Friday, May 7, 2010

Can You Love Animals and Love People?

We're accused of caring for animals at the expense of caring for people, because our passion for animal issues allegedly detracts from all of the humans in need. But choosing to spend a Hallmark Holiday with your loyal nonhuman companion instead of your spouse isn't the same as turning your back on your own species.

Here are seven reasons why animal welfare is human welfare:

1) Animal abuse is never just animal abuse. It's an early indicator of child abuse, domestic violence, and other sociopathic behaviors. Not only is animal abuse a warning sign, but it's often directly used to threaten or intimidate a person, such as pets who are harmed as a form of psychological abuse in domestic violence situations.

2) Factory farming is a major contributor to climate change. Animal agriculture is responsible for as much as 50 percent of greenhouse gas emissions caused by humans. A significant reduction in animal consumption and better conditions for the remaining farm animals will have a huge impact in stabilizing the climate, which (in case you missed it) affects the future of human civilization as we know it.

3) Animal testing is outdated. The sooner the scientific community stops re-creating ineffective, inhumane animal tests and starts investing in non-animal research methods, the sooner we'll have human-relevant results.

4) Pet owners are major players in the economy. A $45 billion industry is a big slice of the economy, and it's one that keeps growing. That means job security and community development. Pet consumers also have the purchase power to have a positive influence on the market, such as helping drive a green economy.

5) Protecting wildlife is protecting the planet. There's a certain balance to the world we inhabit, where predators and prey keep each other's population in balance, and natural areas (a.k.a. habitats) keep global warming and other natural disasters at bay. As we drive species to extinction, we lose a piece of what makes the world inhabitable for humans.

6) Animals are an important part of your community. Love 'em or hate 'em, your community is full of animals. Irresponsible pet owners are a drain on municipal budgets through animal control and a threat to public health with disease and dog bite risks. Ineffective laws, such as breed specific legislation, are costly to the community, in terms of both public health risks and finances. It's also expensive to care for animals in shelters. So, the advocates that push for responsible pet ownership and animal adoption are making your community a better place to live.

7) Animals make people happy. Companion animals have been proven to reduce stress and relieve depression. The role that pets play in happiness is more than just a matter of mood; it's about quality of life. Domestic violence victims will delay seeking help for fear of putting their pets in danger. When natural disaster strikes, restoring animals is a major step toward restoring lives, whether you're in New Orleans, where Hurricane Katrina survivors needed the emotional support of their pets after losing their homes, or you're in Haiti, where earthquake victims rely on livestock for food and income.

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