Jim Mason’s Creation Myths

In April, The Missourian ran a report on an appearance by animal rights activist Jim Mason who gave a speech at Missouri University related to his 1997 book, “An Unnatural Order: Why We Are Destroying the Planet and Each Other.”

An Unnatural Order lays out Mason’s view that what he calls dominionism alienates humanity from the living world. As The Missourian reported on his talk,

A new understanding of animal rights and humane animal treatment was what led him to become an activist and environmentalist, Mason said. Mason’s latest book is “An Unnatural Order: Why We Are Destroying the Planet and Each Other,” in which he analyzes how the dominionist view has made humans believe that they are supreme beings and that everything else — including animals, who were once seen as equals — is below them.

Genesis 1:26 states: “Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, in our likeness and let them rule over the fish in the sea and over the fowl of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.’ ”

Mason said he speculates that the dominionist way of thinking caused humans to begin using animals for their own purposes. Animals were once regarded as special creatures with strong spirits, but once domestication started, the idea was lost. More damaging was the technique of animal husbandry, or the manipulation of breeding, Mason said.

To say the least, there are a few problems with this claim.

Genesis was written about 3,500 years ago. The domestication of the first animal species — dogs — is believed to have occurred from 12,000 to 14,000 years ago. Domestication of animals far predated any relatively contemporary attempts to justify or explain it.

But this doesn’t prove that domestication of animals wasn’t ideology driven. Maybe Genesis is some echo of an ancient ideology (after all, early humans would have adopted domestication for political reasons and not because of the obvious advantages). But again a problem arises — how then do we explain the fact that this ideology took hold completely independently both in the Americas and the Fertile Crescent?

For example, about 5,550 years ago, ancient Americans were domesticating the llama and the turkey. Since America was originally populated by wanderers and nomads about 14,000 years ago, how did they learn about this dominionist ideology?

Or could it be that domestication occurred independently because of the obvious advantages it has for human populations?

Moreover, its seems a bit silly to suggest that human beings lived in some special sort of harmony with nature in which they treated animals as equals prior to domestication. The reality is that homo sapiens almost from the beginning treated animals as resources to be used for food, clothing, weapons and other uses.

For example, consider the remains of Homo heidelbergensis discovered near Boxgrove in West Sussex, England. The remains are about 500,000 years old and H. heidelbergensis is an import transitional species which is very close to Homo sapiens (and, in fact is sometimes referred to as Archaic Homo Sapiens).

The Box Grove site also has bones of rhinos, horses and hippos that clearly bear cutting marks from weapons. H. heidelbergensis was clearly eating the flesh from these animals. Moreover, H. heidelbergensis probably killed the animals found there, as the cut marks they left were found below the marks of tooths from scavengers, indicating that H. heidelbergensis got to the meat before animals. The clear implication is that they were hunting.

As archaeologist Mark Roberts told the BBC,

Each (carcass) would have weighed 675kg (1,500 lbs), a magnet for other predators. Yet each carcass was skillfully cut up. Fillet steaks were sliced from the spine and the bones were smashed to get out the marrow. Only hunters who were in total command of their patch could have done that.

Mason’s view that human beings lived in harmony and equality with animals and the natural world until one day they decided not to is absurd. Being omnivores, early human beings evolved in an environment in which they scavenged and hunted other animals for survival, just as other omnivores and carnivores do.

What books like Mason’s do is replace Genesis with another silly creation myth. In the environmental/animal rights creation myth, rather than living in an idyllic paradise before being cast out by God for daring to defy Him, humanity lived in an idyllic paradise before being cast out by daring to defy Nature.

After all its just a short ride from defying nature to the Nazi gas chambers. As Mason writes,

Alienated from animals and nature by misothery, our agriculture puts us superior to, and distinct from, the living world. In that position, we can only despise and deny the animal and natural wherever we see it in ourselves or in the rest of humanity. Our anxieties about our animal-like characteristics cause us to project our fear and hatred onto not only other animals but other people whose differences we think places them below us — nearer to animals and nature than us.

