Audio Gallery: Interviews & Lectures
An Unnatural Order (New Books Network interview by Mark Molloy)
Audio Book Reading: The Way We Eat
Transcript from “On Animal Relations”
One of the delights of being last is that really everything important has already been said. It’s wonderful stuff. My gosh, there’s so much here. The animal rights movement, I believe, is just touching the tip of the iceberg with the problem of our relations with animals.
As you know, I’ve written this book, An Unnatural Order, and you go, well, what’s that all about? What I’ve tried to do in that is to trace the evolution of these bad ideas in our culture. I’ve tried to trace the history or the evolution of this alienation that Kim talked about and the hardening of the heart that you talked about. This is about a 10,000-year process, folks. It’s the culture that we inherited, it’s the culture we were born into, it’s the exploitation culture.
It’s a very personal story for me because I was raised on a farm in southern Missouri. And I wonder, do any of you have a farm background or were raised on a farm? Had to kill animals? Had to raise animals? I can hardly talk about this in public without breaking down because I recall these memories of how, as a child, I was forced to do these things, and little by little to accept the conditioning and the peer pressure and the parental pressure. And a victim in the way of, I don’t know if I should say this, a survivor of the rituals and the programming and the brainwashing that you talked about. Just multiply that by 6.2 billion, the human population, and you have a problem in the world today, which is the entire human species has learned to think of itself as above all other life. And to harden its hearts, or their collective hearts, to the things we do to animals to make our lives better, so we think. The irony is we make our lives worse because we really just sort of poison ourselves.
So, for me, animal rights and animal liberation is about a lot of things for human beings too. There’s the logic and the philosophy, the logic of the arguments that we can’t treat animals this way because they have feelings and because scientifically they have a lot of the things that we respect. This is the logical, philosophical, the animal rights law approach to this, which is all focused on animals and how our ideas about them are so wrong.
The reason I wrote this book is because I wanted to find out, what is all this doing to us as a species? I just had to think that all these years of exploitation and all this use and abuse of animals and the institutionalized acceptance of it all took a toll on humanity. So that was my job to analyze that or, as they say in the modern academies, I am a deconstructionist. I look at the construction of the mythology or the myths, and the ideologies or the ideas that support animal slavery. And this is the culture, these are the traditions that we’re fighting as animal rights activists. And I think it’s important to undo all of that because I think, not only has it created institutionalized suffering and exploitation of animals, but it’s also really deprived us as human beings of a fuller kind of life, a fuller kind of humanity. So, that slogan, “animal liberation as human liberation,” says volumes and I just invite you to look into that a little bit because we need to liberate society from these lies, these denials, these myths, these poisonous beliefs about life on the planet.
The biggest problem with life on the planet is that human life is out of control—human lives, human numbers, human use, human consumerism and materialism. We’re basically displacing all other life with the “success” of our own—success in numbers and in consumption patterns. And this is the ultimate alienation, this is the ultimate separation of ourselves as a species from the life around us. That we would wipe them out, literally wipe them out in order to make our lives better. It’s like we’re destroying the village to save it to make our lives better. So there’s so much more to this problem of a human relationship with animal life that we’ve just, well I wouldn’t say we’ve barely touched it, because we’ve really dipped into it in a big way. But there’s so much more that needs to be brought out.
I think one of the most important ideas that I discovered that’s in my book, in chapter three, is a very little-known idea and I think it’s the most important idea I’ve ever come across and it’s hard to get across in a few words because of the programming that we have. No matter how liberated we are, no matter how vegan we are, we still have that poison culture in our heads. It’s hard for us to really see completely and fully the bad attitudes that we have about animals.
The important idea is this: we have no idea, only a handful of intellectuals, anthropologists and biologists have any inkling of how important animals have been in human evolution. And I mean in the evolution of the mind and the language and the thought processes. One of the reasons it’s so striking that children have this magic with animals is because, according to one of my intellectual mentors, it’s because there’s something built into the wiring of the human brain, the human consciousness, where we actually need animals. Child psychologists say that children literally think in terms of animals until they become verbal. The pictures and the sounds in their minds until they become verbal, which is to say acculturated, is almost entirely the content of their thoughts is in animal shapes, animal actions, animals doing things, which is manifested by this fascination that children have for animals.
Now this is an indicator of what human potential could be with the great relationship we should have and could have with animals if we had a culture that didn’t poison the minds of children. There’s so much about animals in the human condition, in the human consciousness, in what we call the mind, that we’ve just barely explored. We have no idea how important they are to our thinking and we’re just beginning to discover that. It’s a difficult idea to grasp but if you’ll take a look at that material I think you’ll see what we’re driving at.