We’d all like to think of ourselves as informed, compassionate individuals who know what is going on in the world.
We have our heads on our shoulders and we are generally upstanding, moral, and decent. There is a documentary that calls into question the claim that human beings are acting morally and decently. If you haven’t heard of it before, it is called Earthlings, and it is an absolute must watch documentary.
Earthlings: A Look Into the Horrors of Animal Agriculture
There are a lot of awesome documentaries out there for anyone looking to go vegan or lead a more holistic life. Earthlings isn’t necessarily about those things, however. Though it talks much of human actions on this planet, it is not necessarily human-centric. One of its goals is to make you see things from the perspective of the other beings on this planet. That is what the title means after all: Earthlings. Humans are not the only “earthlings.” Every living, sentient creature that walks, swims, and flies on this Earth is an Earthling, and from that perspective we begin a journey into the world of animal agriculture, and it is nothing short of monstrous.
The point of Earthlings isn’t necessarily feel-good sentiment, the kind featured in many documentaries and books on the subject of living a happy, grounded, enriching life. Yet, this documentary has made quite a few people turn towards veganism and non-violence, because what it lacks in warm-fuzzies, it makes up for in bold-faced reality, and that is far more powerful. You will see the truth about what we as humans are doing to the various animal species that we use for food, clothing, and other resources, and it is both shocking and unbelievably detestable. The kind of thing that, when you see it, fills you with simultaneous rage and despair.
We’re talking about billions of sentient, compassionate life forms suffering, being murdered at birth for lack of usefulness, suffocated, gassed, having tails and beaks clipped without anesthetic, necks slit, hides branded, horns cut, skin ripped off while fully conscious. Creatures as friendly and intelligent as your pet dog boiled alive, kicked and punched, ground up alive, enslaved every second of their lives.
Yes, this is the same industry that gives us bacon and leather. It’s not some sadistic fringe event or rare occurrence. It’s an every day, every hour, every second horror show that goes on in all corners of the world, to the tune of 150 billion animals killed every year.
That is an unbelievable number. Staggering. We think about “livestock” and “food” animals as commodities, but these are creatures just like any other, with personalities, thoughts, desires, and ideas all their own. Think about it like this: for any animal owner out there, you know how much personality, intelligence, and even sass, your cat or dog has.
Each of them are different. Quirks, habits, food preferences, you name it. You can have a litter of 4 kittens and each of them could be the same color, yet if you get to know them, the owners can tell them apart just by their behavior. This is because they are sentient beings. Regardless of what we have come to believe about animals, we know that there is far more going on inside their heads than raw “instinct” (a questionable idea at best that is slowly getting debunked in scientific circles, but that’s another story).
Now imagine that personality-filled, charming, lovable, companion we call a pet, tortured every waking moment of its life. Kept in a steel cage so cramped its skin rubs raw against the bars. Its tail needs to be clipped just so it doesn’t bite it while going insane. Its babies are stolen from it, it is continuously raped just so it spits out a steady line of babies, wasting its body away and causing infections and premature aging. Think of that friend, your cat or dog, hoisted into the air and having its throat slit.
Think of it having its fur ripped off its body while still fully conscious (this is what they do in the fur industry) or being boiled alive.
Those horrors, and countless others, go on in animal agriculture every second of every day. This is the story Earthlings reveals, and it is one so gruesome, many people have a hard time even finishing it. Yet, we are obligated to see the pain we perpetrate on other animals.
It’s not even the fact that we eat them when we don’t have to (and the fact that we’re not even a meat-eating species to begin with), but that we commodify and enslave the animals in the process. We steal from them everything natural, giving them no chance to live anything that would resemble a normal life. Countless billions brought into this world, all for the sake of our luxuries and habits. The absurdity of it is breathtaking, and yet this is only the tip of what’s occurring when we speak about animal agriculture.
Humans and the Web of Life
Our society has made us forget where we come from. Even when we have the introspection to think about our distant ancestors, we usually only get as far as our historical imagery lets us: spear-chucking savages, cave men struggling to build fires with crude stones, tribal warfare and grass huts. This is such a distorted picture that it almost completely blocks out the fact that there was millions of years of history that took place long before humans lost their way and adopted these bizarre, unnatural behaviors.
