Sentience and Suicide
I believe all forms of life from the infinitely complex to profoundly simple should be viewed with the same respect as any other. After all, in the end the primary role of any life form is to live and proliferate one’s species. Any notion that any one form of life is superior to another in anything other a superficial way is egotistical and can likely be proven accurate for any number of reasons (this my subtle bash at the human race’s self imposed exceptionalism).
One thing, however, that evolution has bestowed us humans to help us survive (and proliferate) is the idea of sentience, which has seemingly been absent from other forms of life. Granting that I know very little on the subject, it always seemed to me that a key indicator of this advanced mental development was the forethought to take one’s own life. Where the animal kingdom, as it were, lives and functions more with reflexes and pre-programmed actions to survive at any cost, the human mind accepts the notion of self destruction as way to circumvent misery.
This brings us to the topic at hand – a bear in China, living in deplorable circumstances, reportedly killed her child and herself to end the suffering their imprisonment was causing and would likely continue to cause until their natural demise (source). The article is not safe for overtly emotional types as it is really quite a tragic story.
But, the point of it is my notion of sentience is, at the very least, shaken and that this should be a reminder to everyone with any sort of power to impact another creatures quality of life to use that power for good, even if that means allowing the pig to live in the lap of luxury before its inevitable transformation to bacon.