What Animal Suffering Means to Me as a Non-Vegan

I cause the death of animals for my pleasure. Not directly, but ultimately, because the butcher or fisherman would not end the lives of sentient beings if not for consumers like me. And yes, for my pleasure and my pleasure alone; I cannot justify the killings in the name of survival, because I know I can very well afford and survive on a purely plant-based diet that would even result in me having a healthier body and a longer life.

If it’s any consolation, as much as possible I try to eat only those animals that live in the oceans, animals that were not raised in cramped captivity in order to minimize production cost and maximize profit for the growers. My philosophy is that all animals die; what matters is how they live. A lapu-lapu (grouper), for example, would experience the same gruesome death whether in the jaws of a bigger fish or some other sea predator as it would in a fisherman’s hook, net, or spear so it could end up on my plate. And no matter how it died, it was lucky to have lived free to swim in the ocean, infinitely luckier than the farmed chickens and pigs who were forced to spend all their lives in tight cages and never got to see the sun or breathe fresh air except on their way to the slaughterhouse. Bottom line, by eating fish I am not adding to the overall suffering of sentient beings in the world.

Every once in a while, however, my beloved mom cooks her specialty, which is humba (braised pork legs), and other meat dishes. While I do not crave for meat (I prefer the lighter taste of seafood), I cannot afford to break my mom’s heart by shunning her dish in the hope that such an act would result in fewer animals dying in the long run (by eating animals that were miserably bred in captivity, I take part in perpetuating the inhumane meat industry where animals suffer unimaginably). Besides, her cooking is really great. Call me a speciesist if you must because that’s what I am, and I value my aging mom’s feelings many times over the physical pain of non-human animals. Even the thought of an animal’s lifelong suffering distilled into a piece of meat only manages to make it lose some of its appeal, but never my appetite.

A vegan once asked me why, in spite of my keen awareness of animal suffering, I continue to eat them. While I can justify eating fish and seafood, at least to myself, I regret to say that such awareness never caused me to totally give up meat, including farmed meat. What it did, however, was to make me grow cynical of man’s morality and compassion. It seems most of us are capable of loving only our own kind – or even only our own kin. Which reminds me of the Old Testament where God commands His people to “love thy neighbor as thyself” (probably because in those times their neighbors were mostly their kinsmen) but to kill the Hittites, Girgashites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites.

But what I really find disturbing is seeing people gather around the table and pray in front of a lechon (whole roasted pig) and thank God for the bountiful blessing they are about to partake. Here lies the body of a dead animal who never once got to enjoy a natural life of freedom and whose death was predetermined by this very occasion. Instead of a thanksgiving prayer, a eulogy would seem more appropriate.


  1. I found this article very interesting because I just read another article about vegans being unethical. I personally am not a vegan, and I don’t think I ever could be one. I don’t want to sound terrible saying this, but I kind of feel like God put animals on earth, along with plants, for our nourishment. I think that the argument made by the writer is very valid because the animals would end up being killed in some other way anyway. It is the circle of life and the food chain.

  2. Sigurado may babara sakin dito pero wala talaga akong pakialam sa sasabihin nyo. Mapagmahal ako ng hayop. May mga alaga akong hayop. Pero may tinatawag na food chain. Kung wala yun, wala itong diskursong ito. Nasa taas tayo ng foodchain. Walang mahabang usapan. Hindi paggalang o awa ang usapan dito. Ang dapat mo isipin, kung gusto mo bang maging pa-iba at i-circumvent ang itinakdang istraktura ng mundo o go with the flow na lang. Ayokong maging pa-iba. At masarap ang baboy.

  3. i like to pose a question that i think will be relevant given the state of scientific developments and advancements we are achieving:

    If the basic tenant of avoiding to eat mean is to prevent the harming of animals, then if in a hypothetical scenario, our genetic engineering and scientific advancements finally allows us to "manufacture" cloned animals that are specifically grown without the capacity to feel physical stimuli (hence the absence of "sentience"), will it then be "ok" to consume animals for food?

    • if it were a healthy food alternative, I'd welcome it, especially if it could yield beef without a cow having to suffer for it (hypothetically speaking, of course… without any of the freakish unforeseen GMO side-effects)

      but right now, I'm perfectly happy with vege-meat and tofu meat substitutes for the most part… it tastes good and it's still protein but without all the saturated fats. With the abundance of clever culinary tricks nowadays, its not hard to find other food substitutes which are just as good, if not healthier for you, you just need to be on the lookout for better ways of living instead of just sticking with what you were familiar with.

  4. and I quote: "animals that were miserably bred in captivity, I take part in perpetuating the inhumane meat industry where animals suffer unimaginably." … yes it does sound PETA'ish except your not one of them plant worshippers, 'nuff said.

