I used to be really anti-animals. Or rather, I used to be really anti-people, but only pro-animal people. Does that make sense? Grammatically, I mean, not logically. As with all irrational prejudice, it was because I did not understand them.
At my law school, which was practically overrun with students scouring the state for public service opportunities, the kids aligned with the animal legal defense association straight up bewildered me. I’m not going to argue that animals don’t have legal rights; I just don’t care whether or not they do when there are real live humans, just like you and me, having their actual rights, rights firmly rooted in morality, history, and law, stomped on all the time, all over the world.
At my high school, decidedly less overrun with type A overachievers (public school shout out!), my two type A overachieving best friends who spent their weekends junior year volunteering at the Humane Society bewildered me only slightly less. I mean, it’s not like I was doing any community service, but if I had been, it would have been in a soup kitchen or a homeless shelter or something.
Because the thing about people? They are more important than animals. I don’t mean this in a psychotic “humans were put on earth to destroy the planet as we see fit” way, but in a “our moral duty not to screw over our fellow men and women outweighs any similar obligation we might owe other living things.” I’m sure I haven’t offended any rational thinkers yet. However, I’m going to take this a step further and make a really offensive generalization: I think that people who care about animals, especially their pets, more than they care about other people — all other people — are selfish, and also jerks.
Having said all that, I will confess that, since becoming a pet owner, my feelings have shifted. Somewhat. People that contribute time or money to charities for animals don’t confuse me anymore. Just like I can’t contribute to every cause that moves me, neither can they. Loving animals does not necessarily correspond to disregarding people. I no longer look down on people who tear up at the sound of the words “kill shelter,” even while they remain unfazed by news of another bomb dropping on the other side of the world. Because dude, we live in an effed up world that slowly numbs the natural empathic response to war and violence. That doesn’t mean we have to harden the natural human response to the sight of a fuzzy puppy at the same time.
The other day, Husband asked me if I would kill our dog for 30 million dollars (relax, this was a debate he heard on the radio; he’s not a monster) and I said no. I had to. It’s totally irrational, though. Do you know how many other animals (not to mention people) I could save with 30 million dollars? I guess what is boils down to is that, to some degree, animals are like people in that we love them in a way that we cannot love things. I still think that it’s insanely selfish to be willing to sacrifice more for a dog than you would for a person on the other side of the world. It’s also (less insanely) selfish to be willing to sacrifice more for a family member than you would for a person on the other side of the world. This reality still bothers me, but my response to the wrongness of it has changed. I used to think the answer was to love animals less. Now I realize that we just need to love people more.
I still hate cats, though, and have to fight the urge to hate cat people.
Additional Reading: Husband’s super-opinionated pet post on another topic (and with corgi pictures!)