The ethical catDecember 31, 2010
Big animals eat small animals. That is how the world works. If you don’t run fast enough, you’ll end as someone else dinner. Why should I take sides, when a cat kills a tiny little nestling or a lizard or some other cute animal? Should I support my cat, who lives with me and brightens my life? Should I support the birdie, who could be twiddling and could sing wonderful melodies in front of my window, if it has the chance to grow up?
Cats are wonderful companions and we can be glad that they chose to live with us. Of course, we provide food, shelter, medical care, and we show them our affection and appreciation but we get a lot back. Our cats comfort us, soothe us, amuse us, and teach us love. Unfortunately our beloved cats are predators, a characteristic they share with humans. Our feline friends are fortunately not as ferocious and devastating as we are but they have nevertheless a noticeable negative impact on wildlife. Cats kill!
Cats kill and humans kill too. I’m one of the individuals, who don’t like to kill and also don’t like the idea, that humans and other animals kill fellow creatures. Maybe I have inherited an above average amount of mirror cells in my brain or higher levels of estradiol. Maybe by some pure accidental circumstances my instinctive behavior was reprogrammed over the years. Whatever may be the cause, in my present state of mind I consider any kind of killing or causing harm to other creatures as negative. Animals who are carnivores of course don’t have the insight to feel or comprehend the pain that they are causing to their prey. To kill is their natural behavior. But humans should know better and humans should be able to control their natural instincts and I despise humans who kill. I despise hunters, butchers, executioners, suicide bombers and other terrorists, soldiers, generals and mass murderers.
Would I myself kill another creature in self defense? Certainly I would try to stay alive, I would try to escape and if that is not possible to neutralize an attacker with all the means that I have and I would take no chances. Having said that, first and foremost I would try to avoid any situation where I could get in danger. I don’t intend to enter territories of wild animals like grizzlies or polar bears, I don’t intend to take up weapons and fight, I ignore aggressive males and I try to avoid quarrels.
Unfortunately my choleric temper makes it difficult for me to avoid conflicts. I had numerous fistfights in my younger years and acted rather stupid — my neurotransmitter and hormone levels (dopamine serotonin, testosterone, estrogen, cortisol) made me do it, though that is no excuse. I am still ashamed.
I declared in the text above, that I despise hunters, butchers, executioners, suicide bombers and other terrorists, soldiers, generals and mass murderers. Some reader will consider this formulation to be aggressive and I want to make clear, that my statement doesn’t imply that I intend to take violent action against individuals that are covered by this list. I’m not in the position to curb their activities but even if I would have the power, I only would try every possible peaceful way to stop the killing. The reality is unfortunately, that my options are very limited and so the killing will go on unabated. The only thing I can do is to voice my discontent with the violence and the ongoing killing.
I’m also not able to stop animals to kill each other. The falcons will go on to kill mice, the foxes will kill chickens, the dragonfly larvae in my garden pond will kill any other water born insects, the hedgehogs in the garden will kill snails (very welcome), the birds will kill worms and my cats will kill rodents. Of course I could keep the cats indoors, but then they would eat more cat food made from animals that are killed in animal factories far away. I prefer that they “eat local” (and kill local).
My cats are terrible killers. They often bring me “presents” in the form of death mice, rats, squirrels, moles, voles and birds. Min Ki and Cindy are the most skilled hunters of the cat family and they occasionally brought even young rabbits home. I remember with terror when Cindy pulled a rabbit, that was nearly her size, with astonishing energy end endurance from the wood across the road through a gap in the garden fence, up the stairs to the entrance door and through the cat flap into our kitchen. And then she sat there, dining on the corps, while her fellow cats were sitting around her and were looking in amazement and admiration, and my wife Herta and I were looking in horror and disgust.
My cats also killed already two frogs from the garden pond, what prompted me to put a small piece of wire fence on the side of the pond where the frogs normally are. The woven steel wire grid is now overgrown and nearly invisible but it is obviously enough protection for the frogs, because there were no further casualties since I installed it.
Cindy also once fetched a lizard, while we were making our obligatory daily walk in the forest. I didn’t see the lizard and I didn’t expect that lizards would be there, because they are very rare now in our area. When I saw the lizard in her snout, I grabbed her and picked her up by the scruff of her neck and pulled the lizard out of her snout. The lizard disappeared in the grass, I have no idea if it survived the injuries but at least it could move out of danger, so there is some hope that it recovered.