  5. Hi Jong. Try listening to Matthew Herbert's latest album "One Pig", a concept album revolving around the life of one pig from "birth to plate." Using wonderfully layered experimental music (with pig squeals pleasantly interspersed within its songs, except in its last), Herbert tackles the cruelty involved in our killing animals for food. In the last song, dinner sounds injected into the song serves as a painful reminder that most of us are completely ignorant or apathetic with regards to the suffering we ultimately bring about.

      • Yeah yeah I am aware of the definition but lets not kid ourselves by trying to spell out the difference between the context in which you use suffering in animals and its technical definition. Peta is an extremely absurd case of this issue.

          • I think what he's saying is that only humans have the capacity for conscious experience and that animals, not being made in God's image, are simply for the use of men. I didn't think there were people out there who actually had so little empathy and moral awareness that they'd think that way. But, I guess you learn something new every day.

          • How did you ever get from what I said (animals do not have the experiential pain humans do) to the conclusion that I meant it in a purely utilitarian way (to treat animals in an inhumane way)? The point is that some people who think that animals experience pain with the same emotional component that humans do is taken to the extremes of absurdity . THEY DON"T!

          • …and you know this for a fact how?

            pain is pain, you don't need higher brain functions to experience pain from external stimuli. pain sensations in both humans and non-humans can be measured empirically – brain scans, stress indicators, emotional responses, and other physical signs of trauma responses. you don't even need to rationalize the cause of your pain if you can already feel it.

            if someone stabbed you and you were too shocked to even ponder your assailant's intentions, his morality, his "level of evilness"… does it mean you're not actually "suffering" until you get around to analyzing the morality (or lack thereof) of your assault?

          • New born Infants don't feel pain, actually –or if they do, it's very minimal. Kindly explain why, in your worldview, it's more moral to kill a full grown chimp then , say, a newborn infant, if, as you say "pain is pain" ?

            No matter how anyone tries to justify it, it's just specieism from a naturalists perspective. But nobody is trying to deny this, right?

          • nyet, I would rather that both a human infant and a chimp would not be exposed to unnecessary pain if it could be helped. I seriously doubt the veracity of that claim that infants don't feel pain. Studies have suggested that children are more sensitive to stimuli ( taste, touch, and thermal in particular) which lessens as a person grows older. You can easily verify this by observing the pain tolerance of a child and an adult when eating very spicy food.

            I already made my stance on the matter clear on my 1st comment on this thread – the more evolved the nervous system of animal, the more value I would place in not exposing it to unnecessary pain. Its a correlative function for me.

          • I, too, would rather humans and any kind of animal be free from unnecessary pain. I have 3 dogs, 2 cats, and a bird. I love animals.

            You shouldn't doubt the studies, actually, because they're true. I'm not really talking of children but newborn infants. Infants don't feel much external stimuli until the 2nd week. When you have a child, your doctor will tell you this (I have a 6 month old daughter). Also, infants aren't self-aware. Self awareness for them comes after a month (I think. Could be longer.) Understandable if self-awareness is a series of neural connections that form in the brain as one develops and experiences all sorts of environmental stimuli. This is why Philosopher/ bio-ethicists Peter Singer and Michael Tooley have suggested there is no ontologically significant difference between a fetus and a newborn infant. Just a few inches of a change in address through the birth Canal. You can google their studies.

            And, if as you say, "the more evolved the nervous system of animal, the more value" you would place, then you really must put more value on full grown chimps, dogs, cows and other such, over newborn infants. I honestly think you would do no such thing.

            My point was, on a naturalists perspective, it's really just specieism.

          • And here I actually agree with Miguel. All things being equal, the more something or someone is genetically closer to us, the more value we put to its/his/her life. We put more value to the life of a newborn human infant than a full-grown chimpanzee even assuming that the infant indeed does not feel pain, just as we put more value to the life of a Filipino than a foreigner and to a relative than a stranger. From a naturalist's perspective, it's really just speciesism.

          • but if newborns dont process pain stimuli yet, how do doctors make them cry to induce them to take their first breath of life? also, newborns are extremely sensitive to temperature at its first few days of life, especially with premature babies that need to be incubated so I have doubts on the pain issue.

            But on the self-awareness angle, that does seem likely, but the same could be said of all newborns, regardless of species. A mother gorilla would value her newborn gorilla more than a human newborn, and a human mother would likewise have the same values. So I do agree it all boils down to specieism in the end. One tends to lose empathy the farther someone or something is from oneself, I just dont personally draw the line from human to non-humans, I place it on mammal-vs-nonmammals, which as I have mentioned is a totally personal and arbitrary delineation. I dont get a conscience-attack from squishing an ant but I feel guilty when even thinking of eating a cow.

