The Deafening Silence

The past week has produced a number of interesting articles which have become instant talking points. There was one about the continuing lack of opportunities & hurdles facing women in the sciences. There was another about how rich people subconsciously empathize less towards people who aren’t as powerful as them. As can be expected, both articles immediately became major talking points in the online world.

However, there was another article which I found just as, if not more, interesting. It was relating to the emotional capabilities of animals, especially dogs. Written by neuroscientists who had done extensive research on this, it contained a number of explosive findings.

“Although we are just beginning to answer basic questions about the canine brain, we cannot ignore the striking similarity between dogs and humans in both the structure and function of a key brain region: the caudate nucleus.”

“In humans, the caudate plays a key role in the anticipation of things we enjoy, like food, love and money.”

“Specific parts of the caudate stand out for their consistent activation to many things that humans enjoy. Caudate activation is so consistent that under the right circumstances, it can predict our preferences for food, music and even beauty.”

“many of the same things that activate the human caudate, which are associated with positive emotions, also activate the dog caudate. Neuroscientists call this a functional homology, and it may be an indication of canine emotions. The ability to experience positive emotions, like love and attachment, would mean that dogs have a level of sentience comparable to that of a human child. And this ability suggests a rethinking of how we treat dogs.”

“By using the M.R.I. to push away the limitations of behaviorism, we can no longer hide from the evidence. Dogs, and probably many other animals (especially our closest primate relatives), seem to have emotions just like us. And this means we must reconsider their treatment as property.”

“One alternative is a sort of limited personhood for animals that show neurobiological evidence of positive emotions. There are no laws that cover animals as wards, so the patchwork of rescue groups that operate under a guardianship model have little legal foundation to protect the animals’ interest.”

“If we went a step further and granted dogs rights of personhood, they would be afforded additional protection against exploitation. Puppy mills, laboratory dogs and dog racing would be banned for violating the basic right of self-determination of a person.”

The article makes a very powerful case for the deep injustice, exploitation & oppression being perpetuated by our society … and it was greeted by a deafening silence. Some offered the same tired old arguments. “Animals belong to a different species, so that makes it ok.” “I don’t believe in neuroscience.” “The study isn’t 100% conclusive.” But for the most part, the vast majority of people simply shrugged and moved on to the next articles.

One can easily understand why. People innately know that the evidence of animal intellect & emotion is overwhelming. That inflicting pain & suffering on animals for their own hedonistic pleasure is wrong. Even children innately understand this, without requiring any formal education. And yet, what alternative do people have? We have been eating meat all our lives, and can’t imagine giving it up. Our entire society has revolved around animals as property, and changing this would require a major upheaval. Pet owners would suddenly face legal responsibilities for their pets. The entire meat-industry would find themselves out of a job. 99% of the population will find their diet suddenly changed overnight. People know that inflicting pain & suffering on animals is wrong… but there simply isn’t any practical answer to this. So what else is there to do, but to shrug & walk away?

If there’s anyone who can sympathize with this dilemma, it has to be our forefathers from two centuries ago, back when America was a slave-owning country. Slaves formed the bedrock for the agriculture industry, and the American way-of-life. The idea of declaring slavery illegal & treating them not as property but as persons deserving of rights & freedoms seemed utterly impractical & inconceivable to an American society built around the institution of slavery.

And yet, the answer to those objections seems obvious today to every single person in America. Our forefathers who defended slavery aren’t sympathized with for their practical objections & problems. No one even considers the idea that they were right to allow slavery in light of their practical objections. The fact of the matter is, with the benefit of distance, we’re able to expose these practical arguments for what they really are: Fraudulent justifications. There is no practical reason on earth that can be used to justify the suffering, pain & oppression inflicted on others who are capable of grief, sorrow & pain, just like us.

Slavery might be gone today, but the arguments used to justify it in centuries past can still find close cousins in the arguments used to justify animal-ownership today. The evidence is now overwhelming. Animals too are capable of emotions, joy, grief, pain & suffering… just like humans. There is no practical objection on earth that can be used to justify inflicting those things on animals. There will come a day when our descendants will look back at us, shake their heads, and wonder how we could have willfully closed our minds & participated in this abhorrent lifestyle. One can only wonder what our response to them would be.

