Animals = Humans?

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This has been on my mind for a few weeks, and has escalated since the death of the gorilla at Cincinnati Zoo. It is definitely sad that a gorilla died, particularly in those circumstances, but I was shocked at how many people were arguing that an animal is of equal or more value than a human. So I asked a scientist and two really logical people I know to think out loud with me.


One of them asked me, “Well if we were to say that an animal were equal to a human, what would be the right thing to do? If they’re equal, then it is likely that someone will “lose” either by action or inaction of the people around and it is likely that the gorilla would have overpowered the child and the child would be hurt or injured. I’m not here to argue about the intentions of the gorilla – even if it did not have the intention to hurt the child, an excited or overstimulated gorilla can be dangerous just by its sheer size and strength.


This brought home a really good point, that in order to act, you must know the truth to be able to make the right decision.


First let’s define “equal” and “superior”. Equal – same quantity, size, degree, value, status, quality, essence. Superior then is HIGHER in quantity, size, degree, value, status, quality, essence. So when people say an animal is equal or superior, they are saying they have the same essence or an animal has a greater essence. Humans are animals. But we are also more than animals.


As a Catholic I have been taught that humans have a special dignity because:

  1. We are made in the image and likeness of God
  2. God gave man dominion over animals, not just power over them, but as a custodian of animals (Peter Parker – with great power comes great responsibility). This isn’t to say that we are always good guardians
  3. Jesus chose, out of all things, to become human

I know that not everyone will resonate with religion, or a Catholic viewpoint, so I started thinking where else can so I wanted to think of external things that point to this.



A human from today as compared to a prehistoric human would be far more intelligent and have superior makeup (#glowup but also our genetic makeup shown by how much longer we live, thumbs etc). Similarly, a human is more intelligent than an animal. An animal wouldn’t be able to invent a telephone, let alone know how to use one.


But intelligence alone isn’t a reason because then you could argue that a genius is of superior value to a mentally disable person when they’re not. They’re both human and they both have equal dignity and worth.


We’re superior to animals in our intelligence. And we’re more than just our intelligence.




There is a hierarchy of beings

Mineral World e.g. soil or water < Plants < Animals < Humans


I recently learned that a soul is the thing that gives life to a body ore animates a body – more than just a reaction and is capable of the functions of life. Of these, the last three have a soul. So for example, a chair does not have a soul because it can’t move itself. Although water can move, it doesn’t move of its own accord, it is moved BY something – gravitational pulls, wind etc.


However, there are different kinds of souls outlined by St Thomas Aquinas. For the Non-Catholics that are like damn girl, you said you was gon leave religion outta dis. Hear me out. He distinguishes the three different souls by their power, or what they’re capable of.


A plant is animated by a vegetative soul. It has the power to grow, reproduce and nourish itself.


An animal is animated by a sensitive soul. Animals have all the powers of a plant, having the ability to grow, reproduce and nourish. It also has the power of locomotion i.e. the power to move e.g. a bee flapping its wings, or a horse galloping. Animals also have the power of senses i.e. to see, taste, hear, smell and feel. Some animals even have the power of memory e.g. a dog remembers how to get home and imagination e.g. apparently dogs dream. SO CUTE! Because of these things an animal is superior to a plant.


While the soul of the animal is pretty impressive, it is still moved by instinct and impulses. We cannot definitively say that an animal is also moved by emotion. E.g. While a dog may appear to know when you’re sad and cuddles you, or if the gorilla at Cincinnati was protecting the child out of instinct or emotions. On a slightly related note, apparently elephants have funerals! That is the cutest. My scientist friend told me that through evolution elephants tear up to moisten their eyes. Research suggests that an elephant can also cry because it misses the touch of its mother. However, it’s hard to say the elephant cries because it feels emotions because we don’t know what the elephant is feeling. We can’t ever really say how or what a person is feeling. However, it is easier for us to empathise when we have experienced that emotion ourselves e.g. grief.


It goes to show that there is so much we still don’t know! The more I learn the more I realise I don’t know. So in the pursuit of truth, wisdom and knowledge, I am humbled by the fact that I don’t know everything. I have to look past my pride a lot when I disagree with what someone is saying because they may know OR feel something I don’t know or have not experienced.


