Forget about the question of who is a Jew. From the country where pets can get a funeral, the question is asked if non-humans are our equals.
Reportedly, an animal rights group claimed a zoo elephant deserved some of the same rights as humans and should be freed. The judge refused.
What comes next? To find meat-eaters cannibals? As a vegan, I say no.
The claim we can make, though, is that when we treat animals poorly or raise them to kill and eat them, that seems to train us to be cruel. Yet, of course, that is not as bad as killing for fun and entertainment as hunting. A ‘sport’ obligatory on royalty, to acquire enough cruelty to elevate oneself above the rabble and enrich oneself among a starving People. Ruthless individuals are often reported as children to have been cruel to animals.
Now YouTube shows us all the animals in the world in their natural habitat, zoos become kind of outdated places. Tel Aviv has a safari park—I never visited but that sounds more humane. Or a petting zoo. NB: Not the animals deserve to be treated humanely; we should act only humanely.
Speaking of which, Israel just launched a 10-year reform that, among other things, regulates the gradual transition from crammed cages and chicken coops to cage-free, spacious coops for the egg layers. This certainly fits a People striving (told) to be kind (Avot 1:2). Yet, there is a giant silent chick sitting in the middle of the room. Male chicks are mass murdered, often inhumanely, like gassed, milled alive into dog food, or thrown out and left to die. How nice their sisters will get a better life, but what about them?
So, we should not destroy trees for fun. Not because they have feelings too, but we have—I hope. If we must chop down trees, we should regret it, marveling at their majesty. I grew up in a forest.
Before harvesting and preparing medicinal plants, traditional Hawaiian healers ask them for permission and thank them for the medicines.
The first reason not to murder is not even that it leaves others dead. Rather, it makes us cruel. Like we shouldn’t steal, firstly not because it is dishonest and unjust, but because it makes us into thieves.
Cars are animals because they move too? Paintings are alive because they delight too? Garbage equals protected landscape since it’s inanimate too?
One of the roots of such silly ideas is the Western concept of equal rights. This obsession with our entitlement trains us to be selfish brats. Yet, the Jewish Tradition promotes us having equal obligations. Ideally, this gives the same end results but without fostering us into being spoiled egos.