Politics Magazine

Inhumane Society

Posted on the 23 May 2013 by Steveawiggins @stawiggins

AnimalsMatter“I’m a member of PETA,” I’ve had more than one wag say, quoting bumper sticker wisdom as if it were profound, upon learning I’m a vegetarian. “People Eating Tasty Animals,” they then spell out with a smirk. I stopped eating animals at about the turn of the millennium, and since then I’ve discovered more and more reasons that it was the correct decision. I’ve just read Marc Bekoff’s Animals Matter: A Biologist Explains Why We Should Treat Animals with Compassion and Respect. It saddens me that in our world where nothing escapes being posted on Facebook, people still tend not to notice the suffering we impose upon animals as a matter of course. I’ve always been inclined to look closely at things, including animals. Watching them, it is clear that humans are indeed animals only differently evolved. Our mannerisms, our emotions, even our expressions, can be found among our animated kin. We share a planet on which we all evolved together, so why do we find it so easy to exploit other creatures?

One of the reasons Bekoff notes, without being judgmental, is that some religions inform us that people alone are special because we bear the image of God. Although God is supposed to be altruistic, we don’t wish to share that exalted status with any other species, apparently. Even in the twenty-first century many otherwise intelligent people still claim that animals feel no pain. Can’t reason. Are mere machines. We’ve been taught to distrust common sense that informs us that if an animal in distress acts like a human in distress that it experiences the same anxiety. The more we study animals the more human they become. The theology of Genesis has much for which it will be called to answer.

It seems, however, that the Bible is used as a mere excuse here. We exploit other animals because we can. We have taught bovines and ovines to trust us so that we may more easily slaughter them. Perhaps this is an exercise in divine image bearing, but somehow I doubt it. Reading Animals Matter in many ways felt like listening to a scientist who has taken the message of the Lorax to heart. We treat animals the way we do because we don’t understand their language, but we are morally obligated to speak for those who have no tongues. Although accessible to younger readers, Animals Matter is nevertheless a profoundly disturbing book. What does it say about the highly evolved when they exploit their relatives who’ve not learned the language of humans? Or, more accurately, who’ve not learned to vocalize like humans. Other animals speak, just like people sometimes, if we would only translate their actions into words.

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