Monday, October 26, 2015

Empathy and Discourse


The human-animal bond is a strong one, and the connection we have with animals is as individualized and multifaceted as our relationships with other humans.  This is especially apparent when the intensity of opposing views of how we regard, treat, or use animals prevents cooperative and reasonable discussion.  The more passionate we are about how we feel regarding certain stances in the animal community, the less likely we are to see compromise occurring.  On a personal level, this became apparent when I wrote articles about feral cats and bully breeds.  In addition, one only needs to go on any social media outlet and read the dialogs regarding other “hot topics” pertaining to animal welfare issues such as: spay/neuter, BSL (breed specific legislation), dog breeding, animal agriculture, zoos, animal vaccination, euthanasia, etc., to see the hostility that often ensues between disparate opinions.  Unfortunately, unless the extremes of both sides are tempered, both humans and animals will suffer.

For most of us, when we discuss animal welfare, we believe the basic premise is that it pertains to the humane and responsible care of animals by humans, and that cruelty to them is to be avoided.  The American Veterinary Medical Association clarifies it a bit further, “Animal welfare means how an animal is coping with the conditions in which it lives.  An animal is in a good state of welfare if it is healthy, comfortable, well-nourished, safe, able to express innate behavior, and if it is not suffering from unpleasant states such as pain, fear, and distress.”   However, they go on to state,” There are numerous perspectives on animal welfare that are influenced by a person's values and experiences.”  Therein lies the issue.  We are human, with values and experiences that shape our perspective about the animals in our world. 

An interesting dichotomy occurred with regard to my article about feral cats.  A person vehemently stated that that ferals should be exterminated.  However, their reason was that they did not wish any wildlife be harmed. Because this person had no qualms about killing the cats, I had to wonder why was it okay to kill one animal but not another.  Is one species more important than the other?  The contradiction in our beliefs and behaviors is not an absolute “black and white” situation with regard to animals.  We witness evidence of this repeatedly.  We oppose the use of animals in research facilities and yet use products and medicines that are the result of that research.  We work diligently to save some animals from being eaten and consume others.  There are those that wish to ban or annihilate certain breeds of dogs, believing one breed is more dangerous than another breed.  Yet, dog bites and dog aggression can occur in any breed, given a certain set of circumstances. 

If we want our children to learn the lesson that life matters and that cruelty is inherently wrong, whether human- or animal-directed, then we need to set the example.  We can begin by displaying empathy in our discussions about them.  There is no doubt that the many issues concerning animal welfare and rights are both controversial and extremely complex.  However, if we follow a compassionate stance towards all living things, perhaps we can reach an effective compromise that will benefit not only the animals, but assist us, as humans, to become more humane.  This can only be accomplished by moderating the extremes on both sides of the issues.




0 comments:

Post a Comment