This short piece deals with certain presupposed "flaws" in human nature and how those flaws keep humanity from acting in a moral manner toward non-human and human animals. First, I acknowledge no real divide between the "human" and "animal" world. Neither do I feel all animals are equal. It is a fact that some animals are neater, faster, or more courteous than others. Humans may be the most intelligent animal while there are plenty of animals kinder, more socially developed, and more aware of their mates. When this article refers to the animal world, I include humans as well in that term. Certain religious, social, and personal structures hold humanity up as completely separate from and superior to the animal kingdom in various manners. Such monikers as "non-human animals" are needed in attempt to shift human thought away from anthropocentric and speciesist behavior. Thus, when this article discusses animals it includes humans in the term. Non-human animals (NHAs) will refer to the individuals who are traditionally thought of as animals. This piece is more philosophically grounded and more jargoned than my other writing; however, the spirit of mutual respect of those who may disagree with me is paramount, as always.
It is commonplace to hear complaints regarding the social, economic, and political structure of the United States. When a new and possibly more successful mode of thinking and acting is introduced, often we do not adhere to it because of the difficulty and life changes it will require. The competitive nature of the animal world is often referenced; aggressive human competitiveness is examined, and we concoct elaborate excuse structures to support our selfish way of life. This helps people resist the introspection and restraint required of specific life changes, especially regarding non-human animals (NHAs). Case in point: most people are very much opposed to the abuse of factory-farmed animals and continue to eat them. Animals are often severely abused in factory farms. The disconnect between the meat product on their plate and the living animal ensures the paradigm remains unchallenged.
Dominion Over Animals
Humans often feel immune to social justice issues when they are not directly involved. When pressed, people seem to believe a certain amount of human cruelty to all animals is natural. Religious persons, especially self-labeled Christians, often turn toward the mistranslated and misunderstood "dominion" that God has given Man over the animals. As a Christian (admittedly non-traditional), I regret the vast misunderstanding of that particular word. This is easily refuted and "dominion" is easily put into its true context as a pro NHA rights position when one understands to have dominion over something is to be its loving caretaker. Parents have dominion over their children and no one would permit a human mother to abuse her children. Analogously, the Queen of England has dominion over her subjects and she is not allowed to run roughshod over their lives and basic sentient rights. Therefore, having Christian dominion over NHAs does not give us license to abuse them. And of course, many people do not believe in that particular faith-- or any for that matter—and that is the great right of humans. Still many NHAs are suffering and need compassion from their caretakers. My interpretation of Christianity is that it is a call to compassion for all God's creatures. This includes mercy for animals at the mercy of humans. For a complete discussion of the issue, please see Matthew Scully's book "Dominion: The Suffering of Animals, The Power of Man, and The Call to Mercy."(Buy Direct)
The Nonexistence of Human Nature
Soon after the discussion of dominion comes the discussion of the tragic flaw of human nature. People relate the flaw to wealth, greed, fear, envy or a host of other things. Usually this theory is grounded in the biblical Fall of Man where Adam and Eve supposedly sinned and were cast out; thus developed the imperfect nature of man and this mysterious flawed nature that keeps him from doing kind and compassionate things.