Tag Archives: animals

Gaining Vision

By questioning the legitimacy of domestication of animals and finding it irrational as a means to a just and peaceful world, we are responsible for developing a viable alternative way of living.

The new culture without domestication is underway.  Daily, ongoing abolitionist vegans and newly turned abolitionist vegans reject the use of animals as justifiable and each of them who is able takes care of animals who are refugees of domestication.

In the previous essay (Recognizing a Blind Spot) I mentioned fear of apocalyptic conditions and worse case scenarios for animals as domestication ends (But what will happen to all the animals if everyone goes vegan?),  as well as the desired and habitual companionships between animals and humans that many people do not want taken from them. Both fears may cause reluctance in supporting the end of domestication.

If we are to take ending domestication seriously, we do have to answer the question  of the potential extinction of certain species.  This may be distasteful and feel Machiavellian to some, but let us not forget that many of the domesticated breeds came at the price of extinction of their wild predecessors.  I would argue that the entrenched practice of domestication preceded Machiavelli in its manner of “dishonesty and killing of innocents” as the means to its power.1

If we hang on to domestication as a supposed virtuous means to avoid extinction of some species – ones who absolutely depend on our compensatory care at huge expense to so much more – we risk the extinction of other species who are at least equipped to live independently if we return them access to untold acres of land and water.  Not to mention that these free living species are vital for biodiversity and ecosystemic well being.

Keep in mind that as domestication dies out we would regain the ability to grow more plants for human consumption, which requires less acreage and water to sufficiently feed everyone to good health. We would reinstate forests and other public lands that have been co-opted or destructively usurped for unsupportable numbers of domesticated grazing species.  We would allow the return of large predators who for generations have been persecuted and driven to destitution, toward extinction, if not forced extinct entirely.

Undoing the disaster of animal domestication  may push our emotional buttons, but it is a selfish anthropocentric reaction to lament life without dogs, cats and others whose lives are valued conditionally according to our arbitrary criteria.  If we agree that animals have the right not to be property we agree there is no choice but to stop forcing existence of some while denying the valid existence of others.

Having animal lovers among us who are comfortable and knowledgeable about caring for refugees of domestication is key to a healthy transition away from domestication. For any person reading this at the time of publishing who can’t imagine living without certain animals, it can almost be guaranteed that in your life time you’d have plenty of needy animals to adopt or foster through this transition.  If we were to end breeding of all domesticated animals today it would be at least one human generation (25 -35 years) for the youngest of some of them to reach their potential natural lifespan (longer for certain species like some birds and elephants.)

This timeline would most probably be extended by the fact that all breeding would not end at once, and some may not be reasonably or easily controlled at first.  Feral, stray and unwanted animals represent  a desperate population already,  in the midst of domestication. As it ends support for the teams of caregivers will be developed.  New or expanded professions of caregivers and educators related to humans and animals sharing territory under the right of none being property will emerge.

Educating ourselves on the ways to have relationships with animals without expectation of them serving us to fulfill their reason for being alive not only goes to meeting our obligations to them for forcing their existence, but presents an opportunity to reconcile with nature and begins our revised outlook toward  the roles of human- animal relationships in the new culture. By ending animal use we are able to spend time building relationships without dominance or superiority, not only between us and the animals for whom we care, but with our fellow humans.

Through non-violent education teaching people to see animals as beings deserving of living in freedom alongside us and enjoying the right not to be human property is the gateway to letting go of our fears of not having animal relationships. Most people already agree that it is wrong to unnecessarily cause harm to animals, so guiding them to develop mutual relationships with those in their care without expectations and baggage of traditional human-animal relationship concepts is an early phase of our transition out of domestication.

Many people I know, myself included, are turning their homes and properties of acreage into sanctuaries that support  this work.  By removing the methods of coercive training and forced behavioral compliance  we learn to communicate with animals in a way that acknowledges their sentience and intelligence, that does not require dominance or punishment and begets a cooperative relationship that respects the boundaries of etiquette and safety.

Taking this approach with animals for whom we do care develops our understanding of meeting the other human and non-human beings of the world  with whom we may think we have no relation as exactly  the same as those we already hold dear. With unconditional love, where no one is “other”, there is freedom and justice.

