Leave No One Behind, Not Even the Animals: Implications for the New Meat Alternatives

Leave No One Behind, Not Even the Animals: Implications for the New Meat Alternatives

Alexis J. Nagy (Curtin University, Australia) and Dora Marinova (Curtin University, Australia)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-7350-0.ch016


The sustainability agenda is a modern-day exercise in global ethics. Why then is animal welfare an absent policy within the ethical framework? Why do we continue to see farm animals only as food-related commodities? In this chapter, these issues are explored using case studies to support the emotional complexities of animals as well as the recent legal developments in animal personhood rights. The purpose of this chapter is to establish a logical and ethical argument to push the animal welfare agenda forward within the sustainable development conversation and provide a useful tool for future policy frameworks. This chapter is comprised of a comparative research methodology with the objectives to analyze, compare and contrast secondary research, and use case studies to establish an argument for the inclusion of animal welfare as an independent thread of human rights and provide implications for new meat alternatives together with recommendations for government and policymakers.
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This chapter explores the interconnected journey of ethics and moral philosophy throughout the human condition and its relationship to social justice as an ever-evolving global legal concept. Most notably the evolution of human rights and what it means to the current sustainable development goals are discussed and why it should be imperative that the current sustainability agenda initiates an 18th goal specifically focusing on animal welfare.

Why do we have human rights? This is not an entirely easy question to answer, and the concept of universal human rights is still only a very recent development in human history (Shestack, 1998). Homo sapiens has proven a long history as a war waging species. The only other animal on earth to come close to this type of inherent behavior are chimpanzees (pan troglodyte), who share 99% of their genetic make-up with homo sapiens, making them our closest living relative (Prüfer & Paabo, 2012). A 2005 genome sequencing study shows that humans also share 99% of their genetic make-up with the bonobo (pan paniscus) (Gibbons, 2012). However, the bonobo does not tend to exhibit the same war-like social qualities as the human and the chimpanzee (Prüfer & Paabo 2012). Remarkably there is only a 3% variation between these three species that can account for our similarities and differences, where humans share more common traits with both the bonobo and the chimpanzee, than the chimpanzee shares with the bonobo (Prüfer & Paabo, 2012).

Perhaps by acknowledging that there are only slight genetic variations between humans and their closest living non-human relatives, we might begin to consider bridging the gap between human and animal rights and take tentative steps towards understanding why the human can act with both peace and war. Theoretically speaking, universal rights to live free from fear and torture could arguably be a social philosophy the bonobo has practiced alongside their historical origins of evolution with human beings since their evolutionary entrance. However, the human animal has the necessary neural complexities that have allowed us as a species to develop and implement the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (United Nations,1948).

The concept of ‘life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness’ with unalienable human rights, was written into the United States Declaration of Independence of 1776 (National Archives Museum, 2018). Interestingly, both – the United States Declaration of Independence and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, were drafted as a result of war. What is it about war that compels humans back to a moral philosophy with the intent of establishing peace? Perhaps it is the brutality of war that begets the resolution for peace. Still, it does not explain why human beings crave peace and as a result have turned to moral philosophy to establish a set of universal principles pertaining to human rights for all. Developments in the field of neuropsychology are expanding on a theory that the seat of empathy and learning for primates and some other animals may be found in the mechanism of mirror neurons (Corballis, 2015). The 14 clusters of mirror neurons give us the capacity to not only empathize with others, but to feel what they feel. Our mirror neurons mimic the action and emotion of what we see others do and feel leading towards empathy for their position (Coballis, 2015). From a cognitive and biological perspective, this could help explain why humans and other primate species have a tendency to socially navigate towards peaceful social settings, with some primates, including humans, experiencing intervals of war or social unrest.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs): A set of 17 goals (with accompanying targets and indicators) set by the United Nations as a global agenda for 2016 to 2030; they address current global challenges and although each goal aims at a particular issue they are interconnected and applicable to any place on Earth; areas covered by the SDGs include poverty, hunger, health, education, gender equality, water and sanitation, affordable and clean energy, jobs and economic growth, innovation and infrastructure, inequalities, sustainable cities and communities, responsible production and consumption, climate action, life below water and on land, peace and justice, and partnerships for sustainability.

Habeas Corpus: Translated from Latin means “produce the body”; this legal writ is used to challenge incarceration without a valid reason. If granted, this legal writ can result in (1) release from custody, (2) reduction in the term of imprisonment, (3) an order declaring the conditions of confinement being illegal, and (4) a declaration of rights.

Damsel: A young women who has not been married.

Speciesism: A belief that humans are superior to nonhuman animals; a form of prejudice, analogous to racism and sexism, based on morally irrelevant differences.

Human Rights: Norms and behavior protected as normal or through the legal system on the basis of certain moral principles.

Institutional Racism: A form of racism (or belief in superiority of one race above the others) expressed through the existing institutions within society and supported by its political system.

Case Study: A research method which relies on detailed description of a particular subject, object, or event within its context; it does not allow for statistical generalization and its validity is judged based on shared common characteristics and value systems.

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