Today many researchers discuss the peculiarities of the ecological misbalance, the environmental protection, and the effects of the human invasion in the animal world. All these problems involve the issue of the humans’ relationships with animals. It is possible to note that the history of these relationships is as long as the history of our planet.
Many philosophers and scientists argued the question of the distinction between the humans and animals with focusing on the problem of the human’s possible superiority. Thus, today more and more people are inclined to think that humans are the leaders in this world.
However, to understand the peculiarities of the relationships between men and animals, it is necessary to concentrate on the notion of ‘animalization’ as the aspect of this distinction and its main consequences.
Although the problem of the distinction is still actively discussed, it is possible to determine such consequences as the correlation of the concept of ‘animalization’ and the notion of ‘humanity’, the connection of the problem with the question of civilization, and the effects of animalization on men, women, and children.
In spite of the fact the concept of ‘animalization’ can be frequently observed in the scholarly literature and in press, the problem of its definition remains current because different philosophers, scholars, and scientists determine various aspects for the necessary focus in the possible definition.
Today animalization can be considered as the act of human’s behaving like an animal, which means that a person is too cruel or even lacks the normal human qualities under the influence of anger or any other conditions.
Moreover, animalization can be also discussed as the opposite notion for the process of humanization which also becomes popular today, especially with references to the people’s behaviour with their pets. Can the fact of humans’ animalization be considered as the breaking of the natural balance in the world? What are the ethic aspects of the issue?
The first significant consequence of the problem of the clear distinction between the world of humans and animals is in the absolute necessity of this distinction. There are many arguments that humans and animals as the beings which share the space of our planet should be discussed as equals in their rights on the necessary natural resources as the sources of their life.
The problem of humans’ rights in the contrast to the problem of animals’ rights is also discussed in the fields of ethics and philosophy. Thus, Levinas even states that animals should be considered as ethical beings with their own rights, but he also accentuates the possibility of the human’s superiority in this world as a being having a ‘face’ (Levinas 2004).
These rather contradicting considerations contribute to the development of the further discussion of the question. That is why it is possible to emphasize the fact that in the context of the modern civilization the distinction between animals and humans is intensified by the increased opposition of these two worlds: the world of animals and the world of humans.
With the gradual breaking the natural bonds between the animals and humans, the role of them in the lives of these two worlds also changed. Thus, many years ago humans lived in the situation of the close connection with animals and even depended on the peculiarities of the development of this world. The relationships between animals and humans could never be considered as peaceful because of the aspects of the people’s life.
Nevertheless, these relations were based on the concept of respect which, however, had many similar features with the feeling of fear. Today the feeling of respect toward animals is changed by the feeling of ‘love’ which depends on the notion of ‘humanity’ which can involve the activity of the social organizations and the people’s attitude to their pets.
Humanity in relation to animals is a rather controversial concept because it is almost impossible to discuss the actions of the workers in abattoirs as based on the humanity. Nevertheless, according to Vialles, all the actions directed toward animals have their symbolic meaning for humans which are the possible result of the memory of the generations (Vialles 1994).
The interdependent connection between humans and animals is obvious, but in spite of the man’s subjective attitude to animals, it is generally based on the opposition between them which can be obvious and aggressive or hidden. The results of this opposition are in the variety of conceptions according to which people are inclined to discuss the role of animals in their lives.
There are too many provocative and controversial aspects in these opinions which are connected with cruel treating animals or supporting the idea that animals exist in order to contribute to the people’s needs (Cavalieri 2006).
The problem of defining the concept of ‘animalization’ allows the development of the active discussion of the effects of this process for people as well as for animals. To discuss the notion of animalization as the process of the human’s acquiring the animal’s characteristics of behavioural features is inappropriate with references to the problem of humanity.
That is why the second significant consequence of the distinction is the fact that animalization of humans and their behaviour is not reflected in acquiring or demonstrating the animal’s features, but it is in the rejection of the humanity as the main quality which can differ humans from animals.
Today there is the tendency of searching for the animal’s features in the people’s behaviour and analyzing these features as a result of animalization. Nevertheless, what do people mean when they speak about anyone behaving ‘like an animal’? It is typical for humans and people to act according to their natural or biological instincts which can be demonstrated in aggression and cruelty.
Nevertheless, people have the mechanism which control their behavior and instincts, and it is ‘logos’. According to Levinas, animals have no ‘logos’ (Levinas 2004). Moreover, people’s humanity is in ethical behaviour toward the other people. When people are inclined to the degradation and providing brutal actions which reject the principles of humanity it is possible to speak about their animalization (Perpich 2008; Plumwood 2000).
The third main consequence is in the fact that the animalization and accentuation of the distinction between animals and humans can have different effects for men and women in relation to their gender peculiarities and for children in relation to their close bonds with the natural world.
The notion of gender is one the most significant aspects while discussing the peculiarities of men and women’s behaviour and the difference in these two behavioural models. Who is more inclined to revealing the features of animalization in the everyday life? It is possible to say that men because of their social and gender roles more often act ‘like animals’ in comparison with the peculiarities of the women’s behaviour.
Decisiveness and readiness to risk and act brutally are typical for the representatives of the animal world and for those men who develop wars in order to cope with different conflict situations. It is interesting that there are many features characteristic for animals in the behaviour of warriors.
Children do not participate in such relations with the natural world which are based on the question of who rules the world and who is the possible victim of this rule as it is in the opposition between humans and animals which emphasizes the distinction between them.
Children have close bonds with the animal world and do not perceive animals as the enemies, but only acquire the knowledge about the risky behaviour with animals. There are many fictional characters presented as the images of animals in the stories for children which act as humans (Melson 2001). Thus, these characters of animals are humanized (or affected by the process of humanization).
That is why children think of animals as behaving like humans according to the stories and images in their books and cartoons.
Some researchers concentrate on the elements of the behaviour of children which are similar to the animals’ behavior and discuss these facts as the examples of the animalization (Perpich 2008; Shattuck 1994). Nevertheless, this behaviour can be explained by the children’s bonds with the natural world and the absence of the idea of the human’s superiority or opposition in their minds.
The development of the distinction between the human and the animal has a number of consequences among which it is possible to determine the most significant ones.
They are connected with the relationship of the concept of ‘animalization’ and the notion of ‘humanity’, with the understanding of the role of civilization in the progress of the concept, and with the analysis of the different effects of animalization on men, women, and children.
Cavalieri, P 2006, “The animal debate: A reexamination” in P Singer (ed.), In defense of animals: The second wave, Blackwell Publishers, London, pp 54-68.
Kant, I 1963, “Duties to animals and spirits”, in L Infield (ed.), Lectures on Ethics, Harper and Row, New York, pp. 239-241.
Levinas, E 2004, “The name of a dog, or natural rights” in P Atterton & M Calarco (eds.), Animal philosophy: Ethics and identity, Continuum, London, pp. 47-50. Melson, G 2001, Why the wild things are: Animals in the lives of children, Harvard Uni Press, Cambridge.
Perpich, D 2008, The ethics of Emmanuel Levinas, Stanford University Press, USA.
Plumwood, V 2000, “Being prey”, UTNE Reader, no. 7-8, pp. 56-61.
Shattuck, R 1994, The forbidden experiment: The story of the Wild Boy of Aveyron, Kodansha International, New York.
Vialles, N 1994, Animal to Edible, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.