By Laura A. Moretti
From The Animals' Agenda - March/April 2002
"Why do you suppose you like animals so much?" was the
million-dollar question put to me Christmas Eve (and one I hadn't
provoked). I knew my family was expecting me to say something like, "I
like animals because they're cute and cuddly and furry and fun to play
But instead I said, "I like animals because they're
My observation triggered a facetious comment from one of
my brothers. "About what?" -- as if honesty were merely about telling
the truth, and everyone knows animals can't talk! His notation was met
with hearty laughter; for once, they thought they'd repaid me for all
the discomfort I'd caused them at other family gatherings.
"I like that animals don't pretend to be someone they're
not," I continued in my reply, hushing the crowd. "To quote a phrase,
'Dogs don't lie about love.' Animals don't fake their feelings. I like
that they're emotionally fearless."
We were lounging on sofas and armchairs after our feast
and present-opening. Coffee was being served, so I seized the
"I like animals," I added, "because they only take out
of life what they need. They don't abuse their environment, annihilate
species, pollute their water, contaminate the air they breathe. They
don't build weapons of mass destruction and use them against others --
particularly members of their own species. I like animals because they
have no use for those things, or for war or terrorism. They don't build
nations around genocide."
My uncle seemed momentarily lost in thought. He had been
born and raised in New York City.
"That's because they don't know any better," a
brother-in-law argued. "They don't do those things because they don't
"A pride of lions doesn't get together," I countered
him, "and decide how to exterminate zebras -- their very source of
nourishment. I don't think it's because they don't know how. I think
it's because it's counter-productive."
"I also like animals," I continued, "because they don't
punish themselves for their perceived inadequacies. They don't dwell on
things of the past, nor use them as excuses for behavior in the present.
And they don't plan to live someday in the future; they live today, this
moment, fully, completely, and purely. I like animals because they live
their lives with so much more freedom than humans live theirs."
"That's because they don't think," one of my cousins
"Is that the difference?" I wondered. "'I think
therefore I'm cruel, destructive, insecure, abusive?' You meant to say
they don't think the way we think."
The room had become strangely quiet. I was amazed at how
closely my family was listening, despite the occasional grunt to the
"I like animals because they don't bow down to imaginary
gods they've created, nor annihilate each other in the name of those
gods; gods, they say, who are all-knowning and all-loving and just. I
like animals because they only know how to give unconditional love and
implicit trust. I mean, animals either extend those things to you or
they don't; there are no shades of gray. They have the best of what
makes us human and, as one observer put it, 'none of our vices.'"
"And thank God," someone injected.
"Lastly," I added, remembering why I was an animal
rights activist, "Animals are the most victimized living creatures on
earth: more than children, more than women, more than people of color.
Our prejudice enables us to exploit and use them, as scientific tools
and expendable commodities, and to eat them. We do to them any atrocity
our creative minds can summon. We justify our cruelties; we have to or
we can't commit them. I like animals because they don't do to themselves
or to others the things we do to them. And they don't make excuses for
unethical actions because they don't commit unethical acts."
"And finally," I finished, "I like animals because
they're not hypocrites. They don't say one thing and do another. They
are, as I've said, honest. Animals -- not humans -- are the best this
planet has to offer."
And, interestingly enough, despite my soapbox rant, not
a one of them made a snide comment or a hint of laughter. The
conversation actually rolled into shared stories of animals they'd
known, stories of animal loyalty and intelligence, their humor and
innocence. And it was me who'd become the listener with the occasional
"Now, if humans could only be, well, like animals."
And that is why I fight the good fight; I rise on behalf
of the best among us.
Laura A. Moretti is a contributing editor to "The
"Reprinted with permission from The Animals' Agenda,
P.O. Box 25881, Baltimore, MD 21224; (410) 675-4566;
Go on to Job
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