03 Oct IF ANIMALS COULD TALK
‘What a lovely place the world would be…’
– the immortal words of Doctor Dolittle when he sang ‘If I could talk to the animals’.
It may just be a fanciful dream, but it would be a very different world.
One of mutual respect. We’d have a clear understanding that animals are individuals. That they have their own intelligence and character. That they have needs and wants. I doubt if we would farm animals, certainly not in the intensive and cruel ways that we currently do.
And there would be no need for campaigning to get animal sentience recognised in law – it would just be seen as obvious. Which to animal advocates, it is.
Within this headline is a lesson that all humanity should observe. The importance of treating all species that share this Earth with the respect and compassion they surely deserve.
I have no doubt that by finding something greater than ourselves at our core – a kinship of life that transcends species – we would also have the opportunity to boost our own well-being through a greater sense of connection to other species with whom we share this wonderous planet.
These days more than ever, as humanity faces climate, nature and health emergencies, I find myself wishing that many more of us would look upon animals as equals in this world in terms of being worthy of our consideration and kindness.
When we start thinking of animals as individuals with characters, the magnitude of the unjust, cruel and merciless way we treat them, is overwhelming.
At times, it seems to me that we have lost our very humanity. For every billion people on this planet, we farm 10 billion animals a year for food. Two-thirds of these are intensively farmed: cruelly caged, crammed or confined on animal factories. Reduced to mere numbers in the food production process, each one is actually a sentient being, an individual. If they could speak, what would they say to us? I dread to think.
Believe it or not, if we add up the weight of all the mammals on Earth, from the tiniest mouse to the biggest whale, just 4% represents our wild animals. 96% comprises humans and domestic livestock. Yet even 4% of wild animals, is still too much for many people who continue to hunt, abuse and trade in wildlife.
The abuse of any animal, domestic, farmed or wild, is anathema to me. I am someone who shudders when I pass a wild animal dead on the roadside. I avoid zoos and aquariums. I do my level best to help others understand the importance of nurturing what little wildlife remains. And I try to shout from the roof tops about the gross cruelty behind the factory farming of animals – the biggest cause of animal suffering on our planet.
If we step back in time, ten thousand years ago, it was our ancestors that changed the course of human history; nomadic lifestyles gave way to settlement, and so the age of agriculture was born.
Moving from nomads to settlers saw us create a fundamental contract with the soil, which became the essential prerequisite for the food that sustains us.
In recent decades, we’ve broken that contract, separating animals from the land to be cruelly confined inside so called ‘farms’, creating a breeding ground for disease. We’ve polluted our rivers and used our oceans as one gigantic dustbin for our own rubbish and waste. We’ve broken the nitrogen cycle and replaced it with chemical fertilisers and pesticides. We’ve reaped bumper harvests, creating an illusion of never-ending plenty.
Yet now we are starting to see what it could really mean for the future of our children; by taking animals off the land, breaking that fundamental contract with the soil, have we torn up their future? Have we mortgaged their future with no means to pay?
With little more than a decade left to address climate change, a post-antibiotic era looming, and with fish running scarce in the sea, it is clear to see that sustainability is becoming an unsustainable illusion.
In less than a lifetime, much of our wildlife could be extinct and the world’s soils might yield their last harvest. The stakes have never been higher.
At the heart of these challenges is the way we feed ourselves, how we treat the land and all the animals that live there.
So, in closing, a plea from the heart of one sentient being to another: let us strive to regain our humanity. Let’s endeavour to change the way we view our fellow species. Let’s embrace all sentient life as fellow creatures, having an equal right to live alongside us.
Let’s preserve a powerful and compassionate legacy for our children.
And in the words of Doctor Dolittle, ‘What a neat achievement it would be’.