quotations about animals

People must have renounced, it seems to me, all natural intelligence to dare to advance that animals are but animated machines. ... Such people can never have observed with attention the character of animals, not to have distinguished among them the different voices of need, of suffering, of joy, of pain, of love, of anger, and of all their affections. It would be very strange that they should express so well what they could not feel.

VOLTAIRE, Traite de la Tolerance a l' Occasion de la Morte de Jean Calas, 1763


Tags: Voltaire

First a baby dolphin died after being hauled from the sea for selfies by a mob in Argentina. Then we watched as a man in Florida dragged a shark onto the beach so that he could take some holiday snaps before returning it to the water. And just a couple of days later, a peacock in a Chinese zoo was literally scared to death when it was handled by a group of tourists intent on getting a picture with it. None of these people appear to have thought about the terror that the animals were experiencing and, sadly, that's typical of many people's interactions with wild animals -- they're so focused on themselves that the hell experienced by the animal doesn't cross their minds. To them, they're just a prop.

MIMI BEKHECHI, "We need to stop killing and torturing animals for the sake of a good selfie", The Independent, March 1, 2016


We kill millions of animals a day for food. If they have the right to bodily liberty, it's basically a holocaust.

APATHYNIHILISM, user comment, "Are Animals 'Things'?", Harvard Magazine, March/April 2016


Hey, you're pretty smart. You got through school, you probably tied your own shoes this morning -- you're doing great champ. As humans, we tend to think that we're the smartest things around. We do things like drive cars, invent computers and make frappuccinos, whereas the animals are still running around outside, all naked and stuff and occasionally getting predated on. However, imagining that we're at the top of the intellectual food chain shows a great deal of ignorance, which is sort of the problem in the first place. Animals have got a lot to deal with out there in the wild, so you can be damn sure they've got to have their wits about them. We're not even just talking about teaching gorillas sign language or horses to count, some of these guys can use complex maths and even design public infrastructure.

STEVIE SHEPHARD, "9 Animals That Are Probably Smarter Than You", What Culture, February 23, 2016


For animals, the current outlook may appear bleak: animals undergo abhorrent levels of suffering, especially on the farm and in laboratories, and help has not come from our legal system. Laws that grant animals greater protections must overcome disinterested legislatures and the powerful and wealthy animal agriculture and pharmaceutical lobbies. As a result, animals are subject to almost no protections.

DANIEL SONDIKE, "In Winning Rights for Animals, Approaches Differ", The Harvard Law Record, March 9, 2016


Every day there are legally sanctioned atrocities of torture, abuse and death occurring in the private sector. It is of such a magnitude that it eclipses the number of lives lost in all of the world wars, the holocaust, 911 and subsequent terrorist attacks combined. The perpetrators of these abuses are factory farms, also known as intensive industrial farm operations. They are large-scale agri-businesses that supply 98% of all the food produced in the United States. The victims are nine billion animals killed each year for food in the U.S. That number reaches 70 billion globally, or six million animals per hour. Some might say that it is unfair to compare human lives with nonhuman animals, but the overwhelming scientific evidence of their sentience and their ability to feel pain as much as we do, puts us in the same category.

PAT HARMON, "The Secret Atrocities of Factory Farming", The Bridgeport News, March 11, 2016


Now, of the various parts or faculties of the soul--whichever may be the proper term by which to designate them--the only ones with which we need now concern ourselves are those which belong to all such living things as possess not only life but animality. For, though an animal must necessarily be a living thing, living things are by no means of necessity animals; for plants live, and yet are without sensation, which is the distinctive characteristic of an animal. And the part in which is lodged that faculty of the soul in virtue of which a thing lives must also be the part in which is lodged that faculty in virtue of which we call it an animal.

ARISTOTLE, On Youth & Old Age, Life & Death


Tags: Aristotle

What do you see when you look at an animal? A kindred spirit, a creature much like you; but possibly, the very next moment, a beast, a stranger, just an animal. Animals are like those pictures that we see as one thing and then another; the duck that suddenly becomes a rabbit; the wine glass that's also an old woman in profile. Now the pig is a fellow creature, like Wilbur in Charlotte's Web. Now he's pork.