Cindy was very disturbed by my reaction and I had to sit down with her and explain that lizards are an endangered species and I had not seen a lizard for ten years and that I wished that this individual could reproduce and maybe a little colony of lizards would establish here — what would of course also be a positive development for Cindy. I know, that she didn’t understand my argumentation but my calm words soothed her down and the next day she seemed to have forgiven me. I suspect though, that my educational effect will only make her careful, not to kill a lizard while I’m watching.
Quite often the cats bring their prey into the house while it is still alive. They carry the mice or birds in their snout very carefully, they know that it is more fun when the unfortunate victim is not injured and can jump and fly around. Sometimes they let the caught animal free and watch interested as the mouse disappears in one of the inaccessible gaps of the kitchen furniture or the bird flies onto the bookshelves in the living room to hide behind the books.
I’m not so sure, why the cats do this, maybe they want to establish a population of mice or birds inside the house so that they don’t have to go outside on rainy and cold days. Or it could be that they want us (me and my wife Herta) to join them and take part in their game and have fun in the same way as they have fun.
If the cats assume, that we have fun running after peeping mice and chirping birds in the house they are certainly wrong, though Herta and I have now some expertise and skills and are able to catch the poor animals without harming them further. I use a transparent plastic note paper cube that I put over the mouse as it is crouching in a corner or running along the wall. One has to be quite fast and also predict the movements of the mouse but I’ve learned that over time. When the mouse finally is trapped I carefully insert a thin plastic plate between the floor and the box and turn the whole construction around. The mouse is now sitting in the box and is looking at me. I have to say, this mice are pretty and cute. It is sad, that mice are a plague and can’t be domesticated easily and even more sad, that they can’t live peacefully side by side with the cats. Life is not perfect!
Anyway, I then carry the mouse out and across the road to let it free into the wood after I have instructed it to run far away and avoid this place in future. I don’t know, if the mice will take my advice but what else can I do?
The animal rights advocacy group PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) recommends that cats be kept indoors because they will “play with” (torture) birds and mice. PETA says that most cats are well-fed and kill for fun rather that for food. There is also advice that cats should wear a collar with bells. I’m sure that our cats would be devastated and very disturbed if they had to wear a bell collar. I also know that they would suffer if they were confined to the house.
All my cats either grew up as outdoor cats or were feral cats before they joined our family and they are not used to be locked up. My wife Herta once tried to cure Cindy’s chronic diarrhea with a special veterinarian diet and incarcerated her for one week in the tools room. We lived in another house at that time and the tools room had a window with a view of the surrounding meadows and trees. Cindy sat all the time at the window watching her fellow cats outside and she got more and more phlegmatic and depressive. She was so indescribable happy when Herta finally allowed her to go out again. I got watery eyes as I watched her joyful jumping high into the air and rolling on the floor in poor pleasure. Her diarrhea was not cured by then but it got miraculously cured soon after. Cindy’s self prescribed natural diet of mice was obviously superior to the veterinarian diet.
I have to come back to the argument of “indoor advocates” that most cats are well-fed and kill for fun rather that for food. I cannot confirm this assumption, our cats kill for fun AND for food. In spring and summer the cats eat roughly 200 gram canned food and 100 gram dry food per day. That is for five adult cats. As it gets colder in late autumn and mice are harder to come by they need significantly more and in winter, when everything is covered with snow, they eat at least 400 gram canned food and 300 gram dry food every day. And that is despite the fact, that they are laying around and sleeping most of the time (cats spend normally two third of their live sleeping but in winter it seems to be even more). Feeding recommendation for an average cat are 200 – 300 gram food daily, that would be 1000 to 1500 gram for five cats. My cats are for sure not undernourished, Rosy and Sumo aka Indi are in fact quite chubby.
The ecological cat
My cats have a comparatively small “carbon pawprint”. They don’t need cat litter (which would increase our waste notably), and they prefer to “eat local”. I try to help them being ecological responsible members of the animal kingdom with the choice of cat food. I have to say, it is not an easy choice!
