Cats and dogs are major parts of our households. Yet many do not tell their stories. Victorian art began to tell their stories, but then art went abstract and corporate and no content was allowed other than red yellow and blue or grids. Maybe a square or oval now and then. The museums and art galleries, supporting ideology and corporate profits, emptied art of real content, and they are defiantly proud of the Nothing they put on their walls. Cat and dog stories became part of popular culture, while art became empty and elitist. I am restoring cat and dog stories here. I also show artwork I have done about cats and dogs, wild and “domestic”. At the end I discuss the dismal facts of most domestication, why it was important to Darwin and why people have largely failed nature and animals.
When I was a baby one of the most important beings in my life was our dog Nani. He was a German Shepard who kept watch over my crib when I slept. No one could mess with me, except my Mom.
Later we got two Siamese cats, Shiro and Kuro, light and dark, or day and night in Japanese. They were given us by George Corwin, a man my Dad worked with, who had been in a concentration camp of sorts in China. He told me about burying a hunk of meat near a fence in the camp, and living off the rotting meat for months. I got to know him pretty well when my Mom got dementia, and he called me a lot to find out how she was. He clearly loved her. I was glad of that. He was a nice man, and for some reason admired my Dad’s Dad, who had been a VP for American Can company, and he said he had to do with developing the Aluminium can, though I was unsure if that was true or a tall tale my Dad told him. He bragged about owning a Hiroshige, and loved Velasquez’s “Odalisque”
Shiro ruled the house for many years, and was philosophical, detached and very smart. Kuro was never neutered, which was a mistake, as he got in so many fights in our neighborhood in Stockton, California that he eventually died of his wounds from other cats. I remember seeing his face torn and bloody. His his ears, and head, also had open sores on them. I do not know why he was never neutered, he should have been. It was my introduction to the perils of testosterone poisoning, I suppose. I think I was nine when he died, and Kuro must have been 3-5. He was a good cat, I remember that, but was evidently a bad fighter.
Sometime in the year before my Dad died, when I was 17, we got a black and white fronted cat named Minx, who was much more ordinary than Shiro. Shiro was the loveliest Siamese I ever saw, and a bit regal, and Shiro was mean to Minx. They could not tolerate each other at all, or even be in the same room together. If they were in the same room, Shiro attacked the smaller Minx.
So on Dec 13, 1973 I was in a flexible studies program at my high school, which meant that I was mostly doing independent study. I have always loved studying and do not need school to motivate me, so it was great for me. In any case, I usually came home around 12 O’clock. My Dad had been home for over a month, because he had had a serious heart attack in November. I expected to see him at home, and walked in the side door. To my great surprise the two cats, Shiro and Minx were not only sitting shoulder to shoulder behind the door that I opened, but they were clearly waiting for me. This was shocking that these two cats who hated each other should be so together and unusually nice to each other. Why? What happened? I went up to see my Dad, but no one was home but me and the cats.
Suddenly the phone rang and it was my Dad’s doctor on the line saying that my Dad had just died and my mother was hysterical and could I come pick her up and bring her home. The cats knew this, obviously, and gave up their fights. The ambulance evidently had come to the house and picked up my dad and mom. That must have frightened the cats. My Dad had had a violent embolism explode an artery near his heart and he must of died fairly quickly, though he was still alive apparently by the time he got to the hospital. He hit his head on the toilet seat when he fell, my mother said. There was blood on the toilet. I went to get my Mom and brought her home, only seeing my Dad under a sheet in the room near my Mom. He was dead by the time I got there.
The only thing I can imagine is that the cats knew he was dying or dead, and the overcame their long term differences all of a sudden and waited for me at the door together. It was very moving and caring of them to do that and I have never forgotten it.
My wife had a cat named Shierkhan. Not the best name as this name refers to a mean Tiger cat in the Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling. When our cat was little he did have a mean streak and would attack my heels as I walked around the apartment. But we really bonded when I got sick and was in bed in the hospital for two weeks and then in bed for a month at home. He would flop down with his head resting on my hand and stay there for hours.
He brought some joy to my illness. He ended up being a very patient cat and even stood still as my two year old boy, shown below, cut off his whiskers with some toddler’s scissors.
