Excellence Reporter: Dr. Bekoff, what is the meaning of life?
Marc Bekoff: For me it all boils down to do all I can to make the world a more peaceful and compassionate place for all animals, nonhuman and human, than the moment I emerged from my loving mother’s body.
I do this by explaining — in essays for researchers as well as for a broad global audience, oral presentations, and by how I choose to live — how similar nonhumans and humans really are in terms of their cognitive, emotional, and moral lives, and also by explaining how we should embrace the obvious differences among all living beings.
The phrase “different from” doesn’t mean “lesser than” or “less valuable than.” Rather, it simply means that individuals of different species do what they need to do to be “card-carrying members of their species” and we shouldn’t be assigning value to the ways in which other beings typically live.
And, as I’ve often written, it’s a waste of time to try to answer questions about who’s smarter than whom, because what really matters is how individuals suffer, and so-called smarter beings don’t suffer more than supposed less intelligent individuals. In my own work I tend to focus on marginalized and vulnerable groups of nonhumans and humans, with an emphasis on other animals, because they need all the help they can get in an increasingly human-dominated world.
We’re living in an epoch some call the Anthropocene, or “the age of humanity.” In fact, it’s “the rage of inhumanity” and not only are vast numbers of nonhumans losing their homes and their lives, but so too are other humans especially those who don’t have a voice that’s really heard. Their pains, sufferings, and losses of freedoms go unnoticed or are ignored by more privileged humans whose actions don’t follow their words of supposed caring.
So, my mantra boils down to constantly asking myself, “What I can do to make the world a more peaceful and compassionate place for all animals, nonhuman and human?” And I try to do all I can to accomplish this much-needed goal in a tired and troubled world in which inequities are the rule rather than the exception.
~Marc Bekoff, Ph.D.
I’m professor emeritus of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Colorado, Boulder. I’ve won many awards for my scientific research including a Guggenheim Fellowship and the Exemplar Award from the Animal Behavior Society for long-term contributions to the field of animal behavior. I’ve published more than 1000 essays of all sorts and 31 books, the latest of which are The Animals’ Agenda: Freedom, Compassion, and Coexistence in the Human Age (with Jessica Pierce) and Canine Confidential: Why Dogs Do What They Do, I also write regularly for Psychology Today. Much of what I write above can be found in these sources.
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