We poetically construct our identity as human beings, together with our values, largely through reciprocal relationships with animals. They provide us with essential points of reference, as well as illustrations of the qualities that we may choose to emulate or avoid in ourselves. Any major change in our relationships with animals, individual or collective, reverberates profoundly in our character as human beings, in ways that go far beyond immediately pragmatic concerns. When a species becomes extinct, something perishes in the human soul as well.
We have been cut off from our souls in the West, and because romantic love has become our religion, we think we can find fulfillment through this extraordinary and powerful force that draws us into an illusion of permanence. Passion makes us feel alive, makes us sing, makes us feel in touch with something powerful and wonderful, just as it would if we followed this meaning in life in a more spiritual practice. In the West it is often through such relationships, through another human being, that we search desperately for something, not knowing it is to be found within ourselves.
In our day, there are stresses and fractures of the human-animal bond, and some forces at work would sever it once and for all. They pull us in the wrong direction and away from the decent and honorable code that makes us care for creatures who are entirely at our mercy. Especially within the last two hundred years, we've come to apply an industrial mind-set to the use of animals, too often viewing them as if they were nothing but articles of commerce and the raw material of science, agriculture, and wildlife management. Here, as in other pursuits, human ingenuity has a way of outrunning human conscience, and some things we do only because we can--forgetting to ask whether we should.
Well," he said, "I think we've found our way in. We just wait until they're duking it out, but trust me, these Humans First types don't have a lot of staying power or they'd have been at the gym with me before. I doubt Grandma Kent there is going to do a lot of damage." He pointed at a gray-haired, hunched lady in a shawl, carrying what looked liked a gardening tool. "It's like Plants Versus Zombies, and I'm not rooting for the zombies, weirdly enough.
Faced with an ecological crisis whose roots lie in this disengagement, in the separation of human agency and social responsibility from the sphere of our direct involvement with the non-human environment, it surely behoves us to reverse this order of priority. I began with the point that while both humans and animals have histories of their mutual relations, only humans narrate such histories. But to construct a narrative, one must already dwell in the world and, in the dwelling, enter into relationships with its constituents, both human and non-human. I am suggesting that we rewrite the history of human-animal relations, taking this condition of active engagement, of being-in-the-world, as our starting point. We might speak of it as a history of human concern with animals, insofar as this notion conveys a caring, attentive regard, a 'being with'. And I am suggesting that those of us who are 'with' animals in their day-to-day lives, most notably hunters and herdsmen, can offer us some of the best possible indications of how we might proceed.
We humans may be brilliant and we may be special, but we are still connected to the rest of life. No one reminds us of this better than our dogs. Perhaps the human condition will always include attempts to remind ourselves that we are separate from the rest of the natural world. We are different from other animals; it's undeniably true. But while acknowledging that, we must acknowledge another truth, the truth that we are also the same. That is what dogs and their emotions give us-- a connection. A connection to life on earth, to all that binds and cradles us, lest we begin to feel too alone. Dogs are our bridge-- our connection wo who we really are, and most tellingly, who we want to be. When we call them home to us, it'as as if we are calling for home itself. And that'll do, dogs. That'll do.
When we put our trust in diplomacy, it is not because it is an inspiring or uplifting discourse or because it helps us see the common humanity in others. The stylized circumlocutions of diplomats can make them seem ridiculous or irrelevant: they never seem to be talking about what is really going on.
Anyone who truly wants to escape human solipsism should not seek out empty places. Instead of fleeing to desert, where they will be thrown back into their own thoughts, they will d better to seek out the company of other animals. A zoo is a better window from which to look out of the human world than a monastery.
What makes you think human beings are sentient and aware? There's no evidence for it. Human beings never think for themselves, they find it too uncomfortable. For the most part, members of our species simply repeat what they are told-and become upset if they are exposed to any different view. The characteristic human trait is not awareness but conformity, and the characteristic result is religious warfare. Other animals fight for territory or food; but, uniquely in the animal kingdom, human beings fight for their 'beliefs.' The reason is that beliefs guide behavior which has evolutionary importance among human beings. But at a time when our behavior may well lead us to extinction, I see no reason to assume we have any awareness at all. We are stubborn, self-destructive conformists. Any other view of our species is just a self-congratulatory delusion. Next question.
We often forget our human connectedness. Throughout my life, I have felt the greatest beauty lies in this connection. It has been in the deepest connections with others that I have experienced the greatest degree of learning, healing and transformation. This connection is a powerful thing, with the ability to transform lives, and ultimately transform human experience.
