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The following text has been excerpted from the previous post (#12), Political Implications of Atheism, to emphasize the special importance of animal rights as a religion-infused public policy issue:
11. Failure to protect animal rights, particularly as affected by the meat industry and sport-killing. Religion artificially bifurcates the animal world into human and non-human—humans have souls and are created in the image of god, whereas non-human animals are merely objects whose consciousness and capacity for pain and suffering are largely unrecognized and of little concern. Having surprisingly recent common ancestors—mammals appeared after over 95% of the period of life on earth had passed—we human animals are not-so-distant cousins of the non-human animals whose flesh we eat and whom we (not I) kill for sport. As known through biological science, animals experience not only physical pain as we do, but many of the same emotions as ours. With rare exceptions, governments do not regulate the pain and suffering we inflict on our animal cousins. Government protects human rights, but fails to protect animal rights due to religion's false categorization as two distinct forms of living beings. Secular humanists are concerned with the well-being of all sentient creatures, human and non-human. We are not necessarily vegetarian, but we care about the humane treatment of food animals up to the moment of their deaths.