Jeremy Rifkin claimed in his September 5th letter declaring that animals were capable of every emotion a human being was, and demanding that all people extend a sense of equality and empathy to animals equal to that they would give another human being. This is obviously absurd and, if you really take a step back and look at the process behind the idea, ironic. This stems from the fact that one of the topics that differentiate human beings from animals is their ability to feel at all good or bad regarding the fates of creatures outside their species. If humanity is expected to step above animals in terms of not killing those creatures that would reasonably be food for us were we still merely hunter-gatherers, then does it not follow that we have stepped above our animal instinct to kill, eat, mate, and escape our predators? Rifkin tries to convince us that animals experience understand the concept of mortality by using observations of elephants, who “often stand next to their dead kin for days.” (9) If understanding mortality can be recognized by proximity to a corpse, then must vultures be the most conscious of all animals to that impending fate of death?
If humanity is the most capable and versatile of the animals, so as to even consider such thoughts as this, shouldn’t we be preserved? If we test a cure for a disease that will save thousands or even millions of human beings on a lab rat or an animal bred specifically by humans to serve a like purpose, is it not reasonable? As Rifkin commented, a lab rat’s brain, when they play, “release[s] large amounts of dopamine.”(9) Does the ability to experience pleasurable feelings keep its predator from eating it, or it from eating its predator, if it gets the chance? The only reason people call for people to take a more “natural” view of life is because they are mistaking eating salads and clearing away pollution for the less appealing idea of killing whatever animal you can find that is smaller than you when you feel hungry. While it is very much like humankind to feel for other creatures around us, we should not be confused as to which of human or animal requires our attention or empathy more.