Thursday, June 02, 2005

Stop the Revolution--I Want to Get Off

From New Scientist comes a frightening vision of our technology-enhanced future. Frightening that is if you care to spend time with an animal companion.

OK, to be fair, "Animals and Us: Forward to the Revolution" is primarily an intellectual discourse on the diverse relationships between humans and animals. On the one hand, we eat cows, chickens, and fish. On the other, we treat Pup and Kit just like members of the family. It can be hard to reconcile these divergent behaviors.

Suppose in a not-so-distant future that the glass domes that enclose human existence exclude the animals--all of them. Picture that future in your mind:

Beef steaks are grown from cell cultures, and robotic pets are good at everything from minding the kids to caring for the elderly. And we have supercomputers to simulate all the drugs and medical advances anyone could ever dream of.

So what happened? The "Animals have Intrinsic Worth" lobby won out, that's what happened. After a century of gently running down the stock, all animals were left outside the glass dome to find their own level: survive, evolve or die.

What brings about animal apartheid in the future? Partlly, its the way we're thinking about animals today. Animals, at least some of them, have come to be seen as more than just a commodity to be bought and sold:

Science has provided us with compelling evidence that animals are more like humans than we previously thought - at the very least, they are sentient. Where animals were seen as "agricultural products", now they are seen as creatures with feelings. This has been accepted by the European Union, which has put a definition of sentience in its animal welfare legislation: "A sentient animal is one for whom feelings matter." In deciding that they are sentient and have feelings, science has blurred the line between "them" and "us" even more.

Why all the fuss? What's wrong with the way we interact with animals at the moment? Nothing, if you don't accept that animals have their own feelings and emotions, or accept it but still don't care. But if you do care, then you will realise that the moral relationship we have with animals is deeply troubled. It becomes impossible to maintain moral blindness to the way we treat them.

When you consider that there are about 50 million dogs and another 50+ million cats in the U.S. alone, the cost of caring for pets must be enormous. Then consider that while most people do chow down with a side order of veggies, it's the meat--the animal--that's the main course. Add in the leather for shoes and belts, the fur used to make coats, and all the other economic contributions made by animals, and you probably have at least 15 percent of GDP.

A world without animals? Talk to the Native Americans, who saw the sacred buffalo driven to near extinction as the iron horse thundered across the prairies bringing a tidal wave of settlers who held no respect for the life of the grand beast. The legend of the buffalo dance offered the Blackfoot a promise that the lives of the buffalo killed for food would be restored to life. Where are the buffalo dancers today?



At 9:15 PM, Blogger biomechanique said...

I have a great deal of sympathy for the loss of the harmonic ways of Native American culture and I can also hardly imagine myself oiling my cat 50 years from now.

At 2:34 PM, Blogger Niesha said...

I wouldn't want to live in a world with out animals. They help add to the essence of this planet.

At 11:26 PM, Blogger Anitasha said...

I don't think that life without animals would be good. I mean think of all the food we eat. I don't want to be a veggie, thank you. haha.


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