Just like all the other animals on this planet, we were once very much a part of the web of life. Before we came out of the trees and began to wander far from our original homes, we were fruit-eating, tree-climbing apes that knew nothing about building fires or chucking spears. This is not the sensationalist “history” that National Geographic and the Discovery Channel like to talk about, but it is just as, if not more important, than our days as primitive cave dwellers.
This sometimes comes as a shock to people when they hear it. Humans swung around in trees and lived off of fruit? That sounds a little too close to being a monkey for most people’s liking, and it’s not that entertaining.
History books and documentaries like to talk about tribal wars and primitive man’s struggle against the elements. Yet, all of that came long after we left the trees, which defined us as a species for millennia. Keep in mind, our anatomy is still almost entirely ape-like.
We are, of course, directly related. Chimpanzees and bonobos are our closest animal relatives. What does that tell you? Well, that for many millions of years, we were tree-dwelling, fruit eating monkeys just like they are. This is just common sense, but it is also scientifically proven, despite the fact that we rarely talk about it. Again, this is probably more to do with the fact that it’s simply not entertaining. Ratings and money are what most animal documentaries are after, especially the ones that focus on animals and ancient history.
This is all to say that people have to realize, we are only about 6 million years out from our hard divergence from the web of life. Go back that far and we were, quite literally, no different than pigs, cows, sheep, and chickens in terms of our place in life.
Another hard pill to swallow, but it’s the truth.
What we also must realize about this ear of our species is that, we would have never thought of eating pigs, cows, sheep, or chickens. Nor would we have used their bodies for clothing or tools. As a species, we have deviated far from the norm. What was once a frugivorous, docile, communal tree animal transformed into a lost, confused, starving, desperate wretch of an animal, at odds with the elements, and forced to do what it could by any means necessary just to survive. Why? Because it had left the web of life.
What exactly is the web of life? It is called many things by many different cultures, but to put it simply, it is the interconnected relationships of all living things to the environment, and how each of those living things plays its part in the whole.
We have been made to believe that nature is just a random assortment of biological entities all vying for survival in some kind of giant worldwide cage match battle royale. This is what is called “Darwinism” (not to be confused with evolution), which looks at nature as a constant struggle and competition for resources and survival. This view, while understandable, is altogether false. Though living creatures all want to survive, it is also true that everything in nature depends on everything else. What appears from the outside to be competition is in reality cooperation and even co-creation. We’ll come back to this later.
The point is, that we have lost our way, and Earthlings shows you the result. Our brains developed in a way that caused us to abandon our natural tendencies and shirk our place in the web of life. These actions have resulted in monumental destruction, including an outright holocaust of life.
Animals Aren’t Here For Us
We have grown accustomed to the idea that animals are some kind of property. At the very least, we have “dominion” over them. Our intelligence, our culture, gives us a higher position than them, and therefore, what we do to them is of no consequence. Furthermore, in this barbarian mythology, animals do not feel the way we feel. They are thoughtless automatons that are little more than furry and scaly robots. They don’t feel pain, they have no emotions, and they cannot think. In this regard, humans have transformed what an animal is, from a living, thinking being into a hollow object.
The truth is, however, that animals do feel pain. They do have emotions. They can think. Problems arise when we try and “compare” intelligence, or the manner in which we “think.” From our limited point of view, born of ignorance, animals appear to be uncivilized, barbaric, unthinking, even savage. Anyone who has spent any meaningful time with animals, however, knows this is complete nonsense. The worldview that has allowed this nonsense to perpetuate itself is more indicative of our flaws and ignorance than the flaws and ignorance of animals. It is the height of follow to assume that humans have some kind of patent on thoughts and emotions.
Shocking as it may be to some, human beings are actually some of the least-thinking, least-emotionally aware, creatures on this planet. Animals, connected to the web of life, possess uncanny abilities.
Their senses dwarf ours, their strength outmatches ours, their speed puts ours to shame. They can see colors we cannot see, smell scents that we don’t even know exist, taste flavors we’ve never imagined, and connect to worlds we know not of. This isn’t just an exaggeration, either.
