I enjoyed speaking at the Animal Aid Fair today … on the subject of “Man as a Wild Animal”.
This is a rough draft of what I was planning to say. But in the event I veered off quite a bit in different directions … I wonder if anybody bootlegged it!
Well, for those who could not be there, this is an approximate idea of what went on. At the end of the “Wild Animal” piece, I sketched the aims and activities of the Save-Me campaign, with emphasis on the two current initiatives … the Petition on Foxes, and the needed response to the DEFRA Consultation.
The Q & A session afterwards was great … some fascinating comments! Including the suggestion that I go head-to-head with David Cameron on TV, on the subject of Foxes and Badgers!
Well, I doubt if he would want to do that. Why would he want to debate with the likes of me? Maybe a private meeting would be more civilised. But I have an open mind.
We at Save-Me are meeting with the increasingly significant Conservatives Against Hunting group in the Commons, this week.
ON THE SUBJECT OF “MAN AS A WILD ANIMAL”
There is a problem in my speaking to you today on this topic. The problem is I am preaching to the converted. I‘m sure all of you who have bothered to come here to this Animal Aid fair on a weekend so near Christmas … have a decent mind, a decent attitude to your fellow human beings and to animals … and you don’t need me to tell you how to behave.
It would probably be more useful for me to try to do this speech in Eton College, or DEFRA headquarters (Dept of Environment, Food and Rural affairs, which we shall speak of later), or in front of Mr Cameron and his pro-hunting, pro culling mates, including Mr Clegg, who seems to have become a Conservative!
Reading the Farmers Weekly, as do these days, and seeing some the comments from their readers, and seeing the blogs of the hunting fishing and shooting community, … I tend to slip easily into despair. It’s apparent that there are still hordes of people in 2010 who absolutely think it is cool to use and abuse animals in any way they choose. I see them justify it in terms of money (they would say ‘feeding their families’) in terms of feeding the country (though many of us don’t want to eat animal products any more) and many of them justify it in a gloating “I’m a real man – I like to kill things” kind of way. Which is quite sickening, actually. Yeah – I love deer, they taste good on my plate, and if we didn’t kill ‘em they’d be overrunning the place. Derrr … It really IS depressing.
But here I am speaking to you, the informed, the enlightened, so I hope to stimulate you to look further into the subject, and perhaps to take up arms and go out and spread the word – build bonfires, help propel the Wind of Change that is necessary in the way WE AS A SPECIES, treat the animals with which we share this Blue Planet.
I’d like to start by imagining that I AM in a hostile place. My title is “Man as a Wild Animal”. The first shout I’d hear would be … ‘Who does Brian May think he is? What can a rock star know about animals, and farming, and what the Hell does he mean – Man as a wild Animal? Obviously we are NOT wild … we’re the civilised species, the rational species, and all the other creatures on Earth are the Wild Animals. Right?
This is actually exactly what you will get from people who daily treat animals as commodities, as a way of making money, making food, acquiring scientific and medical statistics, or just providing entertainment for those who want to shoot them, torture them, bait them, or hunt them with packs of brutalised dogs. Think about that. This foul and inhuman mindset says … it’s only a cat … it’s only a dog, … it’s only a monkey … it’s only a fox … they don’t have feelings like us. To imbue them with feelings is Anthropomorphism – a fallacy! (I’ll return to this thought later.) WE are human. WE are special. We have a God-given right to use the animals around us for our own benefit. But we have invented an adjective which describes our high ideals … we call ourselves HUMANE. No animal can be humane like us.
Whether or not you believe that the Earth and all its creatures were created in 7 days, or if you believe the amazing Darwinian evolutionary theory of creation, there is no doubt that only a hundred thousand years ago, or so, the Earth was populated by an amazing diversity of creatures, all living in balance … and among them was a species called Man. I’ve sometimes been tempted to blame Christianity for what happened then. … but I think it’s a misunderstanding … people tend to interpret the scriptures, as well as other information like scientific research, in any way they like – to support their flawed arguments. So the Bible used to say, I was taught .. ‘and God gave Man dominion over all the animals’ … which justifies any kind of butchery throughout history … but I am reliably informed that the Aramaic text from which this comes can actually better be interpreted as saying … “And God entrusted Man with the CARE of all creatures on the Earth.” If this is so, Man has made a terrible job of it.
