Stop Half-Assing Non-Aggression: Embrace Animal Welfare

Imagine walking down the local grocery store aisles as you likely do on a regular basis. As you stroll, you finally come across the meat section. As they lay there packaged neatly and cleanly, ready for consumption, you carefully choose the type, cut and weight of meat that will suite your needs. A plethora of readily available plant based foods stock the store shelves, ready to nourish your body but the choice is simple and benign enough. You want a steak tonight!

Now imagine a slightly different scenario. Same store, same stroll, same aisles. Except this time, once arrive at the meat section, the cows, chickens, turkeys and pigs that you crave for dinner are a little bit more raw that you’d like. They are all very much alive, anxious and waiting to be butchered for your consumption. The man across the counter hands you a captive bolt pistol and asks you to press it against the cow’s head firmly and pull the trigger. As you stand there, pistol in hand, you look to your right and see the produce section of the store. You now have one of two choices: Blow the cow’s brains to bits in an act of violence or spare the animals life and purchase plant based foods. As a Libertarian, the question is not if you could kill the cow but… should you?

The Non-Aggression Principle is a cornerstone of Libertarian Philosophy that teaches, among other things, abstinence from the initiation of the use of force. Practicing anti-war, anti-violence, anti-coercion and anti-aggression can be attributed to the implementation of the Non-Aggression Principle in one’s life. As a strict follower of the Non-Aggression Principle, I cannot initiate force upon another person or use coercion to degrade their freedom. I abhor unjustified aggression and only use violence in the case of self-defense or the defense of others.

If I take a philosophical stand and strive to make my life as non-violent as possible, why would that not extend to all living creatures? Why would I introduce the physical product of a violent act into my body? Even if I consider a living creature, such as a cat, my private property, does that give me the right to initiate a violent act upon it such as abuse, torture and neglect? In a Libertarian Society, I believe that would not be acceptable, but eating meat and animal testing would be. Do I have the right to end its life for the simple fact I crave its flesh? Do I have the right to spray corrosive material in its eyes simply to see the effect? Absolutely not. While some find it perfectly within their right to burn ants with a magnifying glass or eat a piece of ham, they would not dare kick a chimpanzee to death or have a piece of dog for dinner.

“As long as men massacre animals, they will kill each other. Indeed, he who sows the seeds of murder and pain cannot reap the joy of love.” Pythagoras

In our current western culture, the line on what is the ethical treatment of animals and which animals it applies to is a blurred one with many grey areas. In most cases, citizens of our advanced society have constant access to any amount of plant based foods they wish. The necessity to eat animals to survive is not present, therefore the destruction and consumption of animals is strictly a voluntary luxury. I contest that if a person has chosen to advance to a state of non-violence and Libertarianism, then the line should be absolutely clear by applying the Non-Aggression Principle to animals as well.

At this point, I believe my meat eating Libertarian friends are in quite a frenzy. Most justify the consumption of meat or testing on animals by adopting, whether knowingly or not, the Human Superiority Complex. The main justification for adopting the complex comes from the general acceptance that the Non-Aggression Principle applies only to human beings. Murry Rothbard solidified this point of view in his book The Ethics of Liberty. He states: “man has rights because they are natural rights. They are grounded in the nature of man.” Essentially, rights are not given to man by a higher being but are inherent simply by virtue of being human. An animal, incapable of rational thought, cannot abide by the Non-Aggression Principle and it should not apply to them. He goes on to say “any concept of rights, of criminality, of aggression, can only apply to actions of one man or group of men against other human beings.”

If you accept the rationale of Rothbard as your own, and believe that man has dominion over the whole of the earth, is that necessarily moral and ethical justification to initiate unwarranted violence against animals? Humans naturally have rights due to the ability to reason and to make conscious choices. That should give us the responsibility of respecting living creatures, not taking advantage of them. Just because a baby or a mentally handicapped person lacks what Rothbard would define as qualities for natural rights, we do not use and abuse them with an air of ethical justification granted through a superiority complex. It is saying a lot about the nature of man that we are the only ones able to make a rational choice and we chose violence. As Libertarians, we should be setting the example and rejecting such a hypocritical moral code, not being complicit it in.

“Wisdom, compassion, and courage are the three universally recognized moral qualities of men.” Confucius

I am calling for Libertarians to make a choice to move in a direction that will rid their lives entirely from initiating force and thus becoming truly and completely non-violent.I am calling for Libertarians to make a choice to become Vegetarians and Vegans. I am calling for Libertarians to make a choice to not buy products tested on animals and to practice alternative methods of pest removal. I am calling for Libertarians to realize that all living creatures have a right to life just as each individual human does as well, because at the end of the day, we are just animals as well.

Follow me @SlavLibertarian

  • kylebennett

    Stop half-assing logic and eat a steak.

  • Jared Mark

    What a load of shit this article is.

    Taken to this rather illogical extreme, the NAP is a suicide pact. Walking on grass? Nope, can’t do that! You’re violating the grass with the aggression of your heavy footfalls!

    What about the property rights of that mole that made its home in your lawn?

    Oops, can’t do anything about the termites that are eating away at the tree in your front yard!