For many years I didn’t pay much attention to this issue and I didn’t think about the quality of pet food and I bought what was easily available in supermarkets or pet shops. It is only since 2006 that I started a critical review of my practices and I found out to my dismay, that most cat food is a mix of junk from slaughter houses and vegetable gluten/protein (wheat, corn, soy, rice) with synthetic vitamins, chemical preservatives and artificial colors.
The ash content of even the expensive brands is 4 percent and more. The word “ash” here (hopefully) doesn’t mean the ash from a fireplace, it is a technical term for the amount of minerals that remains after cooking. The minerals can be sodium, potassium, magnesium, iron, copper, zinc. Some minerals are beneficial for a cat’s health in trace quantities but the overall percentage of ash should be as low as possible.
Due to the industrial production process, long storage times and low quality ingredients the food often contains spoiled fat, bacteria, mold and mold toxins. Cats can die from salmonella and botulism contamination and the mold toxins found in the grains of cat food can cause liver failure. My beloved cat Harry died from liver failure. He was a terrific hunter and the canned food was probably less than half of his nutritional intake but I cannot rule out that the canned food contributed to his death. What did I do to Harry! What did I do to all my cats! I feel terrible guilty!
In 2007 there was a big scandal when pet food was sickening and killing thousands of cats and producers all over the world had to recall more than 5000 pet food products. The food was contaminated with melamine contained in wheat gluten and other vegetable protein which the companies had bought in gigantic amounts from a Chinese company. The contamination concerned cheap products as well as (supposedly) quality products. For instance many Purina, Hill’s and Royal Canin products had to be recalled.
The vegetarian cat
The vegetarian cat prefers carrots that are well rounded and not too long, so that they can roll on the kitchen floor and be chased around like a mouse. It would be of course more fun, If the carrots would also jump and peep, but vegetarian cuisine unfortunately has its limits.
Carnivores (meat eater) in general have a higher ecological impact than herbivores (vegetarians) because they eat other animals that have ecological footprints themselves. Carnivores need far more land than herbivores and if the meat comes from factory farms as most of the pet food does the ecological impact is devastating.
Producing one calorie from animal protein requires 11 times as much fossil fuel and releases 11 times as much CO2 (carbon dioxide) than producing a calorie from plant protein. Feeding massive amounts of grain and water to farmed animals, killing them and processing, transporting, and storing their meat is energy intensive. In addition, enormous amounts of CO2 from trees are released during the destruction of forest to provide pastureland and to grow crops for farmed animals. The digestion process of farm animals and the manure also releases large quantities of CO2, CH4 (methane) and N2O (nitrous oxide). CH4 and N2O are both greenhouse gases. CH4 is 20 times more powerful than CO2 and N2O is even 300 times more potent than CO2. The meat, egg, and dairy industries account for 66 percent of worldwide N2O emissions.
I will not be able to convert my cats into vegetarians. They eat little pieces of cheese and butter and also noodles and occasionally cookies that Herta made for guests and forgot to put away. Cindy also eats sometimes sunflower seeds or pumpkin seeds. I don’t think that such food should be a stable part of their diet. Cats need taurine and arachidonic acid, which they only get from meat. Vegetarian cat food with added taurine and arachidonic acid exists (Ami and Benevo), I plan to experiment with that in future though I worry about possible urinary tract problems. I will mix small portions of vegetarian food with organic food. Yarrah organic cat food was well received, though it is not my cats favorite dish.
The responsible cat
Organic food is preferable not only because of the lower ecological impact but also because the bacterial load of most commercial meat is very high and the use of additives in pet food is far less restricted that in food for human consumption. In the USA nearly 4,000 chemicals are approved for use in pet food. There is also another fact to take into account, one that is not obvious at first glance:
All four of the large pet food manufacturing companies — Nestlé, Colgate-Palmolive, Procter & Gamble and Mars have conducted invasive animal testing of pet foods. Although all companies claim to have stopped invasive tests none of them is endorsed by campaign groups that raised these issues because the companies are all involved in animal testing of other consumer products. They are subject to a boycott call by Uncaged (a British animal rights organization).
All this considerations narrow down the choice of cat food to only a few brands. I have not completed my research yet and the jury is still out, for now I go with PETA’s approved list: Ami, Benevo, OrganiPets, Vitalin, Yarrah. To this list I have to add Animonda Classic, a German product, because the cats love it and it has only 1,6 percent ash and contains pure meat plus lentils and no soy, cereals, coloring or preservatives.
