Livestock has always been said to be stupid because it makes it easier for those who kill and those who eat sheep, chickens, pigs, goats, cows to do it to a ‘dumb animal’ than it is to one they consider intelligent and complex. I don’t eat meat at all because I’ve long believed a majority of species predated upon my man to be misrepresented for convenience (as well as shortening our lifespan when we eat them).
I would be interested in learning how those societies, in which animals like dogs and cats are eaten, view those we in the West bless with the sanctified labels of pet, companion and family member to protect them from our barbarism (albeit not always successfully, as charities like the RSPCA could confirm). I’ve long noted the ridicule we get when we choose to apply those labels to other animals: keeping chickens as pets is eccentric and weird, for example. Except it isn’t. They make more sense than running after a dog picking up its shit with a plastic bag and then binning it. Not only are eggs a good food for us, a chicken’s crap makes great compost to grow vegetables in. But it is a transgression for some, an unacceptable departure from the ancient consensus, to take a livestock animal and give it shelter from harm as a pet.
Of course we dehumanise each other—sometimes entire groups—based on perceived intelligence or stupidity, class, gender, religion, race, sexuality or disability. People have been burned at the stake and suffocated in gas chambers; we find new ways of blowing each other up and torturing the ‘enemy’ who is always ‘the other’.
We are experts at fooling and lying to ourselves en masse, moreover wanting to believe lies if the truths they bury are unpalatable and require change were we to accept them. This is only proving our great undoing in the 21st Century because we have developed technology, ever since the Industrial Revolution began, to greatly assist us in our pathologically destructive ways to move closer to a goal that is undoubtedly unconscious but absolute and certain: our own extinction. And we’re taking everything else with us, it would seem.
The dinosaurs didn’t wipe themselves out. An asteroid did the deed. Who needs a space rock for mass genocide, though, when you have people walking the Earth? Yet dinosaurs in books and movies are always lumbering, dumb hunks of flesh with brains we are told were no bigger than walnuts. We know, with the absolute certainty of skewed perspective, that we are the ultimate expression of evolution and all that came before us was stupid, is stupid and deserves to be dead, eaten, press-ganged into servitude or petted.
As the dominant life-form on the planet, we abuse all life: each other, animals and, as we have long known, trees which we as a species seem to absolutely despise and can’t wait to clear away to build more things made out of concrete and glass. I am generalising, for sure. Given that it is a human trait to do so, I make no apologies for it. If we can tar all chickens as silly, all sheep as suicidal, all cows as brainless, then it is perfectly acceptable to extrapolate from history and ever-worsening global circumstances that humanity, as a species, is really quite remarkably stupid. Because, with a great many exceptions down the ages, it is, by and large, true.
This does not mean, as some would argue, that those of us who say such things hate humanity. I love being human and alive. We all have great potential but whether we can achieve a harmonious co-existence with everything around us, well, I am indeed a pessimist on that score. I rather suspect the approach of the end won’t have us all suddenly repenting and learning to love; instead, people will take up arms and hack each other to bits in blind panic. But hope? We can always hope. Some of us even pray—something no animal does. With us in charge, you’d think they might want to. Or maybe prayer, as opposed to reality-changing action, is one of our most stupid ideas. It is certainly one of our oldest, whatever your views on it.