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Related News:

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Rolling Stone: Animal cruelty is the price we pay for cheap meat

About OutlookZen

Ex-Journalist & Columnist. Loves exploring the world.
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7 Responses to The Deafening Silence

  1. Gern says:

    Agree and disagree — There’s a lot said here so I’ll try to hone in on pet ownership. I love my dog and I believe my dog loves me. We share the world, we learn from each other. I don’t feel any guilt around ownership or otherwise.. are you suggesting I should? I suppose I don’t understand what you want exactly other than to shake things up and compare pet owners to slave owners. I don’t see that parallel as clearly as you do. My dog can’t possibly support herself in this world — we are a team, she is my dependent, and I am in fact responsible for her actions. How do you see this needing to improve?

    • OutlookZen says:

      Thank you for the comment. It’s commendable that you love your dog so deeply and I respect that. I don’t believe that companion animals should ever be granted “independence” and forced separation from their human caretakers. The goal is to change the relationship from one of ownership, to one of stewardship.

      Ownership implies that the owned “object” is undeserving of any rights, and that the owner is free to do with it whatever he feels like doing. In contrast, stewardship implies that the caregiver has certain responsibilities to uphold, and that the animal is entitled to fundamental rights, such as immunity from physical abuse.

      Humans who want to keep animals and care for them should certainly be allowed and encouraged to do so… Not as an owner but rather as a steward.

  2. joshuah K says:

    Agree- I have spent a great deal of time conceptually exploring the philosophical side of this
    dilemma. On the one hand- meat is delicious. On the other hand- I am simply wired to enjoy
    the tastes of certain fats and seasoning combinations that I was raised with. I feel the same pain
    over the silence of a species that is so blind and young that it cannot remember how they handled
    life the century before last, let alone the last millennium, or god forbid, last full revolution of the
    equinoxes.

    It wasn’t long in the past that we began to domesticate other species, enslave our own race,
    treat women as property, and above all else, convince ourselves that it was acceptable to limit
    or prevent self determination in other beings for our own selfish reasons. It has always pained
    me to see humans raising, sterilizing and/or killing every species it finds a desire for, from the
    smallest to the largest and the smartest to the kindest creatures around. Such disrespect!

    As we approach a technological and intellectual singularity in this 21st century I feel the deliberate
    ignorance and weak sauce theological-intellectual arguments we rely on to continue our behavior will become thinner, weaker, less substantial than ever, especially when science presented by
    research such as this comes to light, and we will find the inherent and unique flaws of humanity
    exposed for what they are.

    Whether or not humanity will be able to accept our altogether base nature, let alone the possibility
    of design or development, and advance beyond this nature and design or development, is a question that only our children will really be able to answer. Our generation, at the very least, can try to answer one question. That answer is, why did/do we do these things?

    I think long ago we developed/or since our design have had something other species do not have. A sort of introspective computation engine or subcortex giving us an ability to contemplate reason
    and logic in an abstract manner. It has contributed to our loss or lack of instinctual abilities comparable to other species, but granted us the unique ability to do something they do not appear able to. We can think. And we developed something else. Some people call it an ego.

    When we think, we can also argue. We can argue with ourselves. Create complicated and clever reasoning to rationalize behavior really not excusable or acceptable to our senses of taste or our fundamentally moral consciences and instincts.A caveat: it’s understandable to rationalize decisions made in your own interest that are selfish and harm others. People and beings in nature are unreasonable all the time, that is part of the struggle for life. If you aren’t willing to be selfish to a point, then you won’t thrive, you might not even live. Unmetered altruism is essentially suicide.

