As much research as there is that shows the health and environmental benefits of a vegan diet, it is a drop in the bucket compared to the research showing that other animals experience the world much the same way we do. A recent paper in the journal Science reported that rats “play hide-and-seek for the fun of it.” Another recent paper reports that other great apes (we’re also great apes), the gorillas, bonobos, chimpanzees, and orangutans seem to understand others’ perspectives, or what is referred to in the literature as having a “theory of mind.” Animals who act as if they are alert and mindful probably are. Fish for instance.
The volume of new scientific evidence that animals have minds quite similar to our own has become a veritable avalanche. They have emotions, they plan ahead, they can be altruistic, and they can be mean and dishonest, just like us. And that’s the point, they are so much like us that we should treat them like we want to be treated. We should embrace The Golden Rule.
In western culture, there was a time when only white land-owning men had rights. Slowly, others have gained entrance to the of rights-bearing club. Today, we criticize governments and groups that try to exclude others because of the idea that all of us are equal – no matter our differences – when it comes to deserving basic rights.
The old worn out arguments that were used to keep others out of the privileged class are still being appealed to when it comes to our treatment of animals: they don’t look like us, they communicate differently than we do, they aren’t as smart as us, but so what? Focusing on our differences has led to atrocities and genocides over the centuries. It is this mindset that has caused and is contributing to the the Anthropocene extinction.
Nature is collapsing because we see other animals as things, as them, rather than as beings like us who need homes, who don’t want to be hurt, who simply want to be happy. Go vegan, for you own health, for the planet’s health, but mostly for the animals.