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Best of PETA Prime: Are Animal Lovers Selfish?

Posted by at 5:45 AM | Permalink | Comments (15)


Are Animal Lovers Selfish? by Lisa TowellI’ve loved animals ever since I was little. My then bedroom was home to mice, rats, turtles, fish, rabbits, and guinea pigs. And I loved visiting farms, zoos, and exhibits where I could see and touch animals. I’ve gotten a lot of pleasure over the years from meeting these animals, but I’ve come to realize that these interactions were not in the animals’ best interests. In fact, I’ve been selfish in putting my pleasure before their needs.

I recently visited Botswana, a country known for its diverse and plentiful wildlife. We spent hours watching large family groups of elephants and saw mothers caring for their babies, young bulls tussling, calves playing, and adults happily tearing lunch off the trees with their trunks. In stark contrast, elephants in zoos are often confined in too-small enclosures and are subject to crippling foot disorders and arthritis (in the wild elephants can walk up to 30 miles a day). Most die decades before their natural lifespan. Wild elephants have a rich and complex social life, but elephants in zoos are housed in unnaturally small groups, or even alone. This isolation inflicts terrible suffering—studies of human prisoners have shown that long-term solitary confinement results in severe psychiatric harm. Conditions are even worse for elephants in circuses. They are often kept chained when not performing and are forced to endure long trips between shows in cramped and barren transport cages.

For many people, a zoo or a circus is the only place they will ever see a live elephant. It’s a great joy and privilege to see one of these majestic animals up close, but we must ask ourselves: Is it acceptable for the elephants to pay such a heavy cost? Maybe we need to be content with National Geographic specials on television, showing elephants in their natural habitat.

What about companion animals? Are we selfish with them too? Horses were always my favorite animals, and my parents finally relented and bought me one when I was 12. I had a wonderful time riding, grooming, and just watching this beautiful animal. But when the time came for me to go to college, I couldn’t care for a horse anymore, so we sold him. We tried to find him a good home, but I know now that very few horses get to enjoy a peaceful old age in a field—many end up slaughtered for their meat when they are too old to ride. Keeping a horse is expensive, and most people can’t afford the expense for a horse’s lifespan of about 25 years. For all I know, all my horse got in return for giving me five fun-filled years was a trip to the slaughterhouse.

My life would be so much less without the dogs and cats I share my home with. But if it weren’t for the fact that unwanted companion animals need someone to adopt them from the animal shelter, I don’t think I could rationalize living with animals anymore. Of course, I love my animal companions, and they love me. But I wouldn’t want more dogs and cats to be born just so that I could choose new animal companions of a certain breed or color—because there’s no guarantee that all of those puppies and kittens would find loving, life-long homes.

The kindest thing we animal lovers can do for wildlife is to observe them in their natural setting or not at all. No zoos, no SeaWorld, no circuses, and no swimming with dolphins in a tank or pen. And for companion animals, the kindest choice is to adopt, never buy, and to give our animal companions a satisfying, life-long home in exchange for all the joy they give to us.

What do you think?

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    nicole carson says...

    May 4th, 2012, 8:37 pm

    Beautifully put

    Regina says...

    May 4th, 2012, 8:48 pm

    I do not quite agree with this article, because the description is not of an animal lover as I understand. I am 52 years old and when I was a child it was considered ok to go to circuses and see animals performances. I never liked it, nor seeing them in cages. I consider myself an animal lover, but not a selfish person. Animal lovers, in my humble opinion, are the ones who fight for animals’ rights, help them in any way they can, spare some time and money for the cause, and never buy pets.Anyway, I liked the fact that the article called attention to animal needs and how they may suffer because of us.

    Adrienne Pesin says...

    May 4th, 2012, 9:27 pm

    I agree basically. I think zoos serve a function of raising awareness and caring from people who would never get to see the animals in their natural world. But- there are some who can never have enough quality of life in captivity and should not be on the list. There must be a federal law mandating spay/neuter or the huge numbers of pets killed every year will never, ever go down to almost none. We should have to be educated and licensed to own a pet, similar to the process of getting a drivers license. Breeders should be limited to far fewer litter production, and no one should be allowed to backyard breed or have a puppy mill. If we are going to use and enjoy animals, we owe them responsible regulation and quality of life. We are not entitled to acquire pets as though they were accessories and then neglect and discard them. Having them is a privilege.

    kerry demers says...

