Animal Welfare and Human Values

Wilfrid Laurier University Press (CA)
  • 1. Auflage
  • |
  • erschienen am 30. Oktober 2010
  • |
  • 344 Seiten
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978-1-55458-767-4 (ISBN)
As the most populous province in Canada, Ontario is a microcosm of the animal welfare issues which beset Western civilization. The authors of this book, chairman and vice-chairman, respectively, of the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, find themselves constantly being made aware of the atrocities committed in the Society's jurisdiction. They have been, in turn, puzzled, exasperated and horrified at humanity's cruelty to our fellow sentient beings. The issues discussed in this book are the most contentious in animal welfare disputes - animal experimentation, fur-farming and trapping, the use of animals for human entertainment and the conditions under which animals are raised for human consumption. They are complex issues and should be thought about fairly and seriously. The authors, standing squarely on the side of the animals, suggest 'community' and 'belonging' as concepts through which to understand our relationships to other species. They ground their ideas in Wordsworth's 'primal sympathy' and Jung's 'unconscious identity' with the animal realm. The philosophy developed in this book embraces common sense and compromise as the surest paths to the goal of animal welfare. It requires respect and consideration for other species while acknowledging our primary obligations to our fellow humans.

Contact WLU Press for information about this author.
  • Englisch
Wilfrid Laurier University
  • 0,73 MB
978-1-55458-767-4 (9781554587674)
1554587670 (1554587670)
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Chapter One

The Status of Animals:
From Human Origins to Humanism

Had he only made one species of animals, none of the rest would have enjoyed the happiness of existence;

- Addison, Spectator, October 25, 1712

To understand the early history of Homo sapiens is to understand humanity's early relationship to other species. Animals were first hunted for food and clothing, then domesticated to ensure a more dependable supply and finally employed as beasts of burden. Moreover, early in human history animals became both objects of worship and pets. It is no exaggeration to recognize our relationship with other animals as a principal source of population expansion, accumulation of wealth and the benefits of civilization itself. Strange as it may seem, non-human animals have played a major role in determining the specific forms of humankind's divergent cultures. Humanity is not only itself a part of the animal realm but also a species whose history has developed directly out of its relationship to other sentient beings. Without the relationship to other animals human history would have been quite different.

Human development owes a great debt to other species. Yet, at least in Western civilization, a self-conscious humane respect for the interests of other species is a relatively recent phenomenon, and one which even today is only in its infancy. Historically, Western civilization has placed humanity external to, and above nature, rather than within nature. Moreover, Western history is not one of a consistent, gradual extension of consideration to animals but in some respects, at least until the nineteenth century, sometimes the reverse-despite the fact that there have always been some who have been willing to swim against the tide.

By contrast, Oriental cultures, especially those influenced by Taoism, Hinduism, Buddhism and, to a lesser degree, Confucianism, have viewed humanity as within and subject to nature. It was not humanity's task to dominate nature but to accommodate itself to it. Understanding humanity as one animal among many species was never alien to the Oriental mind. Oddly, though, as Western culture in the last century and a half has moved toward a greater interest in and respect for the animal realm, the very reverse has occurred in the East.

In early human history, cultivators, hunters and gatherers developed tools and weapons for more effective hunting, skinning and food production and thus furthered the process of making human life distinctly different from the lives of other species. The need to develop more effective means to acquire sustenance and shelter honed our constructive skills. The hook and line was developed for fishing. The bow, the first composite mechanism, was invented, as was the spearthrower. Both are mechanical devices which increase the range and accuracy-and consequently the success-of the chase. In addition to wood and stone, humans began to use animal parts as weapons. Reindeer antlers, for example, were sharpened to become effective harpoons. Bones and ivory were honed to make knives and cutting implements. Tents were constructed from animal skins. In the absence of wood, animal bones were burned. If necessity is the mother of invention, many of the needs were satisfied from our use of animals for food and some of the inventions employed the inedible parts of the prey-both to improve hunting skills and to provide more efficient shelter, clothing and warmth.

Early religions, in the form of magic rites, developed to promote the availability of game and success in the hunt. It is also conjectured by anthropologists that fertility rituals served as prayers for the abundance of prey. The famous animal cave paintings of France and Spain were undertaken by deftly skilled artists perhaps either to conjure up in reality what was depicted in art or to appease and claim the souls of the game. It is estimated that these ritualistic and highly skilled works of art are some 20,000 or more years old.