I was moved by his care of me and we were pals until he died of cancer of the liver at 17. The kids and I were laying beside him as he died near the bed in the bedroom. We all cried as he died.
He lived in California for a few years and I did this of him in some wildflowers, near the ocean.
Paws in California
When my mom got too sick to take care of her cat, we took it home and cared for it. She was also a great cat, named Mei Lin. She was a Siamese from a farm in Spencer, Ohio. I used to play fetch with her with a rolled up aluminium ball. That morphed into attaching the aluminium ball to a stick with a long string. She would play chase the ball for hours and would occasionally assume strange body shapes, looking at the ball in a threatening manner from between her legs, or backing up to get the ball sideways. She loved to play ball also on a chair in my mother’s living room, trying to capture the ball between the lathe turned spindles on the chair’s back. It was the same chair I now sit in writing this.
I did this portrait hoping my mom would recognize the cat she loved, but she showed no sign, if she did recognize her. After I got Mom off most of the psychotropic drugs my brother put her on, she was better, and even sometimes talked to me. We brought Mom to our house occasionally, and Mei Lin definitely knew Mom and was very loving towards her and a few times Mom did respond to Mei Lin in kindness and interest. She would sometimes remember who she was, sometimes not. The drugs the “doctors” gave her knocked out awareness of her cat, taking her off the medications brought it back.
This is a semi-wild barn cat. He lives in a barn in the middle of Ohio, where we get pumpkins and eats the mice and other things as well as taking hand outs from humans. I liked his wild and defiant eyes, and that he was here sitting on a hay bail.
In early images of cats I find this one, which is a portrait of a kitten we had when I was 16 or 17
Hako and I, age 16.
This drawing in recent, Nov, 2018 but shows myself and my dog Hako in 1974. He has nearing a year old then. He was given to me by an old friend of those days after my Dad died in late 1973. It was a very kind gift and one that I valued for many years. He died in 1987. Hako was a great dog. It was one of the deepest relationships of my life.
Here is another picture of Hako, done in late 1973 or early 1974, as a diptych, which also included a portrait of a Black Cat, based on Yeat’s poem, the “Cat and the Moon”, about Minnaloushe.
This was the back and front paintings of a book of art I made then, called The Dream, which was a picture of life and death as I knew it then, my senior year in High school.
This was the drawing for the painting of the cat.
Hako Pencil drawing
Above is a recent drawing of Hako.
I did a series of paintings and drawings at this time, 1973-74, and I even included a little humor, or Hako, doing “his business”. The humor is wry, and some might think it odd, but it was amazing the watch him do this every day. I wanted to make a wry humorous image to counter some of the serious images of this early book, which was largely about death.
Our Animals, 2019.
These are recent cats and a dog of ours. The two on the left adopted us by sitting on the deck outside for weeks. Someone wrongly dumped a lot of cats in our area, and these two were attracted to us, others were killed by the the local Animal Pound woman. There are many things one can do with unwanted cats, but dropping them off in a wooded area, such as we have is cruel, and will very likely lead to death, starvation or suffering for the cat. There are a lot of wild coyotes in our area and they are likely to find cats very edible. The forth one was the baby of a wild cat, probably dropped off in our area. The mother was not a very good mother and probably had never been pregnant before. She gave birth to the cats in our woodpile. I tried to cover them with a tarp, but when a storm came up it partially uncovered them and they got wet. My daughter and I tried to warm and dry the dying kittens, but failed in 3 cases. There were at most week old and could not survive the exposure. This one survived, barely. We had to learn quickly how to feed it with a small syringe. My daughter saved it with much devotion and care,, feeding it regularly with the small syringe. It nearly died twice more, falling off the balcony and getting a lung infection.
The first cat on the left of the drawing above shows the only cat we bought. We bought her to teach the feral cats how to be domestic cats. It was a wise move and it worked, mostly. She is a wonderful cat, kind, and mothering all of us, with much licking and cleaning. The same cat is below in a few sketches, These were done all in one day, as she dozed on a carpet in the kitchen.
