How to develop compassion towards animals
It’s amazing how little research we have about how animals think and feel, but it is there! Any animal lover could already tell you that animals think and feel and need us to be more compassionate towards their needs. But, still, there are some people – pet owners and people who don’t like animals, that just don’t get why compassion towards animals is an ethical choice that we all should be making.
A few years ago a woman on YouTube, named Trisha Paytas, made a video titled ‘Do Dogs Have Brains?’ In it, she poses this ridiculous statement, “… do dogs have brains, because dogs can’t talk. Yes, they can walk, but that’s because we’re telling them to walk…” I’m not sure if she was just trying to get views on her channel, but I’ve met people who seriously view their dog as property without a brain, so even if she isn’t that clueless, there are people out there who are!
In any case, the point is that many people view animals as objects, not living beings, and that needs to change. We need to develop more compassion towards animals so we can stop the unethical way that animals are treated every single day.
Leonardo da Vinci said, “…and the time will come when men such as I will look upon the murder of animals as they now look upon the murder of men.” I know that today many more people are viewing the murder of animals as something completely unethical. Even in the courts, we are seeing more justice for the dogs that are being abused in dog fighting competitions with one man named Hewitt Grant receiving 20 years of jail time!
Animals Experience Fear And Pain
We can all relate to fear and pain, and letting other people know that animals feel fear is a great way to get them thinking about how they treat animals and what they must feel. Research has shown that mammals and birds are sentient, and research is even showing that fish experience fear. [Source: http://www.uoguelph.ca/csaw/newsletter/doc/csawnewsweb.pdf]
There used to be a slaughterhouse near my school, and the screams of those cows were horrifying. If cows didn’t experience fear or pain, then they wouldn’t make a noise. But, the cows watching the other cows get slaughtered, were screaming their heads off. As Paul McCartney said, “If slaughterhouses had glass walls, we would all be vegetarian.”
Moreover, I know a man who worked at a chicken slaughterhouse. The way the chickens were treated and killed actually sent him into a deep depression. He was unable to sleep without nightmares for a long time. I won’t go into details as you can look up the cruel practices for yourself, but know that if animals didn’t experience fear and feel pain, then what he saw and experienced wouldn’t have affected him.
And, of course, dogs and cats experience fear. You just have to watch them wince at a loud noise or run from something falling. They are not mindless little beings that allow themselves to get hurt at every turn. Fear is a very real emotion that dogs and cats have because they don’t want to experience pain.
Jeremy Bentham said, “The question is not, “Can they reason” nor, “Can they talk” but, “Can they suffer?” If people had vision in his time of the late 1700’s and early 1800’s, then they knew that animals could suffer. They didn’t need the research to prove that to them.
Most humans do not want to make others suffer, so it’s important that everyone knows that suffering in the animal kingdom is a real thing. The lack of research leaves us clueless as to how much and in how many species, but if one animal can feel suffering, then that should be enough to convince people that they need to assume they all can and show compassion towards animals because of this.
Some Animals Don’t Like To Be Lonely
I used to have a neighbor who left her dog in a little tiny space in her backyard 24 hours a day and seven days a week. I felt so bad for the dog knowing that dogs are generally pack animals, and even though I eventually did bring this to her attention, she never bothered to spend time with her dog. She told me that her dog was solely there to guard her house. I’m not sure how exactly he guarded her house from his little tiny space in the backyard.
Yes, there are some animals that prefer to be alone, just like there are some people that prefer to be alone. But there are also many pack animals that need to be around other animals, or, at least, people who show them love and attention.
I’m assuming you have seen the oddly paired animals that get along and form a friendship. The dog and the deer. The tiger and the bear. If animals didn’t desire companionship, or if they weren’t capable of feeling and showing affection, then they simply would ignore all other animals and people. Obviously, this isn’t the case.
It’s important to have compassion towards your pet’s needs and speak up when you see an animal that is confined, alone, and unable to speak up for themselves. Considering that they do have brains that process emotions, it is extremely cruel not to give an animal what it needs, which may be love, companionship, and attention.
Animals Have Consciousness
Anything that has awareness about itself and its surroundings should be viewed and treated with compassion. For instance, we have seen many animals demonstrate empathy towards other animals and human beings, which many people don’t think animals are capable of. I’ve seen stories of empathy from a number of animals. A dog saving another dog. A group of elephants saving an elderly woman by putting her in branches to protect her from hyenas and then guarding her until humans came and found her. Dolphins helping humans. The stories go on and on.
But their consciousness goes beyond empathy. They are capable of being mindful and thinking things through.
Just recently I watched a documentary on humpback whales and the research that is being done on them in their natural habitat. It seems that a group of humpback whales went against their natural way of hunting for fish, individually, and worked together to move fish and then trap them in a vortex of water where they could not get out, giving each whale more dinner in the process. That research alone shows that they have the ability to think, plan, communicate, and then take action!
Animals Are Similar To Us
Why do researchers experiment on animals for human products and drugs? The answer you will hear is that because animals are like us. However, when you ask researchers why it’s ethically okay to experiment on them, they will tell you the animals are not like us. Which one is it? I would have to believe that animals are more like us than not and that is why they are being used to test products that will benefit us. This is just common sense.
