For most animals, life is not life, but a great pain, simply because it was their lot to share the planet, and this time with humans, their most cruel and excessive executioner.
The “non-human animals”, one has to say, to express oneself correctly, wonderful beings in which nature shows perfection, but unfortunately defenseless against the elementary individual, the incorrigible predator.
There are those who claim that what distinguishes man from other animals is reason, but it is necessary to doubt it when one sees what he does with his apparent advantage, not only in his relationship with the inferior beings who are at his mercy, but also with the unscrupulous use he makes of his ability to understand in every act.
Only by understanding their ignorance and confusion can we explain the unbearable arrogance of those who blindly place their right to life above the right to life of other living beings.
If we are superior, only this condition adds a moral imperative with which we must justify our actions. The very fact that we have to decide how to treat animals makes our relationship with them morally serious. Shakespeare said in Hamlet, “There is nothing good or bad, except thought makes it so.” We think, not our dog, so we have the privilege and burden of taking responsibility for the relationship and treatment.
But our relationship with animals is based on metaphors that degrade them. “You are an animal”… “You are a donkey”… Why not “You are a clumsy man” or “You are a selfish woman”?
“I am a miserable worm,” Friedrich Nietzsche defined himself as syphilis consumed him and he atoned for his philosopher’s remorse for sleeping with his mother and sister. There were many human flaws in him, but what flaw was the worm?
The 20th century was generous and mean, balmy and deadly, great for science and regressive for human coexistence. In the end, he finally showed it! a light of hope in the recognition of animal rights in civilized societies. A light, to be clear, nothing more than that, but something more than nothing.
Human rights in classical Greece were the rights of the free male citizen. Women and slaves were no more subject to legislation than animals are today – and still are – in rabbinical and uneducated communities.
History has witnessed other forms of discrimination that were equally vile and shameful. Burning the heretic at the stake was an accepted behavior until one day civilization decided it was unacceptable.
It’s just a matter of time. The day will come when the irrational extermination of non-human animals of this time will be an issue in almost all societies, displayed in museums and exposed to the incredulous gaze of visitors.
I have bad news for the proud “superior beings” who derogatorily call animals “beasts”: the results on the species’ genetic map show beyond a doubt that our genetic heritage is 97 percent identical to that of gorillas. And if that in itself is humiliating… of course, for gorillas it has also been found that the number of genes necessary to make a human is only twice that of a worm.
Life is the greatest miracle even for science, which the average man of all latitudes seems to ignore because he endangers it every time he can, destroying forests and species, polluting air and water, and causing new diseases. Of all living beings, man is the only one who is gifted with stupidity.
Konrad Lorenz, the Austrian ethologist, the great scholar of the last century, who received the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 1973, said: “Man has always been quite stupid, but lately I notice a change… he is worse.” He is the same kind Doctor who loved animals to his core and who on another occasion said: “The very thought that my dog loves me more than I love him makes me ashamed.”
Lord Byron wrote this epitaph for the grave of his dog “Botswain”: “Here lie the remains of a being who had beauty without vanity, strength without insolence, courage without savagery, and all the virtues of a man without his vices.”
Animals, whether wild or domesticated, are our travel companions in the light of intelligence. Their useless sacrifices or sufferings are acts of immorality and barbarism that degrade those who cause them.
Why love animals?
A simple philosophical maxim is that it is right to prefer a better state of affairs to a worse one.
But behind it, in everyday life, out of respect for ourselves. Because caring for all forms of life makes us evolve. Because openness is primitive and inhibition is culture. From compassion, compassion is a forgotten, heightened emotion. Because killing or causing suffering is destruction. Because building means participating in the act of creation like an almighty God. Because the useful or good or civilized person lives according to certain values and there are no values that justify cruelty. Because intelligence invites us to live in such a way that our actions contribute to happiness and not to the pain that exists in the world. For to care for life and not death cannot be an old thing unless the world is irretrievably lost. Because I’m sure you understand the difference between the sensitivity of someone who kills an animal for pleasure and that of someone who enjoys listening to Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony.
A bullfighting lover once told me that fighting bulls would not be born if it were not for this primitive obscenity they call fiesta, “because they are bred to die in the bullring” – he explained – to which I answered “After his Discretion we answered could raise children to sacrifice in front of fifty thousand outlaws who paid tickets.
Since Plato, we have known that education is training in virtue. Pity, compassion, love for the life of all beings, respect for otherness are achievements of the moderate person, of good morality, of the higher. Superior isn’t about outdoing others, it’s about being able to improve yourself and move away from the unpolished little thing it was when it was born.
Why should one say that animals are an inferior species compared to humans? Why don’t they have some “virtues” that adorn men? Yes, I remember some: hate, evil, envy, revenge, resentment, deception, betrayal, pride.
All animals, whether human or non-human, die when our bodily functions stop. However, cruel men die much earlier, even if they don’t even notice it.
* By Eduardo Lamazón