We’ve had our two cats, Captain and Khaleesi, for more than a year now. They came from the RSPCA as rescue kittens from the same batch even though they are not related. While I’ve loved cats for a long time and have lived with them off and on via housemates and ex-partners, I’ve never reared them from such a young age and I’ve never actually felt that they were mine. Hence, I’ve never realized until now how much of an actual feeling thinking person there is living within the body of a cat. These small beings within narrower parameters have their own drives, preferences, fears, peculiarities and ways of loving.
On the surface of it, this is a great realisation that we as humans have the capability to transcend species boundaries to emotionally relate, recognise and bond with other living beings. The deeper realisation is not so comforting: that since I cannot cordon off my recognition of my cats as fellow beings (if smaller) from the reality that other animals are also thinking feeling beings, on the whole I treat my fellow beings abominably. The fact that I also very likely treat other human beings terribly through the consumption of exploitative products just makes the whole thing worse.
I used to scoff at my friends who were vegetarians because they did not want to eat living beings (or vegans because they did not want to exploit other living beings). My argument was that many animals eat other animals. Their argument was that unlike other animals, we usually have a choice. I could never really argue against that point. And now, I can’t argue against the first one either: that there are no animals on this Earth, there are only a variety of living feeling beings and they come in various sizes and shapes.