(This text is taken from the 2017 Oxford lecture at the ‘Animal Ethics’ Global Summit: Ferrater Mora Oxford Centre for Animal Ethics – Author: Jasmine Alexander)
It’s taken me a long while to fully and comprehensively find myself committed to a peaceful existence… by this I mean whilst I have been a conscious pacifist since the age of 17, an animal advocate my entire existence and vegetarian since the age of 21, I still consumed milk, I still, although had renounced all leather, suede and fur clothing attire, wore leather shoes if nothing ‘suitable’ were available in non leather convincing myself they were a by product and I will seek a nice vegan kitten heeled boot in the interim as I move through my everyday… that was 26 years ago… and I still haven’t found ‘the perfect’ vegan kitten heeled boot though near perfect now suffices; I eventually became appalled with myself realising my vanity still governed a part of me… That I placed an industry ruled, fuelled and served by ego, the fashion industry, before the living rights of another being, the rights not only to live but to live without suffering and without pain.
With the advent of the internet and its readily available deluge of information I also soon became aware of the reality of the dairy industry, becoming privy to Defra documents stipulating that ripping infants from their mothers at just a few days old was unacceptable. Instead 10 days was considered to be an acceptable age. I then realised most of them were not just taken from their mothers but boys in the dairy industry were, are, superfluous… Superfluous to requirement. Thus as infants, as young beings just taking in their new gift of life, the light, the sounds, the mother they look towards whose place it is to protect them, they are killed… And let’s be very real about this. They are dragged away and murdered…. And so as not to ‘waste’ their life they are consumed as veal… their skin, with or without hair, sold to aesthetic industries. Is this not a contradiction in terms? A life that is wasted before it has even begun is consumed so as not to waste it? Is humanity so disconnected, in such spiritual discord that it views the breath and very life of a vulnerable creature that exudes nought but pure innocence as an expendable commodity as theirs to extinguish. Its right to imbibe infinite moments that are the very essence of living, that are the very expression of this, of our universe, of no worth… but its perishable flesh and skin, its physical substance that can no longer experience, that is decaying the moment it is slaughtered, is given value? And must be honoured?… and must be utilised?… put to good use in a manner that further serves humanity? And yes, this may have been the way of our world for thousands of years, but we, humanity, are not the same species we were a millennia or so ago; we have evolved… and so must our actions.
As a child I would sit by the family pond and wait for kamikaze bees & wasps… I wouldn’t just scoop them out initially, perhaps because I was a little apprehensive, I would just extend a digit and they would ‘choose’ to climb up, they would ‘choose’ hauling themselves into a future… I always found bees to be more responsive, or interactive, as though there was a form of consciousness…
This has recently been affirmed to some degree by (a) recent studies wherein bees were delivered into controlled parameters and their prowess in associative learning measured and confirmed, thus showing cognition… And in the words of American Scientific “Although these experiments do not tell us that bees are conscious, they caution us that we have no principled reason at this point to reject this assertion”
The animal kingdom is brimming with cognisant conscious creatures.
(b) It’s now asserted that fish are sentient, cognisant… Yet we still eat them, furthermore, dangle sharp hooks into their world, pull them out of their environment, allow them suffocate, whilst we marvel at their beauty and the battle that ensued to land them.
(c) Crustaceans, through scientific experiment, have now been discovered to experience and express pain… yet still we boil Lobsters alive.
(d) Cephalapods were the first intelligent species on earth, this perfectly expressed by the Octopus with myriad tricks up its eight sleeves, it is sentient, it desires and conspires to live, as demonstrated by (e) inky the octopus who made a brave and successful bid for freedom, from its new Zealand Aquarium to the open sea.
(f) The Raccoon Dog with their inquisitive minds do not find themselves exempt of this… closely related to the domestic Dog and Wolf family … in 1907 psychologist Lawrence W. Cole and Doctoral student Herbert Burnham Davis, after prolonged studies both independently concluded that raccoons bested the abilities of cats and dogs, most closely approximating the mental attributes of monkeys, with Cole further affirming they possessed ideas derived from complex forms of mental association
(g) In 2012 a prominent group of scientists signed ‘The Cambridge Declaration on Consciousness’, at Cambridge University, declaring “The absence of a neocortex does not appear to preclude an organism from experiencing affective states. Convergent evidence indicates that non-human animals have the neuroanatomical, neurochemical, and neurophysiological substrates of conscious states along with the capacity to exhibit intentional behaviors. Consequently, the weight of evidence indicates that humans are not unique in possessing the neurological substrates that generate consciousness. Nonhuman animals, including all mammals and birds, and many other creatures, including octopuses, also possess these neurological substrates.”
