Man: the king of beasts

Posted on 28 February 2012

… A regular feature on aspects of morality in veganism by Lizé Oosthuizen

Allow me this opportunity to introduce myself as a recently converted vegan following a 10 year devotion to vegetarianism. My name is Lizé Oosthuizen and I have chosen to get involved as a blog writer on the Vegan SA site in the hope of serving existing vegans, but also in order to influence people who have not yet made the leap to veganism (whether from vegetarian or omnivore).

Leonardo Da Vinci - maiden with unicornThose of us who have been vegetarian/vegan for some time would most likely, at some point, have been informed by an omnivore of the fact that Adolf Hitler was a vegetarian. Now I presume that this information is imparted to us in an attempt to shock us into deserting our values which led us to choose our vegetarian/vegan lifestyles, because we wouldn’t wish to possess any of the qualities an evil person such as Hitler may have possessed.

Firstly, I wish to point out, that Hitler’s choice to be a vegetarian had nothing to do with his actions against humanity. Secondly, we can all be served well by realising that even in the most evil of people there is some good. Thirdly, this kind of logic, for obvious reasons that I will not venture here, is based on the most unsound fallacious reasoning known as an ‘Ad hominem’ argument (the character, or another unflattering feature, of the person is addressed, rather than the argument he/she is making, in an attempt to discredit his/her argument). Fourthly, and most importantly, if even Hitler, as evil as he is considered to have been, can feel disgust at the inhumane treatment of animals, what does that say about the level of evil of those who see fit to support such an injustice?!

Are humans superior to animals?

The topic of my piece this month was sparked by an article I recently read online at: ‘The Africa Report’ entitled: “Hitlerian or Vegetarian slaughterhouses”Opens in a new window.

What struck me most about this article in the Africa Report was a particular section of it subtitled: “Animalising of the human being”. Here a brief description is given of what occurs when people are dehumanised (or animalised) by those in power. The author makes a valid point that both animals and humans that are exploited due to their lack of power in society fall under a single system driven by profits. The heading of this section got me wondering, as I have on many occasions before, what is it that we humans consider so superior about being human as opposed to being animals?

This may seem like an odd question to ask, but it is very important to have an answer to this basic question, because if we are honest with ourselves, among all the creatures in the world, past and present, man has been and still is the cruellest – we rape, kill, abuse, destroy without mercy anything and everything that stands in our way of achieving success, as we see fit to define it. Wikipedia (although notably not always an accurate source, but for the purposes of this article suffices) considers humans as distinct from animals on grounds of mental capacity due to highly evolved brains. Among these abilities of higher intellect mentioned are: self-awareness, sapience and rationality.

Can we be so sure (and arrogant as to believe) that animals are not self-aware, that they are not rational creatures and carry within them no wisdom? From what vantage point do we make such claims? Have one of us perhaps been an animal? Could it be that our judgement of animals, their consciousness and intelligence has been nothing short of simplistic assumption?

Any person who has a pet knows they are capable of reason and emotion, not to mention that they are most certainly self-aware – so much so as to believe the world revolves around them (this is particularly true of cats!). And what of wisdom? Animals are all endowed with an amazing intuition and deep connection with nature – they work with nature, not against it – a lesson humanity would do good to learn.

So where has our “superior intellect” left us? We do not exercise enough thanks to cars, elevators, escalators and the like, we eat heavily processed, chemical laden, dead food (which I might add is largely responsible for virtually every disease known to man), we are killing our rain forests, whilst polluting our environment with chemical toxins, thereby reducing the quality of the air we breathe and essentially suffocating ourselves. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg, which debatably due to man, may not be around for much longer either!

Do we still feel intellectually superior to animals?! How about morally?

Humans need to be animalised

So how is it that animals should not be ‘humanised’ and people not ‘animalised’? Evidence lends itself to my conclusion that if only people could become animalised we would be able to live in harmony with our environment and all in it. Animals need not be humanised, as the ‘human’ label does not carry with it much to be proud of. To be like an animal in harmony with nature is the ideal.

Oh and by the way, the next time an omnivore tells you “Hitler was a vegetarian, you know?!”, you would do well to advise them that Leonardo Da Vinci was one too (a vegan to be exact), in his own immortal words:
“Truly man is the king of beasts, for his brutality exceeds them. We live by the death of others. We are burial places! I have since an early age abjured the use of meat, and the time will come when men will look upon the murder of animals as they look upon the murder of man.”

Article by Lizé Oosthuizen


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