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We Are In The Midst Of The Greatest Extinction In History

Updated on October 1, 2008

As a race we are blind to the effects that we are having to the world around us. But this is not just limited to events at the scale of global warming. Let’s consider something as accepted and reasonable as animal husbandry. The agricultural process of raising dairy cows, or sheep, or pigs is a completely normal human endeavor. Humans, after all, have been agrarian for over ten thousand years, and throughout that time, we have domesticated various species to suit our needs. We have taken rangy, tough rangeland steers and evolved them into clumsy milk-gurgling meat balloons. We have taken hardy, combative wild sheep and turned them into obese, wooly puffs of apathy. We have taken fierce, brawny wild boars and changed them into mud-wallowing waddling sausages.

Our motivation for instituting these changes are reasonable. Cattle is prized for the amount of milk it can produce and the tenderness of its flesh. Sheep are only valuable in relation to how much wool they can produce. Pigs are really only a way to turn silage which ordinarily would have been trashed into valuable protein.

So? What’s wrong with that?

Nobody wants to eat rangeland steer or wild boar meat you’d have to cut with a chainsaw! Do you want to pay $15 for a litre of prairie milk? And before you complain, aren’t you wearing a virgin wool suit? Where do you think that comes from, a wool tree?

In this example we fall into our convenient, but flawed mindset. In order to truly evaluate the effect of animal domestication, we have to ask one simple question:

What happens to the animals if we were to disappear?

Let’s just say that in a wink, whether through the aerosolization of HIV, or the release of human-specific germ warfare, or the forced removal of humanity to another planet by some weird alien species (!), there are no more people. All that are left are the animals.

What happens to them?

Do we really think that there would be a single cow left by the end of the year? With no one to give them their shots, feed them, herd them, shelter them, they would be tasty meals for every carnivore from a good-size dog on up. Sheep? They would go even before the cows, since a few cats could easily take down a sheep. Pigs? They can’t even get out of their own way!

So we have taken animals which have evolved over millions of years to be fully self-reliant, completely capable of surviving and defending themselves in their natural environment and turned them into the ultimate failure for any living being: the dependence upon another species for their very life.

You see, other species cannot be trusted with the responsibility for your own genetic material. You cannot hand to another species the right to erase your genes from the face of the earth simply if they get preoccupied with something of greater importance than your wellbeing.

You can only rely on your own species. You have to take your own evolution into your own hands, or hooves.

But we have denied them this opportunity. We have created a situation where the animals are fully reliant on us. We have become an inextricable part of their own life cycle.

Yet, we cannot be trusted. Not with their future.

We always assume that we will be here forever. Yet we are so fragile, and we take such risks with the future of our race, that we do not have the means, nor the right, to be responsible for another species. We can’t even take decent care of ourselves!

What have we done to “domesticated” animals? We have exterminated them. We have already effectively erased their genetic feasibility for continued evolution. They are just living corpses, passing time away, waiting to become extinct.

We have bred cats with faces so squished that they require surgical interventions just to breathe. We have bred dogs so placid that the once-great predators are now barely amusing prey. We have bred chickens with breasts so topheavy they can barely stand, let alone fly.

Let's not even begin to discuss genetic modification where, in one extreme case, the genes of a goat and a spider were scrambled so that the goat would have within its milk an essential element of spider webs! Yes, I am aware that there is a pharmacological requirement for that substance, but am I the only one who feels queasy at the thought of a mammal walking around with arachnid genes?

All you need to do is key in a couple of words into Google and the full extent of this sheer unadulterated madness will be clearly evident. You can try:

  • BioSteel
  • Chimera (genetics)
  • Dolly the sheep
  • Gene flow
  • Gene pool
  • Genetic erosion
  • Genetic pollution
  • Genetically modified food
  • GloFish
  • GM food controversies
  • Ice-minus bacteria
  • LMO (Living Modified Organism)
  • Permaculture
  • Smart breeding
  • Synthetic Biology
  • Transgene

What you will discover is a global case of science gone wild, where anything is justifiable as long as someone can be found to provide a grant to pay for the research.

It is an indisputable scientific fact: We are in the midst of an extinction of species progressing at a rate greater than the one that wiped out the dinosaurs. And that’s not even counting the upcoming extinction of the species we have bred out of plausibility.

While some of us may think that we are improving species, instead we are exterminating them, diminishing the biodiversity of this planet and causing irreparable harm to our own species.

Should there be a moratorium on genetic manipulation of animals? After all, it is essentially only an extension of the disaster of animal husbandry which we have bestowed on the dwindling biodiversity of the Earth. Pandora's box has been open and it may be far too late to shut it now.

Let us just simply pray to whatever Deities we believe in that we will be spared from this massive extinction which we have created and are busily engaged in implementing to a greater degree every single day.


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    • Hal Licino profile imageAUTHOR

      Hal Licino 

      10 years ago from Toronto

      What gets me about cockroaches is that they could happily survive a nuclear holocaust. I have seen the future and it is a cockroach! :)

    • Chef Jeff profile image

      Chef Jeff 

      10 years ago from Universe, Milky Way, Outer Arm, Sol, Earth, Western Hemisphere, North America, Illinois, Chicago.

      Actually, in our area when pigs go feral they revert to a wild state in only a few generations.  We have many islands along the Mississippi where feral hogs look exactly like wild boars.

      As for cows, they would most likely disappear, but in some places cattle are still pretty hardy.  I'm thinking of Asia, where cattle are still pretty much wild.

      There are small groups of wild, genetically unaltered sheep in Scotland and other places.  Here in the U.S. there are some people who raise wild sheep from herds carefully protected from interbreeding or outside interference.

      While I believe 99% of these animals would go soon after we did, a core group of them might survive and thrive.

      Actually, it is we humans I worry most about.  without our A/C and heating, TV and radio, we'd be bored to death in a year, if it took that long!  Maybe 1% of us would make it through some planet-wie calamity, but most of us would lay down and die.

      Great hub - inspires a lot of thought!

      And watch out for those cockroaches!  They've been eyeing us with an uncanny know-it-all-gaze for several decades now!


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