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NOV 16, 2012: Using our love for our pets to learn to empathize with other animals

Originally posted on this blog.

People all over the world have pets that they love very much. In some countries, these pets are treated as family members, while in other countries, less so. Still, in both cases, there is enough respect for these pets to make the idea of eating them seem cruel. After all, someone might say, these are pets, and while other types of animals are meant to be eaten, pets are not. This, of course, is not true per se, and depends on your perspective. If you look at eating habits around the world, what is acceptable in one culture is often deemed unacceptable in another. Cows are sacred in India, while they are slaughtered by the million in Texas. Cats and dogs are beloved by people in many parts of the world, but both are eaten in parts of Asia, as well as in some other parts of the world. The easiest way to break the cycle, to stop eating the meat of an animal, is to have a personal connection to that animal. This is why people who have cats or dogs will, generally, never even think about eating them; or why rat owners are sickened at the thought of animal experimentation; or why bird watchers sometimes get so attached to birds, they would never want to see one harmed.

As an Effaist, I believe that every step we take to stop eating animals is a good step. Every instance when a species is taken off the "list of animals to be eaten" constitutes progress. Whenever we start to feel that personal connection to a certain animal, we should be happy. We should be grateful that we are lucky enough to love our cat, dog, guinea pig, turtle, hamster, etc., but should also use this opportunity to expand this love to include other animals. Why? Because a connection to one animal is like a seed that can eventually grow into a beautiful tree of compassion for all animals. We must remember that no animal wants to feel pain or suffering, whether it be our dog or cat, or a pig, cow, or sheep. No animal wants to be hoarded and confined in a small, crowded area. We hate the thought of our pets being in this situation, but chickens, and many other farm animals often live their whole lives in dark, confined spaces, only to be killed at the end. When we see reports of dogs and cats crammed into cages, we feel horrified, and justifiably so. We should try to grow our empathy for other animals, so that we have the same sort of reaction when we see them in such situations. They deserve our sympathy and our help as well. Again, donít be afraid to make the connection. We should remember that these animals have the same emotions as the animals we call pets, and are often as smart, if not smarter, than our pets are. The only reason that we sometimes feel that there is a difference, is that we have been conditioned to make this distinction.

By spreading some of the love and respect to other animals, we can eventually begin to fully understand the injustices of our current relationship with the rest of the animal world, and to take concrete steps to eradicate these injustices. While we will never eliminate every inconsistency in what we do, we should at least take steps to eliminate obvious double standards such as the one described above.

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