We complete this series of posts regarding violence with what is probably activists’ biggest blind spot, violence in nature.
For many animal rights activists nature represents perfection, a romantic and virtuous ideal we should aspire to, something that ought to be reverently preserved and never criticized. But the truth is that nature is where trillions of sentient beings suffer from hunger, thirst, diseases, parasites, injuries, extreme weathers, rape, infanticide, violent dominancy fights, the constant fear of being attacked, actually being attacked, and only rarely from caducity.
Probably the first natural cause of violence that comes to mind is predation.
Predation is literally as old as life itself. It goes back to the most ancient life forms – single cell organisms. As soon as there were living single cell organisms, one of their major functions was to acquire chemicals from their surroundings. As time went by, some organisms, by chance (mutation), started obtaining the organic molecules they require by devouring the cells around them, instead of gathering them from the surroundings. This turned out to be an efficient “strategy”. About 3.5 billion years later there are fangs, claws, talons, venoms, webs, beaks, sonars, infra-red vision, tentacles and etc.
But besides predation, there are many other suffering causes in nature. Continue reading
The following is the last part of our critical review of Steven Pinker’s theory of a historical decline in violence, in which we further address his claim of a decline in violence towards nonhuman animals, and the ways in which he struggles to “massage” reality to fit his grand theory.
Violence towards nonhuman animals was of course in the center of all of our reviews, however in the former post and in this one, we specifically address his specific relation to the issue. Continue reading
Unfortunately but unsurprisingly Pinker dedicates only a tiny part of his extensive book about violence to nonhuman animals. Unfortunately but not surprisingly, he decided to call this chapter Animal Rights and the Decline of Cruelty to Animals, that is despite that the book’s claim is for a decline in violence. Pinker knows there is no decline in violence towards animals, so he changed the term to a more conceivable one. Still wrong, but more defensible. Continue reading
Counter to the Inner Demons chapter, the topic of the former post, Pinker’s next one is called Better Angels, and in it he lists and details the traits that caused the allegedly violence decline. These are – empathy, self-control, moral sense and reason, and each has fundamental problems. Continue reading
In the former posts regarding the former chapters of The Better Angels of Our Nature we tried to show how wrong Pinker’s main argument is regarding the decline of violence mainly since in some cases his data is partial and since the most important figures are totally absent.
However, with the 8th chapter of the book called Inner Demons, where Pinker broadly details how naturally violent humans are, unfortunately we largely agree. We find it important, so we bring extracts from this chapter here, along with our remarks. Continue reading
The following is the third part of our critical review from an animalistic perspective of Steven Pinker’s theory of an historical decline in violence.
The strongest blow that the enlightenment ideas received, regards to their significant role in the horrors of the first half of the 20th century. As a great henchman, Pinker is particularly eager to prove that the enlightenment project didn’t fail despite the 20th century. Therefore he devoted a substantial part of his book to claim that the 20th century doesn’t stand out of the historical decline of violence he argues for.
As mentioned in the first part of this book review, most of Pinker’s critics focused on the 20th century, mentioning colonialism, post colonialism, western imperialism, the not so cold war, the arms race and etc. So we prefer to focus on different areas. If you are interested, we highly recommend the following critiques:
Steven Pinker on the alleged decline of violence by Edward S. Herman and David Peterson
Or their long version: Reality Denial: Steven Pinker’s Apologetics for Western-Imperial Violence by Edward S. Herman and David Peterson
Peace in Our Time by Elizabeth Kolbert
The Precious Steven Pinker by David Bentley Hart
However we do want to address 3 issues regarding these parts of the book: The role of personal responsibility during the atrocities, his choice to work with relative numbers and not absolute numbers, and his general conclusion regarding violence regardless of his statistical approach.
As part of our series about violence we made a critical review of Steven Pinker’s book – The Better Angels of Our Nature. For the previous post please click here.
