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Sentience: The Concept of Morality

Leona Kim

This article argues that all sentient beings, including farm animals, have the capacity to form bonds and should be respected. It criticizes animal activists who selectively advocate for certain species while consuming products from others. The author asserts that all sentient beings deserve the right to life.

Sentience is the capacity to feel, perceive, or experience subjectively; any individual who is sentient can experience pleasure and pain. I always hear from many so-called “animal activists” about how it is wrong to kill dogs, cats, hamsters, and rabbits because they communicate love through affection and can experience pain by crying or attacking. However, there is video footage of farm animals (pigs, chickens, and cows) communicating the exact same body language as our typical pets. Getting to know your new pet (it can be any animal) is similar to meeting a new friend. If many experienced this, sometimes your friend or pet feels anxious or

uncomfortable when he or she sees you for the first time, but once your friend or pet fully knows your character, then he or she will fully remember you for who you are as a person. If you communicate respect, he or she will dote on you; if you communicate disrespect, he or she will have a sense of aversion against you

Professor Jeffery Moussaieff Masson, an author of the book The Pig Who Sang To The Moon, was quoted in an article about his research for the book, “A pig could be as devoted, as affectionate, as good a companion, as a dog, given half a chance. Chickens, like many birds, could form close bonds with a human who took the time to get to know these fascinating animals. Sheep, who had been dismissed as stupid animals, turned out to have remarkable discriminating powers, allowing them to recognize, know and have feelings about two hundred other sheep. Goats were as individualistic and as mysterious and complex as cats, and when permitted could live in delightful harmony with humans.”


Professor Masson only stated chickens, pigs, sheep, and goats, so does that mean only these animals have the same characteristics as our typical pets? Well, no. Every animal can agree to a “social contract,” which is an agreement for mutual benefit between an individual or community as a whole. For example, an eight-year-old girl named Gabi Mann fed crows in her garden and those crows brought gifts such as a black button, a silver ball, and even a pearl-colored heart in exchange for her act of kindness. Here is another example: there is a video on YouTube called “My Fish Loves Me! He would rather play than eat!” about a fish that enjoys being stroked by his owner.


An abundance of flesh-eaters always state this counterclaim: plants have sentience and therefore can feel pain and suffering too. In reality, plants, including bacteria, are not sentient. What plants and bacteria have is life: the property or quality that distinguishes living organisms from dead organisms and nonliving matter. Plants have neither brains nor nervous systems and cannot experience pleasure, pain, and various emotions. The physiological concept plant perception is the ability to sense the environment and adjust their morphology, physiology, and phenotype accordingly. On the contrary, the paranormal concept of plant perception is the idea that plants are sentient, which has been considered pseudoscience by the scientific community.


The main reason why I am condescending towards these animal activists is because those activists who advocate the lives of many dogs, cats, hamsters, and rabbits, are the same people who consume the meat, dairy, eggs, and extracts from farm animals. Instead of advocating for the “cutest” species of animals, we should give every animal the right to life. We do not want to kill humans because they are sentient and they can experience pain; animals have these same traits so we should advocate the same beliefs as well. Any sentient being deserves the right to life and we must accept this as decent human beings.

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