Posted by: r.m. | January 10, 2014

my wish for the new year… may we be more ‘animal’

Mark Bekoff’s article ‘We Are Animals and Therein Lies Hope for a Better Future‘ is the very piece with which I would like to open this new year.  

As this esteemed professor in animal emotions writes:

“The time has come to debunk the myth of human exceptionalism once and for all — it’s a hollow, shallow and self-serving perspective on who people are. Of course we are exceptional in various ways — as are other animals. Perhaps we should replace the notion of human exceptionalism with species exceptionalism or individual exceptionalism, moves that will force us to appreciate other animals for who they are, not who or what we want them to be. Speciesist arguments that separate us from other animals, and that discount the value of individual differences even within species, are misleading and have disastrous results for all concerned. Such views are not only bad for animals in laboratories, but also for wild animals, as evidenced by the new and rapidly developing field called compassionate conservation, in which the emphasis is on the lives of individual animals.

“We must not ignore nature, for we do so at our own peril. By paying close attention to who other animals are and what they want and need, we can rewild our hearts and keep our hopes and dreams alive as we reconnect with other animals and nature as a whole and feel ever so comfortable with our membership in the diverse and fascinating animal kingdom.”

Read the excellent article in full here 

May we ‘rewild our hearts…’

Saying no to the myth of ‘human exceptionalism’ also pushes us to say no to race-based/ethnic-based/nationality-based exceptionalism.  Saying yes to the natural wildness in our hearts, reconnecting with the earth and with other animals creates more space in our hearts and our minds for compassion towards all, be they human or non-human. And we are desperately in need of more compassion, more love.  And love has the ability to not only feed itself, but to also feed that other beautiful emotion: hope.



  1. Every time you open your mouth, the more I love you. The more animals I live around, the more I feel this more strongly.

  2. The problem is that many still associate “wild” with “savage””. In a sense they’re right, but those people keep forgetting that “wild” is also natural. Becoming wild again doesn’t mean we have to start walking on all fours, but simply that we have to respect nature and treat it like the living organism that it is.

  3. I agree with the article in that the so called superiority that we have given as a name for what differentiates us from other species is ‘misleading’. Moreover, we are an essential part of nature and our value lies in playing our role in nature rather than detaching ourselves from it.

  4. Marianne Bersaoui biol207
    As McArthur asks, we have to break down the mental and physical barriers we’ve built that allow us to treat our fellow creatures as objects and not as sentient beings … In fact, many studies have shown that animals are like us; they feel and think. Animals are God’s creatures like us. We have no rights to torture them. Some of them are found to serve us as food and every single species on earth has a huge role in maintaining the ecosystem. Animals are better than us; they didn’t contribute to the global warming which is the result of humans’ actions. So let’s respect them and respect that their existence is indispensable for humans in order to survive!

  5. Samah Trad BIOL207
    “we should replace the notion of human exceptionalism with species exceptionalism or individual exceptionalism”. I strongly agree with this statement as well as the whole article. It is such thoughts that make the idea of equality possible, for appreciating an animal as a living organism can only lead to more appreciation towards individuals of our own species. It has been shown that some murderers are actually animal torturers, so we see how our behaviour with animals is linked to how we treat other humans. Therefore, I sincerely hope that people would grow more affection and respect for animals, if not for the magnificent role they have in nature, then for the mere hope that their hearts would open more for other humans as well.

  6. Aida Metri BIOL207

    “..fascinating lives of the other animals with whom we share our magnificent planet”. Most humans forget the fact that this earth we live on is also occupied by so many other living creatures, from some single cell organisms to some as large as elephants. All these living creatures are absolutely fascinating in their own way, each and every one of them contributes to the way our world is, and without them, our world wouldn’t be the same. Humans don’t realize this fact and are continuing to harm these magnificent creatures for several different reasons. Some just for the fun of it (such as hunting, which is the biggest shame of all), and others for the animal’s habitat, or its meat. However, humans should realize that by harming these animals they are actually harming themselves by increasing the number of diseases and changing the world as we know it. For each thing we do has several effects, some we don’t even realize.