    Without regards to selfish behavior in the interests of self preservation, It’s not really possible to convince yourself that a rationalized selfish decision NOT made in a situation where any other decision would have jeopardized your survival is morally, emotionally reasonable. It isn’t. A person who does such things is considered a psychopath or some other form of maldeveloped amoral personality when they do it to their fellow humans today. Anyone who rationalizes doing it to other beings is creating the artificial reasoning that it’s acceptable because those beings are not ourselves. It really shouldn’t matter what the subject of the unreasonable behavior is, but we as a species managed to convince ourselves it did, and for quite some time.

    Fundamentally a person who can accept doing anything unreasonable is going to draw the final line when it involves them personally being on the receiving end of the unreasonable behavior.
    Perhaps before we are ready to change we will have to be ready to consider that self is not all that matters, and indeed does not truly matter. Perhaps we will have to institutionalize rote punishments and exercises of the mind for a time, to enlighten humanity as to the role we have. Perhaps we will have to change our ideologies, for they have truly contributed to the state of our minds as it is.

    I think personally that the biggest, dodgiest reason we continue to behave as we did in times of past, and indeed the biggest reason we started behaving in such a manner, is that humans are morally, ethically, philosophically, as well as physically lazy. We’re willing to take what we see as the most efficient and easiest route to the state we want to exist in. Secondly.

    TLDR we have made the mistake below.
    I think personally that the biggest reason we considered this to be the correct way to make decisions is that many early ideologies from many different cultures, for the sake of obtaining control over the minds and beliefs of the humans who lived in the time when these ideologies were formed, conceptually created the notion that life was futile, what you did here didn’t really matter as long as you honored your chieftain/prophet/priests/king whatever, that you could atone your way to heaven, and that heaven, an afterlife, or some kind of reward beyond the end of this lifetime was the only thing worth having. We managed to deceive ourselves without really knowing the long term consequences involved in the deception and only now are realizing the conceptual implications of how a deception can be formed that enslaves and infects the mind.

    It will not be until we give up on this mentality and consider this to be -it-, this existence to be the one most worth craving, savoring, enjoying, rejoicing, striving, working, sweating, and improving, that I personally feel we will manage to overcome this behavior which causes the deafening silence.

    Which is why I’m encouraging you all to spread the word of scientology with genuine sincerity to your ‘enlightened’ fundamentalist friends who still eat meat, which is, that most glorious of lies, most obvious of big bad wolves, most holy and enlightening of koans, that it might break their minds and wake them up from their deception.

    Yet, for all of those who got this far, I’m not a humanist. I’m not an evolutionist, a creationist, a nihilist, a scientologist, a believer in discord,bhudda, or anything like that. In fact, I don’t know what I am yet. I suggest you join me in this adventure, of people who don’t quite know what they are, and
    let’s all band together under one common banner, and find ourselves in the ashes of the falling minds around us. I call myself a follower to the state of Philostasis, and you’ll find me developing my own religion. Google it sometime. You won’t find anything yet, but soon, someday, you might.

  3. exploderator says:

    I am frequently astonished on this point. Look at every mammal, especially those nearest to we primates, and you see that we ALL share nearly every single component of our bodies, without exception, from the obvious bits like eyes, skin, hair and bones, to the less obvious like almost every single aspect of our metabolic processes. Included in the list, of course, is the brain and all its parts. For the very most part, only proportions differ, all body parts perform nearly identical functions across all mammals. We humans must also acknowledge that much of who we are and how we feel, mentally and emotionally, is derived biologically, inherited, just as it is with all the animals we study, and twin studies have sealed this as fact.

    So where the hell did anyone ever think the other animals would or should feel very differently from we humans? How utterly idiotic, this assumption that we should so obviously share every other aspect of our biology, but then magically (perhaps as if granted by “god”?) we humans should be the sole exception in all the animal kingdom concerning how OUR precious fucking emotions work. I tell you this absolutely common assumption is utterly absurd and runs contrary to any sane logic, if we understand anything at all about nature. We humans are animals like all others, and in spite of our profound ignorance and delusions of grandeur, the only significant difference for us is that our kind of monkey goes blah blah blah a lot more than the rest. The end.