In the end, the cats will have the final say and show me what I have to buy. Unfortunately the cats often do not agree and have very different preferences and I would have to prepare a separate dish for each of them (doing this could become very complicated). The cats also look what their fellow cats are doing and take their clues and if they see that another cat shuns the food they also reject it. Sometime the cats go on a collective hunger strike but fortunately they are not so steadfast in this respect. Usually I put all the rejected food into one cup and leave the room. When I come back after two hours or so the cup is empty.
The political correct cat
There is also a political aspect which I need to take into account. For quite some time I bought products from Royal Canin, because the veterinarian recommended them. The veterinary diets were meant for Cindy and Lizzy. A special product from Royal Canin for sensitive digestion became the favorite dish of Lizzy and all the other cats liked it too. I was glad that I had found something that was supposedly of high quality and also appreciated by the cats. What I didn’t know was that Mars bought Royal Canin in 2002. Mars is a US company which grew big with candy and all other kinds of unhealthy food. The company is owned by the Mars family, which is one of the wealthiest (33 billion US$) and also most conservative family clans.
I have to be more careful, where my money goes! Unfortunately, many small companies are bought by big multinational corporations or by equity firms and it is very difficult to find out, whom you support with your payments. In the case of Royal Canin I would have made an exception for Lizzy, but Lizzy is dead now.
Just for the record: Yarrah is owned by dutchman Jan-Jaap Roelevink, Animonda by Heinrich W. Risken and relatives (Stockmeyer/Heristo). Former owner Dr. Arno Risken was convicted of fraud and tax evasion — the cats don’t know that and they probably wouldn’t mind.
The ecological cat again
Providing dry food instead of canned food is undoubtedly more ecologically friendly as much of the weight of wet food (some 80 percent) is actually water. I buy dry food always in the biggest available portions (usual 10 kg). As I told in this text before, my cats get canned food as well as dry food. There are always two cups of dry food standing in the kitchen and in the living room and the cats decide by themselves how much dry food they want to add. I have put big bowls of water beside the food cups and there are also water bowls in other rooms which I refill nearly every day so that they have no excuse for not drinking enough. All the food cups are stainless steel and I wash them after every meal. Normally the cats eat in the morning after I wake up (I better don’t disclose when that is) and in the evening between 6 pm and 8 pm.
There is an emotional debate raging about the health dangers of dry food and the claims of the opponents are, that dry food can have a dehydrating effect, which may lead to urinary tract infections and kidney disease. Opponents also say, that dry food tends to be higher in carbohydrates, which increases the risk for inflammatory bowel disease, obesity, diabetes, and cancer.
A study from the University of Missouri-Columbia in 2007 found no significant difference between a dry food and a wet food diet and another study from the University of Pennsylvania in 2006 about the health of a population of long-term vegetarian cats (the majority of them vegan) found that most were clinically healthy.
In the end I will try to find a sensible compromise and feed the cats a mixture of vegetarian and organic canned food as well as dry food. I would also like to give them more leftovers but I’m a vegetarian and my wife has reduced her meat consumption in the last years significantly. Until now the cats liked all the cooked meat that I offered them but there are simply not enough leftovers to make any difference in their diet.
The invasive cat
There are no reliable statistics about the worldwide cat population — who would be counting them? The total number of domestic cats in the world is thought to be around 200 million. If one adds to that another estimated 200 million feral (free roaming) cats that would sum up to 400 million cats in total.
The country’s with the most cats are:
The statistics differ widely and are probably not very accurate.
Feral cat overpopulation is a problem, because cats not only kill rodents, what is very appreciated by the farmers, but also birds. Bird populations all over the world are in free fall and the cats contribute to the decline.
It was in March 2009, when Cindy and Wendy, our two cat girls that we rescued six month before from an abandoned farm, suddenly changed their behavior and spent all time outside. They were undoubtedly in heat and waiting for a suitor. They didn’t have to wait long, “Romeo” came and had fun with his two “Julia’s”.
