Ancestors and Other Relatives

Eating chickens I often think about how many of my ancestors have been eaten by their ancestors. Much more, than I’ll ever eat of them. The same question goes for pigs, cows, and fish – the only meat I usually eat.

My ancestors consumed their ancestors, their ancestors preyed upon and ate my ancestors. We all climbed up and down the food chain for the past 600 million years. Since the top of the food chain is not an especially good place from an evolutionary perspective, it’s sometimes wise to step down the ladder for a few million years.

At any point, however, it’s very unlikely that your linage will be around for a long time, anyway. Only a few lucky winners have descendants long after their time. A few specimen of only a few species in the whole world, at any given time, will successfully transfer their genes very far. The so called tree of life has incredibly thin branches with a thick layer of dead wood.

We humans have only several thousands of ancestors from 73000 or so years ago, but all the birds alive today probably have even less ancestors who were alive 200 hundred million years in the past.

Then, there is another ethical dilemma bothering me when eating beef. Sometimes around the extinction of dinosaurs, there was a mammalian female, who gave birth to several offspring. One of them later in life became my ancestor, the other one became the ancestor of this cow I’m eating.

When I was at the zoo, I stared at a chimp’s eyes, asking myself when and where the two brothers had been separated? One yours, the other my grand, grand,… dad. For 99% of history, we were one flesh.

Now, some closer cousins of mine are eating your close relatives. As your close, free-roaming relatives will eat a human baby whenever they can. This baby is in some sense probably further removed from me than an European Neanderthal. On the other hand, there are humans whose blood-type is not the same as mine, and chimps whose is. A mixed situation indeed!

It’s not only ‘kill to eat’, it’s also many other kinds of killing or wounding each others more or less close to you.

A grotesque world we live in, that’s for sure. A big murderous, incest practicing family of creatures is who we are.

But that was okay, I can hardly imagine another way to come here, into existence. Without hesitation, I would repeat this, if it were necessary.

Now, it’s the time to get civilized.


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