On this ladder or hierarchy of being, women of one’s own group are one step down. People whom we call “Others” are another step or two down, depending on their usefulness and their distance from nature. Male Others may outrank the women of one’s group if they are “civilized” — that is, if they have a similar agriculture with dominionism, patriarchy, royalty, wealth, monumental art, urban centers, and so on.

On the rungs below Others stand animals, first those useful to men, then, father down, all the others. At the bottom of the ladder is raw, chaotic nature itself, composed of invisible organisms and an unclassifiable mass of life that feeds, grows, dies, and stinks in dark, mysterious places. This is muck and swamp, and steamy jungle and all backwaters and wildernesses far from the pruned orchards and weeded crop rows of agrarian civilization; this is nature least useful, nature most mysterious, and therefore nature most hostile and sinister.

Then it draws on the breeder’s ideologies of bloodline and purity, as it did in Nazi Germany and the segregated South; as it still does today among neo-Nazis and white supremacists. The rhetoric of all these racists speaks of the breeder’s obsessions, and the extremity of their actions speaks of the depth of their fear and hatred of “lower” nature. The Nazis ranted against Jews, gypsies, Poles, and other “mongrel races” and then methodically tried to exterminate them. Southern segregationists preached against “race mixing” and used lynchings, mob violence, and terrorist campaigns to keep people of color “in their place.”

This is why, despite all the efforts of science and civil rights campaigns, the racial hatred still lies, like a great aquifer, just beneath the surface of consciousness in our culture. On occasion, it wells upward and becomes a very conscious, very political cause.

You can’t make this stuff up.

Sources:

Activist seeks animal rights. Elizabeth Jerczyk, The Missourian, April 19, 2005.

An Unnatural Order: Why We Are Destroying the Planet and Each Other by Jim Mason, Undated.

Missouri Representative Again Introduces Proposed Ban on Photographing Animal Enterprises, Knowingly Introducing Diseases

In March, Missouri State Representative Jim Guest for the third year in a row introduced a bill in that state’s legislature that would make it illegal to take unauthorized photographs of some animal enterprises.

The bill would modify a section of Missouri law making it illegal to,

Without the express written consent of the animal facility, photograph, videotape, or otherwise obtain images from a location within the animal facility that is not legally accessible to the public;

[And/or]Intentionally or knowingly release or introduce any pathogen or disease in or near an animal facility that has the potential to cause disease in any animal at the animal facility or that otherwise threatens human health or biosecurity at the animal facility.

The second provision, on the intentional release of pathogens, is a concern that animal rights activists from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals helped create when both Bruce Friedrich and Ingrid Newkirk made public statements in 2001 hoping that Great Britain’s foot-and-mouth epidemic would afflict farm animals in the United States as well.

Newkirk said at the time, that,

I openly hope that it [foot and mouth disease] comes here. It will bring economic harm only for those who profit from giving people heart attacks and giving animals a concentration camp-like existence.

While Friedrich wrote in a letter a few weeks later that,

I suppose if it happens [an outbreak of foot-and-mouth in the United States], we’ll write a massive thank you note because it’ll turn a massive amount of people into vegetarians

Though why people would turn to vegetarianism over a disease that, except in very rare instance, effects only non-humans and even then simply causes a mild illness is a mystery (the problem the disease causes is almost exclusively economic for farmers, and is endemic in much of the world without any adverse health risks to human beings other than slightly higher costs for meat).

But why the ban on photography? Guest says it is needed to secure Missouri farms and breeders from animal rights extremists and potential bioterrorists. He told the St. Louis Dispatch,

We’ve been fortunate that we have not had a threat to our food security. We have the safest food supply in the world, and the intent of this legislation is to strengthen those statutes we have and protect that.