Humans, by and large, are one of the absolute weakest animals on the planet. We are completely defenseless when we are born, our hides are paper thin, we’ve lost our protective hair, our stamina is meager, and our instincts are dulled by centuries of living apart from nature. Only a few cultures have retained the essence of what it means to be an animal on this Earth. The rest of us have largely forgotten.
Animals have their own lives to live in the web of life. We have to knock off the arrogance and invest in some humility if we are ever to find our way as a species. We have to stop the belief that animals are here for our benefit somehow. Each and every creature on this planet has its own reason for living, and wants to continue living to its fullest potential, whatever that may be. In the vast majority of cases, animals would have nothing to do with us. They are not our slaves, property, livestock, commodities, or play things. We have absolutely no right to enslave them as we do, nor have we any business eating them. To take something down in the wild and eat it for the sake of survival, that is a part of the web of life, a necessary function of carnivorous animals to cull the weak from the herbivore populations, and to act as nature’s clean-up crew by scavenging. This is not what we do, however. Far from it.
First of all, humans aren’t designed to eat meat. We can’t digest it. Sure, we can stick it in our mouths and let it go through our “digestive tract,” and our cells will certainly try and extract what nutrients it can from what it finds, but a good bit of meat simply cannot be used by our body. The fats and cholesterol must be offloaded by our cells, otherwise our digestive tracts would suffer complications. Thus, our arteries get clogged, our body’s fat ratio increases, and our body must leech nutrients from our bones in order to dampen the acidity of the meat. This does not occur in animals that evolved to eat meat. You’re not going to find any bears and lions with heart disease. It just isn’t a thing. Ever wonder why?
Human animals cannot digest meat. Period. End of discussion.
Which means that the horrors we perpetrate upon animals all over this planet for the sake of food, becomes even more absurd. Meat isn’t good for us. We’re fruit-eating monkeys. What business do we have eating thick chunks of muscle off of cows and pigs?
Even when chimps indulge in meat, they almost always eat termites, grubs, and in very rare instances, tiny mammals. The dense, fatty bodies of large land animals have no business being inside us. Our cells look at that stuff and don’t know what to make of it. And our health suffers as a result.
Moving on from food, we know that we do not “need” animals for tools, testing, or clothing. Cotton, one of the most versatile substances to make clothing from, is plant-based. We don’t need the hides of animals to stay warm. It’s just simply not necessary. Shoes and belts made of animal skins? Useless. It’s all vanity and posturing, not to mention outright barbarism. We like to style ourselves as this intelligence, sophisticated species, yet many of us walk around with the skins of animals on our waists and feet, like we’re cave men from a distant age.
Sentient beings die so we can hoist up our pants?
None of this is necessary. These animals are here for their own reasons, their own lives. We have very little in common with, say, alligators. We are actually much lower on the food chain than them.
To an alligator, a human may be just a snack. Or a friend, as is sometimes the case, depending on the level of hunger and respect. But that animal has its own business. It may be looking for a mate, trying to have offspring, looking for a good home. It has thoughts and sensations apart from us, that we may never gain access to. It sees the world differently than we do, it exists in its own world, so to speak. What business do we have enslaving and murdering such beings for the sake of vanity items? None whatsoever.
Earthlings teaches us to see the situation from the point of view of the victims. It’s not for us to understand the whys and hows of the animal world. Distanced from the web of life as we are, we can’t hope to comprehend the lives of an animal. But we can empathize. That is the message Earthlings attempts to convey.
All Animals Feel Pain
It must be emphasized that the distinction we make between humankind and animals is almost completely arbitrary. We are, for all intents and purposes, not different than a pig or cow. The fact that we can discuss this with language and that we have “built society” doesn’t change this fact. Our special abilities, everything that makes humans so drastically different than most other animals on this planet, can all be attributed to minor mutations in our brain during the course of our evolution. Remember, from the animal’s point of view, we are actually very deviant. This thing we call society, however grand it may be, has not treated the planet, nor the animals, very kindly. It is thus not in the interests of the collective evolution of planet Earth, and should be recognized as such.
That is where our differences as animals end. Everything else that makes us who we are, we share with all the other animals on this planet.
Our education system doesn’t speak much about animals, other than the names of their organs, and what genus and phylum they belong to. So let’s get some real science going on here, and answer a few pressing questions.
