“These are the fittest, well-fed, best-kept horses I’ve ever seen.”

Recently actor Liam Neeson was a guest on The Daily Show With Jon Stewart. He was supposed to be there to discuss his new movie, but the interview ended up focusing on a local New York City political debate about the horses used to pull carriages around Central Park. Stewart maintains that animals “would rather run” freely than pull carriages and deserve “a better life” in a “pastoral existence”. But Neeson argues that domestic animals like cows and horses have “been trained for thousands of years” to do this work and actually enjoy it. Neeson’s suggestion is that domestic animals can actually be fulfilled by their work (when given humane working conditions) in the same way that humans can be fulfilled by their jobs.

I couldn’t get the embed function to work, but you can watch the video here. (The relevant discussion starts at 1:40 and ends at 5:04.)

Neeson’s view reminds me of C.S. Lewis‘s argument in The Problem of Pain that it is the human vocation to domesticate all animals. In contrast to what he calls “atheistical thought” which sees wild animals as natural and domestication as artificial, Lewis argues (based on God’s command in Genesis 1:28 to “subdue” the earth and “have dominion” over the animals”) that the tame animal is “in the deepest sense, the only ‘natural’ animal – the only one we see occupying the place it was made to occupy”.

For a reconstruction of Lewis’s view see my essay “Animal Pain and the Community of All Creatures” (esp. p. 10ff) available on my website.
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