The Seville Statement on Violence

the_seville_statement_on_violence

Last year we marked October the 2nd – the international day of nonviolence, with a series of posts about non-violence.
In the first post we argue that the allegedly historical success of non-violent struggles is a myth and a non-relevant approach when it comes to the animals’ struggle.
In the second post we argue that the allegedly non-violent approach is principally, philosophically and ideologically a violent and speciesist approach.
In the third post we argue that non-violence is even theoretically impossible, since practically there is no way to avoid violence in this world.
If you haven’t read these posts please do.

This year we ask to mark October the 2nd with a series of posts about violence.
Obviously violence is a too extensive issue to seriously cover in several posts, so our focus in this series is primarily addressing the main corner stones in the modern discussion regarding violence. A good place to start is the “scientific” statement that humans are not naturally violent.

The Seville Statement on Violence is an international declaration signed by a committee of 20 international scholars at the University of Seville, Spain, in May 1986, proclaiming that humans are not naturally violent and wars are not a biological necessity but rather a cultural product, and therefore can be utterly ended. The Statement’s main purpose is to counter the stance that human beings are naturally disposed to wars as a result of innate, biologically determined aggressive character.

The Statement was endorsed by UNESCO and by many organizations of scientists around the world including anthropologists, ethnologists, political scientists, psychologists and sociologists.

The statement is divided into five propositions which are fully quoted bellow along with our critical review of each.

 

FIRST PROPOSITION

It is scientifically incorrect to say that we have inherited a tendency to make war from our animal ancestors. Although fighting occurs widely throughout animal species, only a few cases of destructive intra-species fighting between organized groups have ever been reported among naturally living species, and none of these involve the use of tools designed to be weapons. Normal predatory feeding upon other species cannot be equated with intra-species violence. Warfare is a peculiarly human phenomenon and does not occur in other animals.

The fact that warfare has changed so radically over time indicates that it is a product of culture.

Its biological connection is primarily through language which makes possible the coordination of groups, the transmission of technology, and the use of tools. War is biologically possible, but it is not inevitable, as evidenced by its variation in occurrence and nature over time and space. There are cultures which have not engaged in war for centuries, and there are cultures which have engaged in war frequently at some times and not at others.

The first fundamental problem with The Seville Statement on Violence, is its headline.
The committee’s statement is on violence yet it deals only with wars, as if they are the only violent element in human society.
Even if wars were the worst manifestation of human violence, and even if the committee had succeeded in proving that wars are a product of culture and not nature, it still doesn’t prove that violence and aggression are a product of culture and not nature since wars are far from being the only violent element in human society. The most that it can prove is that wars are not natural.

The committee focus on wars is very serviceable. Wars are relatively specific in terms of scale, length, participants, results, causes, justifications and etc, contrary to the daily aggression and violence that many of it is so elusive that it is almost impossible to track and analyze its scale, reasons and roots. Violence and aggression are everywhere all the time. They can’t be isolated and analyzed like wars.

There is something very male chauvinist, capitalistic, western, white, satiated and ageist, and of course above all- speciesist, in paralleling violence and wars, since most violence in history wasn’t inflicted during wars but at home by husband on wife (physically, sexually, economically and emotionally), by parent on child, rich on poor, richer world on poorer world, by the satiate on the hungry and thirsty, and of course inflicted by humans on nonhumans every time they eat.

Wars are the biggest fear in the rich white world. For millions of other humans the biggest fear is not having clean water or something to eat and getting infected with diseases. For millions of women it’s their spouse, for millions of children it’s their own parents. And for hundreds of billions of animals each year it is humans.

The systematic oppression of billions of animals in one year alone has more victims than all the wars combined. Humans have never officially declared a war against the rest of the species, but still it’s the most violent and oppressive relationship ever in history.
As we argued in the video Weapons the most violent weapons in the world are not machine guns and tanks. There is more violence on the plates of humans during breakfast than there is in wars.

weapones

Theoretically billions of humans can be saved by a simple decision on the personal level made by their victimizers. Already there is enough food and water in the world for every human. Even without making any fundamental changes in the appalling way humans are feeding themselves it can be easily done. Theoretically it is much easier than ending all the wars. And yet…
Who better than you knows that the easiest way for each human to stop most of the violence they inflict is by becoming vegan, and yet less than 2% of humans have made that decision and probably less than 1% are doing it to stop violence.