I was at a meeting of the BUAV, recently, the anti-vivisection society, hosted by the wonderful Caroline Lucas, Green Party MP for Brighton. The world-famous zoologist, Ian Redmond OBE, spoke of changing attitudes in the scientific world. He noted that only a generation ago, any biologist or zoologist, attributing ‘maternal feelings giving rise to maternal behaviour’ in a mother monkey cuddling her offspring, would be accused of anthropomorphism, and never taken seriously as a scientist again. This is no longer the case. Recent mapping of genomes has revealed the uncanny similarity of the Human make-up to that of primates, and only a little less closely, to mammals such as mice and rats, and it is now accepted that the idea that “humans think and behave rationally, but animals act just on instinct”, is unsupportable. In fact modern science tends to start from the point of view that Man is an animal, and it’s more informative to study ‘animal’ behaviour in humans, than to look for ‘human’ behaviour in other creatures.
For the truth is that, for all the success man has had in colonizing the planet Earth, he is very little changed from the creature that emerged, truly ‘wild’ as homo erectus, about …..years ago. Can I support this view? Well, yes, actually, quite easily. The veneer of logic and reason and ‘civilisation’ in humans is amazingly thin. If you’ve ever been in a situation of potential disaster, you see it immediately. I remember being on a tropical island many years ago and it was suddenly there was a hurricane heading straight towards it. The prediction was that the island would be devastated and lives may be lost. In just a few hours the whole community there had descended into anarchy. There was pushing and shoving to try to secure places on the insufficient number of planes available to take us to safety. Who would get on there? Who would be left behind to perish in the destruction? Suddenly it was life or death, and the survival of the strongest. Eventually most of the holiday makers got off, and I will never forget the moment when all my kids were safely sitting on the plane, about to take off, and an air hostess came around saying … would you like tea or coffee, sir? Suddenly we were back to civilized talk, and the decision between tea and coffee was the most important consideration.
But you don’t need to look very far to see animal behaviour in us. Or what might be called ‘instinctive behaviour’. What are the most important things we all think about? Well, survival, perhaps, is one. And if we are walking home and someone lurches up to us in a threatening way, we don’t spend a lot of time looking for rational solutions. Most of us feel an adrenaline rush, and the fight or flight instinct takes over. Either we stand and fight fiercely, or we run. What else do we view as important in our lives? Well, the male part of the human race is said to think about sex at least every 5 minutes. I don’t think it’s much of an exaggeration. So this tells us that even if we think we are completely engaged in logical pursuits, our brains are still preoccupied with sex … and perhaps we should regard that as a victory for our selfish genes – for it is through sex that their survival is guaranteed. Maybe you think this is fanciful. But of all of us here in this room, why did we get married? How did we choose our mate? From the evolutionary point of view, choosing the partner we have children with is the single most important decision of our lives. How did we do it? Did we sit down and evaluate the potential suitability of all potential partners we knew of? I doubt it very much. No … we fell in love… or at least we suddenly had an overwhelming instinctive feeling that some person was the one we wanted to pair up with. So in this vital respect, we are absolutely unchanged from the beings we were in the Stone Age. And our behavour is identical to the way all mammals, wild or not, behave. Yes, I know there is computer dating now … but nobody in their right mind would let a computer decide for them who to marry. All the computer does is quickly offer some alternatives. Then instinct takes over. How long does it take to decide whether you fancy your dinner date or not?
So where else do we look for animal behaviour? Look at our attitudes to our children. Most people I know are quiet, law-abiding gentle folk, but certain things will break through this peaceful state very quickly. Look at a mother whose child is being bullied at school. Watch her take up arms, and become a spitting dragon, marching into school and demanding action. Watch a man whose kid is being threatened on or off the playing fields. Suddenly physical violence is absolutely part of his behaviour. This is all part of our huge instinctive desire to protect not only ourselves but our offspring. Once again, our actions are powered by feelings generated by the selfish gene which has survived this far, by effectively dictating our evolutionary path. Once again, this behaviour is identical to the way most wild creatures behave. We all know to steer clear of stags when there are baby deer around, and even a swan has been known to break a man’s leg if he tries to approach a nest. We instinctively protect our young. And again, viewed in evolutionary terms, this behaviour is much more important than which TV programmes we choose to watch, or whether we become bankers, or road sweepers, or politicians.
