Many wild animals live longer in a captive setting. While there are some exceptions (such as elephants), most animals provided with shelter, a constant supply of food and nutritional supplements, and protection from the wild interactions that might wound, maim, or kill them experience increases in longevity. And despite the greater life expectancy and longer lifespan, most people understand that wild animals held in a zoo setting do not live the lives they were biologically intended to. For example, a lion living in a relatively small enclosed area that is fed beef and poultry on a regular schedule is not experiencing what it means to be a lion. In other words, while it is still a lion, some of its “lion-ness” has been taken away from it by its captors. Almost everyone would agree that in spite of the easier life, a healthy lion would prefer to be in the wild, even though this involves living with risk and uncertainty. Wild lions experience many adversities, including hunger due to failed hunts, injuries from hooves and horns during chases, and sometimes fierce battles against other lions. Through these hardships—perhaps only because of the hardships—the animal fully lives the life of a lion only when in the wild.
But, for some reason, humans are seen differently. The greater life expectancy and increased longevity experienced in the modern world is used as rationale for why this version of living is better than that experienced by any previous people (especially wild humans). No matter what freedoms are taken away from us and how much we are forced to work for others, we live longer and that makes everything acceptable. We spend much more time laboring than indigenous people, often performing jobs that are deprived of fulfillment, ultimately experiencing a form of captivity that is without fences. Worse, our education makes it impossible for us to be wild because we have both forgotten how to live outside of our human zoos and have been convinced that being wild is a step backward. The chronic disease and frequent depression indicates very clearly we are not living as humans were biologically intended to. Could it be that we are unwilling to see that we are no longer fully human, that some of our “human-ness” has been taken away from us. Perhaps we traded a significant part of our sovereignty for a longer life, the same longer life that many zoo animals experience.
[excerpt from: A New Path (Haines, in prep.)]