This is our new dog. The same drawing is in the picture above, with the cats. The cats and dog do not entirely get along, except when they do, which is occasionally, especially when the dog is tired. The cats have figured out that they are best up high when the dog is wide awake. She never bites them, but she does like to play with them, and they often do not want to play too. For a few months we had some foster cats, and the dog loved one of them and used to put the kitten in her mouth like a mom, gently, holding her from the back and side.
Our Four Cats (2018)
Our 4 Cats: in perspective
The top cat in the drawing above was born in a woodpile outside our house, as I explained. Below are later kittens born of the same mom and dad. The dad was a magnificent black male with yellow green eyes. He was like a panther, very large for a house cat, and lovely to look at. He was hit by a car, and was last seen on the side of the road, in Sept, 2019. The female, tabby, seems to be gone too. Below are a few of their kittens. We have fostered many of them, 7, i think. One was taken by another person, and two are fostered out. they gave all our cats fleas. We are still working on that.
Terms like domestic, wild and feral are human terms and mean an animal that more or less fits human needs. Dimitry Belyayev showed in his famous Fox experiments that domestication is really a process of genetic manipulation of behavioral control of an animal involving genetic selection for “tameability”.
The genes that control what is human centered and what is not, get turned off or on depending on the control of breeding. If it is left up to the animal, the genes that were dormant, and made the animal wild get turned on again, and tend to dominate, whereas when a human controls breeding wildness tends to be turned off. This means that the idea of domestic species is somewhat illusory. Yes, there are real changes in dogs, pigs chickens and the like, but the changes are rather shallow and are somewhat easily rescinded.
Coyotes at Limantour, Point Reyes
Coyotes are the wild dog of the Americas. It is an amazing animal. They are very smart, and even large expenditures to kill them off by the US government have failed and now they are spread all over the US, when they used to be confined to the western states. This is one good example, among many, or the lethal minded speciesism and inanity of game agencies and the USFWS. Farmers used to and many still hate them and kill them on sight. Like the hatred of wolves, this is irrational and in killing the Coyote they are not recognizing that they are killing off the very animal most likely to control their rodent populations. According to Barry Lopez, in his book on wolves, the myth of the wolf as killer of humans is a myth or falsehood.
The effort to kill off Coyotes by ranchers farmers and the Government failed. There are more Coyotes than ever, Henry Thoreau speaks of farmers as “regarding the soil as property, or the means of acquiring property chiefly, the landscape is deformed, husbandry is degraded with us, and the farmer leads the meanest of lives. He knows Nature but as a robber” Certainly this is true of the farmer as killer of wild animals, even those that would help him.
Above is a recent painting of Coyotes I watched in Point Reyes. There were actually 3 of them but I only put two in this portrait. They were searching for things to eat, as usual, and were concerned that I noticed them. Few humans see Coyotes as they are usually nocturnal and very smart and stealthy.
They are often used in Native American myths and stories about the Origin of life, in creation stories or teaching stories for kids. Native Americans often projected their own foibles or excesses onto Coyotes in order to teach kids to behave and do appropriate things. Coyote’s misbehavior is used to teach kids to be better people. This is clear for instance in the Brule or Lakota story about Inktomi, the Spider, Coyote and the Rock, a version of which occurs in the great Native American movie the Dreamkeeper, one of the very best of movies made about Native Americans, both in terms of its realistic and its mythic or story telling elements. In the original story the Coyote gives a blanket to the Rock and then, when it gets cold, the Coyote takes back the blanket. The moral of the tale is that one should not take back things that are given. The rock kills Coyote, rolls over him, but, of course, he comes back to life. He always does. Killing Coyotes is both mythically and historically useless.
My own view of Coyotes is rather different. I admire them a great deal. Like dogs, they get into all kinds of mischief, but I rarely hold that against them. The live behind us, and I often hear them and less often see them.
Red Fox Sitting (Wyoming)
Foxes are a different story. I have always liked them.
I first saw one when I was 11 or 12, recently dead, frozen into the ice
with a dust of snow on it, a grey fox, one of the loveliest
things I have ever seen. It was silver and rust colored, some orange
lying in the orange or brown marsh grasses, a veritable symphony of harmonies of
I have seen foxes in many places and gotten to know them pretty well. I have seen the Grey Fox up close in Point Reyes and the Red Fox in Canada and Wyoming as well as in Ohio, and have heard their high pitched and lonely call in many places.
