Most people I meet seem decent. They are people who believe in being kind, who often fawn in delight when they interact with non human animals. They are people who wouldn't want to contribute to the suffering of another creature if they could help it. Many mornings when I would walk through a park on the way to work, I would see people who had made the effort to get up early to walk their dogs in the morning, to their obvious mutual enjoyment, and I would smile and think to myself, this is how people can be towards the other animals, loving, considerate, selfless.

How is it then that these very same people turn a blind eye to the vast brutal factory farming system or the destruction and extinction of wild species and their habitat?  Turning a blind eye is probably being too kind, it is more thought out than that. People make all sorts of creative justifications for it and very deliberately avoid watching footage of the brutality which goes on in places like factory farms, as they seem to know what it is they will find.  They actively resist exposing themselves to the system of animal exploitation that they are helping pay for.

So that would be my first request to you.  This system that you involve yourself in, where you make choices about the lives of other beings everyday by your spending, you should educate yourself fully about.  You owe this to fifty billion individuals, consciousnesses that each year the human race creates, manipulates and destroys.  Once you understand exactly what is being perpetrated to non human animals by our culture, then you can be in a position to ponder whether their suffering is tolerable.  Until you have sincerely made that effort, the only rational response you can have to claims of the animal liberation movement that you are repeatedly participating in a terrible injustice on an unimaginable scale is, "I guess I may be".

The human being has a remarkable ability to use its creative brain to justify almost any behaviour to itself.  Some people have never even comprehended the suffering of animals, but many others have and believe the suffering we inflict upon animals is generally justified or ethically irrelevant. To them I now speak for those who cannot speak for themselves.

People too often forget we are an animal ourselves, in the primate family, one of the great apes, with similar biological makeup to most other mammals. The idea that we are somehow magical or different to all other species is more rooted in a religious based pre-darwinian conception of humanities place in the centre of the cosmos than it is in any science.  Darwin himself made clear that other animals had a full range of emotions, and science since that time has only deepened that view. Our central nervous systems and their connections to the brain are almost identical to our other animal relatives, they were formed in an early branch of the evolutionary tree and have changed little since that time. There is simply no doubt that other animals experience pain, pleasure and a whole host of other sensations. By their reactions we know at the very least they seem real to the animal experiencing them, just as we use the same reasoning to believe that the sensations of other humans seem real.  On some purely philosophical level we could say that we can only assume other people feel emotions as we do, just as with non human animals, even though they have similar wiring to us and behave exactly as we do to similar stimuli.

The only scientifically valid question one might ask is whether non human animals ponder their suffering from the 'higher level' that we ascribe to ourselves.  Science has yet to answer this question, if perhaps it ever can.  If they do not however, does less intelligence automatically make their suffering matter less? Does the lack of understanding the complexities behind ones suffering somehow interfere with the transfer of pain impulses through the body? Does the torturing of a human cause such deeper pain to the torturing of a close biological relative, that it makes one an injustice and the other something we can simply turn away from?  I think its a logically flawed to say it does, and a convenient ethical delusion to make us feel better about our tacit cooperation to their oppression.

Even if the case is less clear than I believe, wouldn't we hope we lived in a society that demanded unshakable evidence for a proposition being used to justify suffering on the scale we currently tolerate? Scientifically there is no unshakeable evidence that they feel the pain of the battery cage, the coldness of the sows concrete floor, or the sharpness of the hook through the roof of a fishes mouth, any less than we do.

If we take the precautionary principal, this is no logical basis for the unnecessary suffering our lifestyles inflict upon animals. The overwhelming probability is that they feel pain, and if we would like to consider ourselves an ethical, caring person, we should do what we can to avoid unnecessarily contributing to that.

