For millennia, humans have called other sentient species “animals” – dogs, cats, elephants, 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, 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.
- 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;
- 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?
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.