The supposed superior intelligence and spirituality of certain members of society, and the idea of a natural ranking, has been used to justify some of the worst abuses in human history.
In ‘Why We Love Dogs, Eat Pigs and Wear Cows’ Melanie Joy writes “Africans were “naturally” suited to slavery; Jews were “naturally” evil and would destroy Germany if not eradicated; women were “naturally” designed to be the property of men; animals “naturally” exist to be eaten by humans.”
Denying that animals have the same qualities as us places them lower on the social scale. This in turn makes it easier to turn a blind eye to their continued suffering.
In any case, the existence of a soul in humans has yet to be conclusively proven, so where is the proof that animals don’t have one? Even if we could prove they don’t, does that justify treating them badly?
Doesn’t any living feeling being deserve our compassion, whether they are equal to us or not?