Meanwhile, Brenda Kemp, president of the Missouri Pet Breeders Association, said the bill would help deter trespassing on farms and other animal enterprises,

You have no idea where they’ve been or what they’re tracking in. With a kennel you have to be extremely careful with who you let on your property because you can bring in disease so easily.

Frankly, I think the ban on photography makes little sense when what seems to really be needed is simply a strengthening — and perhaps more enforcement effort — of existing trespassing laws. A ban on photographing animal enterprises from publicly accessible areas is simply a bad idea. A better idea is larger fines and other remedies targeted at people who trespass on private property to take pictures that are not obtainable from publicly accessible areas.

The full text of HB 666 can be read here.

Source:

Animal protection groups blast farm photograph bill. Jacob Luecke, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, March 29, 2005.

Missouri State Senator Introduces Amendment to Limit Initiatives Aimed at Fishing and Hunting

The Southeast Missourian recently reported that Missouri State Rep. Mike Dethrow has introduced a constitutional amendment into that state’s assembly that would make it more difficult to amend the state constitution with measures that affect fish and wildlife issues.

Under Dethrow’s proposed amendment, any initiative that deals with fish and wildlife issues that ends up on the ballot as a result of Missouri’s petition initiative system would require a supermajority of four-sevenths in order to pass. At the moment, all that is required for the passage of any such ballot initiative is a simple majority. Under Dethrow’s amendment, any initiative placed on the ballot by the state legislature would still require only a simple majority.

A similar amendment was introduced several years ago after a St. Louis-based animal rights group tried to pass an initiative to ban the trapping of river otters. That initiative, however, never garnered enough support to make it on the ballot.

If Missouri’s legislature approves the measure it could appear on the November 2004 ballot.

Source:

Supermajorities proposed for conversation measures. Marc Powers, Southeast Missourian, April 2003.

Fund for Animals Can't Shoot Straight on Worst Canned Hunts

The Fund for Animals today sent out a press release listing the “Top Ten States with the Cruelest Canned Hunts.” According to The Fund,

The states making The Fund’s “top ten” list are: Texas, Michigan,
Florida, Pennsylvania, Colorado, Ohio, Maine, Missouri, New Mexico,
Tennessee, Kentucky, and Louisiana. Although advertised under a variety
of names—most frequently “hunting preserves,” “game ranches,” or
“shooting preserves”—canned hunts violate the hunting community’s
standard of “fair chase” by confining animals to cages or fenced
enclosures. The types of animals killed can range from native species
such as elk and deer to exotic animals such as zebras, Corsican rams,
blackbuck antelope, and water buffalo.

Apparently compiling that list of ten states stretched The Fund for Animals’ limited research capabilities. A few hours after releasing it, Fund media coordinator Tracey McIntire was forced to send out a correction that read,

The list of the states with the worst canned hunts should NOT include
New Mexico and Kentucky.

Oops. No word on which states would take New Mexico and Kentucky’s places. The odds are good, however, that The Fund for Animals would be well at home on a list of top 10 animal rights groups that can never seem to get their act together.

Sources:

The Fund For Animals Announces The Top Ten States With The Cruelest Canned Hunts. The Fund for Animals, Press Release, August 12, 2002.

Correction on press release. Tracey McIntire, The Fund for Animals, August 12, 2002.

PETA Asks State Park Officials to Ban Fishing in State Parks

Over the past couple months, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals has been sending letters to officials responsible for state parks asking them to ban fishing. The letters are being sent by PETA’s Dan Shannon, and here’s a typical one sent to the North Dakota Parks and Recreation,

October 31, 2001

Doug Perchal

North Dakota Parks and Recreation Department

1835 Bismarck Expressway

Bismarck, ND 58504

Dear Mr. Perchal:

On behalf of PETAÂ’s more than 750,000 members and supporters, as well as the fish, birds, and other animals that make North Dakota state parks their home, we respectfully request that fishing be banned in all North Dakota state parks.

