Compassion from an ethical standpoint

Essay by carlozt03College, UndergraduateA+, February 2005

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I often offer my time to the Animal Rescue Foundation (ARF), whether it is working hands on with the animals or helping raise money for the organization. I have compassion for these animals that were once neglected or victims of violence; in fact, it is their suffering that motivates me to help, because I share in the pain they feel. But the animals at ARF are limited to dogs, cats, horses, and various domesticated animals, so what about other animals that humans inflict pain on, such as cattle? Cattle, chicken, and other livestock are animals that I regularly consume; therefore can I honestly say I agree with Compte-Sponville's claim that we should have compassion for animals? Why do I feel certain animals deserve my compassion, while others simply get my pity? The only logical outcome I can come to is that I breakdown animals into two different categories.

Compte-Sponville states "to have compassion means to suffer with" (103). I know I have felt compassion for animals, but only towards certain ones (dogs, cats, horses, primates, dolphins, elephants, etc). To be honest, I feel compassion for most animals (insects excluded, since they are creatures that lack a brain and a nervous system; therefore do not know the concept of pain on any level). These animals make up one category; a category of "special animals."

The other category is what I would refer to as "livestock," which consists of cattle, chickens, turkeys, pigs, etc. These are animals that are raised for the sole purpose of slaughtering and consuming. I would like to imagine I feel compassion towards these animals when they are slaughtered, but if that were the case then I would not succumb to my carnivorous urges and order a steak. The truth of the matter is I...