Besides mixing up violence and aggression with wars, the committee is making a very strange and extremely anthropocentric (if not plain speciesist) dichotomy between culture and nature, which is particularly strange when it comes from scientists and all the more so when some are anthropologists, ethnologists and psychologists.
It is highly unlikely that such a dominant cultural element could have evolved if it contradicts a biological one. Theoretically humans must be at least to some extent violent so a culturally violent notion would totally take over their allegedly non-violent natural character. And practically humans are so violent that seriously “scientifically” stating that they are naturally not, sounds much more like wishful thinking and entirely biased with extreme humanistic anthropocentric views.

Warfare is not a human phenomenon and it does occur among other animals. It depends on how you define a war and there are at least 2 ways, by the means or by the ends.
If a war is a large scale battle between two or more opposing groups then many species of ants and other social insects definitely conduct wars in which thousands of individuals from different colonies fight, mostly over territory.

But that is a rather narrow definition of war which is probably biased by our modern image of it,
and therefore misses the point. Wars definition shouldn’t focus only on the means but also on the ends. Wars are surely not any aggressive reaction, but an aggressive action that is planned and concerted.
Another type of war, besides the mass scale one, which is far more common historically and is cross-culture and cross-species, is a surprise lethal attack on outnumbered opponents. This pattern known as “lethal raiding” is very common among chimpanzees who gather in groups of males for the explicit purpose of invading a rival group territory, tracking down lone chimps and then ganging up on them and murdering them.
Cooperative killing of rivals are also common among lions, hyenas, wolves, cheetahs and red colobus monkey who gang up and kill lone members of rival groups whenever they can. But it is not yet proven to be as premeditated as among chimpanzees who plan these raids, murdering potential opponent one after the other until the rival group can’t defend itself against the big and last raid for the control of their entire territory.

If these planed raids, mainly intended to expand the territory, were done by larger groups, we doubt if there was any dubiety as to whether they are wars or not. And not only that they are, these small scale planed ambushes are the ones the committee should look at when examining whether small human hunter-gatherers groups wage wars. These are wars’ ancestors made by human’s ancestors. And they are added to the well documented evidences of similar raids in various hunter gatherer groups (as we’ll further explain in the following post).

The fact that warfare has changed so radically over time doesn’t indicate that it is originally a product of culture (if to ignore the problematic dichotomy between culture and nature for the sake of the argument), but that wars are extremely intensified by what the committee calls culture.
The fact that wars were and are such a permanent element of humanity is a very strong indication of their biological origin.
Like the mentioned chimpanzees’ wars, human hunter-gatherer groups conduct primitive wars, very small scale stealthy raids targeting single individuals, rather than the modern mass attacks developed over the past thousands of years by groups of hundreds of thousands to millions of humans.

“Culture” by no doubt altered warfare but it didn’t invent it. The fact that modern wars are very technological doesn’t mean that everything about them is cultural. Regardless of the very cultural, hi-tech implementation of the fight, the casus belli can be over territory or other resources (as in most wars along history). So wars are not a product of culture and humans didn’t invent them. They just took one of the worst things in the world, and by using their language, coordination of groups, the transmission of technology and the use of tools, made it about billion times worse.

The reason why There are cultures which have not engaged in war for centuries, and there are cultures which have engaged in war frequently is that wars have a very heavy price, especially on poor and small cultures that prefer not to lose the little they have. Generally speaking, nations who can’t afford paying the high costs of wars tend to be much more peaceful as opposed to big, rich and martial skillful nations who happen to find themselves ready for war at all time (with some actually engaged in wars all the time). This principle is called in evolutionary studies a cost–benefit analysis and we’ll elaborate on it a little bit in the third proposition which deals with evolution.
In addition, wars in the sense of a massive army facing a massive army are very 20th century. In the new millennium there are many other ways to subdue a weaker group of humans to do what the stronger group wants (economic and political sanctions for example). So in that sense it is not accurate to state that there are cultures which have not engaged in war for centuries.