Yet still, society at large allows itself to be deluded by unconscionable corporations who have now convinced them it is a show of chic, thus à la mode to don fur trim as an accessory. Just one such show are these spheres of fur that are all that remain of a sentient creature reared in captivity, in appalling conditions, brutally killed, many having their skin torn from their body whilst still conscious (all in order to make some homo-sapien financially obese) now sit ridiculously atop of some misguided, misled soul’s crown..
Mink, Fox, Leopard, Beaver, Rabbit, Sable, Otter, Seal, Skunk, Marten, Golden Jackal, Coyote, Grey Wolf… sentient, sentient, sentient… and all harvested for their fur.
(h) The Fur Information Council of America perfectly reflects the stance ‘commerce over compassion’ with their organisation’s leading statement:
“Fur remains a plentiful, renewable natural resource and a highly desirable consumer product” – they go on to say “responsible animal care to which the fur industry is committed”, it is utterly preposterous to announce a commitment to care when one’s end objective is murder, furthermore for personal financial gain.
(i) The International Fur Federation further affirming the industries commitment to the sentiment ‘commerce over compassion’, with their closing statement: “we will be working hard to drive further interest”
(j) The International Fur Trade Federation further asserted global fur sales have more than doubled, from $15.6 billion in 2011 to $35.8 billion in 2013. The latter equates to the killing of 1 billion rabbits, 50 million other animals a Year – for humanity’s vanity. (k) The primary driver of this growth is increased demand from China, which has offset the effects of wider economic instability and the impact on consumer preferences of years of high-profile animal rights activism…
Thus the conscious world is expanding causing instability in the fur industry… and if existing trends continue, despite a new drive spurred by the relatively new player within this industry, China at some point shall also yield to the efforts of innumerable activist groups, individual and professional drivers of conscious change and the ever expanding reach of the changing collective consciousness which in turn is reflected by the great global fashion houses and institutions;
(l) A top fashion school, Parsons School of Design in New York City, has cut ties with fur companies, opting instead to focus efforts on teaching “alternative methods to using animal products” ending a 15-year partnership with Finland-based Saga Furs… and is no longer continuing sponsorships with other companies in the industry.. and will no longer offer any incentives for students to use fur in their designs.
(m) The VF Corporation, a global leader in branded lifestyle apparel, with more than 30 brands including NorthFace, Vans, Timberland, Wrangler & Lee, with a 12 billion dollar yearly revenue has this year partnered with the Humane Society, releasing their very 1st (n) “animal welfare policy, which not only bans some of the cruelest materials used in the apparel supply chain [including fur] but makes clear that animal-friendly alternatives are the future of fashion.”… “Last year, Armani announced it would go fur-free. Brands and designers like Hugo Boss, Calvin Klein, Tommy Hilfiger and Ralph Lauren have also disassociated themselves from animal cruelty and switched to cruelty-free alternatives that are indistinguishable from the real thing”… With Stella McCartney building an empire on conscious aspirational luxury fashion.
(o) “ Alexander Wang will; Ralph Lauren won’t. Saks Fifth Avenue will; Selfridges won’t. American Vogue will; British Vogue won’t. The fashion industry is deeply divided on whether to participate in the global fur trade, a market now worth more than 40 billion dollars a year.”