    This entire argument presumes the automatic equality between various species. The entire argument is VERY simple to debunk: Do we enforce the NAP by denying the right of the cheetah to chase down and kill the gazelle? No, of course we don’t. Because we recognize that the cheetah MUST do so to survive, and it’s a part of the natural order of things. In fact, those who think on a deeper level than this article’s very shallow thinking, will recognize that we are doing a disservice to the gazelles by protecting them from the cheetah.

    And for the record: I would have no problem shooting a cow in the head. I have room in my freezer for the processed results.

    • disqus_QBspQu5Oox

      Says “Taken to this rather illogical extreme”

      then claims

      “You’re violating the grass with the aggression of your heavy footfalls!”

      Now THAT’S a “load of shit”.

    • Leo

      Are you, like, 16?

  • Jared Mark

    Oh, and on the subject of “rights”… I have rights because I declare myself to have rights. When a cow can declare their own rights, maybe then I’ll listen. It’s not your job to declare the rights of the cow on behalf of the cow…

    • Leo

      Declare those rights to a grizzly and the cubs. Then let them know you come in peace so they don’t view you as a threat……
      There’s one major fundamental flaw with your point.
      The other being the fact that “having rights” is a concept that applies to governed civilization, where rights do not always exist.

  • Glyn Sable

    Is harvesting a plant, killing and taking its young, any less aggressive - or because it is not an animate creature you feel comfortable in your superiority as a sentient living thing?

  • Leo

    “Animal rights” stems from the of one’s mentality being conformed to the lines of society, effectively causing us to loose touch with ourselves as a species. I mean, even if a Lion could conceptualize the suffering of his/her prey, should the Lion stop hunting?

  • Olly Neville

    I am disgusted at the butchery of the NAP here - Plants are living beings and this author is demanding I kill and eat them. Lets have another thought experiment where the grocery store has all plant life growing instead of neatly packaged. Would the author kill those plants to feed himself? Just because plants aren’t the same as animals (which aren’t the same as humans) doesn’t mean its any less an aggressive killing act.

    And there lies the problem. The author’s own logic requires him to starve rather than initiate violence against plants or animals.

    • Liam

      ” Just because plants aren’t the same as animals (which aren’t the same as
      humans) doesn’t mean its any less an aggressive killing act. ”

      Humans actually are animals though. Sure, there are differences between humans and kittens and dairy cows, but I think that the differences are less important than the similarities.

      We all have nervous systems, we can all feel both pleasure and pain. We all have emotions and can experience distress. Some of the animals we eat, such as cows, form complex social bonds with their friends and family. Pigs are more intelligent than dogs and all animals have a vested interest in not being exploited by humans.

      There is a clear difference between animals and plants and Im sure you know that. There is a reason why we wouldnt tolerate a person kicking their pet cat but do not mind if somebody picks a strawberry. The issue is not that animals are alive, but rather that they can suffer in a way not at all unlike the way in which humans suffer. After all, we are animals too.

  • Liam

    A lot of people seem to be missing the point here. Its quite a simple point imho, that we should not harm others - be they human or another species of animal. If a subject has the capacity to feel harm, we should not inflict harm on it for our personal benefit. If that is not what the NAP means, then I have no idea what it’s supposed to mean instead.

    To make the jump from here to plants is just plain silly. You cant hurt plants. Compare, for example, a pig being slaughtered to a stawberry being picked. You dont need me to explain the clear differences, Im sure.

    Appealing to nature is also silly. Sure, cheetahs and lions have to hurt other animals to survive, but humans really do not. We can live perfectly healthy and happy lives without resorting to animal cruelty. This is a choice that people make as individuals, not some ordained law of nature.

    If we do not look out for the rights of those without a voice, then who will? We look out for the rights of babies and the disabled. We look out for the rights of housepets. So why do we turn a blind eye as soon as the cruelty benefits us personally, as with ‘food’ animals?

    • susan rocca

      There were lots of good points in your comment, Liam. But what about milk cows and laying hens? Not everyone can live vegan. And these animals aren’t pets. Should farmers who raise these valuable proteins have to be burdened with old animals that no longer bear profit?

      • Liam

        The dairy industry is possibly the most cruel of all the animal industries. Dairy cows go through a lot, they are repeatedly impregnated and have their calves taken away to make veal, they have been bred to have huge udders that are often very uncomforable to carry, many of them get mastitis from the milking machines and there are several other issues.
        Egg laying hens go through a lot of pain and stress too, even in ‘cage-free’ or free-range farms. Im going to save you from having to read a long list about all the various ways they are harmed, the information is out there if you want to read it.

        These animals arent pets, sure, but does that mean they are less deserving of basic rights, such as the right to live free of human exploitation? What makes it wrong to hurt a kitten but acceptable to hurt a cow or a chicken?

        You say that not everyone can live vegan. Perhaps in poorer countries this is still true, but in the western world we do all have the option, as individuals, to decide that we dont want to take part in animal cruelty. Personally I believe that harming animals is not okay, even if it does make a profit, and that is why I have chosen to avoid eating animal products. Its not actually as hard as it sounds

        If you do believe in equality and non-aggression, I urge you to spend some time thinking about the consequences your diet has on other sentient lives. Im not trying to preach veganism at you, but I do think its an issue worth giving some serious thought.