posted by Michel on Sep 4

Is there such an unthinkable thing: a counterargument to animal welfare? It would seem so. Would you believe that these people really exist, animal welfare adversaries? Unfortunately, it’s only too common to find that, as an animal welfare proponent, you get to hear or read abuse. Apparently, quite a few people still think that as a human being, you should only dedicate yourself to helping your own species. Pretty much like nothing else exists, or matters. Personally, I feel that such people are very narrow minded (I’m avoiding use of the term “ignorant” here) and I dare say that while criticising animal welfare, they do ZILCH for the human race themselves. In fact, notable activists for humans have never spoken out against those that help animals. Often, quite the contrary, such as the great Mahatma Gandhi, who said: “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way that its animals are treated”.

Anyway, I’ll try and collect some of these adversaries’ points of view here and address them. So yes, these are REAL arguments that me or any of my associates have heard or read. Please help the fight against ignorance by adding to this list (just add a comment).

  • Why don’t you help people? Millions are starving all over the world

As a matter of fact, most of us already do!! What I truly hate about this argument is that it suggests that you have to make a choice between people and animals. Well you don’t! You can actually help BOTH people and animals quite effectively. In fact, I strongly believe that since we’re all stuck on this lump of rock that’s hurtling through the Universe at immense speed, animals, plants (for brevity I’ll lump those together as “nature”) and ourselves need each other. Any idea how long we would survive if we’d kill all insects? As a consequence, and considering that most animal welfare proponents are kind natured, this is a nonsense argument. In case you’re wondering, we put a few kids through school, provide a regular supply of work for many families and do regular food supplement events for the less fortunate in my wife’s home village (80 families was the last count). Oh and we save a few dogs and cats as well while we’re at it.

  • Why don’t you spend your time fighting eliminating violence, drug abuse, crime etc?

Again, this argument suggests that it is a choice that you have to make or at least that there is some simple and sequential relationship: stamp out all crime and suffering and then we’ll worry about the rest. We all know that this is totally besides daily practice. Furthermore, professional law enforcers and top rating politicians all over the world dedicate their time and career to solving these problems. I’m flattered that those who use this argument apparently feel that animal welfare proponents somehow know much better how to solve these problems that date back to the dawn of (human) time, but in reality, what’s the chance that we can make a significant impact? We already do what we can by practising the love and respect for all creatures, humans and animals alike, that we preach.

  • Helping animals diverts funds that could be used for people

Apart from the fact that it costs so little of your time and money to see to animal’s basic needs, those who use this argument fail to see the intimate relationship that exists between all living things (animals, plants, humans). By helping animals, we’re (how selfish!) in fact helping ourselves. A few examples perhaps? At Kalibo Airport there is a colony of stray cats and the airport authorities are worried about their increasing numbers, spread of disease, nuisance to travellers etc. When we regularly feed the cats and spay/neuter them all, we can control the population, keep the animals healthy and happy and, here comes the crunch, keep the airport free from rodents, in a completely natural and environmentally safe way. By investing a little money, the airport addresses a real problem and cares for animals in the process. One-time eradication of rats is both more expensive and far less effective. Or how about this one: when we save stray dogs, we can often rehabilitate the majority of them and turn them into useful guard dogs that protect the family that they live with. Or how about the old carabao that is saved from the butcher and given to a poor farmer who can still get good service from the animal in return for  a little food. In other words, animal care doesn’t need to cost much but can bring great benefits.

  • Haven’t you got more useful things to do with your time?

Again, how I spend my time is not a yes/no question. I can actually do quite a few things with my time if I want. The argument implies that animal welfare proponents are useless parasites that laze around in the sun all day and do little that contributes positively to society. Well, animal welfare proponents are present in all facets of human society. I personally know of teachers, lawyers, bakers, entrepeneurs, artists, IT consultants, you name it! Apart from their regular jobs in which they already contribute considerably to society, they contribute more by doing voluntary work. This doesn’t distract at all from their usefulness. Quite the contrary, to them animal welfare work is very fulfilling and therefore worth doing. Considering that helping fellow creatures of this Earth is by definition a good way to spend time, there’s no way in hell that these people should be criticised for doing good, especially since most of them help other people too!