Q. Do animals feel pain like we do?
A. Yes. Pain isn’t a human-only trait. It is a biological defense mechanism found in even extremely primitive animals, designed to protect the body from harm.
Q. Do animals respond to pain the same way we do?
A. Yes. Animals will go to great lengths to avoid pain. They will also cry, protect their hurt limbs by limping or crawling, flinch, have an increased heart rate, and everything else that we experience.
Q. Are animals “aware” of their own pain, as we are?
A. Yes. By proxy, an animal will gain learned behaviors to avoid pain, will seek remedies for ongoing pain, plead with the eyes, become moody, and even aggressive when hurt, just like us.
Q. Do animals have emotions?
A. Yes. Emotion isn’t a human-only trait. It is a biological response to stimuli, to foster communication between species. Emotion can be likened to the automatic bodily response to mental states or stimuli. Animals mope, fall into depression, express jubilation, hold grudges, get jealous, and can show gratitude. They feel the same range of emotions as we do, because we developed these emotions in the same manner as all animals, as a means of communication. We don’t have a monopoly on emotion.
Q. Do animals seek to avoid pain?
A. Yes. Animals are just like us. They learn from their experiences and will avoid pain to the best of their ability. Animals in the meat industry must be “prodded” and kicked to get them to move, because many are actively cognizant that they are about to feel pain or die. An animal previously hurt by humans will flinch and even run at the raise of a hand, just like an abused child.
Q. Is every animal an “Individual”?
A. Yes. What defines an individual? The total embodiment of traits that make you who you are: what you like to eat, your moods, your preferences, your thought patterns, how you react to certain situations, your eating behavior, your intelligence. Animals experiences this myriad of likes, dislikes, behaviors, thoughts, and preferences, thus making each one of them an individual with bodily autonomy.
Q. Do animals care for their young like we do?
A. Yes. You want the hard truth? They often care about their children even more than we do. That is not an exaggeration. Many humans think of their children as property. Mere hired hands, or slaves. They order them around, smack them around, scold them for nonsense, yell at them, enlist them in labor, even beat them. No animal does this. The majority of our mammalian brothers and sisters treat their kids like treasures, doting on them, catering to their every need, never forcing anything upon them but that which they are ready for, and will give of themselves everything so they can survive. The instinct to care for offspring is not uniquely human. Quite the contrary: it is a biological, deeply emotional need that ensures species propagation.
Q. What about animals that eat other animals? Doesn’t that make it right for them?
A. Yes. First of all, we’re not carnivores. We’re not supposed to eat meat to begin with. Furthermore, we enslave, rape, and mass-breed our food animals in highly unnatural conditions. This is not natural, normal, or warranted. Animals killing other animals is perfectly fine. They evolved over the course of millions of years to be able to hunt down the weakest and sickly among prey populations and kill them off. This process actually strengthens the prey population, because it makes their gene pool stronger. Remember: carnivores and omnivores work on behalf of herbivores and other prey animals, just as all animals work on behalf of the plant kingdom. Modern science has the food chain backwards. Meat eaters are nature’s janitors, they are designed to weed out weakness in other species, and eliminate decaying bodies. Humans, on the other hand, just wantonly kill. What a carnivore does on its own time, in nature, is its business. Bottom line: don’t base “what is right” on artificial human standards. Base what is right on what is natural.
Q. How about fish? Are they individuals? Do they feel pain?
A. Yes. Just because they appear very different than us, almost alien, doesn’t mean they didn’t develop the same biological mechanisms to help them survive. Feeling pain and being cognizant of it is not unique to humans. This is something that spans everything in the animal kingdom, especially animals with a central nervous system. Fish feel a great degree of pain, not to mention sensations we may be wholly ignorant of. Because they are rather different than us structurally, their sensations differ than ours, but there can be no doubt that fish have autonomy, will seek life over death, display emotions, and even have the capacity for “intelligence” (as we know it) to a certain degree. Science has even proved fish have learned behaviors just like mammals, and will avoid discomfort and pain when exposed to it a second time.