The Sunday Times ‘Style’ magazine Editor declared (p) “… we will not shoot real fur and we do not promote its use in fashion” and (q) Forbes Magazine affirming, as a headline “ The Growing Fashion Trend for Winter Travelers, Cruelty-Free, Vegan and Sustainable” and asserting “Due to increased demand from animal protection groups, the fashion industry is creating a major movement away from fur”
But whilst many fight against it, against the atrocities, the rest, the most, dismiss it either as a cultural difference or a personal choice and thus shouldn’t be interfered with… What intelligent species would truly let culture, tradition or personal choice act as a hall pass for violence? All these species experience and express suffering, sadness… they demonstrate a propensity for playful behaviour, or are pre disposed to associative memory, exude sentience, thus surely exhibit the required facets alluding to consciousness? Yet we willingly, wantonly, deprive them of their freedom and ultimately in the most heinous way possible deprive them of their very life. Not because we want to ‘survive’, sustaining our existence because we simply must eat or because we will perish in the cold if not clothed in their skin but because as the supplier (of commercial trade) we want to have more than we need, because we desire monetary affluence and on the other end of that spectrum because the end user has been convinced by the media and aesthetic industries that Fur is not only beautiful but is a measure of one’s elegance and standing in life, that it is a mark of opulence.
Our perception and desire for fur has been created by industry in the pursuit of prosperity, the fashion houses and media, perpetuated by the ill educated elite.
The world of fashion has a bloodied doorstep, bloodied corridors… it is high time it washed its house clean and set about setting a compassionate example. It is notsomuch about being peaceful, of being in harmony with nature, or following compassionate trends… it IS about being against violence, against the perpetual abhorrent and unspeakable suffering of species upon species, reduced to nought but commodities… all for the most vacuous and damaging human traits… that shall eventually, if not addressed, be the downfall of human kind.
As humanity evolves so does our understanding of our environment. Yet, as the flaw within our system, any understanding that does not serve us is nigh on ignored, it is put aside, we simply marvel at our ability to have discerned such knowing as irrefutable fact… And then move forward to see how else we might flex our cerebral muscle… In a catch 22 of cognition this arrogance then perpetuates the flaw within us. Humanity has many facets of self; we’ve intellectual IQ, creative IQ, emotional IQ, academic IQ (not to be confused with intellectual IQ) and we’ve spiritual IQ… Though spiritual IQ in a modern world is overlooked by the scientific community and humanity at large.
We seem to busy ourselves ascertaining, ascending, erudite step after erudite step considering each one landmark milestones in humanity’s scholarly evolution, committing said advancements to our relevant IQ banks, applying that finding to our everyday existence where relevant, if it serves us. Yet… we seem to stumble and fall short re spiritual IQ, born of our emotional and intellectual IQ; the deeper we go the further these IQs span eventually leaving the realms of humanity, not in desertion but in expansion, bleeding into the realms of other kingdoms… the myriad worlds of the non-human species.
Our most damaging aspect is Ego, it keeps us caged it holds us hostage in this self serving, self perpetuating circus of destruction and violence, one that decrys all else other than self, one that destroys and causes inconceivable suffering to everything that is not I, not us, that is not we, that is not humanity… and industries hide and refute the horrors and the people dismiss and deny the horrors so we may continue serving ourselves. We pour our newly gleaned knowledge into our numerous IQ banks allowing them to propel us forward in the fields of science, academia, technology, agriculture, industry which in turn allows us to improve, expand, evolve our financial structures… These new parameters become new ‘laws’… But there is no such concern for or application to combined intellectual & emotional IQ (which holds our compassion).
I cannot help but reiterate; Surely we should be noting a particular species has cognisance, is sentient, perhaps alluding to consciousness. Newly acquired understanding (The 2012 Cambridge Declaration of Consciousness etc) should now decree we consider non-human species as having rights, as protected, protected against humanity’s incessant drive & desire to view all that surrounds it as a commodity. These beings form simple and/or complex relationships, they have a conscious desire to live, the capacity to suffer and feel physical and measurable emotional pain. Therefore if humanity, knowing this, continues to act as it did prior to such scientific revelations ‘that these non human beings have elevated state of self and are self aware’ then surely we exist is an abomination against life itself. By not creating international protective legislation we are not only betraying the species we share this world with we are also doing ourselves a great disservice as our Spiritual IQ (and the IQs therein) although has knowledge consistently discovered, discerned and presented so as to nurture and develop it, it is instead consistently dismissed and left untended to thus left empty… desolate.
We are creating a great imbalance within ourselves… which will naturally filter and ripple out affecting the world we live in and the world we are. Is this imbalance not already in effect as the direct cause of the current 6th mass global extinction now gripping and threatening our world? In addition to the horrors we incessantly inflict upon one another?
