Man can imagine the suffering of others. That's why
he cannot do to others what he would experience as a
possibility of suffering himself. Since we do not know
how animals experience pain, we have to assume that
animals feel the same pain we would under identical
circumstances. That is the bottom limit of my ethics.
In that sense, nature is permanently pointing us toward
Still, you cannot escape violating these ethics, even
if only to survive. Native Americans used to ask their
prey animals for forgiveness. Western man has invented
original sin for this.
The expulsion from paradise was man's introduction to
the knowledge of good and evil, that gave life its essence.
In a determined world you cannot have free choice and
so you cannot lead a human life. In fact, losing the
paradisiacal condition was a positive event. God sent
his son Jesus Christ to Earth to experience what it
means to be human, what it means to have a body that
There is an interpretation of the crucifixion of Jesus,
that says that at the moment of his death he felt betrayed
by God and experienced the loneliness of physical suffering
as absolute (J. Hillman: Verraad en Verlangen - Betrayal
and Desire, 1984). That is why he called out: "My
God, my God why have You forsaken me?" In Jesus,
God experienced the suffering of humans and reconciled
with humanity. And all the sins of humanity were forgiven.
Through this, corporeality has acquired an autonomous
position in western Christian thinking. Corporeality
holds millions of years of evolution, and it is a much
more complicated process than the entire spiritual development
of man. What do we really know about it? And what do
we know about spiritual development? We know too little,
and in order not to lose any chances of gaining knowledge,
we must be careful in how we handle nature.
Maybe God is corporeality! In the physical, we experience
the real boundaries. Through our physical fears we uncover
the most intimate truth. So our responsibility lies
in the fact that we can imagine the suffering of another
man or animal. Why we were given this ability, I don't
know, but the fact is that we have it.
I would like to tell something about my relationship
with my dog Nouscha now.
This "relationship" has shown me that her
logic is different from mine. She only knows the logical
connective "and". She unequivocally links
one event to another. But they must be events that are
important to her, and the link must be made in a few
seconds. I on the other hand think that there is a law
of cause and effect, which is a typically human product.
In fact, there is no cause and effect in nature. Everything
is as it is. My dog "knows" this better than
I do, and that is often the cause of misunderstandings
between us. She maintains the sober and consistent philosophy
that you have to take things as they come. People usually
don't do this, and that is the main cause of their suffering.
That is why they invented religion, to make this suffering
acceptable. People have an option to suffer. For people,
suffering can become a Passion. Animals don't have such
freedom. They cannot choose one option and not the other.
We have chosen to "associate" with animals
in a way that is beneficial to us. Animals haven't chosen
this association, and do not benefit from it in any
way. That makes us responsible. We should take this
responsibility seriously by gaining knowledge about
the animals, trying to find out what their interests
are and by looking after them as best we can. This means
we have to put ourselves in the animal's position; animals
cannot put themselves in our position. In that sense
our relationship with animals will always be asymmetrical.
We have to "give" and in principle animals
don't have to give us back anything.
Our problem is that humanity as a species has become
so successful, that it's starting to work against us.
Space on this planet has become limited, and nature
is forced back more and more. It seems like a nice option
to drive back animals into separate areas, but it won't
work at all. In the same way, western man thought to
confine native Americans and the aboriginal in reservations,
where they could supposedly "preserve their own
culture". But we don't know enough about their
needs to do justice to every species of animal or plant
life. We are not capable of repeating evolution in a
short time. The only solution is for man to step back
and to realize that his success will be his downfall.
Another possibility is that nature is still strong enough
to strike back. BSE, climate changes, aids etc. are
clear examples that nature isn't just passively letting
us violate her. But should we wait for that?
Eventually it will turn out that the greatest Passion
of all time is the awakening of man: man who finds out
that he has paid a terrible price for his success.
Ted van Loon
What is the Guardian
In the past, animals were recognized in legal terms
as mere commodities or property, not as individual beings,
and often their exploitation and abuse was ignored,
rationalized and even justified. The Guardian Campaign
was created in 1999 as an Americawide platform to reflect
growing public to support for a redefined public standard
of relating to animals.
Ted van Loon also wrote about animals and their right
I have a problem with the way Animal Freedom uses the
principle of freedom with animals: animals have no freedom
of choice. They follow the laws of nature. Man can limit
them in this, and make them live unnatural lives that
may even be harmful to them. What it is basically about,
is the restrictions man imposes on animals, and why
they are unable to follow their nature. In that sense,
animals only have rights and no duties. This is comparable
to the position of children, who basically only have
rights as well. As they grow up, they obtain more duties,
but more freedom of choice as well!
Freedom is also linked to being able to choose between
The idea of freedom is attractive in this discussion
because it guarantees equality between man and animal.
This is a radicalization that makes the discussion more
pure. There won't be many people who dare say that man
and animal are equal. I would like to plead this case
in the same sense that children are equal to adults,
yet dissimilar. But adults have the duty to protect
children and to raise them according to the possibilities
and talents within the child. Adults have the duty to
create an environment in which these talents and possibilities
can blossom. I think that adult citizens have the same
obligation towards animals. They must make sure that
animals can live according to their natures within the
necessary limitations that are inherent to the keeping
of animals. I think this is possible, if at least we
are willing to take an interest in the psychic and physical
needs of animals. A lot of animal love turns out to
be animal abuse, from pure ignorance. We have always
been too arrogant to really take an interest in the
needs, welfare and pain of animals.
Our society's attitude towards animals speaks volumes
about our attitude to weaker parties in general and
I think that it has not improved very much over time
in our so-called humanitarian culture.