Rationalizing Cruelty

“I know what it feels like to be hurt, and I don’t want to cause that pain to any other person or creature. But somehow, in society, we numb ourselves in order to make money or to feel better about ourselves, such as with cosmetics or food. We say to ourselves, I’m going to use this animal. I’m going to say it doesn’t have much worth so that I can allow myself to do these cruel things. And that just isn’t fair.” — Alicia Silverstone 

I couldn’t understand how humans could hurt and abuse animals so badly on farms, in slaughterhouses and in research labs until I looked further into human psychology and found that we need to somehow make creatures worthless in order to hurt, use and kill them so horribly for our benefit.

How else could a fur trapper leave an animal in his snare for days on end unless he thinks the animal doesn’t matter or feel pain the way that he does? How could the researcher in the lab perform countless cruel and unnecessary experiments on innocent animals? How could slaughterhouse workers jab innocent animals with electric prods and not care for sick or injured animals, or farm workers cut off an animal’s testicles without anesthesia?

For furs, cosmetics, food….the workers in these industries have to see these animals as unfeeling and worthless in order to be able to continue to do their otherwise horrifying work. And the huge numbers of animals involved just makes their job even harder to accept so they have to find a way that allows them to continue.  

Seeing the animal as worthless or undeserving of respect and care is a coping strategy for an otherwise unimaginable task.

Many slaughterhouse workers become so desensitized to protect themselves from the horror of their jobs that sadly, they become even crueller.

Much in the same way as we were able to rationalize slavery by viewing fellow humans as less than us or even like animals so that we could ‘use’ them for our benefit, or Hitler seeing Jews as ‘untermenschen’ or sub-human, historically, we have convinced ourselves that fellow humans were less than us so that we could continue onward with our own selfish goals.

In this way, we see animals. They are seen as undeserving of our care and understanding.

Just as Alicia says above, we convince ourselves that the animals don’t feel pain as we do and don’t matter as much. This way we continue to be blind to the realities of their lives and what they are forced to give us so that we can have what we want.