The Daily Tar Heel
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The Daily Tar Heel

Last semester, the political science department offered an interesting class — administrative oversight, I guess.

During the seminar, we were assigned “What Is It Like to Be A Bat?” by Thomas Nagel.

Of course, I suppose I’ll never TRULY know what was in any of the required reading here — but from what I Googled before class, Nagel’s point was that it would be impossible for us to accurately imagine what it would be like to be a bat, without imagining what it’s like to be a bat from the perspective of a human. It was a lot to digest.

After sleeping on it in class, the piece got me thinking: Do we really see humanity in certain animals, or do we project it onto them? What, if anything, separates humans from animals? Why is everyone covering their Scantron?

Many species can be witnessed exhibiting all kinds of behavior that once seemed uniquely “human”: certain elephants have been observed mourning their dead, vampire bats demonstrate reciprocity and rhesus monkeys — who share most of our DNA — act like complete little a—holes.

So when it comes to eating animals, I’m a little like Thomas Jefferson was about slavery: in my heart, I know it’s morally wrong, but I continue the practice anyway, raising illegitimate, half-hamburger children in secret. But to paraphrase Obama, my position’s evolving.

We already turn our heads to animal abuse every day: we try not to think about where packaged meat comes from … We hold Michael Vick up as a role model again … We cruelly force Ramses to walk upright during games, with human clothes and human T-shirt launchers.

But forget them. Recently, we had a tiny mouse in our apartment. I hate mice and, until this one, had no problem seeing one dead.

I chased it around the house with a giant Tupperware container: he was terrified, dashing from one wall to another, frantically searching for an exit, and I screamed like a girl to stun him and establish dominance.

But when I finally cornered him, I’ll never forget what he did next.
The little guy just stopped, squeezed himself into a tiny ball and covered his eyes with his little mouse hands — as if to just say, “I give up. Make it quick.”

I don’t know why, but it moved me. Until that moment, I never even considered a mouse to be capable of such complex emotions. I don’t care what Nagel says — for a moment, I knew what that mouse was feeling.

How cruel and unfair was life, I thought, that this mouse’s life would end up in the hands of someone like me, this bad of a writer?

It was only by some cosmic mistake he was born into a world where he’s thrown out in Tupperware, while my dog, with similar complexities, sleeps soundly on the couch.

Who knows the kinds of terrifying thoughts slaughterhouse animals must experience? I don’t even want to think about it.

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