"Nowhere do the results of these less than admirable tendencies combine to create macabre nightmarish circumstances than in animal enterprises."I see that I left out “more.” Editing one’s own written work is error prone. I should have said:
What about human torture in Irak?
What about ethnic cleansing in Kosovo? What about genocide in Darfur?
None of this qualifies?
“Nowhere do the results of these less than admirable tendencies combine to create more macabre nightmarish circumstances than in animal enterprises.”
The question this anonymous poster posses is an interesting one. The answer seems to be both yes and no depending on one's vantage.
When the question is considered from the perspective of an individual victim, then I think the answer is that the circumstances can be equally macabre and nightmarish. If we imagine ourselves as a civilian grabbed off the street, taken to a prison and held in dismal and distressing conditions, tortured repeatedly, and given no opportunity of legal recourse, or as a monkey or dog, taken to a lab, held in dismal and distressing conditions, tortured repeatedly, and having no hope of escape, and no understanding of why this is happening to us, then the evils are of a like kind and neither is any more hideous than the other.
When the question is considered a little more broadly, say Abu Ghraib and a primate lab with the same number of prisoners over a similar length of time, then here too perhaps, the evil is indistinguishable.
But when we step back farther, the similarities decline. In historical cases of widespread atrocity like Kosovo, Darfur, Cambodia, the Holocaust, the events have been of limited duration and roundly condemned by nearly every nation and political body. They are seen as aberrations, as dark punctuations in human history. As something we should learn from and work to make impossible in the future.
If we try to total the evil of these events with some sort of calculus of suffering - like the number of deaths - recognizing that such a measure leaves out the suffering of the survivors, we will come to a total of many millions who were killed. Combining the four named cases above, the total is probably less than 50 million killed in somewhere around 15 years. Considered together, this represents great suffering, and to each of the victims, as I mentioned above, their suffering cannot be deemed more or less than the suffering of the other victims.
In the case of animals, the situation is much different. Unlike the human victims above, animals are called into existence by us to suffer.
In spite of any and all instances of our atrocious behavior toward each other, we claim that we are such exalted beings that it is just and proper that animals should be raised in dismal conditions and killed because we enjoy the taste of their flesh.
Our behavior demonstrates our belief that we are such exalted beings that any suffering an animal might be forced to endure is just if it advances human knowledge an iota, or even if it just verifies for the nth time what we already know.
We claim that we are such exalted beings that an animal’s fear and pain is justified if it entertains us for but a moment.
We mutilate animals for our own esthetic values, we kill them at a rate that is impossible to truly grasp.
And few people blink an eye at this suffering or give pause to the millions manhandled and prodded and killed every day, to the billions killed every year, or to the millions tortured in the labs every year. And no end is in sight.
At the level of the individual, severe suffering cannot be rank-ordered. To those being tortured or experiencing what to them is torture at the hands of some tormentor, their lives have taken an equally nightmarish and macabre turn.
It is this similarity in suffering that demands that we change the most fundamental nature of our relationship with other animals. Denying that the animal enterprise is grotesquely more extreme and macabre than any past human atrocity is a denial of plain fact.