Pinker argues that violence is biologically intrinsic, evolutionarily logical and historically habitual, so what according to him made it decline?
Pinker has a few explanations along the book. The first one is the old thesis of the political philosopher Thomas Hobbes, who also recognized that humans are naturally violent. Therefore the only way to avoid the natural state, which is according to Hobbes war of all against all, is by establishing an absolute sovereignty political figure he called the Leviathan. Continue reading
As opposed to the former thinkers in this series about violence, the cognitive psychologist Steven Pinker doesn’t think humans are naturally peaceful and non-violent. Along his extensive book about violence The Better Angels of Our Nature he thoroughly specifies how violent humans are and how violent humans can be. With numerous statistical evidences, examples and explanations, from the murder rates of non-state societies, through ancient wars, to the earliest known writings which are still canonical cultural elements such as Greek mythology and the Bible (substantially fictional as they are, both probably reflect human life and the values of that era, at least to some extent), corporal punishments, heretics torture, modern wars and up to psycho-evolutionist analysis of violence and brain parts and function specification, Pinker doesn’t really leave room for doubt that humans are naturally violent.
However, another difference between him and the former mentioned thinkers, is that he persistently argues that despite humans’ natural tendency to violence, despite its abundance through history and despite public image (Pinker blames the modern media for that false perception) violence has declined over long stretches of time, and today we may be living in the most peaceable era of our species’ existence.
In the former posts of this series about violence we addressed The Seville Statement on Violence and the book The Nature of Human Aggression by the anthropologist Ashley Montagu who bases many of his claims on hunter-gatherers’ allegedly non-violent lifestyle.
Our last representative of the thinkers who argue that humans are not naturally violent is Paul Chappell, a captain in the U.S. army who writes and lectures about violence, war and peace.
The following post mainly regards his book Will War Ever End? as well as some of the claims he often argues in his lectures and articles.
Like the former thinkers, he argues that humans are not naturally violent without even mentioning (not to mention considering), humans’ daily and worst expression of violence.
And like the former thinkers he also argues about violence and human nature but refers only to wars as if they are the only expression of violence, and despite that they are not even the worst expression of violence.
One of Montagu’s theory’s main foundations is hunter-gatherer societies which he writes about:
“these people live, more or less clearly approximately the way our ancestors lived during a great part of human evolutionary history, and they afford us some insight into the basic questions of human nature and human culture.
If we are indeed innately violent, if we are really creatures driven by genes to murder our own kind, if we are indeed incapable of controlling the hostile forces within ourselves, we should see these characteristics demonstrated here in these people… and they are peaceful. And friendly. And cooperative. They share their food and their belonging with each other and with strangers. Their relationships with each other are close and loving. They care.”
Like many Rousseauistic romantic anthropologists, his observations of hunter-gatherers societies are extremely biased. Since similar false perceptions are sometimes heard by some animal activists, we find it important to examine these societies from a more critical viewpoint. Continue reading
Many Rousseauistic thinkers, such as the ones that signed the Seville Statement on Violence, which we covered in the opening post of this series regarding violence, base their arguments that humans are naturally nonviolent on the hunter-gatherers’ allegedly nonviolent life style. According to them this lifestyle was corrupted by civilization.
One of them is the eminent anthropologist Ashley Montagu, who wrote a very influential book called The Nature of Human Aggression, which in a way is an expansion and explication of the Seville Statement‘s main ideas. Montagu argues that humans are not naturally violent but are peaceful cooperative beings in a violent world dominated by an aggressive culture, and he focuses on pre-state societies (mainly hunter-gatherers) to prove that.
Since similar arguments can be heard from time to time by many environmentalists and more importantly by many animal rights activists, we find it important to address the issue specifically and expansively, through one of the most Rousseauistic modern thinkers.
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. Continue reading
Among the replies we have got about our post regarding the non-violent approach we thought there are 2 types we should address.
