Do Animals Sacrifice Their Lives For Us?

After all the horror of the past 24 hours, I was unsure whether to post this; everything seems trivial by comparison. But I think it’s important not to get too disheartened, so it’s business as usual. If you’re in the US, I hope you’re OK.

This post is divided into two sections – one for animals killed for meat, and another for those used in the military.


Native Americans are said to show respect for the animals they hunt by thanking them for their sacrifice. This is often held up as an ideal way to eat meat by non-vegetarians who claim to oppose factory farming.

Firstly, there are a great many Native American tribes with very varied beliefs and customs, so it’s not accurate to attribute one practice to them all. Moreover, indigenous tribes tend to hunt only what they really need, and use every bit of the animal. Many have a deep reverence for nature and animals, and only kill if they really have to. This is a far cry from our modern system, where we intensively confine and slaughter animals in horrible conditions so we can have an almost unlimited supply of flesh.

For most of us in the developed world, plant-based foods are abundant and there’s no need to eat meat. Though there are some tribes in the world who still rely on hunting, the people using Native Americans as an excuse are usually Westerners who eat factory-farmed meat (despite claiming to be against it).

But is it really possible to respect an animal you’ve killed? The idea of thanking animals for their ‘sacrifice’ indicates some level of discomfort or guilt about taking their lives. It mostly exists so the flesh can be eaten with a clear conscience, and likely has little to do with gratitude.

Besides, it doesn’t make logical sense to thank someone for something they didn’t consent to. If someone stole from me and then sent me a thank-you card, I wouldn’t be too impressed!

Military Animals

Animals such as dogs and horses have long been used by the military, unfairly dragged into human wars. Every so often, an animal will be in the news because he or she has been ‘promoted’. Sometimes, if they’ve had a long career, they’ll be thanked for their ‘selfless’ service.

These are meaningless gestures. Animals don’t care what their rank is, how many medals they have, or how grateful people are; they were never even given a choice about being used in the military.

Heartbreakingly, dogs (and perhaps other animals) exposed to warfare can develop PTSD. It goes without saying that many others die, and in the UK, those who are no longer useful are sometimes euthanised. This makes any claims of gratitude sound very hollow.

It’s time to stop coming up with excuses for our treatment of animals, and recognise that making them suffer unnecessarily can never be morally acceptable. We don’t have the right to use and discard them as we please, no matter how thankful we are.

What do you think?


4 comments / Add your comment below

  1. ‘Sacrificing’ is a consensual thing. What we do is take a life, steal a life, or — in a word — murder. The act of paying homage to that animal through prayer or ceremony is only for the taker’s conscience, it does nothing for the animal (who is already dead, and, chances are, not by his choice).

    Yes, we are omnivores, but in many places in the world where plant-based foods are readily available 24/7, taking the life of a sentient animal (or enslaving it for ‘food uses’) is not even necessary. Every animal wants to live. We are pre-wired for survival, and we all will fight or flight for our lives, if required.

    Just my two cents. Cheers! ~ Shannon

  2. What a great post. I firmly believe that no matter how sincerely we thank animals before slaughter, it makes no difference to the morality of it. Aren’t we only thanked if we do or give something to another? Purpose and consent are the differences between giving and stealing.
    Essentially, eating meat is still taking something that isn’t yours. You got it spot on!

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