You don’t need to love animals
An Animal Rights Article from

FROM Zahava Katz-Perlish,
October 2018

You don’t need to “love” animals. Let’s simply stop thinking about our fellow earthlings as inferior beings and resources whom we can objectify and consume.

Mary had a little lamb
"Mary Had a Little Lamb (Then She Ate It)" courtesy of Dana Ellyn

“I love animals,” how often do I hear or read this seemingly pleasant assertion. The word ‘love’ signifies the deepest affection for another. According to Merriam-Webster, one of the word’s definition is: “unselfish loyal and benevolent concern for the good of another”. For me, loving someone means you want the best for them. You’d think that since my greatest passion is animal advocacy, I’d be thrilled hearing that phrase. But I always take it with a big grain of salt…

I have no doubt that many humans love certain nonhuman animals. I see immense affection for companion animals: dogs, cats, birds, rabbits, and other creatures whom people adopt and bring into their homes. They take great care of them and grieve deeply when they pass away. Caring individuals, when finding homeless companion animals, rescue and adopt them. Others work tirelessly on a regular basis, volunteering many hours in animal rescue organizations and shelters, to save dogs and cats.

Compassion towards animals is demonstrated in so many ways. Those who notice a bug at home, gently catch and release him outside. Others, feed birds in their backyards, and enjoy watching them, or when finding an injured bird, try to save her. Another common show of concern for animals is the outrage towards trophy hunters who post photographs with murdered wild animals. The examples of empathy towards animals are limitless.

All that is indeed fantastic. However, fondness and compassion end sharply for most when it comes to their habits, consumer choices and satisfying their desires. Those positive feelings not only cease to exist – I’ll be blunt here – they turn into endorsing animal cruelty.

You volunteer at an animal shelter to rescue homeless dogs, and find them loving forever homes. And when you and the other volunteers are hungry, you call for a cheese pizza. What’s wrong with rescuing dogs and eating a cheese pizza?

To answer that, let’s just imagine that people were raised on consuming the milk of dogs instead of cow’s milk. You’re accustomed to it, after all, you’ve consumed it all your life and the industry tells us we need dog’s milk for our health. Would you think it’s okay to forcibly impregnate female dogs, the same way it’s performed on dairy cows year after year? Or take their puppies away shortly after birth, and sell them for their prized soft flesh, much like calves? Would you agree to have female dogs milked intensively, then have them killed at a young age, when they’re no longer able to produce enough milk, much like dairy cows? And for the sake of argument, let’s say that all the dog milk products would be labeled as ‘humane’, ‘organic’, ‘free range’; would that be fine with you? If not, why?

What’s the difference between a cow and a dog as far as their ability to think, feel and socialize? No difference. Both species are mammals who are capable of having a full life, love their babies, and care for them, if given the chance to do so. Cows, much like dogs have amazing qualities, they’re smart, affectionate, love to be petted and have unique personalities. The only reason most of us love dogs and think it’s okay to exploit, rape and kill cows, is because we were raised on their milk, and have lived in a society that endorses this barbaric norm. We conveniently ignore the cows’ and calves’ suffering and death when we eat cheese, butter and ice cream. If you love dogs, why support cruelty to cows and calves who’re as precious and value their lives as much as the dogs and puppies you love? Why not simply leave dairy products off your plate?

Another example of the schizophrenic nature of our relationship with animals is people who love their companion birds, or wild birds, but eat the flesh of birds and their eggs. Chickens go through tremendous anguish and get ruthlessly killed for your chicken soup, nuggets or breast. Consuming eggs is a custom that supports a horrendous industry – crowding, mutilation, slaughtering young female chickens, and the barbaric killing of male chicks (‘organic’, ‘free-range’, ‘cage-free’ and ‘humane’ eggs, all come from the same killing hatcheries). If you love birds, how can you bear this type of brutality to feathered creatures? How can you say you love them and eat their flesh?