    • ito rin yung excuse na ginamit ng mga gagong pumapatay ng mga aso at pusa "for fun" kasi hindi naman sila tao kaya ok lang.

      nakakita ka na ba ng hayop na nasasaktan? pano mo nasabing wala silang "conscious awareness of pain"? unconscious ba sila?

        • For a fruitful discussion, could you please state which particular definition of the word 'conscious' and 'suffering' you are using? Otherwise we'll just be talking past each other. Thanks.

          • …as in rational awareness of, or rational experience of. To use phrases like, "who never once got to enjoy a natural life of freedom", makes it appear that pigs can experience enjoyment or know freedom. That is what I meant by sounding PETA-ish. At any rate I am starting to think that maybe I just didn't get that it's supposed to be satire.

          • The article is not satire, but I'm starting to think your comments are. The philosopher Jeremy Bentham wrote:

            "The French have already discovered that the blackness of the skin is no reason why a human being should be abandoned without redress to the caprice of a tormentor… What else is it that should trace the insuperable line? Is it the faculty of reason, or, perhaps, the faculty of discourse? But a full-grown horse or dog is beyond comparison a more rational, as well as a more conversable animal, than an infant of a day, or a week, or even a month, old. But suppose the case were otherwise, what would it avail? The question is not Can they reason? nor, Can they talk? but, Can they suffer?"

          • why do you keep bringing PETA into the argument? there is not even a mention of the org in the article. the author even made it clear he's not vegetarian himself. if you have any personal beef with that org, this is not the proper venue
            PETA is PETA and FF is FF

  6. Eating plants is more environment friendly than eating animals. It uses less resources. However, many environments cannot support edible crops. We can't eat grass, shrubs or algae, but we can eat the animals that feed on them.

    Saving endangered species is paramount. However, domesticated species bred specifically for human consumption would'nt even exist if we didn't farm or breed them to feed us. Most of these cannot survive in the wild or would cause an ecological imbalance if set loose in the wild.

    I reject the the sentimentality of saving and pampering domesticated animals when it puts farmers and fisherfolk out of business and when it wastes precious resources vainly humanizing animals while disregarding the plight of so many people in dehumanizing conditions. I also reject the destruction of our culinary heritage–an essential part of our cultural identity.

  7. My working diet now is dubbed 'un-mammalian veganism'… in which I eat anything except mammals.
    The thought behind it is that the closer the species is to us, the greater the probability that they feel pain the same way we do as mammalian humans (not just the way the are slaughtered but even the horrible ways they are raised).

    Now this is a totally arbitrary form of abstinence I'm fine-turning and its a work-in-progress but the reason I decided to allow fish, fowl, and non-mammals into my diet is to allow greater variety for me, health-wise they're better than red meat, and their nervous systems are relatively more primitive than mammals that there is room to doubt that they feel pain like we do.

    In rare instances, a chicken can survive headless for a few days, a fishhead can survive on its own for a few hours, invertebrates like jellyfish, squid, octopus and clams' nervous systems are so rudimentary that its probably all autonomic functions for them. And some of them even commit suicide anyway after breeding, like salmon and octopus so it doesn't make sense IMHO to apply humanitarian sentiments on their "feelings" anymore.

    • squid, octopi and other cephalopods have very complex nervous systems. octopi are the only known invertebrates to use tools.

      but they're still very tasty…

      • good point, octopi have indeed interested marine biologists on how much active learning they can do. but squid do seem to be at the bottom end of the cephalopod spectrum when it comes to smarts.

        you could also temporarily "resurrect" a dead squid by jump-starting its still-fresh motor neurons simply by soaking it in an electrolytic solution. Google up "Odori-Don", a japanese dish where a dead squid moves around in your bowl just by pouring soy sauce, fun food freakiness 🙂

        there's another food philosophy which encourages people not to eat anything with a face, which is in effect vegan w/ mollusks. jellyfish and sea cucumbers are also yummy when cooked well in east-asian cuisine

        • what's remarkable about octopi (and to a lesser extent, squid) is that they display high intelligence despite having a nervous system radically different from other intelligent animals. mainly each arm has a dense ganglia and possesses its own rudimentary nervous system. remarkably they also engage in play-like behavior. in the UK, octopi used for experimental purposes cannot be operated upon without anesthesia, in contrast to other invertebrates.

          what about live octopi wrapped around chopsticks and eaten alive with a liberal gulp of liquor (sannakji, san nachi in Korean)? i recall a CSI episode in which an octopus, eaten in such a manner, ended up choking the unlucky diner to death. prey exacting revenge upon the predator.

          i think FF should do further articles discussing taboos and ethics about food and diet, in light of new findings about animal intelligence, particularly invertebrates. perhaps reading about guidelines on selection of animals for experimentation might inform those who select their food animals according to criteria like intelligence (or lack of it) or pain sensitivity.

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