The value of life

Michel Claessens
Michel Claessens
Editor in chief

What is it that distinguishes man from animals, or more accurately, from other animals?

Recent research, in particular from Europe, has shed interesting light on this longdebated question. This research tells us that culture, conceptualisation and reasoning are not specific to humans. But while mankind's animal side is unquestioned, the humanity of animals is still to be defined. The pages of this special issue are not therefore to be read as an ode to ‘animal emancipation'. Such an attitude is as "ill informed" as denying any intelligence to non-humans. Animals and mankind are, if not fellow creatures, at least partners on Earth.

This special issue, however, does run counter to another strong societal current. Driven by commercial logic and a tendency to reduce biological beings - animals in particular - to mere objects, humanity is also breeding large numbers of chickens, calves and pigs in industrial conditions, reducing them to the status of consumer gadgets. Can one expect a civilisation that is wasteful of the fruits of nature, from oil to biodiversity, to attach proper value to life?