 

SECOND PROPOSITION

It is scientifically incorrect to say that war or any other violent behavior is genetically programmed into our human nature. While genes are involved at all levels of nervous system function, they provide a developmental potential that can be actualized only in conjunction with the ecological and social environment. While individuals vary in their predispositions to be affected by their experience, it is the interaction between their genetic endowment and conditions of nurturance that determines their personalities. Except for rare pathologies, the genes do not produce individuals necessarily predisposed to violence. Neither do they determine the opposite. While genes are co-involved in establishing our behavioral capacities, they do not by themselves specify the outcome.

The fact that humans have a fight or flight mechanism (The sympathetic nervous system, located throughout the spinal cord and the brain) is at least one evidence that basically proves that humans have naturally built aggressiveness. Why would their body have such a mechanism, built to rapidly prepare them for a fight if they weren’t naturally aggressive? Clearly it is not their only resort but humans are definitely genetically built for fighting.

The fact that age has such a significant role in aggressiveness proves how biologically originated it is. How else could it be explained why at the age of puberty in all different cultures aggression dramatically ascends?

And puberty isn’t the stage of life in which violence is at its peak. In fact, the most physically aggressive age of humans is 2 years old. Physically aggressive acts among toddlers can be counted by the hour, as been found in multiple studies around the world. These findings are another unequivocal indication that humans are naturally aggressive.
At the age of two, humans haven’t yet learned that there are other ways (more subtle ones) to get what they want other than grabbing, kicking, pushing, punching and biting. Many of the other ways that they will learn in the future are aggressive in some way or another at some point or another as well, however, at that certain age, when humans are pre-indoctrinated, crude aggressiveness is the default mean for their ends.

The fact that gender has such a significant role in aggressiveness (both cross-culture and cross-species) also clearly points that it’s in the genes. Regardless of the different levels of gender inequality among different cultures, the differences between male and female aggression resemble, which indicates a natural difference. And if you insist that it all relates to social framing (and has nothing to do with the biological chemical structure of the brain), consider that the nucleus in the hypothalamus which controls the pituitary gland, which can secrete a hormone that tells the testes or the adrenal glands to produce more testosterone, is twice as large in men than it is in women. And this system is studded with receptors for testosterone, which is about 5 to 10 times more plentiful in the bloodstream of men than of women. Furthermore women aggressiveness rises when given testosterone to be at the same level as an average man.

The fact that nonsocial conditions such as hot temperatures, loud noises, and unpleasant odors, significantly increase aggression also proves that it is biological.

A much more consistent statement would be that humans are not necessarily predisposed to violence in any given situation rather humans can act aggressively or not, according to the situation and context. That makes much more evolutionary sense, and is correlated with brain research (which we’ll further address), and most importantly – it doesn’t contradict the entire history of humans.
But then the committee couldn’t state that it is all cultural. Consistency and science interfere with their humanist stance, so they shifted them aside.

The fact that humans are flexible doesn’t mean they are not aggressive, just that they are flexible aggressors. Aggression is not humans’ default reaction to any situation, but it is definitely there ready to be activated when they find it beneficial and they are definitely biologically built for it. Like many other species humans run a cost-benefit calculation and act accordingly. And that brings us to the third proposition regarding evolution.

 

THIRD PROPOSITION

It is scientifically incorrect to say that in the course of human evolution there has been a selection for aggressive behavior more than for other kinds of behavior. In all well studied species, status within the group is achieved by the ability to cooperate and to fulfill social functions relevant to the structure of that group.

“Dominance” involves social bondings and affiliations; it is not simply a matter of the possession and use of superior physical power, although it does involve aggressive behaviors.

Where genetic selection for aggressive behavior has been artificially instituted in animals, it has rapidly succeeded in producing hyper-aggressive individuals; this indicates that aggression was not maximally selected under natural conditions. When such experimentally-created hyper-aggressive animals are present in a social group, they either disrupt its social structure or are driven out. Violence is neither in our evolutionary legacy nor in our genes.

Aggressive intraspecies battles, especially among males and especially over dominance and mating, are highly prevalent among mammals. It takes a very anthropocentric view to think that humans are above this horrible natural phenomenon. Why would humans be so radically different than almost every other social mammal? Only if you truly, but falsely, believe humans are divine, wingless angles and not animals.