I have seen baby Foxes in the Allegeny mountains of New York. I admire their
intelligence, as well as the expert avoidance of death by cars, which so many
animals die from. I have seen a few fox kills by car, but not nearly as many kills as raccoons or skunks, squirrels or deer. What is interesting about animals being
killed by cars is that the person who kills them rarely gets out and takes the corpse
off the road. This shows both a terrible disregard and disrespect for animals as well as
a non caring willingness to kill them and not to think of what was killed. Nor have I ever heard of any attempts to stop road killing, except perhaps for the underpasses that have been built out west for animals. But there has been no attempt on the part of car makers to make a car that would do less harm to animals. The contempt of animals by car corporations is evident. It is evident in the willingness of people to kill animals in cars or trucks too. Usually people say animals are stupid and get in the way of cars, but actually it is people who are stupid, driving around irresponsibly in metal boxes going 60 miles an hour, unthinking.
Red Fox Walking, Wyoming
The two painting above are recent and were done, along with the Coyote and the self portrait with Hako for this page. The two Fox paintings are of the same fox I took pictures of in Wyoming. There was a deep snow drift there and it knew I could not walk in it, as I sunk down to my thighs. It was not at all afraid of me and so I got to spend alot of time videoing it. My impression was it was an elder male, and as it was a relatively warm late winter day, it was very comfortable and laid in the snow, and enjoyed that.
Darwin and the Dark History of Domestication
I am writing here about ordinary cats and dogs, which, when well treated by humans are great animals and full of fun, intelligence and life. But humans abuse many animals, both wild and domestic. Bartolome de Las Casas describes in lurid detail the abuse of Native Americans on the Island of Hispaniola and elsewhere. Columbus had war dogs, Spanish Hounds (Greyhounds?) or Mastiffs, apparently, which he and his men trained to kill. Las Casas writes:
“But now I am going to tell of another action the Spaniards engage in which is
perhaps even more ferocious and infernal than the one I have just
recounted, and it still goes on at the present time. As has been said,
the Spaniards train their fierce dogs to attack, kill and tear to pieces the Indians.
It is doubtful that anyone, whether Christian or not, has ever before heard of
such a thing as this. The Spaniards keep alive their dogs’ appetite for human beings
in this way. They have Indians brought to them in chains, then unleash the dogs.
The Indians come meekly down the roads and are killed. And the Spaniards
have butcher shops where the corpses of Indians are hung up, on display,
and someone will come in and say, more or less,”Give me a quarter of that
rascal hanging there, to feed my dogs until I can kill another one for them.”
As if buying a quarter of a hog or other meat.
Other Spaniards go hunting
with their dogs in the mornings and when one of them returns at noon and
is asked “Did you have good hunting?” he will reply, “Very good! I killed
fifteen or twenty rascals and left them with my dogs”
(de Las Casas, Devastation of the Indies, p. 127).
The use of dogs to kill Native Americans is a double abuse against the dogs and against the Native Americans. The origins of human cruelty toward animals is clearer than the origins of animals. The story of Columbus and his abuse of native Carib Islanders makes him a figure who must not be celebrated. He was anything but a hero. This makes Rene Descartes abuse of Dogs, which was very bad, seem a minor instance of the same abuse. Descartes claimed, wrongly, dogs have no reason or understanding and those who have no understanding cannot really feel pain. This is hair splitting nonsense, a self justifying lie by Descartes. Descartes believed only humans and not animals have understanding, and only humans not animals have a soul, and therefore animals do not feel pain. This excused his torture of dogs, he thought. So he played violin to them while they were dying, or cut their main arteries and watched them die, feeling their pulse as the did so. This is not science, but it is cruelty. It certainly brings Descartes into question.
Similar to what Columbus and his followers did to the Native Americans on Hispaniola is what the English did to the Irish, where the English sent 3000 Mastiff dogs to Ireland to silence the growing hatred of the Irish for the English who abused them horribly. The English harmed the Irish for many centuries, culminating in the Irish famine of 1847-50 which killed over a million Irish and forced several million to migrate to North America. This is partly why I grew up here. The abuse of animals by the English and other Europeans is a shameful act of the history of conquest.
