There are different positions regarding our relationship with animals. There are those who consider that the human being, given his exclusive attributes of rationality, morality and dignity, is totally different from animals. From the zoological scale we are definitely animals and the alleged unique attributes are not so unique and there are in all animals although with differences of degree. The fact of considering ourselves a rational animal seeks to generate a distinction that grants a superior hierarchy over animals that are little or not at all rational.
This is the same discussion if we are nature or we are totally different from nature. Others will say that sometimes we are nature, sometimes we are human. There are also those who think that there is no nature because it is a concept elaborated by the human being and what exists is a single, indivisible reality. Everything leads us to the conclusion that we are nature. This discussion is not trivial because what is at stake is the nature of the relationships between human animals and non-human animals.
Product of a strongly disjunctive ontological matrix, as Western civilization, we have generated the figure that humans are special beings totally different from animals with absolute dominance and dominance over animals. Under this logic, animals are considered goods or resources that have been created to satisfy our human needs. By considering them as machines or as things we can make it we like with them, total, from this perspective, animals do not have feelings, finally, if they did, it does not matter because human interest prevails.
Protected by the ideology and logic that animals are inferior, then we maintain industrial animal husbandry systems that are really scandalous and that undermine the alleged human dignity. We hold anachronistic shows of animal cruelty under the pompous name of art and extol it as a cultural value. We intervene, alter, degrade and pollute ecosystems in the name of development without having the slightest consideration for the different manifestations of life found in them. We raise wild animals as pets without caring one iota of how they came to us. We confine animals and fish in confined and artificial places only for our delight and gratification under the name of nature conservation or even environmental education.
All this is a contradiction, first of all because we are also animals and what we do with them also ends up affecting our own dignity. The character of our treatment of animals highlights the quality of our own humanity. Against those who from different angles try to reduce animals to the category of things, animals have sentience, that is, the capacity to suffer, experience pain and enjoy. This is a function of the degree of development of the central nervous system, although we cannot make generalizations because we do not have enough scientific knowledge to discern. Faced with this situation, we simply have to respect every manifestation of life, although that sometimes leads us to dilemmas. In addition, animals have interests, they have a need to flourish, that is, to live their life fully, to develop in their network of relationships.
The recognition of animal sentience leads to the appearance of compassion, which essentially means putting oneself in the place of an animal, suffering for animal suffering. This in turn leads us to broaden the moral community, that is, to extend ethics to our animal brothers. This puts us in a better position to understand the importance of animal welfare and animal rights to end all kinds of speciesism (discrimination due to belonging to a different species. A greater degree of awareness in turn will lead us to propose animal liberation and expand citizenship to animals.
For those who still doubt that animals have a conscience, The Cambridge Declaration (Low, 2012) recognizes that non-human animals such as mammals, birds, and other creatures such as octopuses have a conscience. Mention in this regard:
"The absence of a neocortex does not appear to prevent an organism from experiencing affective states. Convergent evidence indicates that nonhuman animals possess the neuroanatomic, neurochemical, and neurophysiological substrates of conscious states, as well as the ability to exhibit deliberate behaviors."
The history of domestication is the narrative of the dominion of human beings over nature, although this has led us to two paths. On the one hand the closeness to animals has generated affection until reaching true manifestations of mutual love between humans and animals and on the other hand the total animal dependence on the human. The quality of care will result in well-treated or poorly treated animals, even neglected and abandoned.
But it is in the field of animals in factories where the inhuman treatment of animals is manifested in all its harshness. Ignoring this reality does not solve the problem and this situation puts our last name sapiens in serious doubt. The civilizational crisis not only manifests itself in the damage that we are causing to the planet and society but also in the maintenance of situations of disgrace of other species different from ours, forgetting that all, human and non-human animals, are part of a great universal family.
By: Rodrigo Arce Rojas
P. Low, Cambridge Statement on Consciousness, Cambridge, 2012, edited by J. Panksepp, D. Reiss, D. Edelman, B. Van Swinderen, P. Low, and C. Koch (University of Cambridge, Cambridge, 2012).