Elizabeth regards hunting as a war against animals, she says that the war really caused devastating effects since it lasted for million of years. Fortunately, as a result of discovery of guns a hundred years ago the war came to an end. She says that before the invention of guns humans never had any compassion for the animals because they could hunt them as much as they wanted. The guns now limited their hunting hence the animals were now safe. However, the compassion was not concrete since it was not an internal cultivated form of sympathy but it was more of a prehistoric attitude. Her empathy for the animals is so much depicted she says that humans mistreat animals because they do not belong to similar tribe hence one can do whatever thing he wishes, one can even offer the animals as form of sacrifice to the gods. She really hates the way humans mishandle the animals she says “we can cut his throat, tear out his heart, throw him on the fire.” This is because there are no laws that limit the humans from misusing the animals. This issue is really irritating her heart she says to John, “I just do not want to sit silent.” On the other hand, we observe that John says that what humans do, they just turn the animals into slaves and use their offspring as a form of labour and do not therefore regard animals with respect. Elisabeth is not convinced with what John comments she emphasizes that there are other animals that people still hate, such as the rats. She says that despite the kind of hatred humans show the rats, they have not given up the fight, they have not lost, they still hit back by hiding in the gutters and then they harass people (Coetzee and Amy Gutmann, 2001, pg59).
On another instance, we find a poet “The Poets and the Animals” opposes Elizabeth on her analogy between slaughtered cattle and the murdered Jews of Europe. He is bitter on this issue and says that in case Jews were regarded to be similar to cattle, it does not mean that cattle are treated in the same way as Jews. We observe here that Elizabeth feels how the animals are not given their rights to survive and exercise their freedom. She compares the killing of animals with a murdered Jew. When one is murdered, he or she is regarded by the bandits as useless and should not be living. One is denied the right to live, he is attacked in a brutal way and without being given a chance to talk to defend himself he is just violently killed. The killing just occurs unexpectedly and the person just disappears having no last word to his beloved or any parting word to his beloved. Similarly, Elizabeth argues that is what happens to an animal when it is slaughtered. The animal was enjoying itself having no worry of what is about to follow. However, with no alert, the crook just appears and brutally forces the knife into the neck and the next minute the flesh is being enjoyed in the slaughter rooms without any feeling of guilt. She even depict a negative attitude against those people who take meat, she tells her son that sometimes she feels that all the people who consume meat are “participants in a crime of stupefying proportions.” She says that she visualizes herself visiting some friends and admires a lantern hang in their living room, just to be told that the material that made the lamp was from Polish- Jewish female skin. We observe her deep feeling against those who consume meat, from the conversation she had with her son, she tries to challenge those who slaughter animals and goes ahead using their skin to manufacture basic items used at home for instance lamp which is always in the living room. The lamp is used daily and its accessible to every one in the room, she argues how comes the people who use it are so inhuman and do not feel for the animal which supplied the skin, she challenges them what if the lamp was made of Polish-Jew female skin how could they feel (Coetzee and Amy Gutmann, 2001,pg81).
In this book the writer also tries to bring out the attitude some people in the society have regarding Elizabeth, they portray the level of intimacy she has to the animals. For instance, in the dialogue by Norma she says that she would respect Elizabeth if she stopped her narratives with children about the poor little veal calves and the way they are mistreated by men. Earlier in their dialogue they comment, “Elizabeth Costello and her Second Ark, with her dogs and cat wolves, none of whom, of course, has ever been guilty of the sin of eating flesh, to say nothing of the malaria virus and the rabies virus and the HIV virus which she will want to save so that she can restock her Brave New World.” In this conversation Elizabeth is portrayed how he is crazy with this issue of men disrespecting the animals she even tells children how their elder people have gone too far they are killing calves to obtain meat. She is revealed to have lost her confident on talking to older people concerning this issue, she tries to get comfort from children. Probably she finds it logical to talk with children because their mind has not been polluted, in addition they are future generation and they might join her in this campaign and save the animals from this prison. As disclosed in this conversation, she has a large number of animals she has tamed. “….and her Second Ark” this shows how she has developed a deeper relationship with the animals and she preferred having the animals closer to her. She is described such a way that we conclude that she used to walk hand in hand with the cats, dogs and wolves they could not be separated. The writer brings out this closeness in a way that it was so obvious that these animals belonged to her just like the way a child has an inborn attachment with the parents. This relationship of a child and parent is so natural and the child will always like to remain closer to the parent and feel the love and a sense of identity, such was the kind of closeness that we observe between Elizabeth and her animals. She feels in the right company since neither the animals nor she is guilty of eating the flesh. Mostly in her conversations we find her referring those who slaughter animals as “meat-eating people” she does not want to be associated with them she could not look them in the eyes; she regarded them as conspirators in an offence of stupefying magnitude. This is because they were inhuman and they were not compassionate to the animals (Coetzee and Amy Gutmann, 2001, pg68).