In a wide variety of species, whenever the benefits of engaging physical aggression outweigh the costs, some form of aggression occurs. But since aggression can have fatal consequences the costs should always be considered. Animals who would always act aggressively on every stimulus would waste a lot of energy on non-threatening or non-beneficial situations and take unnecessary risks that can be easily avoided with a more sophisticated cost-benefit mechanism.
Such a rational decision-making that enables fine-tuning of a general emotionally-driven reaction is not restricted to humans. Aspects of a cost–benefit analysis of situations involving conflict are prevalent in most species.

In a chapter called The Logic of Violence in the book The Better Angles of Our Nature, which we’ll address in the following parts of this series about violence, the author Steven Pinker quoted Richard Dawkins’ explanation from The Selfish Gene:
“To a survival machine, another survival machine (which is not its own child or another close relative) is part of its environment, like a rock or a river or a lump of food. It is something that gets in the way, or something that can be exploited. It differs from a rock or a river in one important respect: it is inclined to hit back. This is because it too is a machine that holds its immortal genes in trust for the future, and it too will stop at nothing to preserve them. Natural selection favors genes that control their survival machines in such a way that they make the best use of their environment. This includes making the best use of other survival machines, both of the same and of different species.”

Pinker also explained in his own words how biologically logical though not instinctive violence is: “Dawkins’s carefully worded passage also explains why nature does not consist of one big bloody melee. For one thing, animals are less inclined to harm their close relatives, because any gene that would nudge an animal to harm a relative would have a good chance of harming a copy of itself sitting inside that relative, and natural selection would tend to weed it out. More important, Dawkins points out that another organism differs from a rock or a river because it is inclined to hit back. Any organism that has evolved to be violent is a member of a species whose other members, on average, have evolved to be just as violent. If you attack one of your own kind, your adversary may be as strong and pugnacious as you are, and armed with the same weapons and defenses. The likelihood that, in attacking a member of your own species, you will get hurt is a powerful selection pressure that disfavors indiscriminate pouncing or lashing out. It also rules out the hydraulic metaphor and most folk theories of violence, such as a thirst for blood, a death wish, a killer instinct, and other destructive itches, urges, and impulses. When a tendency toward violence evolves, it is always strategic. Organisms are selected to deploy violence only in circumstances where the expected benefits outweigh the expected costs.“

To put it bluntly, aggression has several benefits, that there is no reason to believe somehow skipped humans, such as defending oneself, defending the young, defending the territory, defending the resources, and of course gaining others’ resources in the case of attacks.
Humans like every other being are naturally built to serve their interests, if aggressiveness would best serve them they would be aggressive. Aggression can be highly beneficial but is also highly risky and mostly always highly energy consuming, that’s why from an evolutionary standpoint it is not very likely to be utterly instinctive as some argue (and as the committee counter argue in the fifth proposition) but it definitely is an evolutionary legacy and in our genes.

 

FOURTH PROPOSITION

It is scientifically incorrect to say that humans have a “violent brain.” While we do have the neural apparatus to act violently, it is not automatically activated by internal or external stimuli. Like higher primates and unlike other animals, our higher neural processes filter such stimuli before they can be acted upon. How we act is shaped by how we have been conditioned and socialized. There is nothing in our neurophysiology that compels us to react violently.

The committee uses the same rhetorical trick in all of its propositions, making some obvious statements on which there is an extensive agreement along the propositions so it would be easier to agree on the much more debatable if not utterly false ones.
The committee manipulatively presents the issue stating that humans are not violent beings since there is nothing in our neurophysiology that compels us to react violently. But you don’t have to be aggressive every single moment towards everything or that aggressiveness is your only option or even your default, the fact that humans are naturally built for aggression is enough to make them aggressive to some extent.

As we argued in the former two propositions, humans are sophisticated aggressors.
We mentioned the cost-benefit mechanism in the proposition regarding evolution, and it can be seen in the brain structure as well (verifying how biologically rooted and cross species aggression control really is). The basic model for how violence arises in the brain starts with initial impulses originated in deep regions of the limbic system (usually referred as “the emotional brain”). Only then the prefrontal cortex decides whether to act on these impulses or not. Humans’ neurophysiology doesn’t compel them to react violently but it is definitely built and suited for violent actions.
And lately there are some scientists who think that the brain processes aggression as a reward, triggering dopamine which is a neurotransmitter known to be part of a reward system (its levels increase when humans and other animals get food, sex, and certain drugs).

