This is an opinion piece, so I’m going to share my thoughts and pose some questions which I hope will cause you to think of animals in a different light. At the end, I hope you will come to the conclusion that animals deserve compassion and mankind will only benefit by embracing this belief.
Before I begin, let me say, that if a child and a chipmunk fell out of a boat, I would save the child first. The point I’m trying to make though, is that I’d save the chipmunk too.
At some point, in all our lives, we are helpless. For some, it may be only at the beginning and the end; for others it is for the duration.
I think we can all agree on this point.
You may say there is a difference, and animals are not like us. In some respects this is true. They are helpless against man, do not use words, have no vote and have no money.
But there are many ways in which they are the same. They protect their young, they feel pain, and they play, feel love and mourn the loss of loved ones. I have also witnessed behaviors in my pets which I can only describe as jealousy, a sense of humor and guilt. Dolphins have been known to protect humans from shark attacks and the list of what dogs, cats and horses have done for us would take too long to write.
If you add gratitude and the capacity for forgiveness, any animal rescuer will tell you that domesticated paws and hooves leave us in the dust. Seeking the ultimate in loyalty and unconditional love, you need look no further than a dog.
What about some other traits which we think apply only to humans?
Can animals do math? There have been studies which have shown that elephants and chimpanzees can distinguish numbers of objects. I would also suggest that, given we know the exact amount that goes into the bank on payday, and our all too frequent inability to account for where it went, that we don’t want to use this as a differential.
Can animals problem solve? Have they developed a garbage can that the garbage collector can open but a raccoon can’t?
Are animals courageous? Google search for: ‘Dog risks life to save yields’ 967,000 results
Or how about this: Have you ever tried approaching the young of any species, when their mother is near?
Do animals have a soul? You will have to decide this one on your own, but I will say that the only thing that consoled me, when I lost my pets, was the belief that I will see them again later.
Have you ever watched a little child’s delight at the smallest of creatures or marveled at the bond between them and their pet? I believe that we are connected to animals and nature from birth and too many lose this along the way to adulthood. If you don’t believe this, walk a dog by a playground full of kids.
So where does that leave us? Oh yes, they are helpless against man, do not use words, have no vote and have no money.
I believe that we need to aspire to more humane treatment of all animals, not only because of their intrinsic value, but for ourselves. Some of the greatest minds in history have drawn parallels between the manner in which animals are treated in any given country and how it reflects the treatment given its citizens.
The following is a quotation from one of those great minds:
“I could not have slept tonight if I had left that helpless little creature to perish on the ground.” (Reply to friends who chided him for delaying them by stopping to return a fledgling to its nest.) – Abraham Lincoln
He is, of course, better known as the U.S. President who fought the war which abolished slavery.
If you still doubt that the manner in which we learn to treat animals determines how we will treat each other, let’s try this:
If you desperately needed help, and could only ask one person, would you ask an animal lover or an animal hater?
Let’s put this in the form of a scenario: You’re on a boat, off the coast of Louisiana and you fall in. You can turn one way and yell for help from an animal activist, saving oil slicked wildlife, or face the other and yell for help from a person checking to make sure all the sea life is dead, so they can continue drilling.
I think we all know which way we would face.
I rest my case.
Julie Power is our first Your Turn blogger. She lives with her husband, 2 children and dog in Ontario, Canada. She holds a B.A. in Psychology, which she acquired while seeking an explanation for human behavior, and then worked for the Humane Society, as she wanted to make a difference. She can talk about gardening, animal rights and the environment until your eyes glaze over and says our children should be taught the vital importance of compassion and honesty, before they can spell the words. She indicated she assesses a person by how they treat those over whom they have power, but that her dog already knows. She says if people considered the opinion their children would have of their actions the world would be a better place. She believes that most of us, herself included, need to volontarily undergo an emergency intervention for our environmental myopia.
by Delusional Danny via Flickr/Creative Commons
by Julie Power: Care2 Your Turn blogger