We lived at this time in a remote old farmhouse and the next neighbor in a distance of about 100 meter was a farmer. The farmers here always have a colony of cats because the cats keep the rodent population down. These farm cats are practically feral cat colonies, because the farmers don’t provide food or any veterinarian care for them. But the cats are attached to the farms because there are lot of mice and rats to catch and they find shelter in the barns and stables. The farm cats don’t get old, they die after two or three years from parasites and bacterial infections. Our neighbor had his cat colony wiped out completely at least once while we were living in this place and he told us that he had to fetch a bunch of kittens from a friend to reintroduce a cat population on his farm.
One of this kittens by the way was Min Ki, who lives now with us and is the head of our cat family. But this is another story, I will tell more about Min Ki in a separate blog entry.
At the time when Cindy and Wendy grew up there was a big and very pretty tomcat on the neighboring farm. It was a black and white longhair with a weight of approximately seven kilo. The farmers don’t give their cats names but we called this tomcat “Romeo” for obvious reason. Romeo was a nice and social cat, he had made friends with the farmers dog and the two were always wandering across the fields side by side looking for mice. Romeo visited our house regularly, he obviously was interested in our two Julia’s (Cindy and Wendy). Min Ki normally defended our place against foreign cats but Romeo was too strong for her. I always went out when I saw Romeo coming with Min Ki at my side and we chased him away but Romeo came also in the night or when I was not at home.
Romeo was an adorable cat but he had the common and yet unfortunate behavior of tomcats to claim our house as his territory and to spray the entrance door and other points outside — everybody who was ever in a similar situation will confirm, that the sprayed urine from a tomcat stinks terribly.
I suspected that Romeo was successful courting Cindy and Wendy. Abstinence-only is not an option for adolescent cats in heat (and as the statistics show also not for human adolescents). We brought Cindy and Wendy to the vet where they were spayed and the vet told us afterwards that Cindy would have got three and Wendy five kittens. I really hate the idea of abortion but we had six cats at that time and an additional eight cats would have converted our home to a cat shelter.
The simple math is: two female cats and all of their offspring, producing 2 litters per year, with 3 surviving kittens per litter and half of the kittens female will result in 23 cats after one year, 149 cats after two years, 935 cats after 3 years, 5837 cats after four years. Maybe if all these lovely cats get good care they could even reach the magic number of 6000.
2 + 6 = 8 (2 + 3 = 5 females)
8 + 15 = 23 (5 + 7 = 12 females)
23 + 36 = 59 (12 + 18 = 30 females)
59 + 90 = 149 (30 + 45 = 75 females)
149 + 225 = 374 (75 + 112 = 187 females)
374 + 561 = 935 (187 + 280 = 467 females)
935 + 1401 = 2336 (467 + 700 = 1167 females)
2336 + 3501 = 5837 (1167 + 1750 = 2917 females)
All my cats are spayed females.
Spaying and neutering cats has a number of benefits. Besides controlling overpopulation, the procedures results in a beneficial mood change. Fixed animals get less cancer, are less likely to roam and fight, and are much quieter. When in heat a female will meow and cry day and night for at least one week.
When Min Ki joined our family, we waited two weeks to make sure that she really wanted to stay with us and then we brought her to the vet. She was a queen and is demoted to a princess now. I remember when she came home and was staggering around in the kitchen still affected by the anesthetics. I felt so sorry for her. But she didn’t blame us, the next day she was fine and she developed very well since then.
Some infos about invasive species
Since the cats teamed up with humans some ten thousand years ago, they have spread all over the world. They are on every continent, they are even on small islands far away out in the oceans. Cats couldn’t do that by themselves, they are not good swimmers — most of the cats avoid water. The cats were on board of sailing ships that visited the islands and when they were left on the islands they found themselves on top of the food chain and caused havoc among the indigenous species.
The Ascension Island in the South Atlantic Ocean is an important breeding place for seabirds. When cats were brought to the island in the 19th century, they caused the collapse of the bird population from 20 million birds to less that 400,000. Two species, the flightless Ascension Rail and a night heron, were driven to extinction.
In recent years governments have started to remove (kill) cats from remote islands and they were successful in many places. Killing is for sure what we can do best. The extermination of the cats had in some locations though unintended consequences, because the number of mice and rats and rabbits exploded and the birds were now eaten by rats and their habitat destroyed by rabbits. The removal (killing) of rats and rabbits is now on the way, I don’t know what the authorities intend to do with the mice.