Many scientists think that humans’ strong attraction to competitive physical sports is a cultured manifestation of an aggressive brain.

Many scientists think that violent movies and video games are so popular since humans are instinctively attracted to the thrill and excitement associated with violence.
Some suggest that violence attracts humans because it offers insights into human behavior and real-life situations.
And others think that the thriving presence of such lucrative forms of entertainment is not because it offers insights into human behavior and real-life situations (because they think it is not) but rather that humans are not only naturally attracted to but also enjoy violent behavior.

And most if not all of scientists think that at least three parts of the brain – the mentioned prefrontal cortex, the dorsal anterior cingulated cortex and the amygdala – are the center of the biological infrastructure of aggression. The fact that there is a center of the biological infrastructure of aggression indicates a biological origin of aggression in the brain.
There are also neurotransmitters which are released in these regions, and are involved in the expression of aggressive behavior (among other things). Such are: the mentioned neurotransmitter dopamine and serotonin. Also a variety of steroid hormones such as testosterone, other androgens, and estrogen, are implicated, to some extent, as playing a role in the emergence of particular types or patterns of aggression.

The committee wishes to define the human brain as nonviolent despite its biological structure, its behavioral expressions, and only according to a very specific, narrow and normative definition of violence.
Probably the most brutal demonstration of how arbitrary is determining what is violent, happens in animal laboratories. If a vivisector, had locked an innocent human in a lab, even before the first touch, he would be considered a dangerous psychopath. Not to mention if he had done even one thousandth of what he “normally” does to nonhumans.
Humans are so used to the violence inflicted on animals that it is not even considered violence. And so vivisectors are not only considered normal by human society – they are also a respected part of it. Most humans don’t see slaughterhouse workers as violent and certainly not farmers and most definitely not animal agriculture scientists, some of whom never directly touch animals but they are the ones who directly engineer their daily hell.
Like everything else violence is also relative. And apparently the committee’s version of it is extremely anthropocentric. The fact that such extreme violence towards animals is not even considered violence proves that human brains are violent.

 

FIFTH PROPOSITION

It is scientifically incorrect to say that war is caused by “instinct” or any single motivation. The emergence of modern warfare has been a journey from the primacy of emotional and motivational factors, sometimes called “instincts,” to the primacy of cognitive factors. Modern war involves institutional use of personal characteristics such as obedience, suggestibility, and idealism; social skills such as language; and rational considerations such as cost-calculation, planning, and information processing. The technology of modem war has exaggerated traits associated with violence both in the training of actual combatants and in the preparation of support for war in the general population. As a result of this exaggeration, such traits are often mistaken to be the causes rather than the consequences of the process.

The committee argues that since modern wars are so exaggerated and complex, they are not caused by an instinct or a single motivation. But it seems that they are accusing others for their own mistakes. They are the ones who are deceived by the level of technology of modern war so they fail to see how deeply biologically rooted the origin is. Their argument can be easily reversed: as a result of this “exaggeration”, such traits are often mistaken to be only the consequences of the process rather than the causes. In reality they are both.

But the main topic of this proposition is the instinct theory so we’ll focus on that.
As argued in the former propositions, the committee manipulatively presents the discussion over humans’ violence as if violence must be the only resort, a biological necessity, compelled in the brain, for humans to be considered naturally violent. In the fifth and last proposition, their trick is to pick the most extreme arguments of the ‘naturally violent’ side, and after pretendedly proving them wrong they think they proved they are right, as if there is only instinctual violence or cultured acquired violence.

Probably the 3 most prominent instinctual violence thinkers are Sigmund Freud, Robert Ardrey and Konrad Lorenz. In brief, Freud argued that overt aggression is the result of internal aggressive drives, deeply rooted in the psyche and hence, independent of circumstances, being redirected at others.
Robert Ardrey, author of The Territorial Imperative: A Personal Inquiry Into the Animal Origins of Property and Nations, argued that aggression is an instinct, an innate drive that once helped to ensure the survival of the individual and the species and in modern times wars provide an outlet for the aggressive tendencies that are inherent in human beings.
But most of the committee’s arrows (as well as the anthropologist Ashley Montagu’s book The Nature of Human Aggression which we discuss in the next part of the violent series) are aimed at Konrad Lorenz who argued that not only that humans’ aggressiveness is natural and instinctive, humans have aggressive urges that need to be unleashed, and the longer the aggressive energy is dammed up, the lower the threshold value of the stimulus needed to elicit the aggressive response (a theory called the hydraulic model).

