My man Daniel wrote this to me in an email, and gave me permission to blog it:
This always strikes me as a weird tactic, that a certain species has
qualities that we find admirable when we see them in human beings, and
therefore we shouldn't be cruel to them:
"If a goose.s mate or chicks become sick or injured, she will often refuse
to leave their side, even if winter is approaching and the other geese in
her group are flying south."
And also that they're similar to us:
"Researchers at Middlesex University in Britain recently reported that
ducks even have regional accents, just like humans!"
In practice I'll bet that all the tender emotions I've had towards animals
have been from noticing a similarity to humans, or some interesting or
unique quality I've learned about. So it's probably an effective tactic.
But it doesn't hold up - by all accounts chimpanzees are vicious murdering
hierarchical motherfuckers. And would you have less givings about eating
ducks if you learned that gang rape is a regular part of their life cycle?
Rape Among Mallards (in Reports) Jack P. Hailman; Frank McKinney; Julie Barrett; Scott R. Derrickson;
David P. Barash Science, New Series, Vol. 201, No. 4352. (Jul. 21, 1978), pp. 280-282.
Not to mention homosexual necrophilia, http://www.nmr.nl/DSA8-243.pdf
(choice quote: "Another drake mallard raped the corpse almost continuously
for 75 minutes.")
I don't think you can use your heart to make policy decisions in cases
like this. You have to have some kind of rational, careful work in
philosophy. It might be based on principles at bottom that are basically
intuitive (like that the more sentient an animal is the more wrong it is
to harm them) but that at least assigns animals worth independent of the
kind of tenderness that they happen to trigger in us. An animal who's
lifestyle is basically evil by human standards, that involves rape and
infanticide on a regular basis, does not deserve more cruelty than a
similar animal that is gentle and pairs for life (awwww).