Stray Dog on Le Pont de l'Europe
The oil painting called Le Pont de l’Europe (English title:The Europe Bridge) from 1876 is an
study of oblique perspective in which three individuals are placed: a man and a women walking towards the observer, and a man looking off the bridge towards the train station. In the original version of the painting by French impressionist Gustave Caillebotte, the event depicted in the painting does not evoke any emotion. Moreover, the scene seems uninteresting and even boring. Who would look for a picture like this in an exhibition? In the second, final version of the picture a stray dog walks away from the observer, and also some other people appear in the mid-background. The picture is now completely different, exuding the merriment and serenity of a dog with a raised tail. Delightful, ingenious addition.
Revenge of Animals
The diseases that animals transmit to humans as well as diseases originating from the animal world can in general be termed “Revenge of Animals.” Many disasters and catastrophes through human history have been interpreted as a kind of payment for the damage done. Known as the Wrath of God, the Vengeance of the Sea, the Revenge of Nature or the Revenge of Gaia, as some examples. This strange phenomenon often occurs because of the brutal interventions of people over animals and nature. The examples are countless. A tsunami is a series of large waves produced by an underwater earthquake, or volcanic eruption. Following the towering tsunami that devastated Japan in 2011, Paul Watson, founder of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, posted a poem called “Tsunami” on Facebook, which describes how the tsunami is the fearful wrath of Neptune:
From out of the East with the rising sun
The seas fearful wrath burst upon the land
With little time to prepare or to run
Against a power no human can stand.
Many people think that the tsunami in March 2011, was some sort of retribution for whaling and fishing. The fact is that the local economy of destroyed cities was based heavily on commercial fishing and food processing, for example, Ishinomaki, the city with the highest number of victims: 3,173. The tsunami crashed deep into the cities across the bay and the rivers that flow into the ocean, destroying the ports and fishing boats.
One of the earliest records that describes the “Revenge of Animals” phenomenon is found in the book, Essays on Liberating Life by Zhuhong. He was the 16th century Chinese Buddhist leader, also known as the Great Master Lotus Pond. The first such story is about Mr. Gu, who was a butcher. He slaughtered countless oxen, until the day he suddenly went blind. His wife was also struck with a fatal disease. Day and night she screamed and said, “The underworld officers are butchering me as if I were a cow!,” until finally she died.
The second such story describes the tragic destiny of Wei Mou, from Wuxing County, Zhejiang Province. Wei Mou destroyed many bird nests and killed all kinds of little animals: squid, frogs, turtles and fish.
One morning he woke up exhausted with countless boiling bubbles on his body. Suddenly, countless birds, frogs, turtles and other animals came to eat the poor man’s body. Wei died in pain while the animals slowly bit him.
Though horrible, this bizarre legend certainly had the goal of being instructive. Zhuhong was an early animal advocate and practiced the “release of life” (Fangsheng ). Just like philosopher Pythagoras in ancient Greek, he was a vegetarian and he bought fish and other animals at the markets to set them free.
Causes and Consequences of Soviet Famine
Stalinist collectivization of agriculture from the late 1920’s to the mid-1930’s triggered the massive slaughter of domesticated animals. This decimation of livestock directly crippled the farming in the Soviet Union in the long term.
According to Bolshevik Leon Trotsky, (the Bolshevik leader who fled to Mexico), “The most devastating hurricane hit the animal kingdom.” The number of cattle, pigs and horses was halved. He blamed bureaucracy because “they could have regulated the process without carrying the nation to the edge of disaster.”
Many of the kulaks, a class of peasants who had become wealthy, burned their crops and killed their livestock rather than yield to collectivization. This policy soon led to The Soviet Famine of 1932 to 1933, a major famine that killed millions of people. Switching all the blame on the kulaks, Stalin had ordered
that kulaks were “to be liquidated as a class.” Thus they became a target of
the political repressions and state propaganda campaign as class enemies.
During the Second World War, the Times reported, “Whales, those greatest of mammals whose pastures comprise seven seas, will be hunted for their flesh, which will be used to help fill the gap in the nation’s meat supply.” The Department of the Interior gave reassurances that the meat was “wholesome when properly handled and it does not have the fishy taste which makes seal meat almost unpalatable.”
Due to the increased need for food after WWII, many countries had decided to purchase the meat in the ocean: more than 200,000 whales disappeared from the oceans without a trace. The last major famine to hit the USSR began in July 1946, but even earlier, in the 1930’s, the Soviet state had begun a commercial whaling operation in the North Pacific. They used a converted factory ship (fully equipped to process a whale or fish) named Aleut, to deal with its chronic problems of the population’s diet by mass whaling. They had many more ships in the Antarctic than any other country. Soviet whalers had ventured so far south, that it was one of the fastest and most secret decimations of an animal population in history. At that time, you could find whale meat on the menu of soviet public mess halls for students and workers. The main reason for the mass killing of whales was central planning-the way the economy functioned in communism, controlled by the state. There was a quota for every industry, including whaling, that had to be met according to the five-year plans that drove the Soviet economy.
