Animals Can’t Consent, So Where Does That Put Us?

animals can't consent

One of the main differences between animals and humans is the ability to consent. Obviously, animals can’t consent, and this creates an array of issues.

It also makes the animal agriculture business even crueler, and more horrifying. Animals are able to consent to being forcefully impregnated and having their children taken away from them, and they are also not able to understand. (Not that that would help).

animal rights

But a recent disagreement drew my attention further towards the issue of consent. As animals can’t consent, where do we draw the line?

Forcibly impregnating an animal and taking its child, is almost by definition, rape. However, does this also mean that any human intervention to an animal that includes its reproductive organs is rape too?

I do not think so.

animals can't consent

In a hypothetical situation that a pregnant female cow and her unborn calf are in distress, intervention would be needed. Yes, it would be unpleasant to the cow and possibly painful, but it would be much worse without.

Both the cow and the calf face illness and death, with the cow possibly facing a miscarriage or carrying a dead calf. Is this worth not intervening? Is saving this from happening the same as impregnating a cow for something so fickle as milk?

The issue with consent here is that the cow obviously cannot give permission for a human to complete a distressing procedure. However, this thought process has many issues.

For example, many people and all animals are not able to give permission to medical treatments, yet they still take place. Consent and permission is only needed when there is a choice to make. You can consent in a situation such as sex, as the option of not consenting is always there, without a consequence.


However, in a more serious and life threatening situation, consent is not always needed. For example when there has been a motorcycle crash, do we first ask the bleeding, possibly paralysed victim for consent before we take action? No. When not taking action results in pain and suffering, consent is not needed.

Animals can’t consent to treatment, but humans can

In said disagreement, the following was used as a counter argument; that pregnant women are able to consent before treatment takes place.

Yes this is true, but once again, there are situations when consent is not possible. For instance, if the pregnant mother was unconscious, what is needed to be done is still done anyway.

Why? Because without taking action the consequence would be worse than her inability to express consent or not.

An animal is just like us, a living, breathing being with the ability to express pain and love. If a pregnant animal and her baby are in distress, like pregnant humans, they deserve treatment that will save them both.

Just because they don’t have a voice, doesn’t mean they don’t deserve treatment

Do you think the cow will be more upset about not being able to consent, or having to carry to term a calf that died in her womb because nothing was done?

Just like we do not ask children for consent when giving them injections or before taking our dogs to the vets, just because animals can’t consent doesn’t mean we deprive them of care.

If we acted purely on whether animals could consent or not, there would be lots of pain and suffering. No action taken to cure illnesses or treat injuries, and no euthanization when the pain is simply too much.

animal consent

Yes, animals can’t talk or give consent, but act like you actually have a brain. Just because an animal can’t consent to something doesn’t mean that they should go without it.

No, an invasive procedure to save an unborn calf is not rape. Yes raping a cow to get a calf you will take away from them for slaughter would count as rape. These two things are very different, and if you cannot understand that, then you need to work on your reasoning.

An animal can’t consent to many things, like having their baby being taken away, being milked, and being killed. This should be respected. But this does not mean that it should be denied its right to necessary medical treatment that will benefit them and their babies in the long term.

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