Cats are included in a list of 100 worst invasive species, distilled from the “Global Invasive Species Database” which is maintained by the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature). This database is helpful and necessary, it has a serious flaw though because it doesn’t contain the most invasive species on earth, a species who is undoubtedly responsible for most of the extinctions and declines of animal population.
The most invasive species on earth has caused the greatest mass extinction since the annihilation of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago. This sixth mass extinction in the history of the planet began about 11,000 years ago. Main causes beside predatory killing are habitat destruction, pollution and climate change. The present rate of extinction is estimated to be 140,000 species per year. 90 percent of the large fish in the oceans have disappeared, 20 percent of vertebrates are endangered. If present trends continue, half of all species on earth will be extinct in less than 100 years.
The most invasive species on earth, curiously not included in the mentioned list of 100 worst invasive species, is the homo sapiens.
Some infos about the most invasive species
Humans have achieved superiority on this planet not because of their superior ethical behavior, but because they are the most ferocious and ruthless predators. Humans are better killers than any of their fellow animals.
When our ancestors spread across the world, they destroyed everything what got in their way. They devastated needlessly any place they conquered. Human history is a continuous sequence of terrible atrocities. Humans fight an ongoing war against nature and against the other creatures on this planet, causing the extinction of many species and the collapse of whole ecosystems. Humans also fought and still fight among themselves in wars between tribes and nations. The occasional pauses between wars are called “peace”, These pauses are not the normal state and they are only used to develop new and more deadly weapons.
As we reach now a point, where the burning of fossil fuels, pollution by waste and toxic chemicals, the mass extinction of species and the destruction of forests and wetlands causes the breakdown of many ecological systems and threatens all life it becomes clear, that humans are the greatest pest, the most dangerous menace this planet has ever see.
Whoever despite the noted evidence upholds the assumption, that there is a natural ethical law, or voices the opinion, that there is some inherent ethical force in human nature, is either a delusional idiot or a cynical opportunist.
It is true though, that humans are social animals. They did not have thick fur to protect against cold or huge jaws to kill and tear apart the prey, but they hunted in small groups and invented weapons and tools that made it possible to succeed against stronger and more robust animals. As humans populated new areas and changed from hunting and gathering to farming, the groups got bigger and the social organization more complex. The weapons and tools also got more sophisticated. These developments made a specialization and the distribution of roles/tasks necessary and humans became more and more dependent on each other. (Berger/Luckmann: The Social Construction of Reality)
It is also true, that humans have archaic instincts, hard-wired behaviors that enable us to cope with environmental contingencies. Some of these instincts have a social purpose and are usually cited as a proof, that a natural ethical basis exists. The protection of children and other week members of the society and repugnance against killing are the usually mentioned examples.
But there are many individuals who kill, and often kill indiscriminately. They are mostly males and they are soldiers, hunters, law enforcement officers, butchers, executioners. For some of them killing is amusing and satisfying. There are also individuals who organize and facilitate mass killings, like politicians, generals, inventors and producers of weapons. These members of our society are not despised and branded as sociopaths, they are often honored and admired.
I don’t want to base my case on general assumptions and anecdotal evidence and therefore I compiled a short list of historical events.
In the eight century 30 million Chinese died in the An Shi rebellion. 25 million Chinese died, when the Manchu Dynasty established its rule. 20 million Chinese died in the Taiping rebellion and 10 million in the Dungan Revolt. 40 million died in the Mongol Conquests. Some 8 million Europeans died in the Thirty Years’ War and 4 million in the Napoleonic wars. 10 million native Americans died when European nations colonized the Americas. 15 million people perished in WW1, 60 million in WW2. Stalin killed 20 million Russians, Hitler 12 million Jews, Poles and Gypsies. The Khmer Rouge killed 2 million people in Cambodia. 20 Million Chinese died under Japanese occupation in WW2 and Mao’s cultural revolution caused the death of 30 million Chinese. 10 million congolese were killed by the Belgian colonizers, 4 millions died in the Second Congo War.
A few other randomly selected historical events in the 20th century:
Nanking Massacre (also known as “Rape of Nanking) by Japanese troops. Fire bombing of German and Japanese cities (Dresden, Hamburg, Pforzheim, Tokyo, Nagoya, Osaka, Kobe). Atomic bombs against Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Armenian genocide, genocides in Bosnia, Rwanda, Indonesia (PKI, East Timor), Sudan.
