Conceited Naked Apes

Back in University, I read a novel called “Wild Animals I Have Known” by Ernest Thompson Seton. The novel tells the story of eight different wild animals and their struggle to survive in the natural world. One of the main themes of the novel is the idea that animals have no soul, no intelligence and act simply on instincts. I have often kept these ideas in the back of my mind, although I find it quite hard to come to terms with some of Seton’s themes. One article, in particular, which I came across over the past several weeks challenges Seton and everything that “Wild Animals I Have Known” suggests.

The Hamilton Spectator article, on Australia’s koala, discusses the decline in the animal’s wild populations due to stress. STRESS! How can Seton argue that animals have no souls and no intelligence when they experience the same feelings we do? I think he was using this idea as more of a social critique because his novel does more to show how animals are just like us than to separate them from us.

After all, we are animals, right? Deep down, we are animals. Or, as Canadian animal rights and environmental activist Paul Watson would argue, “we’re just a conceited naked ape, but in our minds we’re some “divine legend” and we see ourselves as some sort of god, thinking we can decide what will live and what will die, what will be saved and what will be destroyed, but honestly, we’re just a bunch of primates out of control.” With that, I would agree.

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