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Sailesh Rao

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If we count human on animal violence, are we living in the most violent era ever?

As an example of the decline in violence, Steven Pinker uses the fact that in the middle ages, we used to consider a burning cat to be entertainment. And yet, Steven Pinker appears not to take into account human on animal violence in his statistical analysis of violence. Otherwise, I would think that the 60 billion animals that we routinely raise and slaughter for food each year would overwhelm all the violence that we were committing in the past, even on a per capita basis, and make this the most violent era ever.

Killing a cow for food is a violent act, even if it isn't done in public like burning a cat on stage for entertainment. In the past, I don't believe that we used to consume animal foods in the same proportion as we do now. At least, from 1960 to 2000, while population doubled, the consumption of animal foods quadrupled. The animal foods that we consume are mainly a result of unseen, outsourced violence, but violence on par with cat burning.

As our technological prowess increased, we became more adept at inflicting systematic violence on animals, birds, fishes and the Earth. Climate change, environmental degradation and human ill health can all be viewed as the Earth's reactions to this violence. Therefore, it is important that we measure violence correctly so that we may respond accurately and save ourselves.

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    Jul 9 2012: I foumd Steven Pinker's book "The better Angels of our nature" to be compelling. It shows strong evidence that this is absolutley NOT the most violent era - even so, even one occurance is too many for any victim.
    • Jul 9 2012: I have no doubt that his arguments are compelling, but violence across species boundaries is also violence and he seems to have largely ignored it. Just because an organism has the misfortune of having a tiny fraction of its DNA different from ours, we can't ignore the violence being committed on it and become too self-congratulatory about "the better angels of our nature." Nature doesn't make such anthropomorphic distinctions and we are now facing the catastrophic consequences of our myopia.
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        Jul 9 2012: He did not address this for sure but history does. How many millions of bisons were killed for the fun of it during the opening of the west? That must overide today in my opinion. With licensing etc. (and I am not for draining life out of anything) most hunters are kiling deer etc that are over populating, I think.

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