Respect and Balance: the Message of Earthlings
Animal rights, veganism, the web of life, it’s all rather heady stuff. Not everyone is ready to start being a monk and befriending cows and chickens. People often ask, where do we draw the line? Are we supposed to step around caterpillars and rescue the spiders in our homes? Are we really supposed to care about the feelings of a flounder? These are questions that are answered more aptly by simply embracing balance and harmony. Seek peace, and you will know what the right choice is without anyone having to tell you.
That’s the message Earthlings tries to convey. It’s not about becoming some kind of mega-hippy who only eats seeds and nuts, curses people out if they step on ants, and meditates on mountaintops every morning. It’s about stopping the violence, the senseless carnage, and returning to a more natural way of living for our species.
Listen, our bodies are begging for this animal-eating craze to end. It’s killing us. Heart disease, osteoporosis, Alzheimer’s, liver failure, pancreatic cancer, colon cancer, IBS, acne, arthritis, diabetes, obesity: it’s all related to eating meat and dairy. Yes, what we’re doing to the animals is the focus here, and it’s horrific. But as a species, we are killing ourselves almost as fast as we are killing the animals. Think about this: our technology and medical advancements get better every year, so why are rates for almost every one of the illnesses I just listed skyrocketing? Why is heart disease and obesity an epidemic if our medicine is working? Shouldn’t those numbers be going down, not up? Shouldn’t we all be at the pinnacle of health if eating meat and dairy were the right choices, rather than being one of the most diseased, unhealthy nations in the world?
Compassion and balance isn’t just about caring for the animals, it’s about caring for each other too. We’re Earthlings. All of us. The ducks in your park’s pond, your neighbors down the street, the pig being sent to slaughter. Every one of us is the same, in that we are Earthlings. Sentient beings on plant Earth that feel pain, have thoughts of their own, feel emotion, and want to live.
The only way we can honor this fact is if we live in balance. Seek to do as little harm as possible. The first major decision you can make is to go vegan. Stop supporting violence and death, and stop putting violence and death into your body. People often ask, “what does it matter if I go vegan, everybody else will still eat meat, nothing will change!”
Veganism is the fastest growing movement on the planet. Dairy and meat companies, despite how much propaganda they churn out every year, keep reporting that the demand for their products lessens with every year. Without demand, there’s no reason to slaughter the animals. We stop breeding them, the pain and suffering ends. It’s that simple.
But you shouldn’t worry what other people are doing. What are YOU doing about it? If you seek balance and compassion, you will be a candle that will light the way for others.
There’s another aspect of this, and I think Earthlings should have touched more on this subject: making friends with other Earthlings. Once you choose compassion, you would be surprised how the world around you changes. If you think you can only make friends with dogs and cats, you might be shocked. There are magnificent beings out there, and they want companionship and love just as cats and dogs do. They also want to be treated with respect, and I think that is more important than anything else. It’s time to start respecting the planet and by proxy, respecting the animals on the planet. Forge relationships with the other earthlings you encounter. If you treat animals as equals, they will respect you in turn, and open up to you. Humans have created friendships with dolphins, geese, mice, hawks, coyotes, spiders, octopuses, rabbits, cows, and everything in between. Open your eyes and look around. There’s a bigger world than the one you’ve been told exists.
Is it an easy path to walk? Not at first, and Earthlings makes that plainly clear. It is hard to watch what we do to the animals, because we know deep inside that it is unnatural, even sadistic. Pulling away from these behaviors and returning to the web of life is not as easy as a stroll in the park. Eating meat is an ingrained behavior. We have been conditioned to think we’re supposed to. Likewise, caring about other animals is something that doesn’t come easy for everyone. There are even people who are biased against cats or dogs, believing one is nice and the other unfriendly or intimidating. Well I’m here to tell you, get outside your comfort zone.
Biggest secret: veganism has more variety by far than the typical Western diet, it tastes better, and it won’t kill you. Crazy, right? There’s absolutely no reason to eat animals. Ever.
Compassion isn’t something you choose to enact when you feel like it. If you’re compassionate and intelligent, you exude those traits all the time, and it starts with what you put into your mouth every day.
Make the right choice.
The founder of Digital Sages, Matt has an extensive background in self-mastery and has authored several books on the subject. His goal is to demystify important esoteric subjects and help people transform their lives through self-awareness and personal empowerment.