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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The last resort of the dim-witted


Your morals are inconceivable glad you are Canadian not American my father who served along side the canadian royal air force and the RAF stated there were differences, now I truly believe he was right ours is a moral question yours is an excuse. This is the 21 century there is such a thing as genetics, use it, do not over breed. I will pray for your soul.

I suspect that this sort of person will only pray for an American’s soul.  It reads like that false piety one reserves for people one cannot argue with because the complexities of the issue far outstrip anything one’s feeble mind can grasp.  This was my reply–not on behalf of the Albertan breeder but on behalf of staying focussed on the main issue:


No need to be jingoistic here. The US can afford to play holier-than-thou since it banned horse slaughter on its own soil yet still sends its horses to abattoirs in Canada and Mexico, or in some cases, abandons its horses by the side of anonymous roads like roadkill. As one US auctioneer said in the Channel 13 report from Indiana when questioned about auction horses being transported to Canada for slaughter: “that’s another country. I have nothing to say about what’s done in another country”.  A minor but deadly hypocrisy there, don’t you think? And Canada and Mexico play lapdog to the US’ preening of its morality–all the worse for them. The heinousness of horse slaughter transcends national boundaries: we’re all guilty so don’t make it about national loyalties. It’s about horses abandoned, transported and eviscerated alive, or left to languish until death is their only reprieve. It’s about them.

Btw, that channel 13 Indianapolis report is one of the most balanced and most thorough I’ve ever seen.   There were many other replies to the Albertan breeder which were civil, factual, based on their own experiences as breeders, and–yes, angry and disgusted–but nothing like the silly petulance of the above which didn’t even address the issue(s).  I learned a lot about breeding from them and nothing at all from the prayerful poster.

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