However, the argument that it would be unethical to experiment on humans is the old standby used by researchers. When it comes to ethics, there is no reason that products should be tested on animals as opposed to humans. Both feel pain. Both feel fear. Both feel sad.
The only difference is that animals can’t speak up or escape or protest in a way that a human can. This is such a saddening thought if you really reflect on it and imagine it. They are helpless and deserve the compassion than any human would expect.
Animals Communicate Very Well
Just because animals don’t speak human languages doesn’t mean they don’t communicate. Most people are willing to accept that dogs have a way of communicating intelligible things. For instance, they easily communicate when they’re hungry or in pain or happy or excited. It’s not hard to figure these things out. And, as any pet owner with more than one dog will tell you, the other dogs clearly understand what one dog is communicating. This is how puppies learn from adult dogs.
Every animal has its own way of communicating. For instance, whales use a variety of sounds to communicate, and researchers are finding that the sounds have very clear messages in them. Simply type in ‘how do [insert animal] communicate’ into any search engine, and you will find that all animals have their own way of communicating.
The truth is that we just don’t listen to them. Many humans are too self-absorbed to even try to understand that animals are sending very clear messages about how they feel and what they want.
Teaching Kids To Have Compassion Towards Animals Promotes More Empathy
A lot of people who do not have compassion for animals have plenty of compassion for kids. They understand the kids are defenseless and innocent, and if you are having a hard time convincing someone to show compassion towards animals, they may be convinced that teaching kids how to be compassionate is beneficial to the kids and animals alike.
I’ve seen my share parents who do not teach kids how to have compassion towards animals, and these kids are little terrors. Their lack of compassion towards animals causes them to view them as little more than toys. Since we’ve established that animals feel fear and pain, kids look past the obvious fear and pain and continue on with their abusive actions. This inability to recognize fear and pain can affect their everyday interactions. It’s very important that kids are taught how to be extremely compassionate towards animals and relate to them in a kinder way, because if they can show compassion to defenseless creatures, then they will have more compassion towards other humans.
This is not just hopeful thinking. Research has shown that teaching kids to be compassionate to animals can help them to become more kind and considerate in their interactions with other humans. Moreover, it helps them be more respectful and valuable to society.
Just Because We Ignore Animal Abuse Doesn’t Mean It’s Not Happening
It’s very easy to close your eyes and your ears to animal abuse, but that doesn’t mean it’s not happening. It’s important to think about the suffering that is happening with animals, even if you are unwilling to watch it or listen to it. Doing that one simple act will help you develop more compassion towards animals and animal activists who are on the front lines witnessing what is going on and what needs to be done to help out these animals.
I’m not just talking about livestock, although that is definitely part of it. Did you know that according to Jonathan Safran Foer, author of Eating Animals, a fourth of all chickens have fractures because they are packed so tightly together? Moreover, they don’t get to see the sun and have to live in their own waste?
Chicken is the most popular meat out there, yet people don’t take the time to find out where their food comes from – even with the ridiculous commercials that claim their foods come from animals that haven’t been mistreated or given growth hormones or antibiotics. Who cares about that? They are still being killed by the masses and scared, miserable, and in a lot of pain.
I’m also talking about pets that are being abused on a level that makes my skin crawl. It’s important that we acknowledge that reality in order to do things that can help give animals the compassion that they deserve. It’s important to keep our eyes open for what is wrong and then admit it to ourselves instead of turning a blind eye to it.
You Are Responsible For What You Don’t Do
Just as you are responsible for what you do, you are also responsible for what you don’t do. Therefore, knowing that animals are living beings and experience a range of emotions may cause you to avoid certain products or eat a meatless diet, but you are also responsible for what you do.
Therefore, if you close your eyes to what is happening and don’t take into account the suffering of billions of animals that live horrible lives and die in unimaginable ways doesn’t motivate you to speak up, sign petitions, and help out animals in some way, then you have to remember that you are responsible for what you don’t do.
And if you are putting it off until tomorrow, it’s important to remember that old saying ‘if not now, then when?’
For example, a report in December 2014 was published that stated removal of the meat diet was essential to avoid climate change. That was back in 2014! Have you heard much about that? I haven’t! The fact that they said preventing catastrophic warming means lowering meat and dairy consumption didn’t seem to affect too many people, even though they heard it. In other words, they are responsible for what they don’t do.
A Life Is A Life
All these hunters that hunt for the sake of putting an animal’s head on their wall need to have their heads examined. Why take a life simply to display its head on your wall? Why deny it the chance to mate, have a family, enjoy nature, and live out its life? What makes a wild animal different than a dog or cat? Your inability to be compassionate that they are living, breathing, and experiencing too?
If you have a hard time convincing someone to be more compassionate towards animals, than I have a suggestion – run! If they can’t have compassion for a defenseless living being, then there is something wrong with their moral compass, and I wouldn’t trust them with your happiness, health, and well-being because their focus seems to be stuck on themselves and their greed.