In November 2018, Swiss had a special referendum to tackle a problematic issue which divided the Alpine country-whether to subsidize farmers who let cows and goats grow their horns naturally. Although the plea was failed eventually, it’s a significant action taken by human to uphold the right of animals. This interesting referendum makes people to rethink the questions: whether animals suffer like human if we take their horns; whether we can use laws to protect the right of animals.
I think these questions return to a fundamental issue: what’s the difference of human and animals. If we can draw an accurate fine line between human beings and animals, the problems may not be so complicated. However, the boundaries are actually intricate from different dimensions, just like Derrida says in “Violence against Animals”:
“If I am unsatisfied with the notion of a border between two homogeneous species, man on one side and the animal on the other, it is not in order to claim, stupidly, that there is no limit between “animals” and “man”; it is because I maintain that there is more than one limit, that there are many limits.” (66)
Indeed, we can’t find just one limit to define animals and man. Even Chimpanzee’s chromosomes, for example, are 90% similar to man’s, we still can’t simply reduce animals to one kind of species of human. Therefore, the attempt to bring animals into human legislated system isn’t seemly an appropriate action to uphold the right of animals. The human laws are simplified dualism systems which construct a hierarchy for human’s own benefits. As Derrida says: “to confer or to recognize rights for “animal” is surreptitious or implicit way of confirming a certain interpretation of human subject, which itself will have been very lever of the worst violence carried out against nonhuman living beings,” so he prefers “not to introduce this problematic concerning the relations between humans and animals into the existing juridical framework.” (74) In fact, the law not only establishes a reducible subject-object relationship but also enforces human’s sovereignty over animals.
If man and animals are fundamentally different, we should stop trying to uses our language system to define their existence. In “Animal Studies, Disability Studies, and Who Comes after the Subject,” Wolfe suggests an alternative idea of how we rethink the relationship between human and animals:
“Wouldn’t we do better to imagine this example as an irreducibly different and unique form of subjectivity—neither Homo sapiens nor Canis familiaris, neither “disabled” nor “normal,” but something else altogether, a shared trans-species being-in-the world constituted by complex relations of trust, respect, dependence, and communication…” (142)
Every existence is a unique subjectivity which should be respected, no matter what kind of species are, human or animals.