The Animal That Therefore I Am

young barn owl elisabeth frinkYoung Barn Owl, Dame Elisabeth Jean Frink (1930 – 1993)

 

To put all living things that aren’t human into one category is, first of all, a stupid gesture – theoretically ridiculous – and partakes in the very real violence that humans exercise towards animals.

Confined within this catch-all concept, within this vast encampment of the animal,
in this general singular, within the strict enclosure of this definite article (‘the Animal’ and not ‘animals’), as in a virgin forest, a zoo, a hunting or fishing ground, a paddock or an abattoir, a space of domestication,
are all the living things that man does not recognize as his fellows, his neighbors, or his brothers.
And that is so in spite of the infinite space that separates the lizard from the dog, the protozoon from the dolphin, the shark from the lamb, the parrot from the chimpanzee, the camel from the eagle, the squirrel from the tiger, the elephant from the cat, the ant from the silkworm, or the hedgehog from the echidna.

The confusion of all nonhuman living things within the general and common category of the animal is not simply a sin against rigorous thinking, vigilance, lucidity, or empirical authority, it is also a crime.


Jackie Élie Derrida (1930 – 2004)
(Jacques Derrida)

 


–Thanks to Kieran Suckling for bringing this work of Derrida to my attention–

http://www.biologicaldiversity.org/
http://www.biologicaldiversity.org/action/alerts/

 

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Weaning the Calves

Rosa Bonheur (16 March 1822 – 25 May 1899)

Rosa Bonheur (16 March 1822 – 25 May 1899)

It is evident that those who are necessitated by their  profession to trifle with the sacredness of life, and think lightly of the  agonies of living beings, are unfit for benevolence and justice . . .

Their habits form an admirable apprenticeship to the more wasting wickedness of war, in which men are hired to mangle and murder their fellow beings by thousands, that tyrants and countries may profit.
The very sight of animals in the fields who are destined to the axe must  encourage obduracy if it fails to awaken compassion.

How unwarrantable is the injustice and barbarity which is exercised toward  these miserable victims.
They are called into existence by human artifice that  they may drag out a short and miserable existence of slavery and disease, that  their bodies may be mutilated, their social feelings outraged.
It were much  better that a sentient being should never have existed, than that it should have  existed only to endure unmitigated misery.

(The attachment of animals to their  young is very strong. The monstrous sophism that beasts are pure unfeeling  machines, and do not reason, scarcely requires a confutation.)

Percy Bysshe Shelley  (1792 – 1822)

 

A radical in his poetry as well as his political and social views, Shelley did not live to see success and influence.
Most publishers and journals declined to publish his work for fear of being arrested themselves for blasphemy or sedition.

Henry David Thoreau’s civil disobedience and Mohandas Gandhi’s passive resistance were influenced and inspired by Shelley’s nonviolence in protest and political action.

Critics such as Matthew Arnold endeavoured to rewrite Shelley’s legacy to make him seem a lyricist and a dilettante who had no serious intellectual position and whose longer poems were not worth study. Matthew Arnold famously described Shelley as a “beautiful and ineffectual angel”.
This position contrasted strongly with the judgement of the previous generation who knew Shelley as a sceptic and radical.

Although Shelley’s works were banned from respectable Victorian households, his political writings were pirated by men such as Richard Carlile (an important agitator for the establishment of universal suffrage and freedom of the press in the United Kingdom) who regularly went to jail for printing “seditious and blasphemous libel” (i.e. material proscribed by the government), and these cheap pirate editions reached hundreds of activists and workers throughout the nineteenth century.

Wikipedia

A Cow and A Calf

ccJoseph Mallord William Turner (1775‑1851)

. . . .  humankind, and the mute flocks
Of scaly creatures swimming in the streams,
And joyous herds around, and all the wild,
And all the breeds of birds- both those that teem
In gladsome regions of the water-haunts,
About the river-banks and springs and pools,
And those that throng, flitting from tree to tree,
Through trackless woods- Go, take which one thou  wilt,
In any kind: thou wilt discover still
Each from the other still unlike in shape.
Nor in no other wise could offspring know
Mother, nor mother offspring- which we see
They yet can do, distinguished one from other,
No less than human beings, by clear signs.
Thus oft before fair temples of the gods,
Beside the incense-burning altars slain,
Drops down the yearling calf, from out its breast
Breathing warm streams of blood; the orphaned mother,
Ranging meanwhile green woodland pastures round,
Knows well the footprints, pressed by cloven hoofs,
With eyes regarding every spot about,
For sight somewhere of youngling gone from her;
And, stopping short, filleth the leafy lanes
With her complaints; and oft she seeks again
Within the stall, pierced by her yearning still.
Nor tender willows, nor dew-quickened grass,
Nor the loved streams that glide along low banks,
Can lure her mind and turn the sudden pain;
Nor other shapes of calves that graze thereby
Distract her mind or lighten pain the least-
So keen her search for something known and hers.
Moreover, tender kids with bleating throats
Do know their horned dams, and butting lambs
The flocks of sheep, and thus they patter on,
Unfailingly each to its proper teat,
As Nature intends.

De rerum natura
Lucretius
c. 50 B.C.E

Translated by William Ellery Leonard