Why Some Animals Are More Equal Than Others


Our relationships with animals are morally conflicted. We share our daily lives on an arbitrary basis, with some animals and not others; some we eat, and others we have in our homes and on our beds. We’ll eat a pig, but not a dog, both of equal intelligence and character. We rightly condemn whaling but untold by-catch is wasted in fishing nets every year, critically endangering dolphins, sea lions and birds. We raise cows for slaughter and consumption, though in some countries they are revered.
While many of us keep dogs, cats, rabbits, mice and horses as loved companions, more than 327,000 of these animals were used in experiments in NZ last year alone. Many, to test cosmetics, domestic products and follies such as proposed party pills.
Even our relationships with our ‘pets’ are contradictory. We act as masters to our dogs, captors to our birds, and slaves to our cats. We judge the value of animals based on our own relationships with them -are they ‘smart’ (in human terms), loyal, playful, compliant, cuddly or soft? Meanwhile our increasingly urban lifestyles remove us from recognition of others such as farm animals as equally worthy of consideration, rights and humanity.
Our animal welfare rules and practices are stuck in some sort of Dickensian industrial age. Some New Zealand farms deny animals the ability to carry out natural functions like stand or turn around, thereby failing even basic welfare tests. These include 30,000 sows confined during pregnancy, in crates sparsely bigger than the pigs are, so they’re barely able to move. Anyone who treated a dog this way would be prosecuted. 90 million chickens are killed for meat in NZ each year.
Killing factory farmed animals for meat is the ultimate act of exploitation. Animals are treated like machines to pump out maximum protein, packaged to remove any reference of a life once lived, for masses of consumers deliberately disassociated from the reality of what they eat.
Meat bought is nicely sanitised and removed from reference to an animal’s life and death though it’s of no less value than ones’ cat or dog. When we buy ‘fish (such as rig and shark) and chips’ we are complicit in an industry that is wiping out Maui’s dolphins. We condone inhumane farming practices for the taste of breakfast bacon. But the process of turning a live animal into meat should be more fully considered by those of us who would eat quickly and move on.
The Animal Welfare Act is currently under review and advocates are looking for decisions that make it more humane. It’s likely to be business as usual with cruel animal treatment continually excused because of the costs of modifying existing farm infrastructure. It’s an opportunity for more equality among animals at legislative level, but some animals are more equal than others in the way we consumers treat them too.


  1. Hi Christine, nice to see you blogging. Your position is similar to the Greens; do you think Labour would support Green Party initiatives in this area? Against the protests of the farming lobby and the Greens being labelled loony? Do you think there are there enough people in Labour prepared to burn political capital on animal welfare issues?

  2. Hi Metoo, I don’t know what the Labour Party would support, but I certainly would. I guess you’re aware of the support of Trevor Mallard and Phil Twyford in particular in regard to tighter rules in aspects of the Animal Welfare Act. I know there are certainly lots of Labour activists wanting better treatment for animals enshrined in law.

    • BTW MeToo, this is not a party political broadcast, but a call to an ethical relationship with animals for us all, as consumers and citizens, not just as voters.

Comments are closed.