On The Monstrosity of Animal Exploitation and Abuse, and the Causation of Slavery, Genocide and War
An Animal Rights Article from All-Creatures.org


David Gerow Irving, author of The Protein Myth: Significantly Reducing the Risk of cancer, Heart Disease, Stroke and Diabetes while Saving the Animals and the Planet
July 2008

This man supposedly killed the biggest bear, ever. But what for?

Since the advent of civilization almost every nation from the smallest to the largest has struggled through periods of unbearable violence. Looking back the world finds its trail littered with the history of war and bloodshed. Almost everyone alive today has experienced nothing but war throughout their entire lives. Wherever we look it is there. World War I, World War II, Israel-Palestine, Korea, South Africa, Guatemala, Vietnam, Nicaragua, Khmer Rouge, El Salvador, Gulf War, Rwanda, Kosovo, Afghanistan, Iraq. This list barely makes a dent in the number of wars fought in the 20th and early 21st Centuries. Over 160 million people are dead because of these wars. That is a staggering figure. And over it all hangs the fear of a massive nuclear conflagration.

Just how much more does it take before the world stops long enough to ask how it all happened and what can be done about it? Isaac Bashevis Singer answered the latter part of the question most precisely when he wrote “as long as human beings will go on shedding the blood of animals, there will never be any peace…There will be no justice as long as man will stand with a knife or a gun and destroy those who are weaker than he is.”

The means for putting an end to war is, therefore, not easy but perfectly conceivable, if we would only avail ourselves of it, and has, in fact, been staring us in the face for centuries. The exploitation and abuse of animals must be stopped. That is the simple (but, admittedly not easy to implement) answer. And if it should seem all too simple, even simpletonian, then let us take a look at the impact on the world the abuse of animals has made. That should clarify the issue.

Cattle, hogs, and “poultry” are not the only victims. Many horses also end up in the pitiless abattoirs. The thirst for making a dollar out of animals is still pretty much unquenchable.

Cattle, hogs, and “poultry” are not the only victims. Many horses also end up in the pitiless abattoirs. The thirst for making a dollar out of animals is still pretty much unquenchable.
Image from Humane Farming Association (HFA)

The "Normalization" Of Abuse

Charles Patterson’s well researched, thought-provoking book Eternal Treblinka: Our Treatment of Animals and the Holocaust illuminates the dark past out of which animal abuse and exploitation emerged. In the long march from the stone age to civilization early humans began to move from a life support system based on opportunistic hunting and gathering to one of domesticating plants and animals. Domestication was not, however, just a cooperative venture in which animals willingly complied. In order to bend animals to their will, humans had to use cunning and deception while resorting to some of their most brutal capabilities. To avoid overpopulation of their herds they would have needed to sterilize some of the males. As Patterson describes, they would likely have accomplished that in the same way some herders in various parts of the world are still doing it, by holding the male down and crushing his testicles. Other means by which herders controlled captive animals were whips, chains, shackles, and branding to show individual ownership.

The domestication of animals changed the relationship with animals that people had previously established. Animals were no longer held in ancestral esteem, nor were they any longer regarded in the same light as everything else that lived, including the rocks, the trees, the earth itself, the sun, the moon, and the stars. These were all soul-possessing entities. But the domestication of animals brought a change in their status from one of respect (or fear) to one in which they were ruthlessly subjected to the selfish interests of the herders. As noted by Mr. Patterson, Sigmund Freud wrote that “in the course of his development towards culture man acquired a dominating position over his fellow-creatures in the animal kingdom. Not content with his supremacy, however, he began to place a gulf between his nature and theirs. He denied the possession of reason to them, and to himself he attributed an immortal soul, and made claims to a divine descent which permitted him to annihilate the bond of community between him and the animal kingdom.”

As the human desire for acquisition grew, the process of domesticating animals provided a model by which tribes could also acquire the wealth of their neighbors. They simply applied the same brutal techniques that had been used successfully to enslave animals: whipping, shackles, chains, castration of males, separation of females, branding, imprisonment, and murder. Over time, tribal battles and population growth expanded and evolved into full scale wars.

