We humans, the compassionate predator, entered into a contract with a large number of species in the course of the past twenty thousand years (some think longer), and species like the wolf (our domestic dogs), Bos Taurus (domestic cattle), Tarpans (domestic horses of all breeds today) and a legion of others entered the relatively new ecological niche created within the sphere of the world’s first compassionate predator. Many of these species, of both animals and plants, would never have been as successful had they not entered into the contract.
Let us not be blinded by the evil results of commercialization of this age old contract between us and these other species. Turning everything into money has betrayed these plants and animals as much as it has betrayed all of what is decent and compassionate about the human spirit.
When we turn our backs on the factory farms and the horrors they have unleashed, do not also be tempted to turn our backs on our long history of trust and co-adaptation that created the ecosystem of domestication. It is an incredibly rich and rewarding ecosystem to live within, and one we have all but lost in our miserably urban wastelands.
Sure, it is hard on the heart to put an animal down to eat it, but it is infinitely better than to let these creatures be abandoned to the “wild”. The death and drawn out horror of being eaten alive by parasites or merciless predators without any capacity for compassion is one of the reasons many now think animals like sheep and goats and pigs sought out the human sphere in the first place.
There are some that came early and were always under-appreciated like the cat and the dog, or even reviled, like the mice and the rats. But now we know that house mice by colonizing our ecosystem keep other kinds of mice out of it, like the deer mice that carry the deadly Hanta virus. But now look at how mice and rats have served us in research and still can be delightful house pets… (and the story of the bubonic plague is not nearly as simple as some have previously thought).
And what about house sparrows and chickens and starlings and crows? Pigeons? Even set “free” they congregate around humans.
Lately, a study has come to my attention, which has cast doubt on the oft asserted claim that eating less meat would help reduce greenhouse gases that are a product of millions of farting cattle (methane). Here it is, and interestingly, it suggests that it is factory and feedlot farming practices that are the big culprits, not traditional pasture feeding of these animals. The planet has been host to billions of herbivores for an awfully long time, after all… this study can be found at the following site:
BBC News – UN body to look at meat and climate link
This planet has a wide variety of life forms and incredible diversity BECAUSE most living things eat other living things, including ones we classify as “animals”. Without the predation, there would have been no life, no evolution and no ecosystem. Without bird-shit, phosphorous would not be recycled, without ferns potash would not be drawn up and recycled, and nitrates would not move around throughout the soil without the actions of the vast underground net of the mycelium.
And without animals and their wastes, the nitrates and other complex organic materials could not return to the soil through the actions of earthworms and bacteria… and good soil is in a sense, vastly enriched by worm-poo. Without the predators, the grazers would over populate and starve, without the grazers, world ecosystems would not recycle nutrients as well as they do, nor would individual species of plants get fertilized and their seed distributed far and wide…
The lion will never lie down with the lamb unless the lamb is dead, and that is how it should be, for the health of both the family of sheep and the family of big cats.
The most ancient vegetarian cultures in the world revere all these animals, and certainly do not chase the domestic animals within their local ecosystems out into the wilderness or consider it politically incorrect to allow such creatures to breed and raise their young.
Please not be fooled by the vile “animal rights” arguments for vegetarianism. Choosing not to eat meat should not immediately mean you must disapprove of those who do, nor that keeping our place in nature, within a vast ecosystem of symbiosis with numerous other species, must be rejected.
Animals have chosen to be part of our homes and part of the human ecosystem niche on the planet, and we have no more right to turn our back on them than we have to turn our back on the plight of the whales or the plight of the tuna.
The agenda of the present AR movement is an evil and ugly one. No pets to snuggle in bed with at night, no glorious mornings to see the new calf just born, no milking the cow while the calf takes the other teats, no playing with puppies and mornings awakening to the happy crowing of the rooster as he calls his flock of plump hens out to feed. No sense of searing tenderness as one is privileged to watch how carefully he attends the hen with the new family of downy chicks, blinking in their first view of the morning sunlight world, and makes sure these littlest one get the first crack at a tasty nest of ants…
Everything neutered. One generation and out. gone. No more poodles, and collies, labrador retrievers, haughty siamese, cosy angoras, athletic family mousers, no more pigs who love their backs scratched. No more omelets, souffles or angel cakes, and no more milk or butter or cheese or yogurt or ice cream. No more children wide-eyed with wonder to see the nest of baby bunnies for the first time, no more horse crazy teenagers or watching your daughter ride her first pony, with an expression of such incandescent joy that it almost hurts the heart to see it–often through tears. Rescued by the rowdy happiness of the pony himself, suddenly so careful to keep the novice safe on board.
Well, it is a long way from weeds and manure but it is all the same thing. I offer it to you all freely. It is not really free, of course. You have to have compassion and all the qualities that brought the creatures to offer themselves to join our world in the first place. Care. Love. Wonder. Gentleness. Courage. All the aspects that hunter-gatherers have, in caring for the animals around them, drawing them as close as kinfolk, and often, keeping them from harm.
The road that led, in some times and places, to that one further step we have come to call domestication.
There was no point when we conquered nature. We are still in nature.
The AR movement would sever that – or try to. Be very wary of this. It is the last thing we can afford to do, both for the good of our species and for the health of the planet.
The photo at the top of this essay was taken by photographer Hamid Sardar-Afkhami in northern Asia.