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Is Animal Life Equivalent to Human Life?

Updated on March 7, 2011

Animal vs. Human vs. Plant

This hub is in response to keepitnatural's question:

Do you consider the 'life' of an animal to be equivalent to that of a human's? If not then why not..

I say why limit the question to animal life?

Plants Think, I think.

Here's an excerpt from Tony Trewavas' work at the University of Edinburgh: "Intelligent behaviour, a complex adaptive phenomenon, is designed to increase fitness in variable environmental circumstances particularly those involving resource foraging and competition. Biologists suggest that intelligence encompasses the characteristics of detailed sensory perception, information processing, learning, memory, choice, efficient optimisation of resource sequestration with minimal outlay, self-recognition, and foresight by predictive modelling. There is good evidence that individual plant species exhibit all of these intelligent behavioural capabilities. Plants should therefore be regarded as prototypical intelligent organisms, a concept that has considerable consequences for evolutionary convergence and investigations of whole plant communication, computation and signal transduction."

Life is Life - All Life is Valuable

All multi-cellular life; Animal (including human), plants, and insects have the same basic make-up of DNA, complex cell structure, sensory organs, and intelligence. The differences are in degree.

I personally have great respect for all life, and will not kill any living thing without cause. In order to eat, we have no choice but to kill something, since we can't eat rocks. The vegetarian who won’t eat something with fur kills thousands of plants to happily munch their granola. Modern cultures draw the limit at eating each other, but the line between eating grass or your neighbor is only a matter of perceived value on each type of life.

I believe any attempt to value one type of life over another is fruitless, as the planet needs all forms to maintain a sustainable balance. Of all species, probably the least needed is Homo sapiens, as it is the most destructive and the only species capable of unbalancing nature.

As to feeling pain or having emotions, even plants possess these abilities. Our instincts, not our brain, position our species high on our value list. That being said, the question is strictly cultural and psychological.

My favorite animal
My favorite animal

I won't eat my neighbor, but

In my case, there is an animal that has my heart. My dog has for years shown me companionship and unquestioned love and is a better “person” than many people I know. He does not lie, steal, cheat, or otherwise attempt to gain from others pain, and would probably protect me with his life. I would definitely save him before many other people in a life-or-death choice, but my species-favoring instincts would rule in the case of a child, who would come before even my own self-preservation instinct.

So what's your opinion?

Will you step on an ant, spray a roach, or shoot a deer? Would you run over a woman pushing a stroller or shoot up a college campus? How do you feel about cutting down trees, drying up marshes, harvesting baby citrus plants and squeezing them to death for a glass of orange juice? How do you value life and how do you differentiate by species?


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    • danthehandyman profile image

      danthehandyman 4 years ago from Maryland

      Fire ants, killer bees, and giant tree roaches, wow! I have a cousin living in Texas, so I know what you mean when you say you will defend yourself to the best of your ability. So will I. Shame on the Homo sapiens who try to break into my house or assault me. I will give way to the bears, coyotes, and mountain lions that frequent my property. They don't know better, and I don't have livestock to protect. Humans do know better. That being said, all life is precious, and should be respected. But I agree with you that endangering oneself to save disease bearing organisms, violent creatures (no matter how many legs they possess) is silly. Our self-preservation instincts drive us to protect and feed ourselves. We need to eat, and that entails killing something. To disrespect life, and kill without reason, is immoral, in my opinion.

      Regarding your comments about the ecology, I agree Homo sapiens are the most destructive force on this planet. Our reproductive success is over-running the planet, much as a virus overwhelms and destroys its host. Without man's interference, nature balances. If you review human population projections, in not too many years our planet will not be able to sustain the projected number of our species.

      The destruction of our farmland, forests, oceans, and virtually every natural resource is increasing at an exponential rate. Your concerns about the health of the planet are well-founded. No laws, green energy projects, or sustainable living process will prevent this destruction. It is the battle for resources that is consuming Earth. That battle is driven by an exploding population. Money is the measurement of the value of the limited and exploited resources. The value of these resources is driven by demand. The demand is in direct proportion to the size of the world population. If you care about the ecology of this planet, ask yourself, "Do you consider the life of an animal to be equivalent to that of a human's?" What is the single species that is destroying the land, forests, and oceans?

      Thank you for your comments. You've given me some great thoughts to consider.

    • Au fait profile image

      C E Clark 4 years ago from North Texas

      Agree that all life is precious, but no, I do not equate the life of an animal or plant with that of a human. Charity begins at home -- saving lives should mean saving human lives first.

      Even so, I do not think animals should be abused or neglected. I grew up on a farm, and people who have done that tend to have a little different perspective about animals than people who have only known them as pets. Just the same, I know that animals aren't so different from people in that they do have their own personalities and dispositions, and their own intelligence that may vary from brilliant to incredibly stupid -- not so different from humans. I know that animals do have feelings.

      Since animals often depend on us because we have made them dependent on us, we owe them sincere effort to see that they are safe, healthy, and happy, and that they have what they need to accomplish that.

