School’s out, but many kids—and their parents—are still stuck at home. Let’s keep learning together. Special guest Guy Raz joins Manoush for an hour packed with TED science lessons for everyone.
BY SOFO ARCHON
The German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer once said that “men are the devils of the earth, and the animals are its tormented souls.”
I don’t fully agree with this statement, but I can understand why he made it.
Think about it: More than 70 billion land animals are killed by humans each year. Yes, you read it right: SEVENTY BILLION. This includes:
- 2,000,000+ dogs
- 4,000,000+ horses
- 500,000,000+ sheep
- 1,000,000,000+ pigs
- 2,000,000,000+ ducks
- 60,000,000,000+ chickens
I’m not talking about animals that are killed indirectly by human activity, such as plastic pollution and habitat destruction. No, I’m talking about animals that are directly killed by the very hands of people.
Some of those animals are killed soon after they’re born, such as male chicks who’re ground up alive or are thrown away into trash bags and left to slowly suffocate (if you’re wondering why, that’s because they are considered useless by the egg industry, since they can’t produce eggs). Others are abused for their entire lives, such as female cows who’re forcibly impregnated year after year, have their babies stolen from them right after birth and are constantly exploited for their milk until they have their throats slit.
Last Sunday the Yulin Dog Meat Festival started in China once again. During that festival, people celebrate by killing and eating about 10,000 dogs in only a few days’ time. And a couple of months ago, in my country Greece people celebrated Easter by killing and eating hundreds of thousands of lambs.
People celebrate by abusing animals and depriving them of their lives. Can you fathom how perverted that is?
Schopenhauer is right in saying that animals are the tormented souls of the earth. But, unlike Schopenhauer, I don’t see humans as devils. Rather, I see them merely as victims — victims of their social conditioning, which is to blame for treating animals in such an inhumane way.
You see, since we were born most of us have been conditioned by our culture to believe that animals are inferior to us, and that their value consists only of what they can offer us — primarily their flesh and byproducts such as milk, eggs or their skin. They don’t possess inherent value, and our purpose is to dominate and exploit them.
This notion or myth of human supremacy prevails in our civilization, and goes back thousands of years. Open the Bible, a text claimed by over 2 billion people to be the written word of God, and you’ll find this line: “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth”. Or open the texts of the celebrated scientists of the Enlightenment and you’ll find similar views. For example, the English philosopher Francis Bacon suggested that we should torture nature in order to reveal her secrets. And Descartes, the renowned French philosopher and mathematician, saw animals as insentient machines, and didn’t hesitate to nail his wife’s dog to a board and chop it open while it was still alive.
Nature is seen as separate and inferior to humans. This view is so ingrained in our minds that we feel no empathy for nature, and find no problem abusing it or treating it with disrespect. Is it any wonder, then, that most people around the world are exploiting and killing animals by the billions? Or that scientists still torture them for their research purposes, as if they’re nothing but objects to be used as a means to our own ends? Not at all.
When some people feel superior to others, they tend to believe that they have the right to oppress them. That’s why the Nazis hunted down the Jews — they considered themselves to be the superior race, the Aryan one, which was destined to take over the world. Or why men, believing that they are the superior sex, have been controlling and repressing women for millennia. Or why so many white people are still bigoted against black people; racist attitudes arise only when we perceive another’s race to be inferior to ours.
To end oppression, we need to stop dividing people or species into “superior” and “inferior”. Lately, there’s a lot of discussion going on about a lot of important social injustice issues. That’s because more and more people wake up and realize that regardless of their race or sex all humans deserve equal rights. But the most neglected and by far the biggest (and arguably the oldest) injustice in existence has been the one performed against animals. It is an injustice that nearly everyone — whether black or white, male or female, gay or straight, Christian or Muslim, capitalist or communist — takes part in. This collective attitude towards animals is reflected by the fact that animals are not fully protected by law, which makes it legal for anyone to kill and otherwise harm them by “farming” them. Animals are merely seen as products — hence they are labelled as “livestock” and are categorized according to commercial types of meat.
Of course, as any zoologist would tell you, animals are sentient, conscious beings who can experience emotions like fear, joy, sadness and love. They are beings who avoid pain and desire to live happy and free, pretty much like you and I do. So, why are we stealing their freedom? Why do we find it alright to derive pleasure from killing and eating them? It’s because of the myth of human supremacy that underlies all animal exploitation, oppression and abuse.
Can you pierce through that myth and see that it’s nothing but a lie?
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