Do you have a soul? Do animals?

What I write here is a revision of something I wrote on the PETA blog in May 2009 in response to another commentator.

It has never been determined whether or not animals have souls (at least, in the Judeo-Christian tradition), but even to ask the question presupposes a religious belief that not everyone shares.  The question is beggared by its own presupposition.  Beyond that, to say that beings lacking souls are “not important” betrays a species-privilege that is akin to fascism in its basic ideology (“one is better than another”).  How do you know that you have a soul?  If you do have a soul, is not the soul’s journey punctuated by compassion, love, and acceptance?  And if this is so, why would your soul relegate animals or any other non-human creatures to a lesser status, less deserving, and less capable, of those three qualities?  One more thing:  you claim that soulless creatures cannot suffer pain.  What does suffering pain have to do with having a soul?  Soul and pain are not related physiologically.  Pain is not a construct; it is the physiological (visceral) reaction to any unwelcome incursions on the physical body, as well as mental pain (anguish) arising from many different factors–prime among them being unnatural, or displacement of, habitat, separation from perceived partners, babies or groups (herds, bevies, gaggles)–all of which animals suffer as well as humans.  All creatures with a nervous system can feel pain…a system which has nothing to do with having, or not having, a soul.  The soul is not manifest so there is no way to establish relationships between pain and soul, apart from that which the mind can confabulate.  Disentangle religion and spirituality from the very real (visceral) panic, fear, terror and pain felt by sentient beings, be they mammals (like us) or non-mammals.  Don’t be deterred by name-calling or criticism:  just think about it logically.

I wrote this two years ago.  I feel it still holds up today.  As May Equine Awareness approaches (May 14 through May 29), it may be relevant to how we view the animals we consume–whether by flesh, work, sport, or otherwise–and then discard like so many other disposables in our culture (and that deadly pile is growing out of control).

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