We as a species like to think we are superior… superior over animals. This astounds as we are animals. We are but hairless bi pedal apes. This isn’t a poetic defamation… It’s a scientific fact. Most of us like to think we are greater because humanity creates great symphonies, profound artworks, technological feats that propel us into space, unlocks scientific principals, decodes mathematical conundrums thus delivering the esoteric universe, right?… no… no, of the 7 billion+ people on and all those before that have ever walked upon this earth, comparatively, but a mere handful are able to accomplish this… how many Einsteins have existed? Teslas, Michelangelos, Da Vincis, Mozarts, Hawkings… with an estimated (r) IQ of 160 Einstien belongs to a ratio of just 0.1% and those with an (s) IQ of 170/180 being just 1,450 of the worlds entire 7 billion population. These people are not ‘humanity’… they are an Anomoly…
However… They are a sneak preview of what we mundane many could achieve, not us now, in our lifetime, but this is the possibility for future humanity. These beings are the evolved promise. Just as we are the evolved promise to the apes of today…
All on this plane are still evolving and we each and all hold unique and brilliant characteristics, traits and abilities bequeathed to us by evolution;
(t) Dolphins are in possession of a highly evolved internal sonar system giving the ability through echolocation to emit sounds with a frequency of 120 kHz… humans, with excellent hearing, can hear sounds with frequencies ranging just from 20 Hz to 20 kHz.
(u) “Chameleons are able to change their entire skin colour and pattern in order to control body temperature, or on occasion to reflect mood via the active tuning of a lattice of nanocrystals present in a superficial layer of dermal cells”
(v) “Magnetic cues are used by a broad range of species, including birds, butterflies, salamanders, lobsters, bats, whales, turtles, and sharks…”the magnetic compasses used by animals detect the changing angle of the magnetic force lines, the north-south polarity, or even the strength of the Earth’s magnetic field…”
(w) “Dogs are sophisticated bio sensors… able to detect disease, even cancer, in the body by a highly evolved sense of smell which can detect down to parts of a trillion, at a 93% success rate…. Dogs are ten thousand times better equipped than humans to sense odours, the compounds in our bodies, known as VOCs (volatile organic compound). Despite spending $19 billion on high tech explosive detection devices, the US military has no technology to match a canines skill”
Humans have the capacity to touch (x) ‘Highest Genius’ but only several in a billion ever do, such as Galileo Galilae credited with being the ‘Father of Scientific Reason’, or Rene Descartes, who famously asserted “Cogito ergo sum” : “I think therefore I am”. Yet we, in our billions, fervently align ourselves with the extraordinary cerebral feats of the few, laying false claim as though this somehow raises us all above all species on this plane, in this kingdom… this feast of life.
So, vanity, vanity, vanity… hand in hand with arrogance, you play your hand at every table and it is you that gives man and woman-kind, at large, the invalid assumption that the species we share this world with are less, are nought but a commodity, without sentience, cognisance, merit or worth and therefore we’ve no need to perceive or relate with conscience.
As we farm them, breed them, inhumanely murder them so that we can pander to this thing we call fashion… So that we can drape ourselves in their skin, in their coats, in their fur… erroneously commenting on the beauty it still retains without a moments consideration to the terror and violence it surely still must hold, in its very fibres, its cells, its molecules… a unique few can smell historic fear, like an ancient echo and these so called luxurious commodities must exude it, surely dripping in it, as though it were blood…
There is no place in modernity for the body part of another species to exist as nothing but a tool, to either sustain us, or clothe us… not in today’s society wherein all it takes is the ability to step to the left or the right to choose a product from a different shelf, or alternative aisle in order live an entirely peaceful existence. Where no suffering has ever taken place in our name.
And to continue to live as though science has not proved beyond measure, beyond doubt, that species upon species upon species from the humble bee to the ancient whale, to the wild wolf does not hold cognition, consciousness, is to continue the imbalance and instability of our own kind. For it is only when all our own facets are being equally nurtured, developed, elevated and honoured from academic to spiritual IQ (specifically combined emotional & intellectual IQ within the latter) that we will ourselves find balance, and ourselves evolve, as a species… and perhaps then we will see genius not as the anomoly but the normality.
