News, Information, and Knowledge Resources

‘Between Light and Storm’: How humans exploit and abuse the animal world

In a system that has reduced animals to soulless automatons and commodities, humans have used and exploited them for any and all purposes; for medicine, food, hunting, and even as pets.

ELISA SHOENBERGER: In August, the Norwegian Directorate of Fisheries killed a walrus named Freya who had made her home on the marina pier in Oslo. Freya was not sick or violent; authorities only feared she would become so. They warned people to stay away, but many failed to heed the warning, so Freya was shot and killed. This is a story of encroachment: not by Freya, but by humans into her habitat. Yet Freya paid the price.

Such a story is worthy of Esther Woolfson’s Between Light and Storm: How We Live with Other Species, a book that explores humanity’s troubled relationship with animals. Initially, Woolfson reminds us, humans had respect for animals, seeing them as fellow beings or even gods. Many cultures, for instance, associated birds with human souls.

But that reverence began to disappear with domestication and the development of Western philosophy and religious thought that argued for human exceptionalism — the idea that (a Judeo-Christian) god had granted humans the right to change the world as they desired, and given them dominion over all the creatures within it.

Between Light and Storm is a compelling (though devastating) read about a patriarchal, capitalist system that has reduced animals to commodities. If animals are soulless automatons, Woolfson reminds us, then humans can use them for any and all purposes…

Using her own relationships to the animals around her, Woolfson explores the varied ways humanity has exploited them, for medicine, food, hunting, and even as pets. While critiques of factory farming and fur-trading systems are not exactly new, Woolfson presents new ways of looking at such issues…

Woolfson’s deep dive into the history of Western medicine is particularly shocking. She argues that everything we know about medicine today is built on the suffering of animals. Famous doctors of medicine and science used myriad animals in their experiments, including live creatures, often without anesthesia.

Woolfson cites recent books and studies (as well as her own experiences) that provide overwhelming evidence that animals have consciousness, admittedly different from humans, as well as a plethora of emotions. That alone should be reason enough to change our behaviors. “If we live in a world of sentience and consciousness,” she writes, “shouldn’t the knowledge alter the entire basis of our relationship with other species?”…

Between Light and Storm provides yet another ringing wakeup call to the systematic commodification of animal life. As calls to real action to mitigate climate change accelerate, we must rethink our arguments on why polar bears or wolves should be saved. Instead of saving these animals for our sake, we can save them for theirs. SOURCE…


You might also like