Are humans above nature?
Bulliet begins the second part of his book by talking about the taming of wild animals as part of the domestication process. This entire chapter dealt with keeping the captured/breeding population seperate from the wild and feral animals of the wilderness. He begins with his rats and foxes example, where after decades of testing and “natural selection” -I say that sarcastically, as the testing and breeding of certain selected rats was very unnatural in itself- led to the creation of the “white lab rat” as people attempted to breed the albinos together, and successfully had. He also talks about how through so many generations of breeding and being held in captivity, this tameness gene kept elevating and more and more with each offspring. However, the experimenter was actually selecting the tamest of all the offspring, and thus practically determined the future generations of the captive foxes.
So, to what extent is the domestication of animals deemed useful? Bulliet would argue that people think “domestic animal means ‘useful animal.'” He separates usage of animals into primary & secondary uses: primary being meat , and secondary meaning the extras involved in the domestication of the animal. These could range anywhere from wool from sheep, to riding of horses and camels, to even the plowing of fields. The primary use, however is always meat, as it is a driving force for humans to hunt, herd, and “hamburgize,”(see what I did there?) for their own survival.
Now the question at hand is, when did the sacrificing of animals come about? There has always been a huge request for animal sacrifice throughout all religions and all races of the world. A more personal example, when attending a family gathering dinner, my cousin’s chickens were raised and killed for the meal, and they told me before the killing of the chickens, they would say a prayer to thank God for the wonderful creatures that he put on his earth. Now, I’m not very religious, but that right there almost sounds like sacrifice itself! Bulliet would go on to say that domestication could have been for the purpose of sacrifice, because in case of a sacrificial event, there would ALWAYS be an animal on hand. Versus hoping the hunter of the group found game, they could always rely on the domesticates.
I’ve described three scenarios here, in which it seems like humans have distinguished themselves above nature: taming and selective breeding by humans, claiming animals as being useful for humans, and claiming animals lives in human sacrificial usage. Are we starting to exploit the benefits of domesticated animals? Are we dominating their lives in an unfair manor? Ingold would argue that, saying that humans, “have risen above, and have sought to bring under control, a world of nature that includes their own animality.” To what reason do we assume the right to slaughter animals for our own religious pleasing? Who deemed animal meat as a primary use for humans? Why do we, as humans, think we can genetically change a species to suit our quest for knowledge?
I am starting to increasingly understand the world through a vegetarian’s eyes.
Humans without a doubt see themselves as superior to the fauna around us, so much in fact that we believe ourselves to be in a separate category, one that is above that of animals. Bulliet’s topic of religion only supports this. If domestication was truly brought about because of animal sacrifice and not some mutually beneficial exchange, then animals have never had a hope. If we believe animals were put on this earth by a God who only we resemble then we have truly claimed our dominance over them. Your question of assuming the right to slaughter animals for religion is a tricky one as many questions involving religion are.
Our ancestor’s truly believe that an all-powerful being or beings required the sacrifice of animals and our attitude towards animals has change very little since then. I found this being the cause of domestication to be a little fishy but then again it is hard for us to relate and appreciate how much early humans were willing to sacrifice to please their gods.
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