These are tree climbing goats in Morocco, happily eating fruits. Pretty cool, right?
Could you climb trees like they do? Perhaps, yes. Or, perhaps, like most of us, no way!
It’s fascinating to think about the skills other animals have that we humans don’t. For example, chameleons can change the color of their skin to hide from predators. Bears can hibernate for months, without eating or drinking any water, to preserve energy. Chimpanzees effortlessly outsmart humans in memory tests.
But we don’t usually think about other animals in this way. Most people’s belief in human superiority is an unquestioned given, never critically examined. And we use this deeply ingrained “anthropocentrism” to justify our treating of other animals as mere “things” to do with as we please.
Currently we breed, exploit and kill other animals, by the billions every year, for seemingly any purpose we can imagine – including for food, clothing, entertainment, companionship, experimentation, among others.
But are we really so “superior” to the other animals we exploit? And even if we were, how would that justify the immense harm and cruelty we impose on them?
Charles Darwin was one of the first to challenge this notion, arguing that the differences between human and nonhuman animals is one of degree and not of kind.
Although we humans have made astounding technological strides, the way in which we continue to ignore the most fundamental interests of other animals — simply because we believe we are “superior” — is truly appalling. And, regardless of their abilities or intelligence, what justifies our using any sentient animal for things we can easily live without?
The fact that we continue to intentionally inflict such needless violence and death upon so many helpless animals, while wrecking massive havoc on our planet in the process — all to produce “foods” and other products for which we have no necessity — does call into question our capacity as a civilization to effectively make moral and rational decisions.
Fortunately, we appear to be starting to make strides in many people’s awareness of these issues, accompanied by a corresponding and growing shift in consumption away from animal products and towards vegan options. But, of course, these changes cannot come soon enough.