Last week Trump signed into law the 2019 Farm Bill which included a provision for banning the slaughter of dogs and cats for meat in the U.S. Let’s put aside the fact that it is a cultural taboo to eat cats and dogs in the U.S. and therefore the market for dog and cat meat is essentially nonexistent. I would instead like to direct our attention at what this law reveals about our legal system which we should not overlook: it is an embarrassing reminder that laws can be illogical and can even institutionalize prejudice and oppression of some over others.
A ban on exploiting cats and dogs for food begs a bigger question: If it’s wrong to exploit and kill puppies and kittens for palate pleasure and profit, then how is it justifiable that the very same Farm Bill allocates billions of our tax dollars to assist in the ruthless exploitation and slaughter of other species (namely chickens, turkeys, cows and pigs) who are at least as sentient and capable of suffering as cats and dogs? How can a law be considered just if it punishes billions of individuals just for being born the “wrong” species — a fact over which they have no control — and therefore dooms them to a terrible fate?
It is embarrassing for those of us who already recognize that each sentient individual values his or her own life, regardless of what value we assign to it. We can already anticipate future generations judging us harshly for the speciesism that such a law embodies. What the slaughter ban on cats and dogs painfully reveals to us is that our laws are only as sound as the moral consistency of the society that demands them. When we arbitrarily place certain species in rigid categories based on how we value them, the laws become a myopic and self-serving expression of winners and losers, of inequality and hypocrisy.
We have a responsibility to make our voices heard on this issue, even if the Farm bill has already passed. Our officials must know why we find this bill flawed.