Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Fur, Feather, Flesh

I love animals. That seems like such an obvious thing to say. But the more I observe human behavior towards animals I know it’s not. Many people think animals are just fine. You can look at them. Occasionally touch them. You can feed them. Admire them from a distance. Own them. Dress them up in sequins and faux fur which is both redundant and insane. Give them up or throw them out when you've outgrown them or they've outgrown your children or the couch or the TV room. Because you know, they're okay, they're fine. Then there are others who honestly see almost no separation when they compare the way they feel about an animal and a human being. But when push comes to shove a majority of humanity still believes animals – domesticated or not - are ‘other’ and therefore less than us. And I think this has to do with our need to keep them at a distance so we can use them. As beasts of burden. As fabric. As a food source. As experiment. As killing sport. As the thing that can’t speak our language so can easily be made slave.

Most humans would roll their eyes at Albert Schweitzer's creed about animal life and slaughter: Think occasionally of the suffering of which you spare yourself the sight.

And then I observe the rancor that comes when some people find out my charity extends almost solely to animal rights groups, refuges, sanctuaries. When I explain that as donations go, humans charities far, far exceed the number of donations that animal groups do, they don't listen. For them it's abnormal, and a little pathetic to put it frankly, to put other animals anywhere close to the throne we occupy. We are their gods. They are lucky for the lives we have allowed them to live.

And it’s all so incredibly odd to me. As humans, we are but animals. As humans, we no doubt evolved much later than most of the animals we treat so deplorably. But because we won the evolutionary jackpot and were blessed with the capability to both torture and revel in it, we get to hold dominion over them. Sometimes it’s the most humane, kindest type of dominion. But most often it’s so far from any definition of kindness.

When I read anyone claiming that humans who love animals to a greater degree do so because animals are ‘easier’ than human beings to interact with, I shake my head. And when in the mood, laugh. They purport we’re obviously wounded or shy or insecure around people, and animals allow us to hide with them, or behind them, or ask less of us. But nothing could be farther from the truth. My companion animals expect extraordinary things from me, just as my friends and husband do. I let them all down quite a bit. Human nature, I suppose – Hah! But I do not love them as equally as I love human beings because they ask less of me. I love them equally because quite often they give more. It is as simple and true as that. - Janet


  1. Anonymous3:25 AM

    I couldnt agree more! You might want to have a look at the amazing animal rights posters done by our kids in the animal rights competition - - they are all winners if you ask me! They show real talent for such young people, they are really inspiring. To me this shows that concerns about animal rights are very important to young people today too, and hopefully we can work peacefully in the future to help improve animal welfare across the world. :-) xxx

  2. That was beautiful.

  3. Charlotte8:24 AM

    My mother always says that it's important to have animal intelligence in the house. Luna fills our house with an "intelligence" that is otherwise lacking, and when she's not home you feel this sort of awful void. it's very strange. She reminds us, in some wordless way, of how to be in the world. How to live. How to grow old. How to go forth with grace and dignity. Recently, we got a rabbit. I was not keen on the idea of having a rabbit...but I can't tell you how much I love the rabbit. Another kind of intelligence. An amazingly wild, yet tame-ish, being in our midst. Again a reminder...of how many animals are voiceless, how many are only prey, how many are afraid, what consitutes "frightening" etc. I am so glad my daughter asked for her, and that my husband said "Yes."