Image via Sacha Archer
By Ilya Shambat
The world’s most successful animal species are ones that have learned to live with humans – as pets, as food or as parasites.
In the first category are dogs, cats, and to a lesser extent hamsters and guinea pigs.
In the second category are cows, chickens, ducks, pigs, goats and sheep.
And in the third category are cockroaches, houseflies, lice, rats and various pathogens.
As humans have taken over the world, those species that live with humans – both ones useful to humans and ones that live off of humans – have become the most numerous species in the world. The human expansion has meant, for nature, that its members either learn to live with humans or die. Is that cruel? Of course it is. It is however a reality.
I often encounter people who think that it is unethical to eat meat. I respect their opinion. However if these animals were not raised for food, then they would not have been alive in the first place. There are many more cows and chickens than there are elephants or giraffes. The reason is that these animals are raised for food; and that makes them the most successful animal species on the planet.
It is expected not only that these species will continue to thrive, but that the species that are appreciated by people will be protected from extinction. Nobody wants to see lions or tigers die out; and some people will take action toward preserving them. This does not appear to extend to species that people dislike. More people will be inclined to preserving the creatures that they find beautiful – such as gazelles or giraffes – than creatures, such as hyenas, that they do not.
Once again, is this cruel? Yes, yes and yes. But then there’s cruelty in nature as well, and most animals’ lives are very much a struggle even in nature. Animals eat other animals too. Humans do not have an autonomy on killing. Beautiful lions kill beautiful gazelles. And these beautiful gazelles weren’t raised by the lions for food and were instead plucked from their natural environment.
There are however two things that are imperative to correct for. One is cruelty; the other is unsustainability. Skinning foxes alive, or clubbing baby seals to death, is cruel, and there is no excuse for these damnable practices. Even the worst creatures in nature don’t do that; and people are not meant to be worse than nature.
Unsustainability is destroying what you cannot recreate. No human being now alive can recreate a rainforest; which means that he is not justified in burning it to ground. Raising a cow and then killing it is sustainable; burning the rainforest is not. Nobody should have the freedom to destroy what he cannot recreate; and that is especially the case with rich and bountiful environments such as the Amazonian rainforest.
I see nothing wrong with raising animals for food or for pets. I see everything wrong with cruelty and unsustainability. Simply, we need to be better than that. Humans dominate the world; and world under human domination should be better, not worse, than nature without humans.
As the dominant species, humanity has a responsibility to leave the world in a better, not worse, shape than it found it. It is not wrong to have pets or food; it is wrong to be needlessly cruel, and it is wrong to destroy what one cannot recreate. Efforts will need to be made to prevent cruel and unsustainable practices. And then humanity will have earned legitimately its status as the stewarts of the world.