What is the value of a life?

Animals Australia

Animals Australia team

Last updated 25 November 2015

Could you put a dollar value on the life of another?

If you were asked to put a dollar value on your life, how much would you say? Is it even possible to put a price on such an invaluable thing? What if you were asked to put a price on the life of another? How would you begin to weigh that up?

It seems a crazy thing to ask but the fact is that humans put a dollar value on lives every single day. And if we start to break down how it is that we’ve come to the figures, we find more questions than answers.

Image left: Padfoot, Whiskers & Wings.

The puppy on the left, now named Patty Cakes, is one of 10 puppies who were in the belly of his mother when she was abandoned at the pound — considered worthless. Meanwhile puppy factories breed and sell puppies for hundreds (and sometimes thousands) of dollars through pet shops or online. Both of these dogs have four soft puppy paws and two ‘love me’ eyes. Like all puppies, they both want to play and explore and get belly rubs. Yet, even though their lives have only just begun, one is seemingly worth hundreds of dollars more than the other. Why?

*Even though his mother’s owner considered Patty Cakes worthless, Wollongong Animal Rescue Network appreciate him for the unique individual he is and are helping him find a loving home.

Adopt a dog like Patty Cakes »

And dogs are not the only lives that humans put seemingly contradictory dollar values on.

Image left: Flickr/Eddie Welker. Image right: Atlantic Blue.

Every year in Japan, dolphins are herded into a cove in Taiji. A select few will be sold for hundreds of thousands of dollars to perform at marine parks or live in tanks in aquariums across the globe. The remaining will be slaughtered for their meat, worth as little as $500 — $600.

Both of these animals have been taken from their families and lost their lives as they know it. But according to the dollar value awarded to them, the life of one is worth more than 300 times less than the other. Why?

Help end the slaughter in Taiji »

Image left: Coalition for the Protection of Racehorses. Image right: ??

Horses who have outlived their ‘usefulness’, often find themselves at saleyards, to be taken away by the highest bidder. Frequently among them are racehorses who weren’t fast enough to win races. For many of these horses, the winning bidder will be slaughterhouses, who only value these animals for their weight in ‘meat’. Thousands of horses – who can be sold for as little as $200 or even less – have their lives cut short at a knackery each year. In stark contrast, a racehorse at the beginning of his or her ‘racing’ career can be seeking investments for as much as hundreds of thousands of dollars. But for how long will their life be considered ‘valuable’?

*This figure is an indicator only based on recent horse sales to knackeries which range from $65 to $400.

Help end horse racing cruelty »

The reason for the difference in the ‘price’ of these horses is plain and simple: one has potential to win races and make money for his ‘owner’. The other has outlived that use. To racing trainers, these animals are only valued for how fast they can run. But what would the value of their own lives be to these animals?

"Know that the same spark of life that is within you, is within all of our animal friends. The desire to live is the same within all of us."
- Rai Aren

All animals value life. And the way an animal values her life is no different to the way we value our own. When we think about our own lives, there really is no way we could put a price on something so invaluable — no dollar amount could ever come close. Even when it comes to the lives of our beloved pets we would baulk at the idea of putting a price on them.

Sadly, in some aspects of our lives, we have grown so accustomed to seeing animals as objects to be bought that we often don’t even see or think about the animal behind the ‘product’ and the ‘price’.


And when we are exposed to the truth about what an animal goes through, before that price tag is put on them, the choice is simple. Watch what happens when bacon is advertised truthfully …

1 in 4 Australians are cutting back on animal ‘products’, or taking them off their plate all together. By being part of this growing movement you can value animals’ lives as they do their own and help build a kinder world for animals.

"Eating for me is how you proclaim your beliefs three times a day. That is why all religions have rules about eating. Three times a day I remind myself that I value life and do not want to cause pain or kill other living beings. That is why I eat the way I do."
- Natalie Portman

For tips on eating kindly, and delicious meat-free meals, order your free copy of our vegetarian starter kit today.

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