On another instance, we learn that Elizabeth was invited to Appleton to give a talk on any subject she could prefer, her sponsors of course expected her to speak about herself and her fiction. However, she chooses to talk about a hobbyhorse of hers. We observe clearly how she is obsessed by the animals in fact; the phrase “hobbyhorse” depicts horse costume and an obsession. This indicates how the horse and her are tightly bound together and cannot be disconnected by any means. The bond is too tight in such a way that it is too obvious even in lectures; we find that she prefers to give a talk in this topic than any other. We clearly observe that her mind is always occupied with her association with animals and how she can make them feel appreciated she even wants to manipulate other people's way of thinking by choosing to speak about this topic (Coetzee and Amy Gutmann, 2001, pg76).
Comparing Elizabeth's view on animals with Nagel's, Nagel talks of a phenomenon called conscious experience which occurs at different levels of animal life. However, one cannot be certain of its presence in simpler organisms. He argues, “The fact that an organism has conscious experience at all means, basically, that there is something it is like to be that organism.” His argument is based on how it is like to be a bat, he argues that even organisms like the bat have conscious therefore just like higher animals for instance man, these organisms have their identity. He adds that bats being mammals they have experience, they even have more experience than mice, whales, or pigeons. However, it is regarded to have a strange kind of life although it is viewed to be closely associated with human beings. He says that since they have experience they can notice the external world mostly by sonar, from object within range, sensing reflections and high- frequency shrieks. On the other hand, their brains are devised in away that they can connect the outgoing impulses with the successive echoes. His description explains the ambiguity that people have regarding a bat, he portrays a bat as an animal that is very much similar to human beings and can carry out some physiological activities similar to those of human beings. He tries to eliminate the mentality that people have regarding a bat as an animal that is blind and cannot respond to the surrounding. Mostly you find that people disregard a bat and view it as useless animal that cannot be of any importance. He says “Our own experience provides the basic material for our imagination, whose range is limited. It will not help to try to imagine that one has webbing on one's arms, which enables one to fly around …….that one has very poor vision…”( Thomas Nagel and Lambie John, 1974,pg 2).
He argues that if any person was given a chance to describe what he or she imagines what it is like to be a bat, then one would give an incomplete description. He claims that even if one is transformed to be a bat, nothing can offer the correct imagination of the experiences of a bat; the ideal evidence would be from the experiences of bats. He claims that our imagination regarding bats are very futile and cannot be compared to the real experience that bats have. This indicates that our views cannot be used to make conclusion regarding the overall physiology of a bat (Thomas Nagel and Lambie John, 1974, pg 3). Comparing this view with that of Elizabeth, we find that they have some similarities in that even Nagel urges people not to despise animals out of their futile imaginations which are not correct. He argues that if we analyze critically, we find that a bat almost functions as human. He argues that all organisms have conscious and therefore they can respond to their surrounding. To some extent he conquers with Elizabeth who fights those people who mistreat animals since they have no laws that hinder their abuse and misuse.
Coetzee and Amy Gutmann. The lives of animals. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2001.
Thomas Nagel and Lambie John. "What is it like to be a bat". North Carolina: The Philosophical Review, 1974.