The trick that humanity holds over non human animals, across our species, is our potential aptitudes and our definitive prowess in the realms of cognitive complex communication both with our selves in order to discern and understand the world around us and with one another so that we might relay such internal thoughts and build upon them, thus affecting and manipulating the world around us… but what is the power of such communicative prowess if not saddled with compassion & emotional intellect so that we might live harmoniously with the natural world and all species therein; Saving them from the Armageddon already inflicted upon them, and in doing so, saving ourselves… Humanity wastes its greatest abilities and would better serve this world if it became poly-mute.
A soul cannot rightfully state that they live a peaceful existence, that they advocate love, that they are cerebral beings leaning towards wisdom, that they are considerate, kind and compassionate when their very existence stands on a bloodied plateau, when their every living moment is clothed in an unseen attire of abject terror and subjugation… each moment literally born from the death of another… When you stand on pillars of violence, your very feet wrapped in the skin of infants and adorned in the fur of their mothers and fathers this is not a peaceful existence, this is brutality from the ground up… standing with the blood of the innocent lapping at our feet…. and only when we relinquish the concept of non human species as nought but commodities, as nought but tools of commerce, as nought but expressions of vanity can we truly consider ourselves an evolved species of cerebral, emotional and spiritual prowess, can we, like mudskippers in the next stage of humanity, haul ourselves up and out from these violent crimson waters onto new shores of enlightenment. On such a day we, as a species, will take our rightful place on this hiararchical plateau in space, at the upper echelons, not as its destroyer but as its guardian.
And do not think this day is some far off place in the corridors of ever’s tomorrow, it is occurring right now, as we speak, the revolution is an evolution, from the inside out, soul by soul.
And as a closing note; Perhaps if Descarte had applied as much focus on Emotional & Intellectual IQ as he did his Academic IQ we would perhaps, as a species, already be standing on the precipice of said enlightenment, perhaps.
Nb: ‘In a catch 22 of cognition this arrogance then perpetuates the flaw within us’ ; Cerebral arrogance self perpetuates and will ultimately lead to our downfall. Our ego spurs us to academically achieve, yet without relinquishing ego we naturally remain egocentric, moreover anthropocentric.
(a) https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/exploring-consciousness/ original paper by Martin Giurfa of the University of Toulouse in France and Mandyam Srinivasan and Shaowu Zhang, both at the Australian National University in Canberra
(b) by Culum Brown, Macquarie University http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/crux/2015/03/03/fish-smarts/#.WWtWtLpFwdU
(c) http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-21044077 Original paper by Professor Bob Elwood, Queens University, Belfast.
(d) http://news.berkeley.edu/2015/08/12/octopus-genome-reveals-cephalopod-secrets/ original paper by Cambridge University Nobel laureate Sydney Brenner, who initiated the octopus-genome project
(g) http://fcmconference.org/img/CambridgeDeclarationOnConsciousness.pdf Page 2, paragraph 2. written by Philip Low and edited by Jaak Panksepp, Diana Reiss, David Edelman, Bruno Van Swinderen, Philip Low and Christof Koch. The Declaration was publicly proclaimed in Cambridge, UK, on July 7, 2012, at the Francis Crick Memorial Conference on Consciousness in Human and non-Human Animals, at Churchill College, University of Cambridge, by Low, Edelman and Koch. The Declaration was signed by the conference participants that very evening, in the presence of Stephen Hawking, in the Balfour Room at the Hotel du Vin in Cambridge, UK. The signing ceremony was memorialized by CBS 60 Minutes.
(u) published in Nature Communications, the team led by professors Michel Milinkovitch and Dirk van der Marel https://phys.org/news/2015-03-chameleon-nanocrystals.html
(v) By: Silke Nebel (Department of Biology, The University of Western Ontario) © 2010 Nature Education . citation: Nebel, S. (2010) Animal Migration. Nature Education Knowledge 3(10):77 / http://www.nature.com/scitable/knowledge/library/animal-migration-13259533
(w) Documentary ‘Dogs: The untold Story’ – first aired 23/04/17 (‘Billionaire Dogs’)
Author : Jasmine Alexander
Illustrator: Jasmine Alexander
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