By Dr. Michael W. Fox
Senior Scholar, Bioethics
The Humane Society of the United States
The answer to the question why do we care about animals is not that simple. Many people care for economic reasons, like the good farmer. Or for ecological reasons, like the conservationist. Or for reasons of justice and compassion, like the animal protection advocate and animal liberationist.
How financially, scientifically, ethically, or emotionally we axe invested in animals' well-being clearly influences the biological and moral significance of animals in our lives and in society. Ultimately, there is a convergence where our investment, from whatever motive or point of self-interest, becomes selfless. By this I mean that our concern is for animals in and for themselves, regardless of our own personal agendas.
Without such impartiality and deep empathy and understanding of animals' intrinsic nature and inherent value, we will short-change them and ourselves in the process of seeking their liberation (from cruel human exploitation.) or improved
well-being (under various conditions of human domination). "Shallow" animal liberators may confound various animal cruelty issues by projecting their own subjective feelings of injustice, oppression, and alienation, while "shallow" animal protectionists may project guilt anal seek reforms in the treatment of animals that have more to do with helping themselves feel better to actually improving the care and status of animals in society.
The worst kind of self-serving, sentimental patronage toward animals is exemplified by some animal welfarists. Their organizations and "oversight committees" essentially function to save face and keep up appearances for those Western animal-based industries (like biomedical research and factory farming) and in developing countries where the status quo of animal suffering and exploitation has .remained virtually unchanged through. my 30 plus years working in this arena
Spend time with people in other cultures and communities where animals are exploited, as by peasant farmers, nomadic pastoralists and gatherer-hunters, and you will discover how they deal responsibly with their guilt, remorse and obligations to the animals upon whom their livelihoods depend. Some do better than others. But all are far more intimately connected with the economic, ecological and diverse behavioral realities of wild and domestic animals than most people in the developed world and the
urban dwelling bureaucrats arid self-styled animal protectionists in their own countries The language of animal welfare, rights, and environmental ethics is being spoken by more and more concerned people in an effort to restore the intimate connections that for these indigenous peoples is second nature; an unspoken given: Care for animals' needs and they will take care of yours; care for the land and the land will care fox you. This language is being incorporated into the rhetoric of various nonprofit organizations, of politicians and of corporations in their advertising propaganda. But actions speak louder than words. Their agendas are more self-serving and profit-driven than for the animals and the environment. We are all familiar with animal and environmentally "friendly" products and services that help make consumers feel good, but do little to enjoin them to help stop the holocaust of the animals and the death of Nature. What is called for is honesty and .responsibility; and truth axed justice in all human affairs, and most especially in our relationships with other animals and the .natural world.
An economic, social, educational and moral revolution. is called for. But without the bioethical and spiritual underpinnings of boundless compassion, equalitarianism (giving all sentient beings equal and fair consideration) and reverential respect for all life, the holocaust of the animals will continue and the death of the natural world will be assured. What then of our humanity, health and sanctity? It is enlightened self-interest for us all to embrace the ethical imperatives of deep ecology, conservation and animal liberation, since the fate of the Earth will be the fate of. humanity, just as the plight of the animals is the measure of cur humanity.