Humans have all the capabilities of a plant and an animal. Humans can also be likened to a plant or an animal e.g. she’s as pretty as a flower, or like an animal, humans seek shelter. A bird would have the impulse to build the same nest or a bee its hive over and over again. A human is distinguished from this because it does not build the same thing over and over. We have improved from caves to huts to penthouse apartments. A human is able to reflect on the thing e.g. a shelter, the art of making the thing, how to make the art better or more efficient and build techniques. A human is a rational animal and ability to reflect sets the human apart. This roots from the power of the human soul – intellect.


A human, therefore has a rational soul. From its rational soul, it can reflect on morality, wrong or right. The child in the zoo may not have an advanced rational and know whether what he did was wrong or right. But the gorilla did not know what is wrong or right. There is no wrong or right to an animal because it cannot rationalise. In the animal kingdom, a lion does not think about whether it is right to kill its brother by letting him fall off a cliff into a stampede (Lion King) or a vulture does not think about whether it is right to eat a wounded human in the wilderness. It is an instinct of I need to eat. The zookeepers at Cincinnati Zoo were able to reason. Damn I love that gorilla because we take care of it. However, that is a human boy. And from their reason they acted.


Other characteristics of a human soul that sets it apart include: the passions, the will, and the intellect. Passions as in the inclination towards something e.g. I am passionate about this topic and am blogging at 11pm on a work night. Passions, including love, hatred, desire, fear, sadness, joy, anger (Inside Out).


Will is the mover of the soul, enacting or not enacting its passions. Will moves the soul of the alcoholic toward the next drink, the soul of the body builder to wake up in winter to train. The alcohol for the alcoholic and the exercise or habit of waking up to train affects the person’s soul. The alcoholic is inclined to drink, the trained athlete to exercise and both have developed a passion for the thing. If the alcoholic tried to remain sober, there would be a battle between his will and his passion. In a different way, the athlete to waking up early would battle between passion and will. While my bed is warm, I want to shred for Stereo so I will get up and train. The very act of the alcoholic trying to remain sober is reflective of the rational soul of the human, with its ability to reflect on its state, actions and consequences, which differs from an animal or plant.


Intellect is the power of the soul to understand what a thing is and distinguishes it from others e.g. if someone saw a flower, they could understand that it is a flower and that there are flowers that look, smell and feel different but are still flowers. The human could also wonder other things – can I eat the flower? What can I use the flower for? What colour and type should I buy my mother in law for her birthday? Animals and plants probably don’t wonder these things. The seagull I see during my lunchbreak wonders daily if I will finish my lunch or give him some leftovers because he/ she is hungry. But it wouldn’t think, hmmm I wonder if Candice is going to have gnocchi today? Did she get it from the cafe up the way?


In the example used above of the genius and the mentally disabled, they both have the power, not matter what degree intellect or will or passion is used. But because of these things, we cannot say a human is equal or inferior to an animal. It is distinguished in its essence.



Usually when a human is compared to an animal, it is usually derogatory or degrading. Unless it’s to compare human strength or ability to that of an animal e.g. you’re an athlete – ya beast! Omg he runs like a panther). Usually it’s because the person is doing an evil act or irrational or acting only from instinct e.g. someone going on a killing spree. When we use this statement, we are saying a human is not acting as a human. They are degrading the human to an animal status because they are acting as such. When we say, oh he’s wise like an owl. We don’t actually know an owl is wise. We just bestow that virtue on him because of its looks, humanising the animal. Funnily enough, in India, owls are associated with ill-gained wealth or foolishness.


Lastly on a lighter note. We as human beings that like stories and analogies and find it easier to understand when we associated something with something else, tend to humanise animals. Just the fact that the gorilla had a name humanises it. We give animals clothes like a human. We make cartoons humanising animals e.g. Zootopia, Lion King etc where the animal takes on human characteristics e.g. I’m pretty sure rabbits don’t really have hopes and dreams, let alone dream of being a cop. We are elevating the status of animals.


Even our way of thinking shows that deep down we know that humans and animals are not equal.




Let’s continue to seek truth, take care of the world and its animals and be kind when giving an opinion! RIP Harambe.


Written by Candice

June 1, 2016 at 12:37 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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