Animal Rights: What Everyone Needs to Know

By Paul Waldau | Go to book overview
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4
HISTORY AND CULTURE

The history of humans interacting with the living beings outside our own species is deep and broad. Any single attempt to tell the whole story of how humans have seen and reacted to, as well as protected or harmed, our fellow Earth creatures is bound to be partial. No one version of the story could possibly encompass the astonishing diversity of human cultures and the integral role that thinking about and treating nonhuman animals has played in countless human lives. Add to this already complex picture the unfathomable diversity of life from continent to continent and ecosystem to ecosystem, and the task of framing an adequate picture of this remarkable history is among the greatest of human challenges.

We can begin the story by asking some basic questions that will help us see the outlines of what we now know of this story, which in turn will suggest to us various things that we need to learn. For example, it makes sense to ask what options might have been available to a group of humans who, looking about their world, wanted to feel that they really understood the lives of the nonhuman animals that shared their ecological niche. They might have asked such questions for practical reasons, such as hunting for food, or they might have wanted to learn about other living beings for ethical or spiritual reasons—all of these concerns appear regularly in our past. Subsequent sections of this book address specific topics like

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