Date Published: March 27, 2017, Updated: April 1, 2017 at 8:30 pm, Author: Alice
A Harris poll conducted in 2011 revealed that 90 percent of pet owners treat their pets as friends or family members. In fact, a survey conducted by American Animal Hospital Association showed similar results. 40% of married female pet owners felt that their pets give them more emotional support than their own family members. Humans love animals and treat them like a part of their family and provide them with their needs the same way they do with family members. Some pet owners even spend thousands of dollars to treat their dogs or cats when they are sick. Others stage funerals for their beloved pets and businesses are taking advantage by offering cremation services for animals. People mourn for the loss of their pets and even feel outraged and indignant when they hear that animals are being abused or treated badly. They talk about it in social media and passionately defend the rights of animals even if they never saw them in real life. It seems a fact that humans react more strongly to an animal that has been abused than when it is a human being that was killed.
Hal Herzog, a psychology professor in one of the universities in Western Carolina said that people are easily attached to animals because of biological and affection needs. Seeing your pet happy at your arrival and petting it gives you a certain kind of positive feeling that makes you feel very good of yourself. Pets satisfy our need for affection because they love us just as we are — such unconditional love that many other human beings couldn’t give. To be loved unconditionally is something that goes beyond what is expected. Our dogs or cats will always be there for us while other people don’t seem to care. They don’t intentionally upset us and when they do, it is easy to forgive them because they are lovable and can easily make us smile with their uncanny ways.
They say that a dog is man’s best friend. The Pet Food Manufacturers Association (PFMA) Pet Population report in 2016 has estimated that 40% of households have pets and 24% of them are dogs.
Just like human beings, dogs live in tight-knit families who are loyal to each other and will do everything to protect one another. We have the same social system as them which is why we feel that sometimes they can read our mind and they can understand us.
Author and animal behaviorist Patricia McConnell believe that dogs are better observers than humans because they are good at decoding body language while human beings pay more attention to verbal communication. They can easily read facial expressions. Observe the way their face lights up with a big grin and relaxed ears when you make a happy face. Look at the way they recoil when you look angry and you will realize that they are good at understanding emotions. Dogs have more sensitive ears than any human being. They may not understand what you are saying but they know the tone of your voice. That is why we often think that they can understand us when we get mad at them and as a result, they recoil and avert their eyes from us.
So far, there are only two types of animals which we allow to become part of our family: the cat and the dog. Apart from them, there are only a few other animals that people get attached to. Oftentimes, we don’t develop the same affection with other animals such as giraffes, lions or dolphins. Except in some cases where people know them, like in the case of Cecil, the 13 year old lion who died in July 2015. Cecil was popular and charismatic and possessed positive characteristics. He was loved by many people and you can see his pictures everywhere. He wasn’t an ordinary lion and the fact that his killer was a well-known personality engaged in animal cruelty, it was understandable that people reacted very strongly and the incident sparked a worldwide outrage.
Although people were passionate about Cecil’s case, this doesn’t hold true to animals like the pigs and the chickens as they are always killed for human consumption every day. People care about animals when they have felt an attachment with them and this holds true in the case of pets and animals like Cecil. However, we couldn’t say that they don’t care about human beings. Just like animals, when we get close to people we care for us, we treat them as family. We also care about individuals especially the helpless ones. We feel the need to provide them with the things they need and ensure their safety at all times.
Herzog claims that there is no difference between a human being’s degree of care for animals and individuals. A study conducted by two sociologists at Northeastern University, Levin and Arluke has proven that what matters most is the innocence of the victim. The subjects of the study didn’t know that the articles they were reading were bogus and their reactions toward the different incidents against a baby, a puppy, an adult dog, and a human adult were analyzed and interpreted. The results demonstrated that people tend to empathize more with a baby, a puppy and full grown dog victims than adult human crime victims.
People value animals over people as demonstrated in the various studies and research as well as statistics claiming the truth on this matter. However, in many cases, the innocence of the victim is also considered. In 2014, Jeanetta Riley, a pregnant mother was shot by police officers. Riley had a history of drug addiction and alcoholism but the reason for shooting her wasn’t justified. The incident ended with the police officers exonerated without any apology to her family. The news didn’t get a public outcry until a reporter from The Guardian brought it up.
In another incident, a police officer named Kelly has shot a black Lab mix who lunged at him. The media wrote headlines meant to make the dog a hero and discredit the police officer which resulted to the termination of Officer Kelly and an $80,000 damages awarded to the owner of the pet dog.
In many ways, people live in moral inconsistency and our attitudes show that we care only for a handful of species.