Everything what I learned about history tells me that there is no ethical behavior of humans. Ten thousands of philosophical treatises and discourses about ethics and morals are at best an intellectual exercise by playing with words and creating meaningless intellectual constructions. At worst the papers are nonsense, hogwash, baloney and beyond that they are pretentious and hypocritical, trying to create the myth of an unique status of humans as the “crown of creation” in contradiction to the striking evidence of humans being the greatest plaque and the moth dangerous hazard to life on earth.
If there is any natural ethical rule of human nature it is the ethics of hypocrisy, sanctimoniousness, bigotry and dishonesty.
There are top ranking hypocrites:
The politicians, experts, managers who travel to conferences about Climate Change and other environmental perils via airplanes. The bankers and industrialists worrying about profit growth when 1.4 billion people live below the international poverty line (earning less than $1.25 per day) and one billion are undernourished. The politicians implementing austerity measures that will not effect them. The politicians increasing military spending while cutting funding for social services. The CEOs who lay off workers and cut wages while increasing their own bonuses.
And there are the “Jane Doe”, “Joe Blow” hypocrites, who lament the disappearance of nature and make no effort to change their lifestyle. Who buy cheap gadgets and appliances made in China and wonder, why the factories in the western countries close down. Who rage against the BP oil spill in the gulf and continue to drive around with their SUVs. Who go on shopping sprees in supermarkets and malls and need then to throw away the old stuff and are perplex that the drinking water is polluted by industrial facilities or landfills (we produce four billion tons of waste a year worldwide but reuse, recover or recycle barely a quarter).
One should also include into this category the pet lovers who are disturbed and horrified about videos of cruelty against animals and nevertheless enjoy their barbecue and their steak. They spend considerable amounts of money for their pet companions and eat meat despite the fact, that it comes from big industrial farms where the animals are held in tiny cages and are suffering throughout their short lives. We actually kill three times as many animals for their flesh and eat probably 20 percent more meat as we did when Peter Singer wrote “Animal Liberation” in 1975.
I have to ask again, who would, despite clear contradicting evidence want to uphold the assumption, that there is a natural ethical law, that there is some inherent ethical force in human nature?
It is true, that humans are social animals, It is true that some of our instincts have a social purpose (protection of children and a psychological blockage against killing). If some of these archaic instincts could be considered as the basis of an ethic framework, others are threatening our very survival. The instinct to reproduce led to an overpopulation with 6.7 billion people crowding this planet. Though some experts claim, that the planet could nourish even 10 billion people, the existence of poverty and hunger, the scarcity of resources like clean drinking water, and undeniable damages to the ecosystem suggest, that 6.7 billion are already far too much.
I wrote before, that there are about 400 million cats on this planet and they are regarded as an ecological threat, as an “invasive species”. If I look at my little cats, they need such a small amount of food compared to me, they don’t need cloth and don’t drive around in cars, they don’t buy computers or cellphones or other things that are produced in factories with a big amount of energy and resources. They are not poisoning air, water and soil. Their “carbon pawprint” is tiny, is negligible compared to my “carbon footprint”. If they are regarded as an ecological threat and are therefore be eradicated (killed) in some places, how much more dangerous must 400 million humans be? How much more devastation will 400 million humans cause?
The sad and nearly incomprehensible fact is, that there are not only 400 million humans, there are 6.7 billion humans living on this planet. 6,700,000,000 people.
The US American biologist Eric Pianka, who’s scientific research and publications made him an influential figure, argued in a speech for the Texas Academy of Science in 2006, that the earth would not survive unless its population was reduced by 90 percent. And he suggested, that a mutant strain of ebola (which has a mortality rate of nearly 90 percent) would be the most efficient way to reduce the human population. After he finished his address Pianka was given a standing ovation.
