The ‘Animal Rights vs. Human Rights’ Debate


Two summer ago, I posted on Facebook about my experience with someone who had left two dogs in her car with the windows barely cracked on an 80+ degree day (and no, her car wasn’t running with the A/C on). Leaving pets unattended in cars during extreme temperatures is not only illegal in Minnesota, but a completely inhumane thing to do because they can, quite literally, cook to death. Even with the windows cracked, the internal temperature of car can go from 70 degrees to 100 degrees in 20 minutes. Long story short, the cashier at Cub Foods wasn’t willing to make a store announcement, so a guy from the store next door helped me track the car owner down. I used social media to share my frustrating experience, and to warn people about the dangers of leaving pets in their vehicle during the warmer months.

Most of the comments were supportive, but a few weren’t so nice. After a short “animals vs. humans” debate with someone in the comments section, they ended by saying something to the extent of, “Sorry, I’m just more concerned with human rights.” Well, I care about human rights too! Call me crazy, but I believe it’s possible to care about more than one cause, and posting about being upset with someone who left their dogs in their car on a sweltering day doesn’t mean I don’t care about humans.

If it had been a child or adult in the car, I would have been just as upset and demand that someone pages the car owner, just like I did in this case. And if I ever saw a living creature (human or animal) in distress in a vehicle, I would go into emergency mode and do whatever I needed to do to help save them.

It Happens All the Time

This isn’t an isolated incident. Far too often, I see similar “but what about…” or “why don’t you care about…”comments on social media posts about animal welfare-related topics or fundraisers to raise money for animal welfare organizations. And every time, I am baffled by why people think that caring about animals means you don’t care about humans.

Most of my friends who are involved in animal advocacy find themselves getting the “you don’t care about humans” label slapped on them too, yet plenty of them are also actively involved in community efforts to help people—or they regularly donate to human rights causes.

This type of judgement bothers me because I would never comment, “Why don’t you care about [insert cause]?” on someone’s post about a particular cause. If a shelter raises $10,000 to help offset the costs of caring for surrendered pets, great! If a GoFundMe page raises that same amount for a family displaced by a tornado, also great! A school raises $10,000 to supply children with band instruments? Awesome! All of it is good, and all of it is important. So why can’t we just support each other?

People are Passionate About Different Causes, and That’s Okay

Now back to my dog post for a moment. Instead of getting angry at people for turning my post into a “humans vs. animals” debate, I decided to use it as an opportunity to allow people to talk about causes they’re passionate about. I created a new post, which I made public, and invited people to share information about their favorite cause or organization. I even started it off by listing a few organizations I knew of that do great work in our community, and I included a link to each organization’s website.

My post was shared a few times by friends, but the funny thing is, the people who were causing a ruckus on my prior post didn’t leave a single comment on the post asking people to talk about organizations they love. Complete radio silence. I found that interesting.

Everyone has causes they are passionate about, and all causes need people in their corner. So instead of telling people what they should care about, we should celebrate the fact that they are taking the time to dedicate themselves to a cause. In a world where there’s so much chaos and sadness, we need to support each other, even if we don’t share the same passion as someone else. Imagine what could happen if people took all of the negative energy they use bashing people to actually do something productive.

Want to make a difference? Check out VolunteerMatch to find opportunities with charitable organizations in your area.


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