Notes:
1. Niccolo Machiavelli,  Wikipedia

Recommended Reading:
howdoigovegan.com

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Recognizing a Blind Spot

There is a huge blind spot for many of us when it comes to discussing the rational end of domestication of animals and what happens next because we are only able to imagine the end without the vision of the new culture (Read next Gaining Vision).

Many of us see the end of domestication only as a sort of totalitarian abandonment or mass extermination of certain species, a kind of apocalyptic mayhem. Who wouldn’t shudder at the thought of the billions of domesticated animals simply being sent to run amok, or genuinely worry about how they would fare if no one cared for them?  Of course, simply opening cages, doors and gates is not a responsible action in the redevelopment of culture without domestication.

Often, we can only see our own loneliness in a world where domestication ends, so we resist ending it. We  have a deep seated habit for personal companionships with some animals, enamored and enabled by their dependence on us and our dependence on them to the point that we cannot imagine life without a dog at our heels, a cat in our laps, or a horse in the field, to name a few of our favorite fetishes.

Our entire social and economic system is based on thousands of years animal exploitation and could not be dismantled in one fell political swoop or all at once by any means save perhaps cosmological catastrophe. This makes it seem altogether insurmountable. Plus a majority of people appear to see no problem with the way things are and form another possible obstacle. Let’s be level headed, we know that such a shift will require and endure a period of transition.  This should not prevent us from seriously approaching the end of domestication of animals.

For anyone concerned that the end of domestication is untenable let’s consider that humans – as anatomically evolved as we are today – emerged about 200,000 years ago. Domestication didn’t get a foothold until about 190, 000 years later.  Homo sapiens have survived far longer without domestication than we have lived with it. Today’s rate of demise of the planet’s ability to support humanity in its current domestication driven way of life suggests that we won’t  live much longer with it either.

With only about 5000 years of recorded history, first hand contemporary accounts of life before domestication of animals are not available.  The written records, especially from the last 2000 to 1500 years up to today – whether biased official historical presentations, commercial and political propaganda along with personal observations in correspondence,  literature and other commentary –  outline and, in many instances,  highlight the detrimental disturbances and misfortunes of the practice of domestication.

From the devastation of wild life, to the decimation and enslavement of indigenous populations to the desecration of land and water sources to disease to war to wage slavery, to the torture of the animals, ill-fated dietary habits and more, they are all replete with connections to the earliest pastoralists.1  Is this something we honestly want to preserve?

Since we today only know a world built on domestication it’s not surprising that a popular argument it is that is natural and justifiable and even worthy of celebration and honor.  We pick and choose single issue symptoms  as the problems of the human condition or animal welfare, ignoring the festering unjust source of so many of our conflicts, domestication of animals.

A large census of us have been convinced that our lives are better, more convenient, more enjoyable with domestication.  Yet, none of us has lived without the influence, direct or indirect, of the oppression, inequality, unfair competition, scarcity, desperation, brutality, conflict and fear that are ready side effects of animal domestication.  How can we really know that our lives are better from domestication than they could be without it?

Sure, for some few there are great riches and power to be had in this system, for some number more there is an achievement of arrival in to a contrived lauded standard of living. Many more dream for a costume of such fashionable happiness,  perhaps not understanding that it doesn’t necessarily include freedom or security.  And regardless the amounts in our bank accounts, many of us still suffer some form of impoverishment, whether by abject discrimination and oppression, disease, or as lack of empathy and emotional or spiritual destitution. All of these are symptoms of the manifestation of the domestication of animals.

If so many of the ills of society can be linked to the domestication of animals – not to mention the grotesque torture of the animals themselves or their subjectively restricted and dependent lives as property – doesn’t it make sense that ending domestication would be a priority in our aim for restoring  well being to the planet?2

Notes:

1. David A. Nibert,  Animal oppression & Human Violence: Domesecration, Capitalism and Global Conflict,  2013, Columbia University Press

2. Recommended reading:

Gary L. Francione and Anna Charlton

Animal Rights: The Abolitionist Approach 

Eat Like You Care: An Examination of the Morality of Eating Animals

The Abolitionist Approach

howdoigovegan.com

Giving Sanctuary

Now is the time to abolish the domestication of animals. Let’s detach ourselves from the environmentally destructive and deathly slave trade of non-human beings.  It’s never too soon to end the demand for animal products by living a non-violent vegan life which will open the door for a world wide paradigm of peace. Denounce animal use for food, entertainment or convenience; support the end of the breeding of animals that require humans for sustenance, shelter and privileges of freedom and take responsibility for one or more animals that are already alive by giving them refuge with you for the rest of their lives.