The speech caused a major controversy, Pianka and members of the Texas Academy of Science received death threats and Pianka was interviewed by the FBI. It is clear that his statement was not meant literarily and only should illustrate the severity of the situation. Eric Pianka posted an explanation on his website, here is an excerpt:
“I have two grandchildren and I want them to inherit a stable Earth. But I fear for them. Humans have overpopulated the Earth and in the process have created an ideal nutritional substrate on which bacteria and viruses (microbes) will grow and prosper. We are behaving like bacteria growing on an agar plate, flourishing until natural limits are reached or until another microbe colonizes and takes over, using them as their resource. In addition to our extremely high population density, we are social and mobile, exactly the conditions that favor growth and spread of pathogenic (disease-causing) microbes. I believe it is only a matter of time until microbes once again assert control over our population, since we are unwilling to control it ourselves. This idea has been espoused by ecologists for at least four decades and is nothing new. People just don’t want to hear it… I do not bear any ill will toward humanity. However, I am convinced that the world WOULD clearly be much better off without so many of us… We need to make a transition to a sustainable world. If we don’t, nature is going to do it for us in ways of her own choosing. By definition, these ways will not be ours and they won’t be much fun. Think about that.”
Some times ago I had one of my morning hour dreams and the dream was so frightening, that I woke up and I didn’t forget anything what I dreamt. It was a dream where a nation in the middle east, who felt threatened by the demographic development in this region spread a virus, that made men infertile. The virus lived in the urinary tract and was spread through the drinking water. The plan worked well, even better than planned and all men of the targeted population became infertile. But the virus didn’t stop there and spread across the region and infected all men and also the population of the state that had hatched this plan. And though biologists all over the world started to work feverish on vaccines and treatments and possible remedies the virus contaminated more and more water reservoirs and spread all over the world. The virus could survive in water indefinitely and it also mutated constantly, what made the development of a vaccine impossible. In only a few years every single male individual of the species homo sapiens was infected and infertile and there were no more children born.
It took some years till the consequence of this development was comprehended and it became clear to everybody, that the humans would get extinct and that all scientific research around the world could not save mankind. There were cloning experiments and complicated drug treatments and surgical procedures but nothing was successful. Some men regained their fertility but all the born children had sicknesses and malformations and died after some years. It became clear that the human genetic code was damaged irreparably and there was no way to reconstruct it. The human genome project had cataloged all DNA but the functions of the DNA sequences were never fully understood and there was no way to construct an artificial human being from the code.
As the population grew older and fewer and the final days of humanity got nearer the nations of the world came together in several conferences and discussed in a sober atmosphere, how to close down the human operations in an orderly way and how to pave the way for another species to take over.
Visionary scientist all over the world had prepared their papers and a public discussion had been going on for some time about all related questions and it took not long to come to a conclusion.
The conclusion was, that the elephants, the most intelligent land based animals should be promoted and supported and humans should help the recovery of elephant populations and the establishment of colonies everywhere on the planet. The task was not too difficult, because at this time there were only four billion humans left and nature already began to recover by itself.
So all over the world buildings were adapted to elephant shelters and to warehouses where the elephants could store their food. Large areas of land were converted from farmland to grassland and bamboo and bushes and millions of trees were planted so that the elephants could easily find enough to eat. The elephants learned astonishing quick how to use the shelters to their advantage and they got familiar with the concept of storing reserves and as their population grew some elephant families were moved north to Europe where they spent their first winters. They were advised by their human friends, how to use the storage facilities and the shelters and it was astonishing to see, how intelligent this animals were and how well they could adapt.
After another twenty years the elephant population had soared. Humans had closed down all atomic power plants and sealed all nuclear waste and toxic waste storage areas. Factories all over the word reduced and finally stopped production and were sealed or converted, so that they did not pose a threat to nature. The elephants had in the meantime understood what was going on and they cooperated with the humans in an ingenious way and they also started helping the elderly and frail humans and were nursing them. It was a fruitful and harmonious cooperation and many humans were relieved and died peaceful with the comforting notion that the transformation from the human civilization to the elephant civilization would continue smoothly and that the crimes that humans had committed would be at least to a small part be forgiven by nature.
As I write these last paragraphs of the text princess Min Ki is sleeping on my lap. She has curled up, she is completely quiet and she looks wonderful. I am glad that she is her despite the fact that typing on the computer keyboard with a cat on the lap is a bit tiring. I softly fondle her and whisper:
“Dear friend, you will not rule the world, you will not take over from us. You would cause havoc like we do now. But you are a great cat and I hope, we can spend some more years together and have a good live and do everything right in the limited time that we have.”