So…Who’s the Animal?

So…Who’s the Animal?

For millennia, humans have called other sentient species “animals” – dogs, cats, ManMonkeyHybridfaceelephants, fowl, you get the idea.  And, we use the term as a disparagement – “…he acted like an animal!  It was awful!”

Interesting, given that we, too, are animals…

This was understandable at a time when barbaric practices like blood-letting and slavery were the norm, when humans thought other creatures to be stupid & without feeling therefore perfect for exploitation; they had no purpose other than serving human’s needs with no interest in their well-being.  Think capturing them in the wild for the circus, or whipping a slow, underfed horse to death, from which comes the adage “beating a dead horse” to indicate a futile activity.

Fast forward to the 21st century, and although human’s treatment of other species has greatly improved from even a century ago – Boomers are the first generation to have household pets as the norm – in some ways the practice of distancing ourselves from them continues:

  • We still call them “animals” making them lesser thus less deserving of fully humane treatment at all times;
  • We still refer to them as “it” rather than by gender;
  • We call ourselves their “owners” just as we do our house or car.

In turn, this has allowed us to feel comfortable eating them, selling them, and in too many cases, abusing them.

We now know that all other species, from fish to fowl, from canines/felines large & small to rhinos, feel,smart animals have varying levels of higher order thinking, communicate, have social connections (including some species who mate for life), and are self-aware; in essence, possess all elements required for the same sentience as our species.

We see cows heading for slaughter who know what’s coming and attempt to escape; captive dolphins & whales dying from depression (that’s how the dolphin we all loved on “Flipper” died); fish who are now understood to have the capacity for acquiring, storing in memory, retrieving, combining, comparing, and using in new contexts information and conceptual skills (in fact, their brain to body ratio is higher than ours).
Get a feel for just how loving and smart farm critters are from one of the places that saves them from mostly factory farming.

Yet:

  • Factory farmers use ever more abusive methods to get the biggest bang for their food animals buck (and have put almost 90% of small family farms out of business BTW), and people who claim to love animals still buy their products;
  • Stores like PetSmart & PetCo still buy small animals raised just for sale in usually awful conditions, and sell them, and people still buy them not realizing (or wanting to know?) the harm done to them;
  • Horses & Greyhounds are exploited for racing then sent off to slaughter (horses) or euthanized (dogs) when no longer a money-maker – people still enjoy the horse/dog races, again, not realizing (or wanting to know?) the harm done to them;puppy mills crppd
  • People still buy their pets from breeders who, at best profit from the use of a species just for procreation (something we still consider acceptable for other species when we don’t for our own), at worst run cruel puppy mills;
  • Large and small species are still used for our entertainment as though that was the purpose for their placement on earth – many otherwise animal loving people still attend animal-entertainment venues;
  • We are now fully aware of State-sanctioned animal abuse that goes on in countries like South Korea and China, but we go on supporting those countries by buying their products.

So, why are humans having such difficulty applying our new found understanding of other species to our treatment of them, just as, for example, we’ve changed the way we treat humans with impairments now that we better understand their capacities?  Is same species vs. other species so compelling that we cannot give them the same level of respect we do our own?

Even animal lovers worldwide – folks who have pets and love them dearly – choose to ignore the suffering outlined above.  Americans spend billions on pet care, yet for the most part won’t spend a little extra to buy meat that’s humanely raised, take a little extra time to find a smart phone manufactured by country other than South Korea/China, or cosmetics not tested on animals.

They are animal lovers until it’s inconvenient.

We have the capacity to change the way the we and others in the world treat all God’s critters, yet too many of us don’t.

So, who’s the animal?

blue transp down arrow

If you’re interested in changes you can make to help all other species, here’s a few recommendations:

