Archive for January 6th, 2015

We don’t know if there’s a heaven for animals, but we know for sure there’s a hell.

Tuesday, January 6th, 2015
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zubaran

Mercy, please.

I think the better of Friedrich Nietzsche for this: “On January 3, 1889, he suffered a complete mental collapse when he saw a horse being flogged by a coachman in the city of Turin. He embraced the neck of the horse and wept uncontrollably. That moment of lucid insight into animal torment marked the end of his sanity.”

The incident is described in Robert Pogue Harrison‘s blog post yesterday, “Our Animal Hell,”  in the New York Review of Books, which considers the Pope’s recent remarks on animals, and compares it with our deplorable treatment of animals. I cannot describe how strongly I feel about this topic – people tend to blow you off when you attempt such a thing – so I’m glad Robert has done some of the talking for me, and more eloquently than I have ever done. The post is illustrated with Francisco de Zurbarán‘s famous painting (at left), which I have always found almost unbearable. If you read much about René Girard, you’ll run across the image a lot, used to illustrate his thoughts about sacrifice – he argues, plausibly, that the story of Abraham and Isaac is not a parable of blind and murderous obedience, but rather marks an anthropological shift from the sacrifice of humans to the sacrifice of animals as a substitution.  If you read much of the Old Testament, you’ll realize the ancient city of Jerusalem must have reeked the smell of animal blood and reverberated with the cries of terrified creatures.

An excerpt from Robert’s piece:

Harrison as DJ

With you on this one, Robert. (Photo: L.A. Cicero)

“We like to think of ourselves as the stewards or even saviors of nature, yet the fact of the matter is, for the animal world at large, the human race represents nothing less than a natural disaster. This applies to all creatures, from those we allow to roam ‘wild’ in designated nature preserves to those we cram together on our chicken farms; from the dancing bears of Anatolia to the bald eagles of Alaska, with their collar monitors; from the laboratory animals we test our cosmetic products’ chemicals on to the sharks whose fins leave the oceans to swim around in our nuptial soups. All creatures are under our yoke; and all, including our beloved horses, dogs, cats, and canaries, are subject to human persecution in one way or another.

“From a quantitative point of view our species guilt is more aggravated today than it ever was in the past, when Plutarch or Pythagoras cried out against animal murder and the consumption of animal flesh. As the French philosopher and biologist Jean Rostand put it, ‘Science has made us gods even before we are worthy of being men.’ While the scale of animal death has increased exponentially, the main issue today is no longer death but the coercive reproduction and perpetuation of animal life under infernal conditions of organic exploitation. Industrialized farming today, in its manipulation of the biological processes of genesis, growth, and multiplication, forces animals like cows, calves, turkeys, pigs, ducks, and geese into artificial, barely endurable forms of existence. Far more demonic than the slaughters and animal sacrifices of the past, our relegation of `these creatures to a standing reserve of consumable stock reduces their ‘lives’ to a worldless, merely mechanical process of flesh production.”

Nicholas Kristof expressed some of the same thoughts in a recent column in The New York Times: “Torture a single chicken and you risk arrest. Abuse hundreds of thousands of chickens for their entire lives? That’s agribusiness.”

Read the whole thing here. Please.