    “While humans can do many things that other animals cannot, this does not mean we’re smarter than them”. I consider this as a fact. Maybe animals can’t conduct addition or division, but at least they can live in peace with one another. Human beings pretend that they don’t understand animals or what animals want, when in fact, all animals want is to be left alone. Animals show so many characteristics that humans have. They show sympathy towards one another, they help each other when in need and they stick together and are loyal to one another. For example: “Animals care for disabled members of their group” and “Fish use their head to tell other fish where there’s food”. They look out for one another and all they want to do is to be able to live peacefully in a world that is rightfully there’s just as much as it is to those that are harming them.

    The definition of an animal kingdom includes humans and non-humans, and this world was created for every living thing, not only those that can speak up for themselves. The human race is becoming such a selfish race with no peace, and the only hope we have in becoming peaceful and better is by living in peace with everything in this world.

  7. Nicolas Abdallah BIOL207
    The literal meaning of the term “Homo sapiens” in Latin is “wise man”, this same man who considers himself as the master above all species. Based on what criteria are we illusionists to have this “higher characteristic”? Here’s my proposed answer: Mankind prides itself with the cultures it has build, the arts it has created, and the languages it has developed. So “civilization” became part of the human entity, while non-human animals are considered as uncivilized beasts. The debate raised about whether or not language is present in other species, as I see it, is not necessary, because with or without language, these animal species DO communicate with each others, and that’s undebatable. Language is just a mean, not a goal! Thus, it shouldn’t be considered as a factor in determining the hierarchy of species in my opinion.
    As we are now acting snobbish towards other animals because of the complexities we have and they don’t, they themselves might be mocking us also because of some intrinsic characteristics they have and we lack, the very strong smell sense the dog has serves as an example, in addition to those already provided in the article. My point here is that each species is intelligent according to its needs that rose through the process of evolution. I will allow myself here to disagree with Beckoff’s saying that “differences among various animals are differences in degree rather than kind”, I see the contrary: humans are not MORE intelligent than whales (or any other animal), they are intelligent in a DIFFERENT way.
    To be fair, I have to admit that comparative anatomy does in fact prove that humans have the most sophisticated brain among animals, but this isn’t a reason that permits us to call ourselves “superior beings”, because we have caused a lot of damage to this planet. Some three hundred thousand years ago, the biosphere seemed to be doing fine without us. Our actions, especially in the post industrial revolution phase, has caused too many unbearable problems to the earth, and we all are familiar with this. What we seem to ignore here is that we are parts of this ecosystem, and we are required to perform our role in the cycle of nature (which is not really vital). The question is: Are we? Well, non-human members of the animalia kingdom, with the “primitive” brain they have, are “intelligent” enough not to disturb the ecological cycle. Thus, is it still “wise” for us to sanctify ourselves as the highest livings?
    A last point I will comment on is that our superciliousness doesn’t have an impact only on the ecosystem, but also on humanity itself. Judging a species based on the number of cells it has or the ways it uses for communication does actually lead to judging other humans based on their sex, skin color, sexual orientation, the number of significant zeros in their bank accounts, and the list goes on and on…. Thus if we stop being bumptious, we will achieve the first step in vanishing inequality, racism, and discrimination.

  8. Jina Shammas BIOL207

    Throughout the past decades, man has evolved and dominated a world he called his own. Every now and then he would grow more greedy and self-loving. What he fails to understand, though, is that God intended to make man share the Earth with other non-humans, as well. However, he prefers to ignore this simple fact and belittle animals and other living creatures. Everything that moves, crawls, swims, flies and breathe on the Earth’s surface is no accident at all. There is a purpose, of course, for the way animals and living beings evolved and have come to inhabit our planet. One of the best things we can do is try to “connect” more with nature and try to fit the missing pieces and the matching links together. To do so, it is crucial to understand that other creatures have their own unique existence, as well. “People don’t have to embellish other animals; we just have to let them show us who they are”, stated Ms. McArthur in her book “We Animals”. In fact, sometimes animals are more sensitive or sensual than other human beings. I mean, your dog is definitely more loyal, helpful, and sometimes caring than most of your friends! (It’s very true, by the way, that people who are animal-friendly are nicer people. They seem to be happier, more joyful and peaceful) Smart tricks, special adaptations, emotional signals, bizarre ways of communication, and possibly a shared language are all features of the animal world. It’s hard to entangle the puzzle; it’s true. But why not try? Or else, why not make things easier and simpler? Why not “build wildlife bridges and underpasses so that animals can freely move about”, as stated in the article? Why not reconnect with nature and search for answers books have failed to provide?

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