But not all the thinkers who argue that humans are naturally violent claim it’s an instinct that has to be released every now and then. Many think that there is some degree of instinct to aggression mainly in the case of number of factors including fear, pain, threat, territory invasion, the sense of lack of control and frustration. But in general they think it is much more complex.

One of these thinkers is the psychologist John Archer: “Motivations can be sorted into three categories. The first category consists of needs. Needs require satisfaction, so the person must find some way to satisfy them; the need is inside the person, and the context is only a means to an end. Hunger might fit this category: People need food, and that need is independent of circumstances. Second, wants or desires come from within but do not have to be satisfied, and people can live without adverse consequences even if they do not satisfy them, although they may continue to want satisfaction. Sexual desire probably fits this category, because people will continue to experience at least occasional sexual desire regardless of their circumstances, but there is no proof that celibacy causes physical or psychological harm. Third, response tendencies may be innately prepared dispositions to respond to certain kinds of situations with certain kinds of actions. These tendencies arise only when activated by the situational context.
Aggression fits the third category, in our view. Aggression is not a need (contrary to Freud), because a person could live a happy, healthy life without ever performing violent acts – provided, perhaps, that the person always got what he or she wanted. Aggression may likewise not even be a want. But it may be a response tendency. When one’s desire are thwarted, and other people stand in the way of one’s goal satisfactions, aggressive impulses arise as one way of trying to remove the thwarting and get what you want.
And this puts a curious twist on the debate about innate aggression and the related question of whether a culture could be designed in which violence would be utterly absent. We believe that aggressive tendencies do have an innate basis, because people are predisposed by nature to respond with aggression to certain kinds of situations. We also think that it would be possible in principle (though only in principle) to eliminate aggression entirely, not because aggression is learned, but because if the triggering circumstances never arose, people would never feel violent impulses. Unfortunately, the triggering circumstances (such as competition for scarce resources, strivings for dominance, perceived threat, intergroup conflict) are so deeply rooted in the human condition that in practice there is zero chance of eliminating them
.”

We also are not sure that humans’ (and of course many other animals’) aggression is instinctive. We think humans are naturally violent not because they have internal aggressive drives but because of all the reasons we have specified along this post and mostly and most importantly because of the immense violence extent humans are ready to accept. And that brings us to the committee’s conclusion.

 

CONCLUSION

We conclude that biology does not condemn humanity to war, and that humanity can be freed from the bondage of biological pessimism and empowered with confidence to undertake the transformative tasks needed in this International Year of Peace and in the years to come. Although these tasks are mainly institutional and collective, they also rest upon the consciousness of individual participants for whom pessimism and optimism are crucial factors. Just as “wars begin in the minds of men,” peace also begins in our minds. The same species who invented war is capable of inventing peace. The responsibility lies with each of us.

As argued in the beginning of this post, wars are not the worst manifestation of human aggression and it is definitely not the only one.
The committee has narrowed down aggression and violence to wars only, and all the more so to merely modern mass scaled technological wars between nations. Since they obviously don’t exist in species which don’t even live in mass scale groups nor use technology which even remotely resembles humans’ usage, the committee concluded that wars are human exclusive and an entirely cultural product, and so “scientifically” stated that humans are not naturally violent nor aggressive.

They conveniently turn violence into whatever suits their interests, sloppily mixing it with war as if it is a synonym. But it is not. Violence is way too spacious notion to make such a simplified statement regarding it.
For example a human aggressively attacking another human over a parking spot is much more physical, face to face impulsive aggression than a war but obviously much less violent than wars which are much more complex and planned, and wars are much more physical, face to face impulsive aggression than factory farming which is obviously much more violent than wars and much more complex and planned. Just as these 3 examples shouldn’t be roughly compared so are violence, aggression and war. They are not synonyms so even if the committee had managed to prove that wars are merely a product of culture, it wouldn’t necessarily indicate the same regarding aggression, and definitely not violence which is a remarkably more complex notion than both.
Violence is not escalated aggressiveness as some argue. In fact the most violent element in the world doesn’t involve much aggression and isn’t even considered to be violent by the majority of humans – animal consumption.