    Your article echoes (thankfully not in a supporting way) the common sentiment that it bears proving that animals have emotions. I say the notion that animals wouldn’t have emotions bears our deepest ridicule, and should only be entertained upon the most extraordinary evidence (which of course is non existent) because it contradicts everything we know about nature. It has only ever been an assumption born our our original total ignorance. Nature evolved us able to learn, but with heads empty, and long have been the ages of our profound failure to grasp the true ways of nature. Indeed even today, only a small minority of us can recognize, and are willing to accept that we humans are simply fancy brained primates, while some large majority of us still live in myths from thousands years old myth books full of nonsense and gibberish utterly divorced from nature’s reality. I think science needs to look more carefully at some common assumptions and be more critical of Western thought’s often bad heritage.

    Of course animals have emotions. Of course they are proportioned differently than ours, and of course they are less complicated by the incessant word-speaking human process. But watch any humans and other animals interacting together, especially when they have a close relationship, and you will see, and everyone always has seen, an OBVIOUS emotional rapport of some sort. That we have so long failed to acknowledge that fundamental fact, simply because we have a hard time formally proving emotional things, only attests to our ability to be emotionally active, and yet unaware of those emotions and unable to formulate coherent ideas or speech about them. I imagine here some breeder of working dogs a hundred years ago, warmly stroking the ears of his dog, while telling you the dog has no emotions. That breeder was literally doing an emotional engagement with his dog but knew not his own actions. Sadly, it seems like science still mirrors the ignorant stance of his era, which if it was informed by anything, was informed by bad religion telling us that animals were here for humans to exploit, along with the niggers and chinks and anyone else that we didn’t find familiar in our ignorance.

    I can only rejoice that some of us are waking up to the truth of our absolute kinship with all of nature, and all our cousins within it. And good riddance to our past ignorance, may we only realize better the truth of our place in nature.

  4. Chris says:

    Two brief points:

    1) Transitioning away from a meat-based diet is entirely possible. I used to be a meat eater. In fact, I used to eat a lot of meat. I come from a family of meat eaters, and they think I’m crazy for being a vegitarian. (Mostly – To be fair and completely honest, every now and then I have some seafood for the protein.) One day, I simply decided to try not eating meat for a while. It took some time to figure out (and for my body to adapt), but now I find meat repulsive, and am generally much healthier than I was before. It’s been about 5 years now, and I’m happy I made the change, though I find it is very easy to become nutritionally imbalanced if you are not careful (saying this as a 6-foot, 26 year old male.)

    2) Animals and emotional intelligence: I grew up on a horse ranch, and have spent a lifetime around horses. I have also bred and raised several. I can tell you firsthand that I have seen happy horses, and I have seen sad horses. Certain breeds in particular have a very high intelligence (in general) and an incredibly high emotional intelligence. Many horses, if they are trained with compassion rather than violence, are even happy to be ridden. (On several occasions I have seen horses “take care of” very, very young riders by adjusting their weight so they would not fall off.) However, much like people, attitude varies between horses, and greatly depends on how they were raised and the people currently with them. Good horsepeople view horses more as partners than property.

    Anyway, you’ve raised some very interesting points. I’m not sure factory farming is quite on par with slavery, but more and more people are beginning to think it isn’t ethical. I live in America, and feel this problem is closely related to fast food culture as well. As a simple, though shocking exercise, compare the quality of food that is served by McDonalds in different countries – many people around the world are not willing toeat what is served here.

  5. Jt says:

    Everyone has time to watch this! An admission of guilt.

  6. Cliff says:

    Any normally emotional human being knows the truth of this. Who can deny the bonds between dogs and humans. How sad it is for anyone who has rejected a dogs love as being a thing of no worth? People do not consider or ponder cruelty to animals bred for human consumption because whether we eat the meat or not the animals are still going to be killed. How sad that we who know and understand just look the other way as the slaughter goes on. How pitiless the how fruitless the situation of a creature in the hands of man? Animals are living creatures with lives and loves and family. What right does man in his arrogance have to terminate the fragile life without a blink of compassion. Ancient Cliff Coverdale

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