      Even so, there are some animals that I will destroy in a heartbeat if given the opportunity or need to do so -- fire ants, killer bees, mosquitos, ticks, fleas, poisonous snakes and spiders, etc. Yet even they are pretty safe so long as they stay out of my house, my territory. As far as useful bugs go, if they stay outside in their own domain, I will try to avoid harming them. I often carry them outside when I find them in my apartment if they are not among the nasty ones listed above.

      Yes, I know some nasty bugs are useful to other creatures, but that won't save them from me. I hate mosquitos no matter how many bats depend on them. They will probably fare better dealing with the bats than by dealing with me. I would install bat houses on my property if I had some property under my control, in an effort to control their numbers, but I would still kill any mosquito that made it convenient for me to do so.

      As for plants, I hate that so many of our trees are being destroyed. I like the natural habitat rather than the carefully landscaped. I think humans will not be happy until they have covered every square inch of this planet with asphalt or concrete, and putting trees in exotic bubbles producing oxygen that is then packaged and sold. It would seem that nothing has value to our species as a whole unless it makes money for somebody. Trees do that, but oxygen, at this point, doesn't to any extent, because it is so readily available, so the fact that trees as well as our oceans produce all of our necessary oxygen seems to be irrelevant to the powers that be. We are destroying trees and vegetation along with our oceans as fast as we can.

      We have the huge tree roaches here in Texas, bigger than my car. If I could somehow get a bridle on one of them and train it, I could save a lot on gas. Even though it takes half a can of Raid and practically kills me too as a result, I will spray one of those things if it comes into my apartment. On rare occasions I have clubbed them to death, but they rarely stay still long enough to give me that opportunity.

      Giant tree roaches have claws all the way up to their knees! They run faster than a jet can fly. Oh, and yes, they fly too. They sound like Hueys. Roaches are some of the smartest bugs on the planet and so they must know they are in great danger around me -- therefore stay away. I don't go out in bear territory because it is unwise and I expect smart bugs and vermin to be just as wary around me.

      If it's me or them, no matter what sort of critter it is, even human, I will defend myself to the best of my ability.

      Interesting, thought provoking article.

    • danthehandyman profile image

      danthehandyman 6 years ago from Maryland

      My dog will growl to protect children if you play rough with them, which is enough to make an adult back off. But what I meant to say is he will not let an adult tamper with his 'possessions' or food, but will allow children to do anything to him or his possessions that they choose. He understands children know no better and gives them latitude. Ethical behavior relates to the rightness or wrongness of actions and the goodness and badness of the motives and ends of such actions (according to one dictionary). This certainly seems to describe his behavior in this case, knowing the action is bad but the motives are not in the case of children, and that the motives are bad in the case of adults. Maybe I’m reading too much into his behavior, but he differentiates in a moral way.

      I also believe, like you, that all people have the ability for moral and ethical behavior. I wish everyone practiced their abilities to perfection, but I have to agree with you that many fail to exhibit their best. Thanks for your comment.

    • cat on a soapbox profile image

      Catherine Tally 6 years ago from Los Angeles

      Thanks, Dan. I can't imagine life w/o animal companionship. Your dog sounds great and smart to be wary of adults around the young ones he protects. Although not all humans exhibit it, we have the capacity for moral and ethical behavior which animals don't have.

    • danthehandyman profile image

      danthehandyman 6 years ago from Maryland

      Great thoughts, keepitnatural. I agree the ‘life force’ of your source of food becomes a part of you, and that wasting precious life is contempt for nature or God, your choice.

      Our degree of intelligence, cat-on-a-soap-box, does allow us to supersede our instincts. I have met several Homo sapiens that don’t seem to have enabled that part of the brain. Thankfully you have. I noticed your picture of a cat. My dog plays with cats, tries to play with squirrels, plays extremely well with babies and young children, letting them pull his tail and fur, even take his favorite treats or toys, without so much as a whimper. But he draws the line with adolescents or adults. It seems not only humans can override instinctual behavior. Makes you wonder about the people that can’t or won’t.

      Thanks to you both for your comments. What would the world be like if everyone had the respect for life you both display? Thanks for being Hubbers.

    • cat on a soapbox profile image

      Catherine Tally 6 years ago from Los Angeles

      Enjoyed your hub!

      I respect all life and am in awe of the survival and regeneration abilities of living things. When I think of the social colonies of ants and bees, the elaborate mating rituals of many species, and the ability of living things to go dormat and into suspended animation until factors work in their favor- I am humbled.

      Still, humans are capable of ethical behavior which goes beyond intelligence. It all really makes you think! Thanks.

    • keepitnatural profile image

      keepitnatural 6 years ago from Yorkshire, UK

      Wow, great hub, danthehandyman & what an amazing answer to my question! I have to say that I do agree with you almost entirely here. I do believe that eating plants & their fruits, while they are alive, is different to letting a plant die due to not watering it etc. I believe the 'life force' energy from the raw plant, vegetable or fruit is actually transferred to us when consumed & therefore it doesn't actually die at all, as it would in the other sense. This to me is a positive process, where as the ending of the life of a plant due to lack of care is more destructive. I feel sure I would also put the life of a child before any other, but as for an animal or adult human in a life or death situation -I don't know, it would depend on which looked the most desperate, I guess!? I'd never kill an insect, bug or anything else anyway -or a spider, even if it meant not entering a room until someone could come & remove it!