Though reason must guide us in laying down standards and laws regarding animals, and in examining the arguments of those who reject such standards, it is usually best in any moral inquiry to start with the original motivation, which in the case of animals we may without embarrassment call love. Human beings love animals as only the higher love the lower, the knowing love the innocent, and the strong love the vulnerable. When we wince at the suffering of animals, that feeling speaks well of us even when we ignore it, and those who dismiss love for our fellow creatures as mere sentimentality overlook a good and important part of our humanity.
What finally turned me back toward the older traditions of my own [Chickasaw] and other Native peoples was the inhumanity of the Western world, the places--both inside and out--where the culture's knowledge and language don't go, and the despair, even desperation, it has spawned. We live, I see now, by different stories, the Western mind and the indigenous. In the older, more mature cultures where people still live within the kinship circles of animals and human beings there is a connection with animals, not only as food, but as 'powers,' a word which can be taken to mean states of being, gifts, or capabilities.I've found, too, that the ancient intellectual traditions are not merely about belief, as some would say. Belief is not a strong enough word. They are more than that: They are part of lived experience, the on-going experience of people rooted in centuries-old knowledge that is held deep and strong, knowledge about the natural laws of Earth, from the beginning of creation, and the magnificent terrestrial intelligence still at work, an intelligence now newly called ecology by the Western science that tells us what our oldest tribal stories maintain--the human animal is a relatively new creation here; animal and plant presences were here before us; and we are truly the younger sisters and brothers of the other animal species, not quite as well developed as we thought we were. It is through our relationships with animals and plants that we maintain a way of living, a cultural ethics shaped from an ancient understanding of the world, and this is remembered in stories that are the deepest reflections of our shared lives on Earth.That we held, and still hold, treaties with the animals and plant species is a known part of tribal culture. The relationship between human people and animals is still alive and resonant in the world, the ancient tellings carried on by a constellation of stories, songs, and ceremonies, all shaped by lived knowledge of the world and its many interwoven, unending relationships. These stories and ceremonies keep open the bridge between one kind of intelligence and another, one species and another.(from her essay "First People")
To be sure, there are human abilities that other animals lack, but the more we learn about animals, the more abilities we discover that humans lack. Obviously, if animals were included in the Olympics, humans wouldn’t take home any gold medals. We can’t run as fast as a cheetah, swim as well as a fish, or lift as much weight as an elephant.
Our inner life is what makes us human and, to me, it’s even more important for the way we live now. We’re constantly assaulted by all kinds of things—cell phones, televisions, ads, cars, news of war, the bad economy, shootings. It's endless. Can you imagine just continuously reacting to these things? You lose your soul.
humane” child molestation. We condemn it all. We should do the same with respect to animal exploitation. Second, animal welfare reform does not provide significant protection for animal interests. Animals are chattel property; they are economic commodities. Given this status and the reality of markets, the level of protection provided by animal welfare will generally be limited to what promotes efficient exploitation. That is, we will protect animal interests to the extent that it provides an economic benefit.
My simple explanation of why we human beings, the most advanced species on earth, cannot find happiness, is this: as we evolve up the ladder of being, we find three things: the first, that the tension between the range of opposites in our lives and society widens dramatically and often painfully as we evolve; the second, that the better informed and more intelligent we are, the more humble we have to become about our ability to live meaningful lives and to change anything, even ourselves; and consequently, thirdly, that the cost of gaining the simplicity the other side of complexity can rise very steeply if we do not align ourselves and our lives well.
The inconsistencies that haunt our relationships with animals also result from the quirks of human cognition. We like to think of ourselves as the rational species. But research in cognitive psychology and behavioral economics shows that our thinking and behavior are often completely illogical. In one study, for example, groups of people were independently asked how much they would give to prevent waterfowl from being killed in polluted oil ponds. On average, the subjects said they would pay $80 to save 2,000 birds, $78 to save 20,000 birds, and $88 to save 200,000 birds. Sometimes animals act more logically than people do; a recent study found that when picking a new home, the decisions of ant colonies were more rational than those of human house-hunters.What is it about human psychology that makes it so difficult for us to think consistently about animals? The paradoxes that plague our interactions with other species are due to the fact that much of our thinking is a mire of instinct, learning, language, culture, intuition, and our reliance on mental shortcuts.