Imagine walking down the local grocery store aisles as you likely do on a regular basis. As you stroll, you finally come across the meat section. As they lay there packaged neatly and cleanly, ready for consumption, you carefully choose the type, cut and weight of meat that will suite your needs. A plethora of readily available plant based foods stock the store shelves, ready to nourish your body but the choice is simple and benign enough. You want a steak tonight!
Now imagine a slightly different scenario. Same store, same stroll, same aisles. Except this time, once arrive at the meat section, the cows, chickens, turkeys and pigs that you crave for dinner are a little bit more raw that you’d like. They are all very much alive, anxious and waiting to be butchered for your consumption. The man across the counter hands you a captive bolt pistol and asks you to press it against the cow’s head firmly and pull the trigger. As you stand there, pistol in hand, you look to your right and see the produce section of the store. You now have one of two choices: Blow the cow’s brains to bits in an act of violence or spare the animals life and purchase plant based foods. As a Libertarian, the question is not if you could kill the cow but… should you?
The Non-Aggression Principle is a cornerstone of Libertarian Philosophy that teaches, among other things, abstinence from the initiation of the use of force. Practicing anti-war, anti-violence, anti-coercion and anti-aggression can be attributed to the implementation of the Non-Aggression Principle in one’s life. As a strict follower of the Non-Aggression Principle, I cannot initiate force upon another person or use coercion to degrade their freedom. I abhor unjustified aggression and only use violence in the case of self-defense or the defense of others.
If I take a philosophical stand and strive to make my life as non-violent as possible, why would that not extend to all living creatures? Why would I introduce the physical product of a violent act into my body? Even if I consider a living creature, such as a cat, my private property, does that give me the right to initiate a violent act upon it such as abuse, torture and neglect? In a Libertarian Society, I believe that would not be acceptable, but eating meat and animal testing would be. Do I have the right to end its life for the simple fact I crave its flesh? Do I have the right to spray corrosive material in its eyes simply to see the effect? Absolutely not. While some find it perfectly within their right to burn ants with a magnifying glass or eat a piece of ham, they would not dare kick a chimpanzee to death or have a piece of dog for dinner.
In our current western culture, the line on what is the ethical treatment of animals and which animals it applies to is a blurred one with many grey areas. In most cases, citizens of our advanced society have constant access to any amount of plant based foods they wish. The necessity to eat animals to survive is not present, therefore the destruction and consumption of animals is strictly a voluntary luxury. I contest that if a person has chosen to advance to a state of non-violence and Libertarianism, then the line should be absolutely clear by applying the Non-Aggression Principle to animals as well.
At this point, I believe my meat eating Libertarian friends are in quite a frenzy. Most justify the consumption of meat or testing on animals by adopting, whether knowingly or not, the Human Superiority Complex. The main justification for adopting the complex comes from the general acceptance that the Non-Aggression Principle applies only to human beings. Murry Rothbard solidified this point of view in his book The Ethics of Liberty. He states: “man has rights because they are natural rights. They are grounded in the nature of man.” Essentially, rights are not given to man by a higher being but are inherent simply by virtue of being human. An animal, incapable of rational thought, cannot abide by the Non-Aggression Principle and it should not apply to them. He goes on to say “any concept of rights, of criminality, of aggression, can only apply to actions of one man or group of men against other human beings.”
If you accept the rationale of Rothbard as your own, and believe that man has dominion over the whole of the earth, is that necessarily moral and ethical justification to initiate unwarranted violence against animals? Humans naturally have rights due to the ability to reason and to make conscious choices. That should give us the responsibility of respecting living creatures, not taking advantage of them. Just because a baby or a mentally handicapped person lacks what Rothbard would define as qualities for natural rights, we do not use and abuse them with an air of ethical justification granted through a superiority complex. It is saying a lot about the nature of man that we are the only ones able to make a rational choice and we chose violence. As Libertarians, we should be setting the example and rejecting such a hypocritical moral code, not being complicit it in.
I am calling for Libertarians to make a choice to move in a direction that will rid their lives entirely from initiating force and thus becoming truly and completely non-violent.I am calling for Libertarians to make a choice to become Vegetarians and Vegans. I am calling for Libertarians to make a choice to not buy products tested on animals and to practice alternative methods of pest removal. I am calling for Libertarians to realize that all living creatures have a right to life just as each individual human does as well, because at the end of the day, we are just animals as well.
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