For generations we have been made aware of the high numbers of unwanted domesticated animals, such as our typical canine and feline pets and horses. But there are also birds, rabbits, rodents, reptiles, and amphibians. Certainly, there is no longer hiding the brutality waged against farmed animals. (By the way, any husbandry that claims happiness for the animals but still ends in premeditated slaughter is not a viable alternative.)

This age old problem will not disappear unless we destroy it at the root, by the cessation of animal domestication. Any animal that has been removed from its natural habitat with no hope of returning to the wild, or that has been born into captivity deserves sanctuary to live out its life without a price on its head or a debt to be paid.

When you have freed yourself from the chains of animal use, you have an opportunity to see the world in a new way.  Explore the affinity between humans and non-human animals. As part of your care for them during the transition to the end of domestication you should study their anatomy, physiology and social behavior. To the best of your ability provide the habitat that best meets the needs of the species in your care, allowing them as much freedom as possible. Learn about the origins of the species, become familiar with the idea of mankind cohabitating with animals on earth without the notion of controlling them.

Ending animal domestication may seem like folly to some, but I see it as a great step toward the positive and sustainable redirection for humanity and the planet.

Be vegan. 

As I Was Saying

The dictionary is one of my favorite books. I can go on a word journey and entertain myself following one definition to the next, connecting threads or traipsing off on a tangent into previously unknown realms. We humans have created an impressive system of symbols and sounds to express our feelings and our ideas and to just keep track of things. But do we really understand what we are saying?

According to Oxford Dictionaries,  it is not even possible to get an accurate count of how many words there are, though English, with its mongrel ancestry and sponge-like capacity to absorb foreign or newly coined words, is comprised of upwards of three quarters of a million words.

With so many choices one would think that the precision of our descriptions and communications would be without room for interpretation – or the need for it. It seems that we would always be able to say what we mean and mean what we say. Yet, when the truth is unflattering or offensive or too direct, or we don’t want to be judged as lowly for unsavory or unseemly activities we resort to euphemism, giving our unpleasant concept a softer and more appealing taste. This manipulation of words is quite powerful as advertisers, politicians, religions and con artists well know.

However, the words that convey literature, poetry, lyrics, philosophy and science come from the same lexicon. Speaking or writing eloquently is admired as an art. Words are a medium which is crafted into complex philosophies or simple truths, embellishing civilization and defining culture.

Consequently, culture begets a psychology that can supersede one’s individual psychology, or perhaps it is better to say infiltrate one’s moral intuition, so that is it is possible that our behavior can be led in an irrational direction merely if rational language is applied, or if certain language is omitted. Euphemism works its magic.

This is well illustrated in the promotion of “humane slaughter”,  “compassionate consumption”,  “natural horsemanship” and, frankly,  any  case of exploitation of animals where the animal is purported to be “happy” in his or her servitude and imprisonment. The multibillion dollar industry of animal slavery and its inevitable cruelty thrive with the help of selective language.

Humanity is splintered into countless cultures and sub-cultures and most of us live under the influence more than one. A side effect of this is that we might unwittingly embrace utterly opposing moral attitudes within our lives simply because a sub-culture and its language obscure our insight. Consider your own immediate family values, your employment culture, your social network of friends and your personal hobbies. Undoubtedly, there are many overlapping features in each, but it might be that you are taking pleasure or pride in something that if it were described in another way would make you cringe.

Horse people – those that are attracted to horses and keep them for purposes of sport, or work or pleasure – are such a sub-culture where perfectly conscientious people in areas of, say, health and ecology and, in general, good citizenry for the sake of a better humanity simultaneously do terrible things to horses. There is even a stigma for being too kind to a horse. A horse that is too sick or lame to work or be ridden after he has been broken down through use is considered a burden. A horse that does not readily comply or fit in or in some way earn his keep is beaten and over worked. On the other hand he may be handed off in a quick sale or left to receive minimal care if not outright neglect. Or maybe he is just killed.

Through culture, history, advertising, and one of the worst forms of justification for malevolence, in my opinion, tradition, people who admire horses for all the reasons for which they deserve admiration go on to kick them, whip them, exhaust them, force them, demean them, enslave them and find disappointment in them. All of these infractions take place under the guise of positive definitions of words like athleticism, sports, adventure, pleasure, teaching, respect, gentling, skill, energy, therapy, etc.

