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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: Well no I believe your trying to compare apples to cummbers. I don't know for sure but I have not seen any cows in my life set on fire for intertainment. I have put them on the bbq but only a steak or hamburger maybe ribs. I can also say I have never put any part of a cat on the afore mentioned grill.
    My ancestors climbed to the top of the food chain for a reason. I don't think we all should eat the cows chickens fish but that's a personel choice won't falut you for not eating meat and ask same. Now as far as counting the processing animals for food as violence NO afraid not. If we would count them don't forget anmial shelters game taken by hunter or the all important road kill also don't forget animal attacks. I think then you would have to do alittle readjusting for the population difference. Beware though figures lie and liars figure
    • Jul 9 2012: I don't see the distinction between setting a cat on fire and setting bits and pieces of a cow on fire in a barbecue. One was for entertainment and the other is for enjoyment and both are unnecessary.

      It is not about fault-finding but about recognizing and understanding the deep interconnectedness of our shared journey on this planet. What I do affects you and what you do affects me, profoundly.
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        Jul 10 2012: This is slightly incredible, the big distinction would be the fact that the cow's dead, that would be the first thing that comes to mind. So the cow can't feel pain at this point whilst the cat can.
        Our shared journey with livestock is that we've kept them alive so we've got food. It's not violent it's nature.
        • Jul 10 2012: Agreed that the cow is dead and can't feel pain when it is being burnt on the barbecue, while the cat does feel pain when it is being burnt alive. However, the cow was bred with the intent of killing it before its natural death and therefore, there is violence involved and there are ecological consequences to be faced. By all of us. Therefore, that violence matters and needs to be accounted.
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        Jul 10 2012: Sailesh what is you definition of violence? By your logic should we not be stopping lionesses from killing zebras and antelopes? They kill their prey before their natural death and they even purposefully aim for the young or the old in the herds.
        • Jul 10 2012: My broad definition is that violence is the presence of injustice, but I was only interested in having a conversation about human inflicted violence as it is we who are stressing the biosphere at the moment, not lions.
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        Jul 10 2012: Ok we'll agree on the fact that unfair treatment of animals during their life is not to be accepted in the world. But the biggest fault here is your inclusion of eating animals. We have to eat animals, if you want to talk about biospheres or ecosystems there has never been a case where an animal has purposefully decided to just not eat it's main source of nutrition.
        • Jul 11 2012: Animals may be the main source of nutrition in affluent diets, but it is certainly not the main source of nutrition for the majority of people on the planet. According to Prof. David Pimentel of Cornell, two-thirds of the people on the planet are consuming mainly plant-based foods, while the remaining one-third are consuming most of the animal foods. Therefore, eating animals is not a necessity, but a choice. It is a choice that the affluent are making, while effectively causing all Life on Earth to suffer in the process. I wrote a piece recently in IndiaWest on this issue:
          http://indiawest.com/blogger/185-Go-Vegan--Go-the-New.html
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        Jul 11 2012: I suspect there may be a correlation between wealth of a country and whether they eat meat or not.
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        Jul 11 2012: I do see a difference I see no reason to set a cat on fire even for enjoyment. The cow on the other hand is food for my body. I would agree that some of what I do affects you and vise versa but not all of what we do does. We will just have to agree to disagree on the eating of critters.

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