The word “animal” in contrast to the word “human” presents a pretentious idea that humans are not to be considered as animals. If we as humans cannot identify ourselves with the other beings on Earth, we cannot show compassion. How are we to show empathy to a species that we see so parallel to our own kind? It is vital that we sympathize and understand that we are one with nature and not superior! I am a firm believer that everything in the biosphere has an equal right to live. But this belief makes me a hypocrite when I eat cows, chicken, fish, duck, rabbit, eggs ect!! This is why lately I have been considering vegan-ism. If I end up doing this, (despite my mothers protest against it..) this way of eating will still provide me with the vital nutrients that my body needs minus the loss of life, bloodshed, and pain inflicted on animals. Our enjoyment of the way meat tastes is not a good enough reason to justify the amount of suffering that the animals endure. Animals are immensely objectified in the media and even in our everyday lives. Even in the grocery store, we see the use of inanimate pronouns when we call animals livestock, meat, seafood, or game rather than cow, pig, chicken, fish, or elk. This is an attempt to dis-assemble the image that this yummy food was once a living and breathing creature. Such pro-nouns are used to distract us from this idea and makes the animal seem as if he/she only has the purpose of feeding us and satisfying our needs and wants.
In wild-life documentaries however, animals are turned into human surrogates through Anthropomorphism. There is a distinct contrast between how we disassociate ourselves when we are using animals for food, and how we overly associate with animals giving them human like characteristics when we use them for entertainment purposes. We must keep in mind that in wildlife documentaries, we are given a very selective and staged set-up where all human traces are edited from frame. We are only shown the animals when they are doing something interesting or cute that we can relate to as humans. There is always some sort of quest or narrative in these films, but unfortunately there is never a mention of the real struggles that these animals face in their changing environment. Climate change and global warming are very real concepts that are inflicted on animals due to the misuse of the planet on behalf of our own species, yet we are willing to edit that part out aren’t we?
This very concept of Anthropomorphism can be dangerous to animals, because instead of just accepting and respecting their wilderness, we objectify and human-ify them into something that is appealing to us. In the documentary “Black Fish” there is a specific scene where a trainer from Sea World says that the Killer Whale “isn’t doing tricks because he has to, he is doing them because he wants to”. What an absolute joke! These poor whales are restricted to a tiny metal pool that is no where near the size of the infinite ocean that is their home, and are deprived of food to make them perform acts. Why would any animal want to be in that situation and be willing to cooperate because they simply ‘want to’? So it is clear that we manipulate (man-impulate…get it?) the representation of animals for our own benefit.
We need to deepen our awareness of ‘self’ beyond the narrow ego to an identification with all living beings. Once we see ourselves in others our natural predisposition will be to protect: “care flows naturally if the self is widened and deepened so that protection of free nature is felt and conceived of as protection of our very selves”. (Naess in ‘Thinking Like a Mountain‘, p. 29) We need to stop portraying animals as mock humans and we must pay attention to their fascinating cognitive, emotional, and moral capacities because failure to do so leads to misrepresentations and demeans them.
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