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J: How’s your day going so far?
By Dom Phillips
Jakarewãja and Amakaria, two women from endangered Awá tribe from the Brazilian Amazon, pictured while sick with tuberculosis after being led out of the forest in this 2015 photo. (Courtesy of Survival International)
RIO DE JANEIRO — In December 2014, three “non-contacted” Amazon tribespeople – a young man, his mother and an elder female relative — were led out of the forest they had lived in their whole lives and taken to a village.
A year and a half later, in an extraordinary twist, the two women have escaped back to the forest — taking just an ax, a machete and their pet birds. They left clothes they had been wearing strewn on a path — and their escape left a very clear message.
We don’t want your civilization. Instead, we choose our ancient way of life.
“It was a rejection,” said Rosana Diniz, a coordinator for the Indigenous Missionary Council, a nonprofit group connected to Brazil’s Bishops, who has worked with the women’s tribe, called the Awá, for nearly 20 years.
“What is important for them is not television,” said Diniz. “What is important for them is to be in their home, in the forest, with plenty of hunting, with rivers, with the animals.”
The Awá is an endangered tribe of about 450 people who mostly live in villages in three reserves on the southeastern fringe of the Amazon. But an unknown number of others, like these three, still live an ancient hunter-gatherer existence.
The Brazilian government has registered 110 “uncontacted” groups in the Amazon who are increasingly threatened by illegal logging, mining and farming.
Today the Awá practice some farming, but most still hunt with rifles — sometimes heading out for days at a time. The two women, Jakarewãja, in her 40s or 50s, and Amakaria, who is about 60, and Jakarewãja’s son Wirohoa, in his 20s, were found by an Awá hunting party in December 2014.
They lived in a hut made of palm fronds, hunted with bows and arrows and collected fruits. The only modern possessions they had ever had were a slither of a knife blade, an ax, and an old pot with a hole in it they had picked up during a brief stay in a village, when Wirohoa was a small child, he told The Washington Post in an interview last year.
A forest can feel like a place of great stillness and quiet. But if you dig a little deeper, there’s a hidden world beneath your feet as busy and complicated as a city at rush hour.
In this story, a dog introduces us to a strange creature that burrows beneath forests, building an underground network where deals are made and lives are saved (and lost) in a complex web of friendships, rivalries, and business relations. It’s a network that scientists are only just beginning to untangle and map, and it’s not only turning our understanding of forests upside down, it’s leading some researchers to rethink what it means to be intelligent.
Produced by Annie McEwen and Brenna Farrell. Special Thanks to Latif Nasser, Stephanie Tam, Teresa Ryan, Marc Guttman, and Professor Nicholas P. Money at Miami University.
By Ashley Capps
This post is part of an ongoing series called Most Common Justifications for Eating Animals, in which we seek to provide answers and resources to better address common defenses of animal product consumption.
Farm animals have a much better life than they would in nature! is a claim we often encounter from people defending animal product consumption. Fans of this line of thinking commonly present an either/or situation: either the animals we eat die a violent, harrowing death in nature (after a violent, harrowing existence), or they have a comparably “easy” life and a “better” death on farms.
But this is a fallacy of unwarranted assumption. First, farmed animals would never have been born in the wild; they are artificially bred into existence specifically to be exploited on farms. Animal agriculture is not some heroic intervention into “tooth and claw” nature whereby farmed animals are rescued from a horrible death that would have been far worse than the pseudo-salvational slaughter they experience at human hands. They are not rescued or saved or “protected from predators”; they are bred by humans to be killed by humans without a fighting chance.
Another variation of this argument goes: “Factory farming is wrong, but “pastured,” “free range,” “humanely raised” (etc.) animals on small farms have a much better life than they would in nature. Therefore we are justified in eating them.” But again the same point applies that animals on small farms have been forcibly bred into existence and would not otherwise exist “in the wild.” The hypothetical nature scenario is a false premise and does not justify our needless breeding, exploitation and killing of animals for food.
Secondly, many of the worst cruelties inflicted on animals in factory farms are also routine practices on small, so-called humane farms, including castration, horn removal and ear cutting, all without painkiller or anesthesia; sexual violation and forced impregnation; destruction of families and separation of babies from their mothers; and a long, miserable transport in all temperature extremes to a painful and terrifying slaughter.
Even in the best case scenarios, farmed animals are denied their liberty, their bodily and reproductive autonomy, and many of their most basic natural instincts and preferences. Even on small, so-called humane farms, animals have no control over the most important aspects of their lives. Consider that the following is true for all animals on all farms:
“Humans decide where they will live; if they will ever know their mothers; if, and how long, they will nurse their babies; when, and if, they will be permitted to see or be with their families and friends; when, where, or if they will be allowed to socialize with members of their own species; when, how, and if, they are going to reproduce; what, when, and how much they will eat; how much space they will have, if any; if, and how far, they will be allowed to roam; what mutilations they will be subjected to; what, if any, veterinary care they will receive; and when, where, and how they are going to die.” (Lucas, Joanna)
If these were the circumstances of your brief and unfree life, at the end of which you would be forcefully restrained, attacked and slaughtered against your will, at only a fraction of your natural lifespan, and all for completely unnecessary reasons — would you maintain that you had been humanely treated?