The difference between wildness and domesticity involves making animals tractable to human desires and uses, as I said earlier: it is about making animals behave as agents of human serving domesticity. A wild dog can be very dangerous, a wild cat less so. I mean a domestic cat, not a Puma or a Bobcat. Some animals , like Wolves, Coyotes or Raccoons can not be domesticated, though they can be tamed to a certain degree. I had a pet Raccoon when I was a kid, but it got too wild at a certain point left the house on its own never to be seen again. For a few months, I used to play with it. It returned to the wild. I also knew a puppy that was half wolf, and the owner had to ‘dispose of it’ because it became too wild for him. But I am merely scratching the surface here. I wish only to point out that human’s make animals into slave like servants of human needs and desires. This is often not a good thing, as billions of animals are killed.
How many billions? Over 59 billion animals are killed worldwide every year, with some estimates as high as 70 billion, excluding fish. The U.S. death toll is about 10 billion animals killed every year according to the Humane Society. Fish kill is weighed by the ton, so it is extrapolated that somewhere between 50 and 100 billion are caught and killed every year. It is hard to see why this level of murder of roughly 120-50 billion animals, including fish, is justified or needed, as the vegetarian diet is healthy and gives plenty of protein. The killing of animals in factory farms is clearly ideologically and economically driven. Greed and Speciesism. Making this killing more ‘humane” is absurd. It is still killing for profit. Eating meat, for primates, is a luxury born of killing adjacent tribes. Humans do not ‘need’ to eat meat to get protein, that is a lie told by the meat industry. No one ‘needs” to eat meant.Billions of animals, including sea life are thought to be killed every year is a huge number. Opinions differ on this number and how it is divided, among pigs, cattle, seafish or shells, chickens and others. But the number is huge and nearly everyone is guilty of this. Many animals are going extinct because of human ignorance on this issue.
Exact figures of hunting kills in the U.S. range around 100 million animals per year. I put the number of animals killed here to shock the reader into recognition that this is a real problem, and that domesticating animals is mostly about killing them not about having a happy and furry dog or cat in the house. Cats and dogs are domesticated animals but they are generally not abused or used as meat. This is not to say that there is not alot of cat and dog abuse by those who are unkind to them or even eat them. Rather it is to say that the primary use of these animals is often a good thing. This is not the case with goats, cattle, sheep, chickens or pigs, which are used mostly for their meat, which involves killing them, or their milk which means using them as mechanized producers.
The notion of domestication is a human centered and often a speciesist notion and largely refers to the compliance of a certain animals to human abuse as food, as in cattle, or control, as in dogs. Domestication might be for “mutual benefit” among some cats and dogs, but most non-human animals suffer terribly as the benefits go to exclusively to humans. Indeed, John Livingston is probably largely correct that humans domesticate themselves and make themselves killers, “destroyers of towns” as the Seneca (Haudenosaunee) call all American Presidents. The fact is, that of all beings on earth, humans are by far the worst and most dangerous.
I include among these those who hunt the licensed hunters, who alone benefit from animal killing. The kill mostly for pleasure but partly kill for food. Dolphins would much prefer to be in the wild than be in a Sea World show, which is far more about humans that it is about dolphins. Indeed many Orcas have been sold or captured by buyers of wild animals to be used in such shows. This is unjust and has contributed to the near extinction of the Puget Sound, or Western Orca, for instance. Human breeding deforms wild animals to have traits desired by humans, but such variants are not the products of nature, but of human whim. The deformed noses of Bull dogs or Pugs are a case in point, where the dog can barely breathe due to the arbitrary human need of short noses. German Shepard hips have likewise been deformed by Breeders.
The best book on Dogs I have read is Marc Bekoff”s Canine Confidential. It is largely written from and for the dog and its point of view. It has a marvelous section on the dog’s senses, as well as the idea for “dominance” is the science of the dog, where the concept is used to explain the behavior of dogs, such as their need to feed puppies. Bekoff is careful to distinguish the actual behavior of dogs from the human centered ideology of humans, where the idea of dominance serves to reinforce the tendency to speciesist exceptionalism in humans.
