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July 10, 2014: Helping vs. selfishness

Originally posted on this blog.

Many people claim that they love animals, but the millions of animals in the world that need our help will not survive on kind words and good intentions alone. While the factors that prevent people from helping other animals are plentiful, I will forget about the most obvious ones, such as lack of compassion, and focus instead on one that is a little more ambiguous - seeing helping as a burden, one that either financially, emotionally, or physically complicates one's life.

A good example of this desire to not complicate one's life too much is the hesitation when faced with the prospect of adopting a pet. It really saddens me that so many people basically have to be convinced to do this, when the presence of a cat, dog, or other animal in the household can bring so much happiness, to all parties involved. Still, people have their routines, which they feel will be compromised by having to walk a dog, by making it harder to travel, by having to spend more money on cat food, litter, vets, etc. While I can understand all of these reasons, as an Effaist I still have to remind you that life is about stepping outside your comfort zone in order to help those that need it; and a cat or dog living a relatively lonely life in a shelter would definitely qualify as someone who needs help. Personal well-being is important, and there's nothing wrong with ensuring this well-being, but the reasons that most people give for not committing to a stray animal are often simply laughable, if not downright selfish. Any changes in your lifestyle will be outweighed by the benefits of the noble act of rescuing an animaI. I myself have adopted or rescued several animals. The first cat that I rescued initially seemed like a burden, because I too had never had to take care of another animal, but over time she became an inseparable part of our family, and to this day I love her very much.

Another example of choosing the easy way out, the path of least resistance if you will, is the reluctance of many animal lovers to adopt a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle. Again, even in a world with so much proof about the benefits of a plant-based diet, as well as more and more meat-free options readily available, many "animal lovers" still can't completely cross over to a lifestyle that says no to violence towards other animals. Sometimes this is because of uncertainty about missing out on essential nutrients or the fear of having to take supplements. I often wonder why the same people don't remember that any diet has to be well-balanced to work, and that more meat-eaters take supplements for one reason or another than vegetarians. Others say things like animal proteins are more complete, and that they don't want to have to work hard to mix and match plant-based foods to ensure they get the same protein. Once again, the comfort zone. "I don't want to have to do anything that will make my life any more difficult". I, and many others like me, will gladly mix and match veggie proteins if it means not partaking in the violence and death of the meat and dairy industries. For any truly compassionate individual who can see the big picture, this is a no-brainer. Still, there are even those (and quite many of them) that simply say that they love the taste of meat and can't live without it. Whether overtly or not, what these people are saying is that they don't give a damn if animals are killed, as long as they get to have that pleasure of eating meat. Complete selfishness and lack of empathy for the suffering of other animals, and a lack of respect for their lives. Hopefully someday these people will wake up to a more compassionate way of life, for their own sake and for the sake of all the innocent animals in the meat industry.

It's a lot easier to help with helping is easy. Unfortunately helping is sometimes not easy. Even in our world where the need for instant gratification has become more and more commonplace, not everything can be arranged at the push of a key. Difficult ethical choices have to be made, ones that often challenge the way we live. Acting to help animals is a very important part of life. We should all ask ourselves if we're doing enough to help, or if, like most people, we're stuck in our comfort zone, and are too focused on our own needs, and the needs of our immediate friends/family. Making a difference in the world begins when we reach out to those outside of this zone.

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