OK … I could go on for hours about the ‘wild’ nature of Man. But you get the picture. You can see I am heading towards the question of why we THINK we are more important than other animals. ARE there things which elevate humans above other creatures? What achievements can we claim? What superior qualities? How fascinating it would be for alien visiting Earth, trying to assess our claims to being entitled to greater respect than other species. What have we done? We seem to be incredibly good at covering the planet with concrete. We have managed to eradicate vast numbers of other species completely, and enslaved others, biologically engineering them to feed us in a way which makes maximum money for the animal farmers. We keep some of them in cages, living miserably depraved lives, and inflict pain on them, infect them with diseases, in order to find ways of prolonging our own lives. Some of us take delight in breeding birds, again in battery conditions, in order to release them, and pretend they are wild, as we shoot at them with guns. And in perhaps the most cowardly ‘sport’ of all, some of us pursue wild creatures with packs of dogs, who have been trained to be brutal, by forcing them to eat baby animals. It’s a shameful and hideous scenario, this fox-hunting, this stag hunting, this hare coursing. All in all, we treat animals as if they had no feelings – as if they did not matter. As if all that mattered was the well-being of humans.
What does the alien say? What is his judgment, as he looks at the millions of intelligent animals, pigs, cows, sheep, chickens, all enslaved, confined, deprived, tortured, living hideously miserable lives, enduring hideous terrifying painful deaths, all to serve humans. What is the alien’s verdict? I think the verdict is that humans, as a wild animal, are the most disappointing wild animal on this planet. What can they claim success? I would discount everything to do with money. I’d say the good things are Man’s pursuit of pure art – music, drama, poetry, painting, sculpture … and the pursuit of pure knowledge, in which I’d include all the pure sciences – Physics, Chemistry, Biology, Astronomy … and the pursuit of wisdom … philosophy – the study of thought itself. All these facets of human endeavour are to me things to be proud of … because they seek the finer things in the Natural World – they lead us to enlightenment.
But there is one other thing that might distinguish us, make us proud to be human, in my opinion. And that is what appears to be a very human quality – the quality of compassion. We have the mental capacity to understand all races of men, and all creatures …
To me, perhaps the most worthy ambition of the Human Race is to live in a compassionate manner, to our family, to our neighbours, to all races, and to all creatures. This to me is the future of Mankind, if we have a future.
Man as a wild animal does have hope. But it needs to weed out the brutal, the insensitive, the cruel, the wasteful, . And become truly worthy of the word humane.
Just a few words about Save Me. Election … foxes, badgers, wild animals.
P.S. I have just seen, online, the piece I was asked to write for the Express, in parallel with my “Man as a Wild Animal” lecture. Here it is …
I called it “Man as an Animal” but they have retitled it … WHY I HAVE TO SPEAK FOR THE ANIMALS”
Probably wisely !
It is a bit more carefully structured than the speech .. partly because there was the strict limitation of 800 words – and partly because at that point I had not heard about my son’s accident, which made it a bit hard to be truly focussed in Kensington Town Hall. Many thanks, by the way, to all those of you who have sent wishes for him. Tonight, although very poorly, he was stable, and we have hopes he will make a full recovery.
PPS. Having now seen the paper copy of this article in the Express, on which I spent a lot of time … I’m very disappointed.
Well, pretty angry, really.
We cut the article down when we were told the number of words had decreased.. but they have chopped it down again.
The main reason for doing this piece of writing was for the badgers. To try to let people know about the consultation … and give animal-lovers a chance to take action. But they have cut out ALL REFERENCE to the BADGERS … and the FOXES. Incredible. And omitted all mention of the organisations and websites to visit to help in the fight against cruelty.
Well, I have been duped again.
Want to see the full version I wrote? Before ANY of the editing? Here it is … Humans_as_Animals.doc