Certainly there is an intrinsic connection between the human-animal relationship and the development of the earliest religious practices. Moreover, there are strong indications that some 80,000 or more years ago the practice of animal sacrifice as appeasement to the spirits already existed-some of the proceeds of the hunt being so dedicated. Early ornamentation also displayed a decided animal orientation. Hunting tackle was embellished with animal engravings. Shells and animal teeth were strung together as necklaces. Bracelets were made from mammoth ivory.

Animals were first domesticated in the middle stone age. Not surprisingly, the first animal to be domesticated was the dog, which has continued its close relationship with humans for the ensuing 12,000 or so years. Probably for a few thousand years before that the wolf and jackal ancestors of the domestic dog had been tolerated as scavengers around human habitats. Eventually the dog was domesticated to help in hunting small game, from the red deer to the boar and hare. In payment for its services the dog would be rewarded with the less desirable meat of the prey. It was through such domestication that we began to treat the animal in part as an end in itself and take the first steps toward the closest interspecies association-that between human and companion animal. Indeed, a recent discovery in a Middle Eastern tomb suggests that the purely companion dog-not just a hunting aid-arrived on the scene some 11,500 years ago. And the cat as pet has a history of at least 4,500 years.

Although human pre-history is clouded in the mists of time, enough can be gleaned from the available evidence for us to be able to recognize that the origins of our habits, skills and modes of societal organization lie substantially in our relationship to the animal realm.

In the neolithic period-beginning some 12,000 years ago-humans began to cultivate the soil. While men hunted, women gathered the seeds of wild grasses, the forerunners of our wheat and barley. Then they began to sow the seeds and cultivate the land, thus producing a more stable and predictable food supply, and through the creation of surpluses providing the potential to support a growing population.

With the stubble and husks of the grain plots it became possible to provide uninterrupted sustenance for wild animals-sheep, goats, cattle and pigs, allowing humans to domesticate these species. This tame game provided reserves of food and clothing-what Gordon Childe called "living larders and walking wardrobes."1 Not only did such animals provide meat and skin, but they were also permanent suppliers of milk and wool. Villages were now from 1-1/2 to 8 acres in size and housed from 8 to 35 families but were apparently insufficiently complex to permit any division of labour other than by gender and age. Village sites were chosen in part for the suitability of the land for cultivation, whereas for people who remained predominantly engaged in hunting the proximity to game and wild fowl was more significant.

Generally, though, as the activities of grain-growing and stock-breeding developed, hunting was relegated to a lesser significance in the neolithic economy. The mixture of grain with stock was doubly beneficial-stock could graze on cleared plots and provide fertilizer to enrich the soil to produce new and healthier crops over time.

It is a perhaps surprising reflection on the propensity of a significant proportion of the male populations of Western civilizations to continue to hunt for game today to note that the economic necessity of the hunt was beginning to wane some 7,000 years or so ago. If, for some, sports activities have sublimated the psychological drives appropriate to the chase, for others the killing of game remains an essential part of 'manly' activity! Indeed, the word 'game' itself reflects the fact that all sports-'games'-find their origins in substitutes for hunting.

The invention of the plough some 5,000 years ago brought about the most fundamental change in the human-animal relationship. The arrival of the plough encouraged the invention of the yoke and the harness, which allowed oxen rather than humans to till the soil-the age of the beast of burden had arrived. The plough not only changed farming from plot cultivation to tillage, but united the tasks of grain-growing and stock-breeding. It also deprived women of their control over the cereal crops and hence reduced their economic significance. The yoked employment of the oxen soon spread to drawing sleds over trails and snow, and thus the long history of the animal as a means of transportation was begun.

Soon-at least 'soon' measured in terms of several centuries!-asses and horses were no longer merely sources of meat and milk but of transportation too-the asses as pack animals and the horses at first as drawers of two-wheeled carts (or chariots) and later with the rider astride. Somewhere around the same period camels were also being tamed and put into service.

Horse-drawn chariots were, of course, used in early warfare, as a little later were the elephant and the camel. However, domesticated animals were certainly not primarily used for destructive purposes but instead helped produce economic surpluses-the very prerequisites of civilization-and were themselves, particularly horses and cows, reckoned as wealth. The horse and the camel especially were instrumental in making trading between distant parts feasible, at least when it was not possible to undertake all or most of the journey by water. And it was trading which helped diffuse knowledge and create...

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