According to an article in U.S. News & World Report (“Parks in Peril,” July 21, 1997), the park system is bending under the pressure of encroachment, underfunding, overcrowding, and pollution. Eliminating fishing and its harmful effects would take some of this pressure off of the parks and their inhabitants.

The violent process of fishing and its consequences do not complement the peace and tranquility of a state park. As you know, fish have a neurochemical system like ours and thus the brain capacity to experience fear and pain. Fish who are torn from the water suffer from being impaled, thrown, stepped on, or mutilated while alive. Many die slowly and painfully from suffocation.

Fishing has other victims, too: In one case among many, a young bald eagle was found by the National Park Service, near death because of injuries to his feet caused by fishing line that had cut through his flesh, resulting in a systemic infection and intense suffering. He required intensive daily care for three months before he was successfully released. Not all animals are as lucky. Millions of birds and other animals suffer, and many die, from injuries caused by discarded fishing hooks, monofilament line, lead weights, and floats. Animals who become entangled in fishing line are often trapped underwater and drown or, unable to feed, die slowly of starvation. In fact, many wildlife rehabilitators tell us that fishing litter is the single greatest cause of injuries to aquatic animals.

North Dakota state parks have already made the compassionate choice to ban hunting, and we are asking you to take the next step. Fishing is just hunting in the water. The tide is turning on sportfishing with the widespread recognition of the sentience of fish and the desire to live a more compassionate, less harmful life. After reading the enclosed materials, we hope you will make the decision to ban fishing in North Dakota state parks and turn them into true havens for all.

Please contact me if you have any questions. I look forward to hearing from you. Thank you for your consideration.

Sincerely,

Dan Shannon

“Fishing Hurts” Campaign

Not surprisingly, PETA does not seem to be having much success. As a spokesman for Missouri’s State Parks told the St. Louis Dispatch after it received a letter from Shannon, “I can’t see any circumstances ever where parks wouldn’t open for fishing.”

In fact, while many Americans might be ambivalent about hunting, fishing remains very popular. In a Harris poll of Americans which asked people to rank their favorite leisure activities, fishing came in 3rd tied with spending time with family and kids, and behind only reading and watching television.

Sources:

PETA faces uphill battle on fishing issue. Tim Renken, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, December 29, 2001.

Reading, TV, Spending Time with Family, Gardening and Fishing Top List of Favorite Leisure-Time Activities. Humphrey Taylor, Harris Interactive, August 8, 2001.

PETA Hopes to Sink Fishing in North Dakota State Parks. Dan Shannon, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, Press Release, October 31, 2001.

Oops, HSUS Did It Again

It seems that the Humane Society of the United States can’t make up its mind about whether activists should protest Columbia, Missouri.

In a June 13, 2001, Humanelines e-mail — which is widely redistributed on numerous animal rights e-mail lists and web sites — HSUS wrote,

Stephens Lake recreational area, owned by the City of Columbia (MO) is waiting until the geese on their property begin molting (and are unable to fly) to round them up and send them to slaughterhouses. You can write to them in protest of their plan at: City of Columbia, Parks & Recreation Dept., (Attn: Karen Ramey), 1 South 7th St., Columbia, MO 65205 / email: klr@ci.columbia.mo.us / (573) 874-7460.

But less than 24 hours later they sent out a semi-retraction,

Regarding the Stephens Lake, Canada Goose Roundup & Slaughter printed in yesterday’s Humanelines, it appears as though the City of Columbia may NOT actually be engaged in such a slaughter plan. Please hold off on sending your protest letters until we can actually confirm the City of Columbia’s stance on this issue. We apologize for the confusion, and thanks for your patience!

Ariana Huemer
HSUS Government Affairs
ahuemer@hsus.org

Hey, everyone makes mistakes, but you’d think HSUS would thoroughly fact check a story before sending out a plea for people to call and write to protest.