I like to imagine a world in which animals cannot be sold or eaten. I do not eat animals or fish, and only eat plants, and have not for twenty years. This enables me to see clearly just how much eating animals deforms the thinking of my contemporaries. It is amazing to see how what people eat deforms their thinking and makes them irrational and nonobjective about the role of domestication in history and how much animals enabled oppression of nature and women. Indeed, the most destructive of all forms of animal abuse is domestication, cats and dogs, notwithstanding. Humans above all domesticate themselves, making themselves tractable property owners, subservient to a bankers unethical making of private property a first principle. Wild humans are something else entirely and do little or nothing for money.
Darwin’s later work, after the Origin of Species, is largely about domestic animals, pigs, rabbits, goats, cattle, pigeons etc. His The Variation of Animals and Plants Under Domestication (finished by 1869) discuses many of these species as examples of evolutionary development. The first chapter discusses the evolution of Dogs and Cats and tries to tease out an answer about their evolution. This was beyond science at the time, but Darwin is headed in largely the right direction in his discussion of Wolves as the origin of dogs. He makes the mistake of thinking that Jackals and Coyotes, which are more closely related than wolves and Dogs, may be part of this evolution, a theory that has since proven mistaken, as Jackal and Coyotes are more distant canines. The genetics, which Darwin did not know, show that Dogs come from Wolves. He was right that they are all canines.
Darwin says he seeks to answer this question: “the first and chief point of interest in this chapter is, whether the numerous domesticated varieties of the dog have descended from a single wild species, or from several.” It is amazing to see how he goes about answering this question, and how it leads him into all kinds of interesting research. He doesn’t answer the question well and is not correct, but this is hardly his fault given the knowledge known at the time. He imagines, rightly, that “It would indeed have been a strange fact if one species alone had been domesticated throughout the world.” He is speaking of the wolf, but as this is exactly what is the case according to the genetic record. This is a “strange fact”. Though genetics also reveals that nearly all wolves have some mixture of Coyote genes in their DNA. One source says that
“The results showed that, unlike wolf–dog hybrids, jackal–dog hybrids show a decrease in fertility, significant communication problems, and an increase of genetic disorders after three generations of interbreeding, much like coydogs.”
which would tend to prove Darwin mistaken, though he is partly right, as they can and do sometimes breed, though it is rare, and the results are questionable. One website notes that:
The wolf (including the dingo), coyote, jackal, and domestic dog all have 78 chromosomes arranged in 39 pairs. This allows them to hybridise freely
(barring size or behavioural constraints) and produce fertile offspring.
The wolf, coyote, and golden jackal diverged around 3 to 4 million years ago.
Other members of the dog family diverged 7 to 10 million years ago
and are less closely related and cannot hybridise with the wolf-like canids: the yellow Jackal has 74 chromosomes, the red fox has 38 chromosomes, the raccoon dog has 42 chromosomes, and the Fennec fox has 64 chromosomes.( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Canid_hybrid )
There are various anecdotes about foxes and dogs breeding, but the truth of them is hard to assess. There is no reason to think that the Fox can breed with Dogs, they are very different species and vastly differ in their chromosomes. Darwin heard an anecdote of this kind. I doubt it is true.
He may be partly right that:
“Notwithstanding the difficulties in regard to fertility given in the last two paragraphs, when we reflect on the inherent improbability of man having domesticated throughout the world one single species alone of so widely distributed, so easily tamed, and so useful a group as the Canidæ; when we reflect on the extreme antiquity of the different breeds; and especially when we reflect on the close similarity, both in external structure and habits, between the domestic dogs of various countries and the wild species still inhabiting these same countries, the balance of evidence is strongly in favour of the multiple origin of our dogs. ( pg 34)
Darwin makes clear what was known then, and shows what hard work he did to find out what he knew. His reasoning is impeccable, based on inadequate information. But that new information is available now that proves him wrong appears incontestable. But how he does not quite answer this question is exceedingly interesting and shows a great mind at work. Even when he is wrong, as he is largely wrong is his thesis of the multiple origin of our dogs, Darwin is interesting, and is partly right. His surmise that dogs may have multiple origins might be wrong but his understanding that Coyotes and dogs or Wolves and Coyotes can breed is right.(This essay on dogs and cats can be seen here, beginning on page 15.)