JEAN KAZEZ, Animalkind


The fact that the lower animals are excited by the same emotions as ourselves is so well established, that it will not be necessary to weary the reader by many details. Terror acts in the same manner on them as on us, causing the muscles to tremble, the heart to palpitate, the sphincters to be relaxed, and the hair to stand on end. Suspicion, the offspring of fear, is eminently characteristic of most wild animals. Courage and timidity are extremely variable qualities in the individuals of the same species, as is plainly seen in our dogs. Some dogs and horses are ill-tempered, and easily turn sulky; others are good-tempered; and these qualities are certainly inherited. Everyone knows how liable animals are to furious rage, and how plainly they show it.

CHARLES DARWIN, On the Origin of the Species


Tags: Charles Darwin, emotion

Now by these ... means one can also know the difference between men and beasts. For it is rather remarkable that there are no men so dull and so stupid (excluding not even the insane), that they are incapable of arranging various words together and of composing from them a discourse by means of which they might make their thoughts understood, and that, on the other hand, there is no other animal at all, however perfect and pedigreed it may be, that does the like. This does not happen because they lack the organs, for one sees that magpies and parrots can utter words just as we can, and yet they cannot speak as we do, that is to say, by testifying to the fact that they are thinking about what they are saying; on the other hand, men born deaf and dumb, who are deprived of the organs that aid others in speaking just as much as, or more than the beasts are wont to invent for themselves various signs by means of which they make themselves understood to those who, being with them on a regular basis, have the time to learn their language. And this attests not merely to the fact that beasts have less reason than men but that they have none at all.

RENE DESCARTES, Discourse on the Method for Conducting One's Reason


Tags: Rene Descartes

All animals are minor variations on a very particular theme.

RICHARD DAWKINS, The Ancestor's Tale


Tags: Richard Dawkins

It is in hunting that the special relationship with animals is clearest. In Siberian belief, animals are thought to give themselves of their own free will to a hunter who respects them. Animals are equal in status to their hunters, and in myths often change into humans or marry them. The brown bear, considered to be Lord of the Forest, has a soul-force of immense power which can be dangerous, but can also be used for healing. Even today, injuries are healed by stroking the affected part with a bear's paw or rubbing it with bear's fat. A bear hunt is surrounded by taboos, and in many areas the soul of a killed bear must be appeased by an elaborate rite. For example, the eyes are sewn up to prevent the bear from pursuing the hunter.

ROY G. WILLIS, World Mythology


Tags: hunting

Animals are like humans, only more openly carnal and sexual, more openly and therefore more disarmingly absurd.

YI-FU TUAN, Dominance and Affection


Zoos teach us that animals are like machine parts: separable, replaceable, interchangeable. They teach us that there is no web of life, that you can remove one part and put it into a box and still have that part. But that is all wrong.... Zoos teach us implicitly that animals need to be managed, that they can't survive without us. They are our dependents, not our teachers, our neighbors, our betters, our equals, our friends, our gods. They are ours. We must assume the interspecies version of the white man's burden, and out of the goodness of our hearts we must benevolently control their lives. We must "rescue them from the wild."

DERRICK JENSEN & KAREN TWEEDY-HOLMES, Thought to Exist in the Wild


Animals when in company walk in a proper and sensible manner, in single file, instead of sprawling all across the road and being of no use or support to each other in case of sudden trouble or danger.

KENNETH GRAHAME, The Wind in the Willows


Animals are, like all living things, self-building, self-maintaining, and self-protecting embodiments of their genetic designs, and they are therefore in human eyes objects of their own operations.

A. VAN GINKEL, General Principles of Human Power


When animals are no longer colonized and appropriated by us, we can reach out to our evolutionary cousins. Perhaps then the ancient hope for a deeper emotional connection across the species barrier, for closeness and participation in a realm of feelings now beyond our imagination, will be realized.



I told the good Father that if he and I were going in the future to some wonderful Elysian Field and the animals were not going to go anywhere, that was all the more reason to give them a little better shake in the one life they did have.

CLEVELAND AMORY, obituary, The New York Times, Oct. 16, 1998


New sentient creatures filled the unseen depths,
Life's glory and swiftness ran in the beauty of beasts.



Tags: Sri Aurobindo

Rumors and reports of man's relation with animals are the world's oldest news stories, headlined in the stars of the zodiac, posted on the walls of prehistoric caves, inscribed in the languages of Egyptian myth, Greek philosophy, Hindu religion, Christian art, our own DNA. Belonging within the circle of mankind's intimate acquaintance ... constant albeit speechless companions, they supplied energies fit to be harnessed or roasted.

LEWIS H. LAPHAM, "Man and Beast", Lapham's Quarterly: Animals


Tags: Lewis H. Lapham