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Why Care about Animals When There Is So Much Human Suffering?

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Why Care about Animals When There Is So Much Human Suffering?

From Free From Harm
December 2012

Why do we believe we matter more than all of the other species on the planet? Why do we feel we must enforce our supremacy at the expense of all of the other species? Why do we insist it is either us or them, as if peaceful coexistence weren’t possible? Are we perhaps far too selfish, too egotistical to share this world with others — all of who arrived on this planet long before us?

To paraphrase Australian philanthropist Philip Wollen, If there was anything in nature as violent and destructive as man, we would call it a virus and attempt to wipe it off the face of the earth.

A guest named “Mom” posted a comment to our website today that I think captures one of the most common objections we vegan and animal advocates face today. “Mom” questions why anyone should care about animals when there is so much human suffering in the world today.

mom motherhood human sufferingShe writes: “I find it ironic that people are worried about the calves drinking formula, when millions of human babies are being fed formula instead of breastmilk.”

Well, let’s see here. There is something called free will, which humans claim for themselves but do not give to millions of animals bred by the dairy industry. Human mothers can choose whether or not to breast feed their babies. Dairy cows cannot. They are forcibly impregnated — to be blunt, raped — once a year, torn from the babies they carried for nine months, hooked up to milking machines until they are “spent,” then shipped off to slaughter when they become too sick or weak to be economically-viable. Contrary to popular belief but discernable by their actions, cows desire to raise a family and care for their young. Wow. What a surprise, huh? Yet, predictably, and necessarily, dairy farming denies these bovine mothers everything that gives pleasure and comes naturally to them.

But aside from the obvious issue of free will vs. slavery, the problem we vegans have is not the quality of the calf’s replacement formula. The problem is the misguided belief that we even need to drink cow’s milk at all! It’s bizarre to think we need the hormonal secretions of another species, when no other species has such a requirement. Indeed, even the offspring of the cows whose milk we steal are — if allowed to remain with their mothers for a normal length of time — weaned off of their mother’s milk at about a year old and move on to solid food. The dairy industry spends millions annually advertising a product that could not be further removed from what nature intended for us or for the cows, year in and year out. It needs to work really hard to maintain this ridiculous myth that cow’s milk and the products derived from it are normal, natural and necessary for human consumption.

What is truly ironic is that even people who say they generally believe in evolution as opposed to Creationism still buy into the false dichotomy of “us and them.” If Darwin’s theory of evolution — and all of the science supporting evolution since then — proves anything, it demonstrates how we are connected to the animal kingdom, not separate from it. Humans, in fact, are part of the ape (Hominid) family. It’s time we start admitting that scientific fact.

Why do we believe we matter more than all of the other species on the planet? Why do we feel we must enforce our supremacy at the expense of all of the other species? Why do we insist it is either us or them, as if peaceful coexistence weren’t possible? Are we perhaps far too selfish, too egotistical to share this world with others — all of who arrived on this planet long before us?

It’s no stretch to think that humans should care about the calves and their mothers. After all, we bred them into this world — artificially — as domesticated animals who are completely dependent on us. Therefore, they are completely our responsibility.

“Mom’s” closing comment: “The world would be a better place if people started worrying about other people instead of animals.”

I see actually the opposite to be true. If we had a smaller human population, the world would indeed be better off. As our population growth soars — expected to increase by another 2 billion people in the next 30 years — we continue to devour, at an alarming rate, what’s left of the earth’s natural resources, as if there were no tomorrow. If we truly cared about people, we wouldn’t be living so short-sightedly, would we? Don’t we at least care about the world our children will inherit? If we honestly do, there must be nothing short of a paradigm shift in how we treat the very habitat that sustains our life and, consequently the life of others.

Russian novelist Leo Tolstoy is famous for his observation, “Where there are slaughterhouses, there will be battlefields.” If violence begets more violence, how do we expect to solve the biggest social problems for our own species when we remain completely desensitized to the suffering of others? Indeed, humankind’s treatment of animals is “humankind” at its absolute lowest. Without mercy, we breed, raise to market weight, and send to slaughter some 60 billion land animals and catch in nets another 60 billion aquatic animals every year to feed a human population that could largely live on a plant-based diet. To paraphrase Australian philanthropist Philip Wollen, If there was anything in nature as violent and destructive as man, we would call it a virus and attempt to wipe it off the face of the earth.

On the contrary, Mom. The world will be a better place when we stop separating us from them and finally acknowledge that, for better or worse, we are all in this together.