He wrote on sexual selection in Descent of Man and on human emotions, facial expressions and other things. He developed a theory pangenesis and “gemmules”, which is really the theory of what we call genetics now, with some differences. This shows how right Darwin could be. The Gemmules would later be called DNA, RNA and genetic processes in general. While he used artificial selection or domestication as a major source of information on his theory of natural selection or heritable characteristics, questions have been raised regarding just how much he knew about the harmfulness of domestication. This theory, also called evolution, while very good and lasting in its details, does not show that he was aware of the abuse of plants and animals akin to slavery conditions by human beings domesticating animals. Was he aware of the harm done to nature by domestication? He abhorred slavery and he did some work on animal rights. But did he do enough?
He did write against trapping animals, bull baiting and chicken fights. He wrote mostly against vivisection and cruelty against animals, On this he wrote “It deserves detestation and abhorrence.”. He wanted to protect the right of science to know, however, and did not draw a clear line where that should stop. He wrote that anti-vivisection has as its
” object… to protect animals, and at the same time not to injure Physiology,”. This is somewhat ambiguous. I am not sure he knew how far the domestication of animals would go in its cruelty toward animals, or that his own work on domestic animals would have an indirect influence on this. If he knew this, he would certainly ‘abhor and detest’ what has been done partly in his name. The reduction of animal DNA to the for profit motive is destructive to nature and largely a failure. The reason for adaptation to boimes is not human greed, but survival and efficacy to the environment. ( see for more on this: )
David Neibert is certainly correct that animals have been largely left out of most histories. A history that includes the human abuse of nature and animals is a very different thing. History is a very largely human centered concern, male centered I should say, mostly about the history of kings and presidents, military campaigns, conquest and capitalism, or communism. Indeed, there is yet no decent history of nature in general. The corporate abuse of animals and plants continues all over the world, and is very likely resulting in the destruction or extinction of insect and flowering plant species of the order of 60% or more. Primates, mammals, amphibians, birds and fish also are experiencing a 60% decline in population. The Great Barrier Reef coral is about 60% dead. These are alarming numbers. The 60 percent decline in population across nearly all species is disturbing and begs the question, –why 60 percent? It would seem that this is an accident or coincidence, though I suspect this is actually the amount of stress that profit making corporations have put on our earth and all its species and biomes.
The huge loss of plants, animals, insects and biological communities is directly due to herbicide use, biogenetics, habitat loss and global warming, all of them human caused. The idea at the root of this biocide is domestication of plants and animals. This goes back 12,000 years to the origins of speciesism and the rise of the ideology of human supremacy. Animal abuse begins with agriculture, and the “domestication” of animals. The fact that a study notes that 77 percent of the wild earth is now gone because of human greed and industry, is not just worrying, but alarming. Domestication of animals is a huge part of the decline of the wild and the extermination of species and populations. The cause of this is the same as I just outlined.
So, cats and dogs have been a concern of mine since a young age. So has wild species, who now need our protection and are not getting it nearly enough. But the question of what history is, after Darwin, is a very real one too. CEO’s and presidents who harm nature need to be put in jail for their crimes. Once animals and nature are included in a history, –all animals and plants, seas and forests–not just cats and dogs—the historical story is very different. It is not at all flattering to humans, their greed of most domestication, which also has greed as its prime motive. Or to put this bluntly, once animals and nature are included in a history, human abuse of nature and the planet becomes apparent and the history of humans becomes a questionable thing. This question arose after realizing that Darwin’s notion of history is profound. His struggle with this was a real one, and now we know that he needed to be more in favor of animals rights than he was. That he was largely in favor of animal rights is incontestable, but he did not know all that we know now.
He did not record much of the actual history of domestication and how dominating animals has helped undermine and destroy nature. Had he known how bad it would become I am sure he would have been much more concerned with animals. The contribution of killing and using animals as food and profit has to be stopped. Climate change is partly caused by this, as well as by capitalist speciesism, which destroys our air, seas, forests, deserts and threatens the entire earth. It is greed and speciesism that have to be undone. Darwin at least suggested this, though I don’t think he could imagine how far and what danger there would be in the abuse of animals and domestication. We need to be more aware of this, and to do much more than we have to stop capitalism and its worship of the rich and greedy.