Making All Things Equal
“As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams, he found himself transformed in his bed into a gigantic insect-like creature.“ In 1912, Kafka wrote the story “Die Verwandlung” (“The Metamorphosis”), published in 1915 in Leipzig. The story begins with a traveling salesman waking to find himself transformed into a ungeheuren Ungeziefer, a monstrous vermin, a giant bug. Ungeziefer, being a general term for unwanted and unclean animals not suitable for sacrifice. Critics regard the work as one of the seminal works of fiction of the 20th century. In Kafka’s letter to his publisher on October 25, 1915, he discusses his concern about the cover illustration for the first edition. He uses the term Insekt, saying “The insect itself is not to be drawn. It is not even to be seen from a distance.” Kafka uses the metaphor of metamorphosis to describe the dehumanizing and alienating aspects of human behaviour, like bureaucracy.
Chuang Tzu or Zhuangzi, one of the most influential ancient Chinese philosophers, next to Confucius, who lived around the 4th century BCE, wrote a collection of thirty-three short essays. In the “Discussion on Making All Things Equal,“ he also synthesizes (“make equal”) such opposites as Kafka did many centuries later.
Zhuangzi dreamt he was a butterfly, a butterfly flitting and fluttering around, happy with himself and doing as he pleased. He didn’t know he was Zhuangzi. Suddenly he woke up and there he was, solid and unmistakable Zhuangzi. But he didn’t know if he was Zhuangzi who had dreamt he was a butterfly, or a butterfly dreaming he was Zhuangzi.
Why is ‘Animals in Modern History Curriculum’ better than ‘Humane Education’?
Humane education is a very old idea, it was created in the late 1800’s and supported by SPCAs, such as the Massachusetts SCPA and the ASPCA. Although the idea is very noble, it has not taken root in schools to this day, and most US districts have rejected proposals to launch this education. An article entitled, ‘Humane Education’: Why it is not the right thing to do, published in 2013 by Dennis Foster, Executive Director, Masters of Foxhounds Association, on sportsmensalliance.org, reveals some of the reasons for the failure of this initiative based on how most parents still think about animals, not unlike the hunter mind-set.
The author of the text describes human education ‘a program of extreme ideological material they aspire to teach in our school systems.’ He also cites an example of one such lecture in which the screening of ‘Finding Nemo,’ was followed by a discussion that resulted in the anger of parents when their children came home declaring they could no longer eat meat or fish.
He called humane education animal rights extremism as well as that ‘politically charged philosophy regarding the use of animals should not be involuntarily forced upon children and families through indoctrination by organizations with extreme agendas that are incompatible with mainstream American values.’
When I started working on the documentary “Animals: A Parallel History,” the first feature documentary film about the role of animals in human history, and later turned into a global Animal History project, I was not familiar with humane education. I only learned more when I faced a lack of support from leading animal organizations and leaders.
The revolutionary idea behind the entire project is to introduce, Animals in Modern History Curriculum in schools worldwide for children starting at 12 years old, separately or as part of classic History. The project is now ready for global implementation. Animals in history are like an “elephant in the room,” something huge what we are missing in our education. My opinion is that Animals in Modern History fully realizes the early goals of the humane education founders.
What are the main differences and advantages of Animals in Modern History over Humane Education?
1. Humane Education is not based in learning facts, but learning the skill of noble behavior and a certain worldview. So, it is essentially an upbringing or ideal taught to children who have not received such an upbringing in their home from their family.
2. Consequently, Humane Education has not been accepted by most parents in the past, nor by schools, because Humane Education is not academic, but an educational tool.
3. Not only will there never be an academic education, but there will never be a single curriculum. This is also one of the problems why Animal History still does not have the support of leading animal organizations, because each of these organizations has its own version of human education. They most likely view Animal History as a competition, which is of course wrong.
Animals in Modern History is a very simple concept for installing in every school education. It consists of historical facts about human activities involving animals, the use of animals for entertainment, in agriculture, warfare etc., and cannot have multiple versions. I think it will be much easier to introduce humane education in school after the introduction of Animals in Modern History. And we already have classic History in every school. We can only add Animal History, if we have enough support and unity of action by the animal / environmental movement. We invited many of them but they have been reluctant to share our global petition.
We, humans, need to understand the enormous contribution of animals in human history because many important historical events simply could not happen without animals. The teaching of world history without animals is the false principle of our education, and therefore, it is not an accurate or complete history. This negatively reflects on our planet and all the animals who live on it.
Stevan Zivkov Andricin
Founder of Animal History Project, Director of, Animals: A Parallel History documentary movie, Author of, Animals in Modern History book, Author of, Revenge of Animals graphic novel.