  • Pay a bit extra for organic eggs & meats from humanely raised livestock (don’t let “natural” or “free of antibiotics” fool you; that means only that a factory farmer as d/c’d adding hormones/antibiotics; if “humanely raised” is not on the packaging, the pigs/cows/hens/turkeys are not being treated well)
  • Join animal advocacy organizations like the ASPCA, the Humane Society of the United States, PETA, and World Wildlife Fund, to stay apprised of petitions you can sign to end various types of animal abuse – of course if you can give one or more of them a small donation, they do very hard work and deserve your support.  Also, a click a day helps animals at the Animal Rescue Site where sponsors pay for that day’s animal helping activity when the required number of clicks is reached; it’s free and it works.  You can sign up to be reminded to click every day, and there’s many other causes on the site, so you can also help them while you’re there if you wish.
  • Do just a bit of research and buy only products not test on animals – there’s a ton of ’em, they can be found everywhere, and it takes only your awareness to make the switch.  PETA keeps an extensive list of products not tested on animals.  Companies like Mary Kay were removed from the list when they opted to start selling products in China – a lucrative market for them, but a decision that clearly put profits ahead of animal welfare given that China requires animal testing on cosmetics…
  • As much as feasible, stop buying products made in China and South Korea, the two greatest serial abusers of particularly dogs and cats.  I know…lots a great things are made in particularly South Korea; LG & Samsung electronics & appliances, Kia & Hyundai cars…but with just a bit of research I found a terrific android phone made in Taiwan (a Chinese territory on paper only), and rather than buy your next car, appliance, or TV from SK, buy one made in America.

So…you think you love animals?

“The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.”
Mahatma Gandhi

Our furry friendsAmericans have tremendous affection for their “other species family members” – we will spend over 55 Billion on our pets this year according to the Animal Health Foundation, with Boomers leading the way, literally: according to the AHF we were the first generation to normalize pet ownership (who knew?!)

Cool!

But, many folks who adore their dogs, cats, iguanas, fish, hamsters, or (fill in the blank) aren’t the total-package animal lovers they think they are.

That’s because these same folks will, without a second thought, inadvertently do a host of things that harm animals.

Worse yet, many will do the fingers-in-the-ears-“la la la I don’t want to hear that!” when the topic of animal mistreatment/cruelty is raised.i don't want to hear it

So, how can so many profess to love all animals so much yet do so little within their power to protect them?

Many say it’s too painful to think about, or believe there’s no way around some forms of abuse (like in medical research).  Lots (like to) think the animals in entertainment venues are well cared for so no harm done.

All are excellent excuses.  None are good reasons.

If you fit the above bill, it’s past time to take a critical look at the breadth of your love for animals.

If you love only animals living in your home, be honest with yourself and others – admit that your love of animals is conditional.  love all animals

But, if after some consideration you believe you really are a lover of all animals everywhere, then you have a bit of work to do…

So, to make this a bit easier for anyone ready and willing to show their love for all animals, here’s an easy reference short list of ways to show it:

training a baby elephant for the circus

training a baby elephant for the circus

  • Stop going to the circus, Sea World, Busch Gardens, or any other venue using animals for our entertainment; other species were not put on the planet for our entertainment, and as we’ve learned by recent national headlines, they really don’t like it
  • Buy meat that is humanely raised – it is a bit more expensive, but doing so both shows care for food animals and gets you meat that tastes better
  • Don’t get pets from commercial animal breeders or pet stores, aka “puppy mills – their animals are often poorly treated in order to improve profits; you local shelter has plenty of critters anxiously awaiting a good home, and btw, shelter animals make much better family members; probably because they really appreciate the home and your love.  Petfinder.com is an excellent resource.
  • Always take a few extra minutes when purchasing any product to ensure it was not tested on animals (those that don’t will proudly state so on the label) – to get you started, Johnson & Johnson refuses to end its use of animals to test its products; here’s a more complete list of companies that still use animals
  • Join one of the numerous organizations/groups that work tirelessly to stop animal abuse and take a few minutes each day to sign their smiling dogpetitions; donate to them when you can (why not take the money you would’ve spent on an extra toy for Fido and make the donation from him?!) (I’ve provided a starter list below)
  • Insist that medical research on animals be discontinued: research has come a long way from last millennia techniques – researchers no longer need to use animals but do so only because it’s been “standard practice” (hasn’t changed since Aristotle’s time) – and more importantly, outcomes on animal research often do not correlate to outcomes with humans… in other words, such research is far less effective than other options (computer models, for instance)
  • Forward this article to all you know who consider themselves animal lovers.

Do these things, and all creatures all around the world will love you back for it.

Links to the top animal welfare organizations:
The Humane Society of the United States (USHS)
American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA)
Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM)
World Wildlife Foundation (WWF) – helps species at risk of extinction
International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) – helps animals in need throughout the world
The Non Human Rights Project (NhRP) – defends the rights of non human species
The Animal Rescue site – one click a day provides help to animals in need – do it every day…it’s free!