Are we the logical creatures we think we are, is there a logical basis for our treatment of animals? People will consume the products of intensive piggeries without question. Yet, if someone they interacted with were to keep their pet dogs packed together so they couldn't turn around in a room with a concrete floor and no sunlight (only beginning on the horrors of piggeries) until they started having psychoses, we would find it offensive. According to some studies pigs are more intelligent animals than dogs, so how can we then justify the different moral values we place on their treatment by our culture? We treat them differently because we interact with dogs on a daily basis, we know that they feel many emotions similar to our own, because we recognize the reflections of our own soul in their reactions to stimuli. It is the distance of the suffering in the piggeries from our daily lives, not the question of whether it exists, that allows us to tolerate it and still consider ourselves civilized and caring people. Out of sight out of mind says much about our morality, yet this is no basis for morality, especially of humans who would call themselves a 'higher' being.

An often used proposition (excuse) is that there is suffering in nature, so therefore any unnecessary suffering we cause is just part of the 'natural' order, and somehow exempt from moral justification.

This argument is so common in philosophy it is called "The Naturalistic Fallacy".  It allows for all sorts of horrors to be perpetrated to humans themselves, cannibalism, murder, torture, slavery, child abuse, rape, these things have been part of human cultures down through history. Because they are part of the 'natural' order, does this imply that we should do nothing about them as a society? If we accept that this is dangerous logic in respect to humans, it is hypocritical to propose the same logic somehow makes sense when applied to every other animal in the evolutionary tree.

What is natural is not necessarily what is moral, to humans or other animals. Even if it were, it would require a definition of exactly what is natural behaviour, something which science is not at a point to comprehend, therefore it is yet again no useful basis for human morality. To use the word 'natural' as a justification for the intensive farming systems that the vast majority of animal products come from, is an intellectual absurdity. And to say that pigs could theoretically be raised in more ethical conditions, therefore it's not immoral for you to continue to finance their current suffering, is in the realm of saying it is ethically OK to use slaves until they invent some way to harvest cotton mechanically.  What matters is what you do now, in the real existing world, not some idealistic place where animals gratefully go to slaughter because of the wonderful life we have given them. If we are concerned with what is natural perhaps we should let animals be, to lead their natural existences, free from barbed wire, the brand, the cattle prod, the intensive farm and the slaughterhouse.

What do we as a society today gain from our abuse of animals, that it is so necessary that each human life should correspond to hundreds of often torturous animal lives? We can fulfil all of our dietary needs much more efficiently with plant based foods, the highest nutritional bodies in the world affirm that a well planned vegan diet can be healthful and even beneficial, a number of champion athletes, Olympic gold medallists have been lifelong vegetarians. There are alternatives to the vast majority of animal based products, and given larger production no doubt the prices would be less than the resource intensive and inefficient production of animal products.

What is gained, is the logic behind so much of our society, economic value. Animals are abused for profit, if there is any doubt about this look at the level of advertising the industry engages in. Generally the more barbaric the conditions, the bigger the profit margin and the cheaper the price to you, thus cheaper simply means more cruel. When economic interests and feeling, emotional beings intertwine, exploitation with little regard to their suffering is the predictable outcome.

This is what people concerned with animal suffering are trying to fight against, unnecessary suffering, suffering on a scale that only a commercial production system feeding a mass of unaware consumers can create.

We all are confronted with ethical decisions, every decision we make in our lives has a potential ethical dimension. By making choices in a compassionate manner we are able to affirm what sort of person we are, what sort of life others will have and what sort of world we choose to be. If there is any sort of meaning in this existence, it seems obvious that compassion is a large part of it, and that this compassion does not begin and end with the human species, it is about our attitude to life generally.

Living a totally cruelty free lifestyle is difficult in our current society, perhaps impossible, but starting on the road to reducing suffering is easy. Take your time but always have living a more compassionate life as part of your goals and self identity.  Pick an animal product you use and figure out an alternative, there's plenty of help out there if you need it, nothing would make people like me happier than to help you make the transition to a more plant based diet. It probably won't make the difference between happiness and suffering for you, you'll probably actually notice little change, but it will make a difference in other lives.  Ask most vegans what they regret and it will be that they didn't become vegan sooner.

We may not be able to converse with other species, but in so many other ways they express to us what sort of life they desire. We who have been deaf to their cries for so long, as part of the progression of our species should finally start listening. We who have realised that compassion should not have arbitrary boundaries of race, religion and culture, should now take the next logical step and extend our compassion to our fellow earthlings, who seek to be happy just as we do.