Historic moments happen. The discovery of gravity waves is one of humanity’s most important discoveries in our quest for the nature of reality. That’s just happened and we should get ready for the roller coaster of discoveries. There is no reason why we would wait to exploit this discovery. An earlier discovery of the nature of disease transmission would have saved millions of premature deaths, depending on how many decades earlier it occurred. Before we had a better understanding of disease, we relied on cruel and desperate means to steer clear of infection, often based on crude and self-serving assumptions of how nature works.
Sentience gives us the capacity to weigh up options to decide what is best. Long term solutions make more sense but take longer to secure simply because short term benefits require less thinking. The Romans employed sentience in 139 BCE when they recognised the practicality of the secret ballot, yet it took another 40 years before Rome offered citizenship to all Italians. This belatedly became a factor in why Rome went on become the longest ruler of its known world. But the vote was limited to free men, not women or slaves and this short term thinking became the death knell of Roman culture. It was 1911 before all Australian women had the right to vote. What a disastrous waste of two millennia in fully harnessing the intellect of half the members of our species. Slavery is now considered abhorrent but still widely practiced for selfish greed. Short term thinking prevails.
Humans can reason but we often fail the ‘long term’ thinking test. We overlook that Homo sapiens successfully walked an evolutionary tightrope in the evolution of a larger brain to pelvic girdle ratio at the same time as the growth of infants to maturity was prolonged. For humanity, this was the first historic moment. Language and an enhanced sense of empathy allowed these mutations to thrive into civilisations. Communication and collaboration strengthened the civilisations that employed them resulting, amongst other things, in the theory of evolution disclosing irrevocably the place of humans in the natural world. We then understood the source of the sentience that we had long detected that we shared with animals. We could cease allowing primitive and contrived beliefs to largely ignore animal sentience.
Alas, the laws that we employ to improve justice amongst humans break down at the species barrier. Most humans are sufficiently sentient not to believe this breakdown is a preordained law of nature, such was the kind of thinking that dispatched the superstitious Romans. Mostly, the rights of animals are suppressed because of the short-term thinking that ingenuity and commerce cannot adjust to progress.
But this injustice cannot last. To understand why, we need to look at the history of our exploitation of animals. Early humans were a part of the predator/prey relationship that is nature. Our larger brains needed the accessible protein that animal flesh provided. As communities formed, animals were domesticated and herded on land unsuitable for crops. While technology enabled more efficient food production, marginal or less arable land was grazed to provide at least some return. The impact of grazing species exotic to a habitat is now causing considerable environmental damage through impacts such as erosion and greenhouse gas emissions. Hunting is causing instability and collapse in biological communities. Only short term profitability is used to justify the drastic longer term impact. With the available agricultural technology, there is no justification for the inefficient and harmful use of land for animal production.
So the short term consumption of animals is invalidated on logical, moral and sustainability grounds? Is there any justification for eating animal products? Evidence now tells us the contrary. Our nutritional needs may be fully met without eating animal products and, in fact, animal products contribute to disease such as cancer and heart disease. Arguments to the contrary are short-term and contrived.
Human progress will be hindered if we damage the Earth and its ecosystems. Our ability to live together in a moral society will be forestalled if we hypocritically fail to recognise the rights of other sentient species. An evolved social and legal framework in which humanity can thrive will be weakened by illogical and primitive inconsistencies. How could a species that kills unnecessarily within that anachronistic framework not further distort it to justify murder and abuse of sentients of its own species?
If humanity reaches its potential outside of the confines of Earth, animal production for food will no longer be an option. Non-terrestrial communities will not have access to low quality pasture, vast oceans or other places to hunt or grow animals to eat. Habitable resources will be valued and used for quality plant production. The eating of animals will be universally accepted for the anachronism that it already is in our time.
That time will be the end of our abuse of animals or, alternatively, our abuse of animals will be a factor in our failure to achieve our potential in that time. Why wait, why not seize the future now? We have a moral obligation to protect ourselves and future humans in a just and sustainable society. The trajectories of human potential and human morality have now crossed.