Dig Baton Rouge

East of the River: The view from the top of the food chain

By Katie East 

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes does an amazing job of depicting how similar we are to animals. Too often we focus on the differences between us instead of what makes us the same. We think our pets are cute and cuddly while animals in the zoo are wild beasts that can only be enjoyed at a distance.

What this film does so well is remind us of our similarities with primates. We both feel grief and happiness and couldn’t survive without a community; apes are just better at admitting it than us. I’m looking at you, jaded lone wolf bad boys.

Don’t worry, I’ll try to avoid spoiler alerts from the film. Except: APES RIDING HORSES WITH MACHINE GUNS. Sorry, it was in the trailer. And also, what!?

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is filled with tense moments as a war between humans and apes begins. As ridiculous as the premise is, there is an ever-present fear I felt during the film that somehow made me question real life in our current society.

What would happen if you gave an ape a gun? They couldn’t possibly understand the ramifications of its danger and power. Then, I think about all of the mass shootings we see on the news in schools and even on Bourbon St. We obviously haven’t evolved that far.

A big theme in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is humans versus apes: that’s a given. It goes much deeper than that though. There’s an underlying questions in this movie that asks: What is the value of a life? What makes a human’s life more valuable than an ape’s – or a rat’s for that matter?

I think size definitely matters when it comes to the food chain and what humans care about. Watching the death of a horse is much more upsetting than watching the death of a cat, even though both can be loveable pets.

Yes, we hold nothing dearer than a human life. Pro-lifers yell about that stuff all the time. I think though we’d all be more upset about hearing an elephant was killed for its tusks than a violent meth-head killed for his stash. I mean…elephants are powerful while still being graceful! When have you said that about a meth addict?

When does our animal love go too far? I’m not talking about bestiality, weirdo. I’m talking about those ladies that dress up their toy dogs, push them in strollers and only feed them Fiji bottled water.

I’m a huge animal lover, but I don’t believe in coddling pets, and I certainly don’t believe in treating them like humans. Despite our similarities, dogs and animals are not people. They have their own rituals and behavior, whether in a pack or in a home, that should be respected.

People show their love of animals in a variety of ways. Some adopt their pets, while some refuse to wear fur. Others become vegetarians, and some eat only organic grass-fed beef from cows named after poets. Some people go so as to not even kill a rodent or an insect. And those people are the worst.

Look, I concede that all life has value. But I’m also an American and I hate being uncomfortable or inconvenienced. Rats and bugs get up in my face and I take them out, PETA. Capeesh?

I’m not shy when it comes to pulling rank in the food chain. If love bugs land on my face, I will kill them. If I’m in a particularly bad mood I’ll even rip them apart. I’m not sure if I’m just asserting my human dominance or showing my distrust of love.

I guess it’s hard to draw a line when it comes to how to treat animals. As humans we tout our intelligence as proof that we are the superior beings on Earth. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes made me question if that’s always true.

Intelligence is only one thing we should use to gauge treatment of animals. Their capacity to feel emotions and pain or their ability to communicate and problem-solve should all be taken into consideration. It shouldn’t just be about how big or cute they are. Taking all of this into account, I still think chicken is delicious.

Despite how smart we are, it’s very easy to see our human society has become wrapped up in trivial matters. The one definitive leg up animals have on us is they know how to survive; it’s in their DNA.

If the apocalypse ever comes, this lone wolf will flee humans quick and find another pack to survive with. Maybe I should start working on my non-verbal communication and sense of smell now.


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