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Essay a change of heart

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Rifkin is able to make his audience believe that we should do more for animals by using very negative language when talking about how we currently treat animals. At the end of his article there is a paragraph where Rifkin asks a lot of questions. Almost all of his questions have negative words. For example, he talks about “animals subjected each year to painful laboratory experiments” and “raised under the most inhumane conditions.” He also says that animals are “for slaughter and human consumption.” Many of these words are totally negative. Words like “subjected,” “inhumane,” and “slaughter” are almost always used to make it seem as if people are treating animals terribly.

If something is subjected it is controlled by and powerless to something else. When I think of inhumane I think that what is being done is wrong. And when I think of slaughter I automatically think negative thoughts. In this article Rifkin wants us to believe that the current way that we treat animals needs to be changed. But maybe not all animals are treated so unjustly? What if, instead of saying “subjected each year to painful laboratory experiments” Rifkin says that animals are used in research? If he said that the impact of his argument wouldn’t be as strong. He wants the audience to think that what is happening now is bad and that we need to treat animals better. His choice of negative words helps him do this.

In “A Change of Heart About Animals,” a 2003 editorial published in the Los Angeles Times, Jeremy Rifkin argues that new research calls into question many of the boundaries commonly thought to exist between humans and other animals, and as a consequence humans should expand their empathy for animals and treat them better. To support this argument Rifkin points to studies suggesting that animals can acquire language, use tools, exhibit self-awareness, anticipate death, and pass on knowledge from one generation to the next.

One strategy Rifkin employs to build the argument that animals should be treated more like humans is his subtle use of animal names when introducing data. When he offers new research about the problem solving abilities of New Caledonian crows, for example, Rifkin cleverly describes how “Abel, the more dominant male…stole Betty’s hook” in order to obtain a better feeding tool (Rifkin). Rifkin, of course, could have chosen to ignore the bird’s test-subject names – which in all likelihood, were arbitrarily assigned by lab technicians and remain of little importance to the conclusions of the experiment – but by including them he bestows a human quality to the animals beyond what the data suggests. He repeats this technique twice more to the same effect, once when introducing “Koko, the 300 pound gorilla,” who displays close-to-human intelligence and an impressive sign language vocabulary, and again when describing an “Orangutan named Chantek,” whose use of a mirror displays human-like self awareness (Rifkin).

Surely the data alone make the argument that animals are, by turns, capable of human qualities of problem-solving, communication, learning, and self-awareness. By offering the names of the test animals, though, he imbues them with greater individuality, personality and dignity. Giving the animals human names invites readers to think of them in terms usually reserved only for human beings. This strategy establishes a relationship of similarity between the animals mentioned and ourselves. The more like human animals seem, the more it follows that they should be treated with the empathy and dignity we assume all humans deserve. This strategy thus helps advance Rifkin’s claim that we should “expand and deepen our empathy to include the broader community of creatures with whom we share the earth.”

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