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
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