To anyone who seeks financial gain from the exploitation of animals:

First, we must dismiss the notion that humans are better, of more worth, or higher on a value scale. We must substitute it with a new axiom of ontological parity.

Second, we must agree in principle that most of us have little knowledge about how all beings, processes, and structures work together in an ecosystem. We substitute it with a new axiom of rigorous inquiry.

Third, we must accept a new Archimedean point. We cannot pretend to be at the center of the earth universe. This means that we must render an accounting of all life forms, holding that all living beings have equal interests and rights. We must, therefore, have an axiom that recognizes we play a part in the whole but are not the whole, and that we must mediate and weigh our interests relative to those of other life forms.

Fourth, we must recognize that all life forms come from the same source. This leads us to a reconstituted notion of solidarity. This is a trans-human notion that includes all other life forms equally with humans.

Fifth, we must accept a new depth and breadth of our responsibility to all life forms.

Sixth, we must work diligently to formulate and articulate a new philosophical anthropology for human beings. This means we must strive for a new understanding of the world and our place within it. This is not the autonomous subject of the Enlightenment.

Presently, our collective view focuses on the thesis that the world revolves around the interest of humans. In this view, other life forms have lesser value, which gives humans the power to torture and destroy them if it serves our financial interest. Further, this view precludes us from actually perceiving the interests of other life forms. Because we obscure their interests we do not often critically reflect on them. This is an unreflective life project with unreflective opinions. By definition, an unreflective opinion is uncritical: it lacks thought. I believe that we ought to interrogate this uncritical state in such a way that we deepen our understanding of it.

Together, we can see that there is an isomorphism between individual narcissism and cultural/species narcissism. Both include the same preoccupation with self or culture and both ignore or actively denigrate the interests of others. Moreover, we can see that there is an over-reliance on the law, which is a retreat to the familiarity of the superego position, i.e., the dominant proscriptions of one’s society. This is a denial of the transcendent in both individual and society. There is also a compulsion to rely on the words used to taxonomically differentiate one type of being from another, which includes different levels of ontological value, rights, and protections. For example, in many jurisdictions wild animals are considered property, and become personal property once they are taken from the forest. This allows the human taker to do anything he wants to the “property.” Analogously, there are historical examples amongst humans, in cases of race and gender, in which different categories of humans were assigned different value. It is the same kind of thinking.

We might be foreclosed from new thought because the very language we use to think about these issues is already value-laden, which pre-figures the range of thinking in which we can engage. For example, if we say that a breeding dog is a cash crop – a piece of property – and property cannot have rights, then a breeding dog does not have rights. In contrast, if we say that a breeding dog is a sentient being and that all sentient beings have rights, we must conclude that breeding dogs have rights. In these two cases, it is the language that foreshadows and determines the moral conclusions. Nevertheless, if we reconsider our taxonomy and its language, we might come to new conclusions.

Making this shift in our structural habits that are embedded in the law, in our minds, and in our moral thinking could have a profound effect on the way humans construct meaning and delimit behavioral predispositions.

Kevin Boileau of Missoula is a scientist, philosopher and lawyer. 

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