Minding the Animals: Ethology and the Obsolescence of Left Humanism
With few exceptions, Leftists have systematically devalued or ignored the horrific plight of animals as a trivial issue compared to human suffering, and they have therefore mocked or dismissed the animal liberation movement that emerged in the 1970s to become a global movement more dynamic, powerful, and widespread than virtually any human cause or liberation movement. Despite their affirmation of Darwinian theory, which views human beings as natural beings who co-evolved with other animals in an organic continuum, the humanist elements of Leftist culture ― which emphasize the radical uniqueness and singularity of humans as “superior” animals ― prevailed over the naturalist elements ― which emphasize the continuum of biological evolution, even as it phases into social evolution and cultural development.
This essay raises various questions concerning human identity politics ― the social, political, and environmental implications of how humans view and conduct themselves as members of a distinct species in relation to other species and the Earth as a whole ― and situates Left humanist views as a variant, rather than rejection, of Western anthropocentrism, speciesism, and the pathology of humanism. As part of the problem rather than the solution, I argue that Leftist humanist theories (including “eco-humanist” variants) fail to advance a truly revolutionary break with the mindsets and institutions underpinning hierarchy, oppression, violence, species extinction, and the current global ecological crisis. I claim that because of the atavistic, unenlightened, pre-scientific, and discriminatory views toward nonhuman animals, such as led them to miss some of the most profound scientific and moral revolutions of the era, Leftists cannot regain their place of pride in progressive culture until they jettison their shopworn hierarchical and exploitative views, a process that can be catalyzed by engaging the major themes and findings of ethology.