Thursday, May 03, 2012

Humans are Animals, Too

Haven't been posting much lately, so I'm just going to go ahead and reprint the stuff I write at Facebook.  And that makes sense, as many of my comments are things I write on my "friends" posts and you wouldn't be likely to read them even if you were a friend.  But if you're really jonesing for my stuff, you should get on Facebook and friend me.  I have much lower standards for what I write there compared with here, so I post more frequently as it doesn't take me so long to write.

Anyway, a friend posted a quote from some lameass author, who wrote: ‎"Each and every animal on earth has as much right to be here as you and me."

And I found that to be a fairly meaningless statement that was posing as depth to those who like simplicity, and yet...what does it even mean?  Rights?  What's a right, exactly, when applied to animals?  Rights are a totally human construct that doesn't apply to animals.  We have no rights beyond what we agree we have and since animals can't be a part of that agreement, it can't apply to them.  So I wrote the following:

I'm not sure how this makes any sense. Why does a cow have as much of a right to live as I do? When a lion kills a zebra, should we imprison the lion after a fair trial? Seriously, is there really no distinction between a human being and the bugs that splatter on my windshield? Their rights are really no different than mine? 
Mind you, I'm not necessarily saying that animals *don't* have a right to be here. But I definitely don't think this is a self evident argument. Moreover, I feel this falls for the same simplicity that anti-abortion people use when claiming that abortion is murder. It's an easy claim to make, but it's not very easy to justify. 
And overall, we use a sliding scale for this sort of thing, with beings at the higher end of the sentient chain having more rights than those at the lower end. So humans trump smart animals, smart animals trump dumb animals, dumb animals trump fetuses and embryos, and mindless insects and other creepy things can be killed indiscriminately.  
And you all know that this is true, because if you had to choose between saving a human, a dog, a chicken, a fetus, or a fly, you'd pick the same order I gave. The only exception might be with the fetus, as a fetus might trump a dumb animal, depending upon your preferences. But to suggest that all animals have just as much of a right to be here as any other would be to argue that you wouldn't know whether it's better to save a human or a mosquito if you had to save one.
Someone else responded thusly:
I agree with this statement. Animals have a right to be here. A lion klling a zebra is nature and we can't control nature, but we can control how we as humans treat other species. Where I live, they kill deer and turkeys, even bears indiscriminately ("in season"). We continue to build houses and roads and malls all the while not even giving a second thought that these woods we are rendering bare and obsolete are home to other species. Factory farms...all these things say "fuck you" to other species.
And this is the part where debates always get sticky for me, as this person is an idiot and I find it difficult to not make that point obvious in my response.  Seriously, are we really to imagine that animals never destroy their environment or are so successful that they over-hunt their prey and suffer from it?  And if man doesn't give a second thought to the wanton destruction we cause, wouldn't that belie the claim that we're different from animals who do the same thing?

Either we're above that sort of thing, or we're not.  You don't get to make both claims.  And the more accurate idea is that we're just like other animals, but just more effective.  Because I tell you what, if a shark could stroll up to a seafood buffet and eat all he could, he would; and the fact that I do the same shouldn't reflect any worse on me.

But I think I did alright, setting the record straight without being too condescending, writing:
Your statement actually undermines your point, because if we separate ourselves out of the animal kingdom and consider our acts in a different context than the actions of animals, then we surely can't be grouped with them in terms of our rights. It's as if you're arguing that because we're higher beings than them that we need to hold ourselves to a higher standard and must therefore treat them as being equals...even though we only do so based upon the belief that they're not equal. A lion can be tamed and a man can be wild, and neither is any better than the other at deciding which to be. The fact that a man does something stupid or crazy is proof positive that they can't help themselves, as it's stupid and crazy to act stupid and crazy and no one wants to be stupid or crazy unless they really were.  
But of course, we ARE animals and what we do is part of nature as well. We might like to think of ourselves as rational beings who sometimes lapse into irrationality, but we're really just apes in suits who fall victim to animal instincts and the chemicals in our brains far more often than we care to acknowledge. Even the best of us aren't immune to our instincts, and the vast majority of people rarely experience anything else. Sorry, but Christian mythology aside, we belong firmly in the animal kingdom and the cruelty and stupidity we see on a daily basis is how our species behaves. We are not the only species that acts with cruelty or destroys our environment, and anyone who claims that we have self-awareness and rationality that animals lack clearly hasn't spent much time with a conservative. 
Beyond that, people do *not* treat mammals in the same way they treat insects. We have an instinctive hierarchy that really does make sense, even if it's ingrained in our animal DNA and beyond our control. Someone might shoot a bear, but they still treat it with more respect than they do an insect. I myself never hunt, but I've got a wine glass full of fruit flies in my kitchen right now that I used to lure them to their death, and plan to throw them out just like I did the last batch. No one treats deer that way. Hunters respect mammals more than they respect birds and insects. It's in our DNA to do so. That's also why we think baby mammals are adorable, even if we take joy in harming them as adults. We are animals and this is the way our species behaves.
I'll let you know if this discussion continues any further.  I mean, I can't imagine any decent points she could make in rebuttal, but that's never stopped people before.


mlf said...

Where would I find you on facebook?

Doctor Biobrain said...

By my name, duh.

Unfortunately, I goofed when I signed up, so DoctorBiobrain is my first name. I definitely regret that one, but at the time I wasn't really planning to use the account, as I was drunk and just screwing around. Now I'm stuck with it. Oh well.