  • Those active in animal welfare just have too much money and are still after our donations

Are all animal welfare proponents rich? Yes, they are, although it depends on your definition of rich. Irrespective of their financial status, these people are rich because they CARE, because they take a stand for fellow creatures. Of course, some of them are even rich in the monetary sense of the word. There’s nothing principally wrong with that. I know of many top ranking business managers that are rich beyond imagination. The only problem I have with that is that the vast majority of them do NOTHING for the rest of the world, much less defenseless animals. Go moan at them. For the record, I know many people that can be considered poor (in financial terms) and still devote some of their scarce resources, like their time and kind attention, to animals …

  • To God, people are more important than animals

I’d hate to turn this into a religious argument so I will refrain from quoting the Bible (or any other “holy” book for that matter). But if I remember correctly, “man” was appointed to rule the animals, in modern day language: to manage them, by God. This is pretty much the same situation as when you are appointed to be the manager of a group of people. Does that mean you are free to abuse them, beat them up, steal their things, even if that gets you closer to your targets? Of course not: you will be a responsible steward, a guardian and a coach. And when it comes to the matter of importance: how effective will you, as a manager, be after all your people have left in disgust? Therefore, both manager and workers, if I may call them that, have their place and job, but they are all essential for reaching the common goal. And so it is with the way God appointed man as the guardian of nature: it is not a matter of whether God sees us to be more important, it is our responsible stewardship that matters. That is what God expects of us.

  • They are only animals or Animals have no feelings

<sigh> Some people will never learn. They fail to see that we are biologically so close to the majority of animals (most notably mammals of course) that it is IMPOSSIBLE to overlook the probabilities that our “sentiments” that we think are so typical of us humans, are unique in the animal kingdom. Joy: ever come home to a wagging tail and that happy face of your dog? Sadness: ever tried to leave a puppy home alone while it was sitting near the door? Play: ever had the dog bring a ball to you? Hunger/thirst: no need to explain I would think. Shelter: leave a dog or cat in the pelting rain and see what it does different than what YOU would do. Pain: ever seen a dog with a broken leg run away as if nothing happened? Of course not: the poor thing was in excruciating pain and limped, just as YOU would! In other words, animals do have feelings and they are pretty much the same as ours, not surprisingly!

  • You guys eat meat too, right?

Ahh tricky one! Well let me confess that I do eat meat myself. But, and this is a HUGE BUT, no animal should need to suffer for providing me with dinner. Most animal welfare proponents would probably agree with me when I say that I’m not so much against the EATING of meat, but I’m dead set against the suffering of countless “food animals” such as cattle, chickens, pigs etc. There is simply no need to make them suffer. Hence, I’m a great fan of controlled production of meat, hen-friendly eggs and the like. Goverments should enforce laws on this, rather then leaving the choice to (often ignorant) consumers. To conclude, if the meat were produced under humane and responsible conditions, personally I would find that a little more acceptable. I should become a vegetarian really!

So to all ye moaners: get out there, do your bit for this planet and help out. People, plants, animals, the environment. Anything!

One Comment to “Animal Welfare Counterarguments”

  1. Mona Says:

    Dear Michel,

    Thank you for sharing with us your insights.

    Yes, what I do on my time is none of anyone’s business.

    I do encourage a “me” time.

    On “me” schedules I garden, bathe my dogs, walk my dogs, take them for drives and buy them ice cream. I go shopping, watch a movie and at times simply do nothing.

    I feel that there should be life outside animal welfare to balance one’s self.

    Being tooooooooo animal welfare advocate is also dangerous.

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