Friday, September 02, 2011

There’s animal cruelty and there’s animal cruelty

Animal cruelty is a delicate issue because I think we’ve ‘lost it’ on how to address human abuse of our fellow creatures. By ‘lost it’ I mean we have lost perspective of the core moral issue involved in disregarding the inalienable rights of our fellow species—those we own as pets, those we slaughter, hunt, and those thousands of species we inadvertently allow to expire by the way we treat the planet:
Mass extinctions linked to climate change are already underway. — Environmental Health News New evidence confirms what scientists have long suspected: that climate change is already having major effects on many of the world's species. Researchers report for the first time that the documented species responses – migration to a higher or cooler climate or changes in population – suggest actual extinction risks linked to climate change are almost double those that were predicted. Just as grim are future outlooks – almost one-third of species will be threatened by 2100. Temperature, ocean acidity and other climate-related changes can set the stage for widespread extinctions by adding even more pressure to ecosystems already stressed by habitat loss, pollution, disease and other human-related impacts.  (August 29, 2011) Environmental Health News
Contrast our enthusiasm lately to toss some people in jail for acts of animal cruelty to the wholesale non-reaction in this region and the US of last year’s attempt to get the public to focus on the immeasurable damage we, all of us, are doing to the entire wild kingdom:
2010 International Year of Biodiversity The United Nations declared 2010 to be the International Year of Biodiversity. It is a celebration of life on earth and of the value of biodiversity for our lives. The world is invited to take action in 2010 to safeguard the variety of life on earth: biodiversity
Certainly, our local media has launched alleged animal cruelty acts to their front pages. We are fining and jailing folks who allegedly commit acts of rage against animals that some of us hold as pets and some we see as helpless victims. Dogs tossed into the streets because of road rage get big jail time and we punish other acts against animals that accrue more legal retribution than serious crimes against our fellow humans. There’s something going on in our legal attitude towards animals, something that has changed over the years when furious owners used to beat their tired horses to death because their owners thought they weren’t moving fast enough for them—and leave their carcasses in the streets. We do not want to return to those times.

However, rather than talk about the hypocrisy of our attitudes towards animals cruelty—where we overreact to singular acts of animal cruelty and dismiss wholesale slaughter of entire wildlife species, I’d rather shift the discussion to about our species’ place in on this planet at this moment of time. We need to rethink how we think legally about wildlife. Animals are not humans, but they are absolutely essential fellow creatures that shape and have been shaped by our environment. An animal removed from its environment is something else than it was. Animals did not evolve for our benefit: they evolved in an arms race with their surroundings over billions of years.

Our view of animal cruelty where we descend in full force on those who allegedly hurt animals has something to say about our evolving sense of morality to our fellow creatures. But it is a very short view of Morality if assuaging our moral outrage at these singular acts and allowing ourselves to wipe out most of the other creatures on this planet is how we operate. We need to evolve morally and act on what we have learned about our planet, ourselves, and the other inhabitants on this poor orb.

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