Crisis For Animals In Today's World

1842 words - 7 pages

There is arguably a crisis for animals in today’s world; habitats and ecosystems are destroyed, and animals endure some arguably dicey conditions in our industrial agribusiness complex. But what, really, is the wrong we are committing? What is the nature of our relationship with animals? Have we created a tyrannical regime over them, oppressing them and denying them their rights? Or have we simply failed in our duty as beneficiary caretakers of our Earthly companions? Tom Regan would have us believe that, due to their inherent value, animals have rights that preclude our ability to “use them to our own ends”. It’s a noble sentiment, and one which he effectively defends from ideological assault, but it is underpinned by a fundamentally anthropocentric misunderstanding of the nature of animal-human relations. In fact, the reason that animals can be used to our ends is because of our provision to them as caretakers; it’s a symbiotic relationship that has developed over time. Chickens happen to be the commonly exploited animal with which I am most familiar, and I will as such treat them as a proxy for other domesticated livestock.
I own chickens. They are my pets, but also an important source of delicious, fresh eggs. They are a means to my own ends: I desire fresh eggs, and I derive great amusement from their antics. However, the domesticated chicken has, by its own nature and without its conscious awareness, inadvertently “chosen” to use me to its own “ends”. I do not directly control where they live, lay (eggs), or wander. I simply provide a superior habitat with food, water, and shelter, and I protect them from predators. They consequentially find it advantageous to remain where I wish them to be. They even lay where I want them to because I provide an ideal laying box, and because of some evolutionary trickery. It goes as follows: chickens prefer a nest that I have seeded with golf balls to one that is empty, because a filled nest is an indication of a broody hen that is hoarding and raising eggs. The hen will raise others’ eggs as her own, and thus the interloper may pass on her genes without the attendant effort and sacrifice. The seeded golf balls are mistaken for eggs, and the hen mischievously leaves her own eggs in the fallacious clutch. I participate in a mutually beneficial relationship with the chickens. Because they are my pets, I wouldn’t let them leave if they wanted to. But that’s just it: they don’t try to leave. The chickens are free-range. They wander freely throughout my property, and return to their coop by their own volition.
My fondness for them leads me to apply an anthropomorphic overlay upon their actions (e.g. my implication that the hen is mischievous in foisting her eggs upon another unsuspecting hen) but with closer analysis their behavior is more similar to that of an evolutionarily programmed automaton than that of a thinking, feeling creature. The hen does not plot her egg-laying mischief; it is an instinct...

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