Tag Archives: domestication

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.

1. Niccolo Machiavelli,  Wikipedia

Recommended Reading:

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)