The animals taught us kindness; organized prevention of cruelty preceded organized concern about cruelty to children. We still
learn easiest and most soundly from pets such lessons as tenderness, unconditional love, responsibility for dependents, reverence
for life and the meaning of death.
However, we have always had some things they do not have. We have thumbs, which gave us hands with which we could grasp and
manipulate. We have articulate tongues, lips and brains to invent complex communication. We have the memory to make history,
and to invent ways to write it down, to record it and to keep it. And we have a conscience which, if properly trained, helps
us distinguish right from wrong. And we have the capacity for arrogance, pride and selfishness that lets our immediate wants
govern our decisions and actions. We can say as no animal can, "It is my ecology and I'll do with it as I wish."
For a moment, think about the rapid changes that have occurred here as in all aspects of our lives. Let us look at a very
possible and yet somewhat spooky future:
Our dependence on the world's animals is potentially over; our absolute need for them may be ended. The long partnership may
be dissolving. What if they go away? What if....the animals all went away?
In the past seven to eight decades, there have been developments that point to this possibility. The railroad, the automobile
and the airplane have ended our long history of dependence on legs to move us from one place to another, our own legs and
those of other vertebrates. My grandfather, so short a time ago, drove a stagecoach in northern Minnesota at a time when goods
were moved by ox-cart.
How many drays are left in Minnesota? Could we now, even as an experience or an exhibition, remount the English mail coach,
running loads of mail and nine people drawn by four horses in two tandem teams over 600 miles at an average speed of 50 minutes
for 11 miles? I doubt it?
Power technology has ended our dependence on muscles for power, our own muscles as well as other vertebrates. Agricultural
technology has transformed itself and greatly reduced our contacts with animals. We are no longer an agrarian society. We
have redistributed ourselves: One hundred years ago there were approximately seven people on the farm for every five in the
city; now the ratio is one on the farm to about every 25 in the city. Work animals have all but disappeared.
The development of synthetics has reduced our need for animal products. We have no genuine need for ivory, bone, shells, gut,
sinews, bristles or hair. We are not really dependent on hides, fleeces or furs. Leather and woolen garments have become expensive
What if we no longer really need animal products? In fact, our development of destructive power has led us to the point where
no vertebrate species threatens us, and indeed now we have threatened them with extinction.
Pesticides have reduced even the bird population of our cities. What if animals no longer threaten us in any way? We have
the means to endanger any species that gets in our way. We have done so to many.
In the urban environment we live more or less comfortably with the rat, the squirrel and the English sparrow. We seem to have
established a kind of rule of size. If you are no bigger than my foot, or no stronger than my hand, you may stay: otherwise
you face complete control or extinction. I cannot imagine that we would long tolerate English sparrows if they were the size
Our only obligate relationship, animal proteins for our growth and nutrition, is weakening. The synthetic and vegetable proteins
are increasing and, in any event, it is mostly distant others that do the raising, slaughtering and butchering.
Most of us make no psychological connection between the meat we eat and those herds and living creatures from which it came.
Could it be that herds and flocks will become outmoded ideas? It is now possible in urban United States to live an entire
life without any real contact with other vertebrates and with only minimal awareness that we share the world with other creatures
What if we no longer really need food from them? You know better than I the recent controversies here. You know the technological
changes in what used to be called animal husbandry, and in the rearing of food and fiber creatures.
You know what the synthetic laboratories are doing. I am sure that the soybean will continue to astonish us.