There are the euphemisms like tap, bump, contact, support, leg, rhythm, squeeze, correction – all replacements for adverse pressure or a hitting impact intended to cause discomfort and pain. There are tie-downs and hobbles and gag bits, undisguised terms for available accouterments considered reasonable and necessary for controlling a horse.

Another vein of patois is the creative interpretations of a horse’s signs of communication, where fear is described as silliness or idiocy. Lack of understanding to a human’s request is willful resistance and disrespect. Curiosity and initiative is rudeness. And poor performance of any maneuver is just plain laziness with no accounting for possible pain or inability to physically conduct himself without risk of injury.

If the word child , woman or man is substituted for horse in any standard discussion of horse husbandry and use, it sounds like unconscionable and sociopathic behavior. The reason for that is simple; it is unconscionable and sociopathic behavior.

If the defense and rationale is that animals are not the same as people and they should be domesticated and bred to be used by us, then that is the shame of humanity for taking such a narrow view of our community of earthlings. Mankind upholds language as a signifier of his superiority as a species, but as I see it we are overstating that claim.

~~~

Be Vegan 

Acknowledgments: Thank you to Michael Bevilacqua and David Castro for the depth of their discussions with me, and to Alexander Nevzorov for telling it like it is.

Our Animals, Ourselves

With the undertaking of domestication of plants and animals humans took advantage of their environments and essentially stylized them to facilitate the acquisition of food.  One general long term effect is that gathering became centralized and hunting was restructured as highly “organized predation”.  [i]  With the advent of specialized food producers other members of the community were free to think about other things. [ii] This led to a boon of innovation for humans, and acquisition of knowledge about life and nature that we could hardly wish to be without, but did not come without a price.

When we domesticated those others we domesticated ourselves as well.  In the same ways that we cultivated, tamed, restricted, categorized, labeled and used plants and animals, so did many men, women and children fall into line as “others” while populations developed a hierarchical system of ownership, suppression of many by the few, and, most sadly, divorced themselves from nature by labeling animals and some humans as having an otherness less worthy of a full free life than some.

What astonishes me is that while humanitarian and civil activism rages against the segregations, the imprisonments, the slavery, the rapes  and any other humiliating injustice you can think of for humans, so come the cries to the effect of  “ These people are forced to live like animals!” or “It is a crime to treat people like animals!”

Statements like this are common vernacular.  In the dialog of recent episode of a popular science fiction television program a father defends his daughter’s right to privacy against authorities who want to study her ability to predict the future by saying he will not allow her to cooperate  since they only want to test her and probe her “like an animal.”  He is well aware of the inhumane consequences of such treatment.

And what of those animals brought up for comparison to humans? If people can see animals that live in such conditions or receive such treatment that no human should be subjected to the same, what have we done?  How can we point to an example of our own making as if it is somehow something animals bring upon themselves, as if it is a fault of their characters or that it doesn’t really matter to them?

Animals in their natural environments avoid unsanitary conditions, overcrowding and anti-social behavior.

Domesticated animals – most often animals raised as food, but even pets and service animals – are routinely subjected to lives of compartmentalized storage, artificial and forced breeding arrangements, and separation from family bonding, nurturing and socialization that can leave them emotionally ruined. Horses most certainly live within such programs.  In the name of human superiority and economics, not to mention frivolous entertainment,  this is usually ignored or twisted to fit neatly into our rationale for using animals for personal gain.

If the greatness of a civilization is judged by how it treats its animals, as has been variously quoted, most notably by Gandhi, I ask, is there yet a civilization that deserves the mark of greatness on that premise?   If we exploit fear and inflict pain, humiliate with punishment and deny intelligence and emotions of the animals we incorporate into our cultures we are operating at the lowest level of our potential.

The knowledge we have gained on the backs of animals has brought us to a place where it is not necessary to continue the practice. It’s time to listen to our words and actions towards animals and realize that if we would not accept treatment toward them as reasonable for ourselves it must cease.  Only then will the accolade of greatness we hope to attach to our civilizations be apt.


[i] Desmond Morris, The Naked Ape  , McGraw-Hill Book Company (1967)

[ii] Jared Diamond, Guns, Germs and Steel , W.W. Norton Company (2000)