The core ingredient in the process of one human group conquering another was that of dehumanization. Dehumanization meant mentally transforming the image of a respected neighbor with whom a tribe cooperated for each other’s mutual benefit, to the image of some kind of “beast.” The ideal was to select one that was particularly loathsome and repugnant to the tribe preparing for warfare. Once that was accomplished it was easy to rationalize the most atrocious and barbaric kind of treatment in accomplishing the conqueror’s goals, including in the Nazi Holocaust where they herded their enemies naked (like animals are) into showers and gassed them.

Factory farming has industrialized the murdering of animals for profit. Despite advances in moral consciousness, humans kill and exploit today more animals for food and other purposes than ever before. And the explosion in human populations does not bode well for wildlife, either.

Factory farming has industrialized the murdering of animals for profit. Despite advances in moral consciousness, humans kill and exploit today more animals for food and other purposes than ever before. And the explosion in human populations does not bode well for wildlife, either.

Animals in the Symbology of Domination and Hatred

This has been the pattern of conquest throughout human history. Some examples include the massacres of the indigenous people of the American plains, the enslavement and brutalization of Africans by Europeans and Americans, the Nazi Holocaust, and the war in Vietnam. The conquerors mentally turn their victims into animals or insects, describing them as beasts, monkeys, gorillas, swine, pigs, whining curs, mad dogs, monkeys, and termites. Once the victims have been relegated to less than human status, they can be whipped, chained, raped, tortured, humiliated, blown up, and murdered as desired. Hutu leaders described Tutsis as cockroaches and snakes during the Rwanda massacres. In Nazi Germany, as has been well documented, the Nazis defined Jews as rats and pests, which, like animals, were without rights and worthy of life only at the discretion of the superior German master race.

Certainly the connection between the enslavement of animals with that of human beings is there to be discerned. The follow-up, defined as war, is also clearly visible. How could it be otherwise? It is not likely that one group of human beings is going to sit idly by while another group subjugates and enslaves it. Unlike animals, humans have the means and the will to fight back and to seek revenge along the way.

Patterson has shown that the whole process of slavery, genocide, and war got started when our ancestors began herding innocent animals together against their will. Herding constitutes animal slavery with a path leading towards human slavery, genocide, and war. As shown, that path had to include positive to negative image transference which could only have been forged after animals were rendered subservient and inferior to humans. Herding would certainly have destroyed the sense of kinship early human felt towards animals, opening the door to redefining their place in the new world over which humans were gradually taking ownership. From that point forward, it takes little imagination to envision our ancestors corralling and clubbing innocent animals to death whenever they felt a need. Is it any wonder that today workers club defenseless baby seals to death in Canada for economic gain? And we ask ourselves how anyone could be so ghastly cruel and inhumane?

If we want to put on the brakes and come to a screeching halt when it comes to violence and war, maybe it is time to put a stop to activities like enslaving and abusing animals against their will!

The enslavement and abuse of animals along with other ignoble activities like vivisection, trapping, hunting, slaughter, and other cruel abuses of animals are warfare’s constant attendants. After centuries they have become the accepted norms and are ingrained in our culture often involving the “best” people. Women of privilege proudly display expensive furs at church, social, and cultural functions and show no concern about the cruelty required to obtain them: steel toothed traps that bite cruelly into whatever anatomical part they manage to snare is one method; anal electrocution, neck snapping, and gassing are other favorites in the mink trade. Why does a custom that causes such immense suffering to animals not cause us to question our sanity? Animal researchers who abuse animals during the week and then sit in the front pews of their churches on Sunday mornings or sit on the boards of directors of important companies and rake in enormous salaries, deserve the same question. It applies with equal force to leaders of commerce and culture who either are involved in, approve of, or cast a blind eye toward animal abuse in laboratories, then step forward proudly to accept civic honors from their communities for exceptional services rendered. And Presidents and Trustees as well as faculty sitting in lofty professorial chairs at universities which condone and approve animal research do not escape the question either.

