Do you ever think about the happiness of animals? If you have a pet, then you probably think about their happiness all the time. My wife and I have a dog and we go out of our way to ensure she gets walks, has some entertaining things to play with when we are working, and gets to socialize with other dogs. She may not be human, but we still care about her happiness.
But I almost never think about the happiness of other animals. There is a commercial that says that good milk comes from happy cows, and that happy cows come from California. But I don’t ever actually think about whether dairy cows are happy. I almost never think about whether factory farmed chickens are happy, or if any other animal raised for slaughter and human consumption is happy. But some people, like Peter Singer and Yuval Noah Harari think I should.
In his book Sapiens, Harari writes, “when evaluating global happiness, it is wrong to count the happiness of only the upper classes, of Europeans, or of men. Perhaps it is also wrong to consider only the happiness of humans.” Perhaps we should be thinking about whether other animals on the planet are happy, and whether our actions make them less happy. Perhaps there is nothing inherently special about humans that makes us more deserving of life and happiness than any other sentient animal and creature, and perhaps we should think about that when we think about factory farming and animal suffering.
We clearly care about our pets and see them as members of our families, complete with many emotions that we experience ourselves. We see a consciousness and an ability to experience the world in the minds of our pets, but we still think of them and other animals as less than ourselves. This is how we have ended up with a factory farming system that creates short, brutal lives for animals that the animals themselves may not find to be worth living. We have created systems with huge amounts of suffering, and if we think about global happiness, the unhappiness of factory farmed animals, Singer and Harari would argue, should be part of the equation. I don’t personally think about animal happiness too often, but I do think Harari is correct. I do think we should think about life and work to make it better – or at least not cause life to deliberately suffer – whether it is human or not.