On the Other Hand

Posted by April Nockleby, ALDF's Online Content Manager on August 6, 2007

Chances are that if you’ve caught even a glimpse of the news lately, you are now familiar with the gruesome world of dogfighting. With the recent indictment of Atlanta Falcons Quarterback, Michael Vick, this barbaric, underground activity has thrust itself to the media forefront. Public outcry has been massive and people have bombarded the NFL, Atlanta Falcons and companies who promote Vick via merchandise with letters and phone calls voicing their disgust and disapproval. Indeed, anyone who participates in such abuse of an animal should pay the price. But if anything has become clear with this recent case, it is that we as a society have very different ideas about what is abuse and what is not.

Dogfighting is cruel and despicably abusive, no question. But as we pet our beloved dog, oftentimes described as a family member, with one hand, we justify stabbing a fork into a piece of steak with the other hand. We condemn dogfighting because it is gruesome and so very unnecessary; animals dying for our entertainment can’t be thought of any other way. But is “housing” multiple chickens in a cage the size of an ice chest not cruel and unnecessary? Is cutting off their beaks and providing such little room to move around that their curling, overgrown nails anchor them to the wire floor of the cage not cruel and unnecessary? Or is it that our eggs benedict is worth that amount of suffering? Some argue that food is necessary, entertainment is not. Indeed, food is necessary, as is clothing, medicine and other things that help us through life, but producing these items in such disrespectful, abusive ways is not.

It is evident to me that our society has drastically juxtaposed views about animals. Americans spend billions on our pets each year keeping them healthy with organic food, proper vet care, and endless new toys, treats and bedding (and clothing for the fashion conscious crowd.) Yet we spend even more consuming products that cause immense suffering to millions and millions of animals. I ask you, what is the difference between the suffering of one being from another? Is a chicken not entitled to live a life free from unnecessary suffering, but our pet is? Does the rabbit really owe us its life to ensure that our fabric softener makes our clothes soft enough? Is our wool sweater worth the suffering of the sheep who grew it?

We love our pets because they are so very special. They make us smile when they curl up in our lap, cheer when they perform a trick just right, and cry when they leave this world. So why do we not afford this same respect to all animals? I assure you, they too are wonderful and special, and have the same desire to be safe from harm just as our pets do. Don’t we owe all animals our respect and compassion, not just those who share our home?