The first is that since activists who would engage in violence activities towards non-vegans would get caught very fast, it is counterproductive. That is despite the fact that we have clarified in the preface of the post that we don’t suggest sporadically killing non-vegans.
What we do argue is that killing every meat eater who wasn’t convinced by advocacy is morally justifiable, but since it is absolutely impracticable we don’t suggest or support that. It won’t help even one animal and would even end up hurting more animals by labeling animal activists as even more extreme and violent by the general public. It is a bad option which was never suggested nor implied.
Another type of reply is that since activists obviously can’t kill every non-vegan who was not convinced by their arguments (since they would probably get caught after the first one), they are not violent and speciesist for choosing advocacy.
It is crucial to emphasis that the point of this argument isn’t that activists are actually violence supporters and speciesist because they don’t kill meat eaters, but that they are because they don’t think they ought to.
We are not arguing that if you practically don’t kill every human who wasn’t convinced to stop consuming animals you are a speciesist. We are arguing that if you don’t think that theoretically you must stop (by whatever means it necessary) every human who wasn’t convinced to stop consuming animals you are a speciesist since that human is going to keep abusing. Continue reading
This post is the third and last part in a series regarding what is referred as “a non-violent approach”. In the first post we argued 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 argued that the allegedly non-violent approach is principally, philosophically and ideologically a violent and speciesist approach.
In this part, to complete the argument regarding the non-violence myth and on the occasion of the World Vegan Day, we argue that non-violence is even theoretically impossible, since practically there is no way to avoid violence. And it is certainly impossible merely by conducting a consumerist vegan lifestyle, which is far from being cruelty-free and non-violent, yet viewed as such by many activists and presented as the ideal to aspire to, by most of them.
Since many activists tend to jump to conclusions, to prevent potential misunderstandings, we want to clarify straight ahead that this post’s aim is not to argue for a better ethical lifestyle option than veganism. Veganism, despite its major ethical flaws, is by no doubt the best option.
As we mentioned in the answer to the question regarding advocating for a vegan world as part of our FAQ, in our article about veganism called Vegan Suffering and in our Manifesto, we are vegans ourselves and for a long time now, since there is no better option. And that is exactly the problem. This is the argument we want to make in this post.
The following post is the second one in a series regarding the non-violent approach in the animal rights movement. The first one addressed the myth behind it mostly from an historical perspective as this one is from a philosophical and ideological one.
A non-violent approach is actually a violent one, since besides a brief moral lecture, which each violent oppressor can choose to wave off at any time, it essentially grants violent oppressors with a full autonomy on the violence. They are basically free to choose who to hurt, when to hurt, how much to hurt and for how long. And that’s exactly what’s happening every time activists didn’t succeed in convincing the abusers to change their ways. Every animal rights persuasion attempt that doesn’t end with a new non-speciesist vegan, means letting another human continue with his systematic abuse.
Before we’ll further elaborate about the inherent violence and speciesism embodied in the very essence of the non-violent approach and in advocacy in general, we wish to avoid a possible misunderstanding regarding our theoretical perspective and practical suggestion (since we have already encountered creative interpretations of our massages).
So to make it clear, we don’t suggest sporadically killing animal abusers.
However, while sporadic killing is a terrible idea tactically, as it is absolutely unfeasible and extremely ineffectual, it is at the same time theoretically absolutely morally justifiable.
Only speciesism, conformism, fixation and indoctrination can explain an objection to this theoretical moral stance and the ideological support in a non-violent approach.
For what we do suggest please read our Manifesto and What Can I Do.
Today is the birthday of Mahatma Gandhi, probably one of the most famous vegetarians in the world and certainly the most famous icon of non-violence. That’s why October the 2nd was chosen by the American animal organization FARM to be the World Day for Farmed Animals (WDFA), and by the UN as The International Day for Non-Violence.
In this post we argue that the success of nonviolence campaigns is a myth and in the next post that the nonviolence approach is in itself essentially a myth.