Tag Archives: civilization

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

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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)