The committee manipulatively presents the issue stating that humans are not violent beings since violence is not the only option. But the fact that violence is an option that humans are definitely naturally built for, and the fact that violence is not an indispensable option but yet humans choose it again and again and again makes them super violent.
It is even scarier that humans don’t have to fight but choose to anyway, it makes them a lot worse than if it was a biological necessity.
Not that natural violence is morally justified, obviously if suffering is an inherent part of a mechanism then this mechanism is inherently immoral and should be stopped, but if the violence is not the only option and therefore not necessary but is chosen by humans again and again, year after year, then the committee should have scientifically stated that humans are naturally cruel.

But the most critical and radical point is that what makes humans such violent and dangerous beings is not that they are aggressive but that they are permissive. The entire human history is full of violence that they have permitted. Millions of humans were and are directly involved with dreadful violence, hundreds of millions were and are directly encouraging and supporting dreadful violence and tens of billions were and are directly overlooking it. Humans’ most violent act is not being done directly by them but directly for them.

dinners

Humans are so used to so much violence that even a committee who especially gathered in order to compose and sign a statement regarding violence, practiced so much of it during it. In the signing room, refreshments which are a product of immense violence were mannerly offered, the signers were wearing violent cloths, sitting on violent chairs in front of violent tables located in a violent building which they arrived to in violent cars and violent airplanes.
But the committee is so ignorant regarding the daily violence happening everywhere all the time that we mustn’t dismiss it with being too naive or scientifically invalid. It is morally invalid, ignorant, speciesist and dangerous.

The Seville Statement says there is nothing in our biology which is an insurmountable obstacle to the abolition of war and other institutional violence. But first you must acknowledge what and where the institutional violence is. A task that these speciesist scientists and UNESCO (who adopted the statement) fail to do.

Most of the violence in the world doesn’t happen during wars but during dinners. And that includes not only the violence involved in the production of the food but also with the table, the chairs, the cutlery, the lighting, the clothes of the diners and all the waste that every dinner in the world leaves out.

The only scientifically valid statement regarding violence is that it is a natural part of life. Inherent and inevitable. And only when we acknowledge it will we be able to stop it. All of it all the time.

With the spirit of the statement’s last sentence we agree, with a slight change…The same species who invented the most violent and sufferingfull systems ever in history is capable of inventing a sufferingless future. The responsibility lies with each of us.

2 thoughts on “The Seville Statement on Violence

  1. Then What is then the best way forward for society to adopt the principles ” That all beings are Sentient”?
    Especially the Voiceless.
    Also i would like your comments on direct action regarding the promotion of animal welfare?

    • This question is too general to be seriously addressed in a comment, let alone of one post.
      First of all a short clarification, obviously we never argued ”That all beings are Sentient”. We do of course argue that all sentient beings are morally significant.

      Basically we think that to really adopt the principle ‘that all sentient beings are worthy of moral consideration’ compels activists to stop trying to move human society forward (one of the reasons for that is since most of the sentients remain voiceless during the process of “forwarding” society) and act directly for the sake of the victims of human society regardless of humans’ convictions. That is mainly since giving the abusers unlimited opportunity to change while they keep their abusive routine is considering them as more important than all of their victims. And given the average consumption figures of each human, each is worth thousands of animals. Average American meat eaters are responsible for the life of suffering of about 55,000 animals within their lifetime, including about 10,000 crustaceans, 1,860 chickens, 950 fish, 55 turkeys, 30 pigs and sheep, 8 cows and between 35,000 and 50,000 of non-directly consumed fish and crustaceans who are either by catch or animals captured and killed to feed the directly consumed animals. And of course that is without counting the chickens suffering in the egg industry and cows in the milk industry.
      Our goal is not to forward human society but to stop animals’ suffering. The act of waiting for humans to change is speciesist and violent.
      Our whole website is dedicated to explaining why it is so. We suggest starting with the FAQ section and specifically with the one called “Why not work hard to make a vegan world”. But basically all the FAQ’s and many of the posts here on this blog (and obviously our manifest) provide extensive and profound answers to your question.

      And as for direct action regarding the promotion of animal welfare? Our whole movement is a call for a direct action regarding animals’ suffering. Hopefully one direct action that would stop all of their suffering for good.

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