I Believe Elephants Are Worthwhile

mike - hixson, Tennessee
Entered on July 20, 2008

I write in defense of animals and this often involves darkness. I tread almost daily in the hopeless  and disturbing details of factory farm slaughterhouses, animal abuse, and other quite terrible things. As a result, it is often hard to remain hopeful and optimistic; however, it is paramount to do so. I know terrible facts about the Ivory trade, circuses, and I am intimately acquainted with the questionable tactics hunters utilize to hunt elephants, including stampeding them down steep embankments so they lose their footing and fall to their deaths and spraying them from helicopters with automatic weapons. Elephants are killed for their ivory so that humans may carve trinkets out of them and then sit them on shelves. Learning about elephants’ plight has changed my life. In fact, I intended to write about an elephant cull that changed my life, but I don’t think I can. I will write around it.

A friend recently dismissed my entire animal advocacy based on two things: “Dominion” and “flawed human nature.” I write against something called anthropocentrism, which says human concerns and human needs outweigh all other animals’ needs. Many feel since God supposedly gave Man “dominion” over the animals, he can do what he pleases with them regardless of their quality of life. Dominion translates loosely to mean “to have a God-like concern for,” and I told my friend that parents have dominion over their children yet it is understood parents do not have the right to torture and kill their children. Or eat them for that matter. She did not get it.

Like many others who are antagonistic toward animal advocacy, she spoke of some fundamental flaw in human nature that precludes our being kind to all animals. I told her I believe this is only an excuse invented to ease responsibility. There is no human nature: there is only human behavior. And we have the power and the capability to change our behavior. We have the power to use our Free Will to better the lives of the creatures who share this world with us. Since I believe this, it gives me dim rays of hope in this twilight world.

She has reinforced my disbelief in human nature, and it is my great hope that despite the horrendous odds humanity will one day abandon anthropocentrism and embrace all of Earth’s life while realizing humanity is an integrated aspect of it and not separate from it. Believing in human superiority makes one become isolated and disconnected from the natural world of which she is a part. Even worse, anthropocentrics can become callous and unconcerned with her “inferiors.” Mark my words: the doctrine of human superiority will be the end of us.

And that human superiority makes me think of those poor elephants terrified in their herd being gunned down from helicopter. And then they brought out the chainsaws to remove their faces for their ivory and my world changed. As humanity continues evolving, I believe we will become a kinder and gentler people and we will, one find day, issue a pardon to the animals who have bent to our will for too long.

I believe there was never a Garden of Eden outside of myth and metaphor, but if we open our eyes and continue to embrace the universe, we just might one day create one.