    May 4th, 2012, 10:36 pm

    I couldn’t agree more! And the same thing happened to me with my horse! I was so upset with my mother when she sold my horse when I went off to college. And then I get even more upset when I learn that a cosmetic brush I have, from some “cruelty free” company, is made of horsehair! I’m sure it came from the horses being slaughtered.
    I think the zoos and acquariums are torture for the animals! And the circuses are disgraceful! I had a friend shock me tonight when he put on facebook that he was at the Ringling Brothers Circus in Providence tonight? I was like- really? you don’t know or you don’t care just so you can have some entertainment?
    My dogs are rescues and I love them. I had canaries once when a patient of mine told me he was going to kill them if he couldn’t find homes for them. I felt bad watching them in a cage everyday. It does make me very sad knowing that so many animals lives are ruined by us humans everyday.

    Krystle McNelly says...

    May 4th, 2012, 11:06 pm

    This is a great article and I think you are a very wise person! In our “so called Love” for animals, we end up doing far more harm than good! As far as breeding vs adopting-no better respect could be shown to our furry friends than to ONLY ADOPT. I think there is “some use” for Zoos-as these help Tigers etc. that are having problems continuing in the wild. (A Zoo like The Australia Zoo is a wonderful example.) Circuses should be BANNED!

    robert paule says...

    May 4th, 2012, 11:38 pm

    je suis entierement d accord avec vous pour les animaux

    sandra says...

    May 5th, 2012, 2:14 am

    So well written and so true in my mind. Let’s pass it on for the whole world to read. We do not own the animals who roam the earth.

    chana rosenbaum says...

    May 5th, 2012, 9:09 am

    I agree with you completely, and always try to spread the message.

    Becky says...

    May 5th, 2012, 9:59 am

    You said it all, perfectly.

    sonia senattore says...

    May 5th, 2012, 11:56 am

    I am agree, animals need more respect and their own lifes be valued from humans, but no as discardable things. We the people, need to develop our senses of respect and care for all creatures who live with us over the planet.

    sonia senattore says...

    May 5th, 2012, 1:10 pm

    thanks Robert to think the same and write it in french, lo mismo en español, …all together to sensitize others about them!!!

    Sherrie says...

    May 5th, 2012, 5:00 pm

    I recently went to the zoo in my city and have regretted going ever since. While the zoo had some large nice open grassy enclosures there were others that made my heart break. Three in particular: the koala’s, penguins and fishing cats. The small cats were pacing around and around looking up at the top of their enclosure trying to find a way out. I stood there for only a few minutes and couldn’t image the trapped feeling they must be having. I was really excited to see the penguins until I saw the small barren space they were in. The back wall was painted to look like their natural habitat. A poor rendition of the arctic. Most were standing facing this wall with their backs to the onlookers peering at them through the glass wall. They appeared to be gazing at this painted wall wishing for their freedom. The koala enclosure was the worst of all. There were 2-one inside and one outside. Imagine walking into a brightly lit noisy room full of people and baby carriages. At one end of the room was an area about the size of a large living room fenced off with fake trees and plants. Two pitiful koala’s were clinging to these trees totally motionless. They were so close people could almost touch them. They were so sad looking I almost cried.
    Everyday going to work I pass the exit to the zoo. It makes me very upset knowing these beautiful animals are sentenced to such a sad life. I will never set foot in a zoo again.

    Angie Beaulieu says...

    May 5th, 2012, 9:33 pm

    Best article I’ve read, ever! I attempt to articulate this but have difficutly at times. We have parrots. I advocate against people owning parrots because I do not believe they thrive in our environment, they belong in the wild! I have been questioned, if I love my parrots so much, why do I feel they shouldn’t be with me? It seems so simple to me but many don’t grasp the idea. Thank you so much for your article.

    ANNE PICKARD says...

    May 6th, 2012, 10:59 am

    I agree with all the commends, just adopted a cat from a shelter, we love her so much , she is sitting right in front of me on my desk purring up a storm

    Rebecca says...

    May 7th, 2012, 3:59 pm

    Vegan Is Love by Ruby Roth touches on a lot of this. I agree with this and have adopted all of my companion animals with the exception of one my roommate at the time cat was not fixed and had kittens so I adopted one.
    Thanks for this and I have always loved animals and respect them.

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