Just Because I Love Animals Doesn't Mean I Hate People
posted by: Kayla Coleman- January 1, 2010



Why do you like animals more than humans? Why don't you care about people?

These remarks are commonplace for seasoned vegetarians/vegans/animal rights advocates. And when figure skater Johnny Weir responded to criticisms from animal rights groups about wearing fox fur in a costume, he communicated the same sentiment posed by these questions, saying:

"I totally get the dirtiness of the fur industry and how terrible it is to animals. But it's not something that's the number 1 priority in my life...There are humans dying every day. There are thousands, if not millions, of homeless people in New York City. Look at what just happened in Haiti...I tend to focus my energy, if there is a cause, on humans. While that may be callous and bad of me, it’s my choice."

Weir acts as if not wearing fur would somehow detract from his philanthropy towards humans, or as if he was so busy volunteering in a soup kitchen, he didn't have time to not wear fur. But these groups are not asking for Weir to take time out of his busy work schedule, or stop supporting other philanthropic causes. They aren't asking him to adopt a homeless dog, volunteer at his local animal shelter, do a PSA about saving the whales...in fact, they are only asking him to NOT do something. What could be easier than that?

I don't think that omitting an animal's fur from his costume wardrobe will in any way affect his skating abilities or inhibit his ability to support other, human-benefiting causes. And as an animal lover, I would like to abolish the misconception that people who help animals somehow don't care about humans.



In fact, the people I know who support animal rights also happen to be some of the most passionate about human rights. People who eat vegetarian know that by not supporting the meat industry, they are also not supporting the unfair treatment of workers in the meat industry, many of whom are undocumented and are treated as disposable parts of the factory. They are also fighting for a more sustainable and environmental way to live, and doing their best to create a better planet for future generations of earthlings -- including people.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, people who show hatred and violence towards animals have a greater chance of showing those same dangerous tendencies towards humans. The F.B.I.considers animal cruelty a predictor of later violence, and looks for animal abuse in the past when profiling serial killers.

Now, I'm not comparing Weir to a serial killer, but I do think that people who show a greater respect for animal life and make conscious compassionate choices in their daily lives do tend to exhibit this kindness in other ways--it's like once you open the box of caring and compassion, it seeps into every part of your life.

So I say it's downright silly to ask someone who cares about animal rights why they don't care about people. Weir did, by the way, agree to replace the fox on his costume with faux fur, a move he's made clear is NOT to appease animal rights activists, but to protect his integrity and the integrity of the Olympics. His concession might have earned him a bit more respect if he didn't make a childish who's wrong/who's right game out of a request for a more compassionate wardrobe choice. That's another thing Weir doesn't seem to understand -- that those who truly care about animals aren't out to "get" people, or make them look bad, or force them to bow down to the animal rights behemoth that is PETA.



To me, animal rights is about spreading good in the world and encouraging others to live a kinder life, according to their values -- not "defeating" people like Weir. I hope that people who accuse others of caring about animals more than humans will re-examine their own lives, and ask themselves what they are doing to make the world a better place -- then, maybe they will admire someone who is doing something to spread kindness to anyone, animal or human. And just maybe, they will follow suit.

Check out the 112 reader comments HERE:

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I might be biased, but I will say that the people that I know who are animal lovers are often extremely caring people in general. They have often gone out of their way to help me in times of need, and I can also say of myself that I care deeply for my fellow human beings. I give to human charities like OXFAM, and to animal rights charities. I've certainly donated more to Haiti than I've donated to any other charity in the past 12 months.

I have run across people who complain that animal lovers and vegetarians should care more about human suffering than animal suffering... All suffering is painful to me, I do not make distinction between either.

Exceptions to my experiences surely exist. But I do believe they are more the exception than the rule.
Hear hear. I'm vegan and I hate this one. I also hate that I am labelled as "extreme" when all I am really doing at this point is trying to use my purchasing power, such as it is, to simply avoid goods that were created by exploiting other beings - human OR non-human. So, I don't knowingly buy any animal products, and I also don't buy cheap goods that were probably made in sweat-shops. Granted, sometimes this takes a bit more effort than just going with the flow and ignoring these problems because exploitation is, sadly, ubiquitous, but still all I am doing is NOT sanctioning exploitation.

For the human-over-animal rights question, my answer is that I ALREADY DIDN'T (knowingly, at least!) exploit humans. Now I have merely stopped exploiting animals as well. This doesn't leave me with any more or less time in which to continue not exploiting humans. It also doesn't impact on whether or not I spend any of my time or money actively fighting these injustices, either human or non-human. As a matter of fact, I don't do much. I could do more for humans and non-humans alike - as I'm sure we all could. REFRAINING FROM AN ACTION IS NOT AN ACTION!! It does not do anything "good", it merely refrains from perpetuating the "bad". We should stop seeing vegans as the ones who are "actively" good in this endeavour - they are not; their net impact is neutral. What is particularly morally superior about NOT exploiting? Nothing. Do people feel morally fantastic in the area of human rights because they DON'T own slaves or go out raping people? Not usually.

As for the love of animals part, I think this is also ridiculous. I am not particularly what could be called an "animal lover" - my concern was not born out of thinking that they are cute and fluffy, or good companions, or because I feel that they offer me anything. I have merely become aware that they are NOT the property of humans to use and abuse in the horrific ways that we do, just as other humans aren't WHETHER WE PERSONALLY LIKE THEM OR NOT, for gods' sakes!! What the hell has that even got to do with it?! I love animals in much the same way that I love all the stricken people in the world - it's of necessity usually rather a detached emotion. Unless we think about it really hard, we don't as a rule feel exactly the same towards them as if we were to find out that someone we dearly loved (one's own child for example, or a beloved friend) were in the same situation – otherwise we just couldn’t function through the crippling grief. But I certainly feel a great deal of pity and my only "action" so far is to NOT treat them like shit and NOT continue to do things that I know will cause them to be treated like shit by others. Can we really say that that is "extreme"?

I suppose I'd better get out there and actually DO something then. Can anyone recommend any good charities that are both secular AND vegan?! I don't know of any. Oh, and please go vegan if you're not already! ;-)

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