Animals have become a problem, a zone of serious instability in our moral self-perception. On the one hand, we seem to be an unusually caring age - domestic pets are pampered as never before, people are upset about fox-hunting, they fear for the fate of whales and other endangered species and they demand the extension of legal personhood to the higher primates and domestic pets. On the other hand, we seem to be an unusually savage age - factory farming and animal experimentation impose unprecedented suffering on animals. When it comes to the non-human world, we seem to oscillate violently between sentimentality and nihilism, between an inability and a refusal to think clearly.
There is something fundamental in this, some revelation of our peculiar predicament. The way in which farmers and experimenters use animals is evidence of our age's instrumentalisation of nature, our humanist, utilitarian view of the world as a support system for our species. Meanwhile, an almost neurotic concern for the