In the same spirit of acquiescence to habit, newspapers write editorials heralding the start of the hunting season and promote the sport of killing innocent animals with high powered rifles and telescopic sights. The loss of human character that results from something so spectacularly unfair and brutal merits little consideration by people intent on continuing the bully practice of destroying those “who are weaker” than they are, just as Isaac Bashevis Singer pointed out in the quote noted at the beginning of this article. Moreover, the seeds granting his government the right to enslave some weaker opponent are already planted in the soil of the hunter’s mind, since he agrees with the fundamental concept of “might makes right,” except for those few who come to their senses and rebel by refusing to hunt. Meanwhile, large sectors of the economy, like the pharmaceutical, meat and dairy industries, have as their foundation some form of animal abuse whether engaging in gruesome biological experiments, cutting the feet off of cattle or ripping off their hides while they are still living, or turning cows into milk producing machines, and many, many other abuses that are abundantly documented by animal welfare workers. It is small wonder that these industries are conscienceless when they are confronted with their deeds. Animal abuse pervades everything. Why should they not profit economically and take comfort in the same platitudes governing our attitudes towards animals that permeate all the civilized world except for that Orwellian minority that has its eyes wide open?

Today, eleven thousand years after the first domestication of animals, human beings have become totally dependent on animals for their existence. Even those who want no part of animal exploitation find it almost inescapable. Twenty-seven billion animals are killed each year in the United States alone just for food. An additional one hundred million animals are experimented upon in animal research laboratories internationally by the animal research industry annually. Dead animals and animal parts collected by rendering plants from slaughter houses, research laboratories, road kills, and every conceivable source are turned into by-products around the world for use in just about everything from cosmetics, soap, and plastics to the automobile tires that transport people from place to place. They are even used in film for moving pictures so that when people go to a movie their pleasure may in part be derived from the by-products of animals that may have been tortured in animal research laboratories. People are literally washing their clothing, cleaning their homes, and bathing themselves in dead animals unless they take care to use soap brands not made with by-products. For entertainment purposes animals are cruelly exploited in circuses, crammed into small cages in zoos, compelled to perform in small spaces in aquariums, forced to race against their will in horse and dog races, beaten into submission where most suffer lung damage in pulling sleds in Iditarods, and stalked mercilessly until they are killed by sadistic cowards in canned Safari hunts. Yet the overwhelming majority of people are unconcerned and the issue of animal slavery, their abuse and exploitation merits only a “ho-hum” unless an animal rights organization mounts an exhibit and attempts to show the world that the exploitation and abuse of animals is the core reason for slavery, genocide, and war. Then “ho-hum” becomes an outrage directed at the animal rights activists who dare to show the world what it is doing.

Mainstream media organizations consistently refer to animal rights people in negative terms like “zealots” or “extremists” while the forces of commerce try to brainwash everyone into accepting the view that the rights of animals has no significance. After all, what is an animal? Just a thing to use as we see fit, undeserving of respect, certainly not to be confused with having anything to do with the high intellectual plateaus upon which human beings live out their lives, and certainly not to be compared to human beings in any way no matter how alike they may be in form, body, the ability to express emotion, or, as science is now beginning to discover, take an ethical position,. (See Animals at Play (Animals and Ethics), Marc Bekoff, University of Temple Press.)

But one very important fact is beginning to take root in our consciousness. When we stop abusing and exploiting animals, we tend to stop abusing and exploiting our neighbors. We may then be open to finding new directions for channeling our energies, and those directions could lead towards a world able to function without slavery, genocide, and war.

Abolitionists believed and lived by the magnificent concept that all people are equal. Animal rights people believe and live by the magnificent concept that the sanctity of life extends not just to human beings, but to all of life. It is a vision that has also been most eloquently expressed by Albert Einstein who said, “Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.”

This vision has not only philosophical, ethical, and spiritual implications, it has immense practical value. Without its realization, society will be forever hindered from moving to those higher levels of integration towards which all progressive social movements strive. Without that our world of war will continue without end.

Today the animal rights movement is gaining momentum exponentially. It is moving forward demanding that the enslavement, abuse, and torture of animals stop. History teaches well. Injustice and wrong can never survive over time. And those countries that rely on it are living on a cancer that will eventually devour them from the inside out. Nor can those societies withstand the forces of truth, conscience, compassion, and necessity. And these forces tell us that the exploitation and abuse of animals is inextricably bound with slavery, genocide, and war. It’s quite likely, then, that when we stop shedding the blood of animals, we will stop shedding the blood of our fellow human beings and we may, at long last, find peace.

David Irving is a Phi Beta Kappa, Magna Cum Laude graduate of Columbia University, class of 1980, School of General Studies. He subsequently obtained his Masters in Music Composition at Columbia and founded the new music organization Phoenix in New York City.

Return to Animal Rights Articles