I have been debating some radical vegans lately and I have noticed that many of their arguments depend upon assumptions about sentience and its agency i.e. how sentient beings should behave towards other sentient, or supposedly sentient, lifeforms. First, sentience is only ever defined by vegans in a way that bolsters their arguments or makes their moral beliefs seems inevitable Secondly, sentience as a value is taken as an a priori fact and is never really explored beyond just “sentient life is superior to non-sentient life”.
This seems strange to me coming from a supposedly life affirming and philosophy. if sentience is the standard by which we judge the value of life and human beings are expected to reject the exploitation of other sentient beings, then why do other sentient beings not need to change their behavior towards other sentient beings? By saying this is a human prerogative are we not saying that humans have a sentient agency beyond other sentient beings? Are humans to deny their evolutionary heritage but other animals are not? and if not why not? because they can’t, in which case there sentience is not on par with humanity, or they should not be expected to in which case humans are held to arbitrarily higher standard than other sentient beings. Just some ideas that I think I will explore further with time and more thought.