey, which brings me back to the benefits of domestication—animals are put to use, but nature can be very harsh.
Now I arrive at the question that is theoretical but which I would like a vegan to answer. What happens to domesticated animal species once we stop making use of them? Will we raise them for sanctuaries or zoos? They are not companions except for very few people who have the money and space to accommodate and care for such large animals. On the other hand, it would be better for them to not ever be born than to live a life of misery, confinement, fear and torment, and face a merciless death. Living in harmony with animals might not mean foregoing all use of them, just writing a better contract.