"We can draw all the distinctions we like between humans and farm
animals—we can produce operas, they cannot; we can do calculus, they
cannot; we can send smug holiday greeting cards, they cannot. But none
of these distinctions undermines the fundamental reality that we're
both sentient beings capable of suffering.
If the ethics of eating matter in the least, then our understanding of
animals must begin with this premise. Above all else, we must
acknowledge that our shared sentience means that humans have a moral
responsibility to treat farm animals differently than we treat
objects. Specifically, as the philosopher Gary Francione has argued,
all beings capable of suffering are entitled to the 'principle of
equal consideration.' What this means is that, before using an animal
in any way, we should evaluate what's at stake for everyone involved.
We must do so, moreover, on the primary grounds of our shared
sentience, thereby downplaying the many differences between humans and
farm animals. Just because a farm animal cannot do math or send
greeting cards doesn't mean that its capacity for suffering is in any
way fundamentally different from our own."