Farm animals lack intelligence
And they're not the same as our pets
The idea that the animals we eat are somehow inferior to those we don't is a view based on nothing more than our need to justify the terrible things that we do to them.
Anyone familiar with Esther the Wonder Pig or who has interacted with farm animals on any meaningful level already understands that nothing separates them from the companion animals we all know and love. The animals we choose to eat are not only inquisitive and intelligent but because they've been domesticated by humans they also share the joy of human interaction we tend to associate only with cats and dogs. And just
like companion animals can be easy targets for abuse thanks to their inbuilt trust of humans, so too can the animals raised on farms. The difference with the farm animals though is that their trusting nature was deliberately created to be used against them, and the abuses they suffer are an integral part of the system.
When it comes to intelligence, farm animals are found to be as smart or smarter than companion animals such as dogs (an animal we have no problem attributing at least some intelligence to). In fact in animal behaviour and intelligence studies, pigs were shown to be smarter than three-year-old children and even used joysticks to play video games (and learned to master the games quicker than chimpanzees did). Even animals like the often-maligned chicken show high levels of cognitive ability when given the rare opportunity to do so.
And let's not forget fishes, who suffer the unfortunate fate of looking so incredibly different from us that they're generally overlooked completely when we address the suffering of animals. Fish have become the victims of immense, ongoing and socially acceptable (even celebrated) cruelty on a mass scale all in spite of the fact that they of course feel pain, and are also much more intelligent than most are prepared give them credit for.
(You can read more on this topic in the 'What about fish?' section)
Those who take the time to get to know an individual farm animal discover what's already obvious if you
really stop to think about it. They have wants and desires and show happiness and joy in much the same way our companion animals do - because why wouldn't they?
By hiding these animals from sight (and so our immediate thoughts) though, we're able to reduce them to giant groups of 'things' devoid of emotion or the need to be honestly considered when in reality these friendly, inquisitive beings share many of the behaviours we love to see in our companion animals.
Amongst a whole host of other traits, you'll find that pigs adore belly rubs and understand mirrors, chickens
can count and love to cuddle, cows can play ball and will leap with joy, and that sheep like to leap and act
just like your dog.
Some examples of the intelligence and natural behaviours of the animals we kill for food can be found in the videos below. Please take the time to watch them and consider if it's really fair to slit the throats of these
gentle, sentient beings who, just like us, seek fun, joy, pleasure and contentment - and of course the desire to
not have their throats cut.
Seeking Fun or Pleasure
Any honest consideration of the nature of farm animals inevitably leads to the conclusion that they are kind, loving and friendly. They were after all selected to be farmed in the first place due to their gentle, easygoing nature - traits then further encouraged through selective breeding. When this is combined with their intelligent and inquisitive personalities it should come as no surprise that (when given the opportunity) the animals we pay people to kill are every bit as friendly and fun as those we separately dote on as pets.
And let's not forget the main similarity shared by all animals (ourselves included), that be they wild or domestic, farmed or free, each and every one of them wants to be alive and, given the choice, would very much like to stay that way.
"The question is not, can they reason? Nor, can they talk? But rather, can they suffer?"