Chickens, turkeys and other birds used for food are very similar to the birds we “love”. The only difference is that we are accustomed to using them as a food source, not seeing them for what they are: sentient beings who are adorable and love life as much as we do. Did you know that chicks can perform basic arithmetic, and that they can demonstrate self-control and self-assessment? Indeed chickens are as cognitively, emotionally and socially complex as most other birds and mammals. It may make us uncomfortable to know that the chickens we treat as food supply machines are intelligent and loving. Why not show the same kindness you have for wild and companion birds, towards farmed birds?

The disconnect between our perceived feelings (i.e. “I love animals”) and our actual behavior, has many facets. The same folks who get upset about the hunting of wild animals, may be those who enjoy seeing captive animals in zoos and marine parks. I confess, I was one of them, oblivious to the suffering of the imprisoned animals. Let’s think about it. Zoos and marine parks are rooted in the colonial tradition. Capturing, imprisoning and breaking social and familial bonds of wild animals for the sole purpose of entertaining privileged humans, is nothing but cruel. Animals in zoos suffer stress and boredom. The limited space, artificial environment, lack of stimulation and ability to satisfy their natural needs, cause them to go crazy. Baby animals are a source of income, and breeding leads to surplus animals who are sold to other zoos, private breeders, circuses, roadside zoos, canned hunting ranches and even get slaughtered.

What right do we have to capture and confine nonhuman animals? I believe that humans feel they’re entitled to gawk at captive animals because of their sense of superiority. When I see a photo or a video of animals in a zoo or a marine park, my heart breaks, but not only for the animal. I also feel sorry for the people who have never considered the beautiful majestic animals as worth anything but being confined in an artificial environment and the subject of mindless “entertainment”.

All those examples show the disparity between our self image and the consequences of our actions – our cognitive dissonance. We believe that we’re ethical and good people who don’t harm anyone, let alone those creatures we profess to love. The truth is, not only do we turn a blind eye to their suffering, we’re responsible for the immense wrongs done to our fellow animals. For a species which considers itself to be the most intelligent on the planet, we exhibit very little rational thinking when it comes to nonhuman animals.

Our behavior also sheds light on our prejudice and discrimination. The idea that some species are valued more than others, and therefore should be treated differently, is entirely arbitrary and isn’t based on any logic. It’s comparable to other forms of prejudice such as racism and sexism. Sadly it informs our mistreatment of animals, much like certain types of bigotry shape how we treat different groups of human beings.

To those who’ve saved dogs and cats, I’ll go out on a limb and say: you’ll be sparing more lives by not eating animal flesh, milk and eggs, than you’ll ever do by rescuing dogs and cats. The average number of animals spared each year by one person’s vegan diet is estimated to be between 95 to 365. And it’s not only the lives that are spared from death, but also the ones who’re saved from lifelong misery.

Each year humans kill 74 billion land animals and an estimated 90 billion marine animals worldwide. These are astounding figures and every one of us who consumes animal flesh, dairy and eggs, contributes to this bloodbath. This is the furthest thing from love.

And yet, it’s so easy to change our behavior towards animals. I believe it requires insight, self reflection and developing empathy. It can start with putting ourselves, or our companion animals, in their place. For instance, when you drink milk with your morning coffee, eat a piece of cake made with eggs, or bite on flesh of a chicken or a fish, please ask yourself: would I’ve consumed it if a dog or a cat were the source of the food? More importantly, ask yourself, what right do I have to cause such pain and death, merely to satisfy my taste buds?

If you care about wild animals and the planet, you probably know that animal agriculture is ruining the environment. It’s a major source of emissions, greater than all transportation combined, and it’s one of the leading causes of climate change and air pollution, soil degradation and water shortage, and the reduction of biodiversity.

The irony is that there is no shortage of tasty foods made with vegetables, fruit, legumes, grains, nuts and seeds. There are so many delicious and healthy (without any antibiotics, hormones and pus) plant based milks, cheeses, butters and ice creams. Eggs can be easily substituted with various products. And let’s not forget that eating the tortured flesh of sentient beings is not only unnecessary for our health and survival, it’s actually bad for our body.

You don’t need to “love” animals. Let’s simply stop thinking about our fellow earthlings as inferior beings and resources whom we can objectify and consume. We should evolve and view our victims for what they are, individuals who can feel and think. Please, treat all animals with the respect and the humanity they deserve. Go vegan.


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