Thursday, October 20, 2011

To Be Valued

I recently read The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera and shared with you some of its profundity. After this week's tragic events at the Muskingum County Animal Farm, I immediately reached for the book again and went straight to a tabbed section. A section that, when I read it 10 days ago, seemed eerie and prophetic, and now seems - well, the same. Even if I disagree with organized religion and most of the associated doctrine, for me, Kundera applies inarguable and poignant perspective to the most known book of the bible... and to Us. From Part Seven, Chapter 2:
     "The very beginning of Genesis tells us that God created man in order to give him dominion over fish and fowl and all creatures. Of course, Genesis was written by a man, not a horse. There is no certainty that God actually did grant man dominion over other creatures. What seems more likely, in fact, is that man invented God to sanctify the dominion that he had usurped over himself over the cow and the horse. Yes, the right to kill a deer or a cow is the only thing that all of mankind can agree upon, even during the bloodiest of wars.
The reason we take that right for granted is that we stand at the top of the hierarchy. But let a third party enter the game-a visitor from another planet, for example, soemone to whom God says, "Thou shalt have dominion over creatures of all other stars" -and all at once taking Genesis for granted becomes problematical. Perhaps a man hitched to the cart of a Martian or roasted on the spit by inhabitants of the Milky Way will recall the veal cutlet he used to slice on his dinner plate and apologize (belatedly!) to the cow...
...True human goodness, in all its purity and freedom, can come to the fore only when its recipient has no power. Mankind's true moral test, its fundamental test (which lies deeply buried from view), consists of its attitude towards those who are at its mercy: animals. And in this respect mankind has suffered a fundamental debacle, a debacle so fundamental that all others stem from it."
-The Unbearable Lightness of Being, by Milan Kundera
Such a loss of value has a lot of debates stirring up...
and that's exactly what we're talking about here: value. Society views these animals as rare, exotic and valuable. That's why everyone is so incensed, not because one really sick man and 48 innocent souls were extinguished.

Should exotic farms be more strictly regulated? Obviously. The tragedy would have been only more sickening, had the tigers eaten a child and not a monkey.

Should lethal force have been used to control the horde? How can we know?! It's easy to armchair quarterback when you don't have an 800-pound tiger looking at you like you're made of bacon.
How could he (Terry Thompson) sentence the whole farm to death? Ok, folks... let's agree the guy must have been crazy to think it was okay to have them in the first place. But if you were going to commit suicide, having spent all your time with zoo animals and presumably no humans - what would you foresee happening to the animals after you died? They would end up starving to death in remote Ohio, alone and abandoned. It makes me physically ill to admit, but unfortunately I can see letting them free and allowing the natural course to either dispatch or save them as a somewhat reasonable choice. Add the flavor of nut job to that recipe and you end up with it as the only choice. There are really only two options, either:
  • Terry woke up Tuesday and said to himself, "Self, you and I are going to kill all the animals on the farm today!" or;
  • He was psychotic enough that he couldn't control his own actions.
In either case, batshit-insane. Sometimes people get sick and don't keep it to themselves. Think about patient zero - there was one singular opportunity where if someone knew to stop the spread of HIV, millions of people wouldn't be infected. I don't mean to sound heartless, but mental illness is just that - an illness. This guy isn't fully responsible for his actions.

Back to those debates, the biggest question I'm asking is: Should a bengal tiger be worth more than housecat, or a pig? I imagine the pig is the only one of that group that is tasty, and we respond to that tastiness by calling them disgusting to feel better about eating them. I know a lot of people who don't treat animals the way I want them to... circus stock, farm animals, feed stock... Hell I potentially mistreat my own cats by anthropomorphising and treating them as friends. I would now march off and open the door and let the cats run free, but they're too smart to run... it's easier in here, and they wouldn't last outside.

The truth is that there is no way we can ever be friends with the animal kingdom. We've taken their land, their food supply, their purpose and their freedom away. And there will never be an exit strategy. We've tried locking them in little camps called zoos and looking at them from the outside. (Native Americans, anyone?) But the bottom line is those animals died alone and afraid because we're silly enough to think we're in charge. My heart hurts for them, innocent casualties of the human power display. Animals posess a special kind of "innocence", which comes from the Latin 'innocens' - meaning blameless, harmless; without guilt. Innocence is what is really valuable, not rare fur coats and trophies.

And for you sick scavengers flooding the farm to steal the remains of the exotic animals for taxidermy: So help me, if there is a balance in the universe, I hope someone takes something sacred from you one day, like your daughter's virginity, or your dignity... That way you'll know what it's like to be disrespected and violated.


  1. I would have to say that this is tragedy that man would have to mistreat animals. I look at animals as small beings breathing but it is up to us how we treat animals. I wonder if the Lord looks at our ways while we are alive on this earth.

    My family's cat Noodle knocked down the fish tank and the fish was laying on the kitchen floor trying to breath. I picked up this small fish with a kitchen tool and put Mr. Red ( the fish) in a glass. Mr. Red is one of my niece's fish. I saved a fish from it's death. I look at Mr. Red as small being that makes my niece happy. I am not connected to Mr. Red but it is a small breathing being. I could of allow Mr. Red to die but I did not because I have feelings for these small being even they are not my own.


  2. Katy I totally agree, the whole situation makes me sick because it isn't the first time I've read about some exotic animal "preservation" in OH has mistreated animals on it's grounds. The problem truly is that humans are selfish pompous assholes that feel we can do whatever we want to any animal without any consequences. Why I may never agree with all that PETA has to say, I do support their cause to push for laws to be passed in more states preventing private ownership of "exotic" animals. I am not a fan of zoos but at least there the animals are receiving better care than most of these backwood places. If this man truly cared about these animals he should have called HSUS and asked for help then blew his brains out. I have no probs with him doing what he wants to himself but he did sentence those animals to die without a chance for survival. And it is really hard for me to believe that not all of those animals couldn't have been tranq'd and saved from death. It breaks my heart to watch again man destroy creatures that don't know to fight back. We deserve any punishment brought down from aliens or superior beings, I just hope they realize some of us have realized the errors in our ways and go out of our way not to harm one.