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Why Care about Animal Suffering?

by Robert Cheeke, Vegan Bodybuilder, April 5th 2006

This is the week that the circus comes to town. Typically, I write a letter or editorial to inform people about the miserable lives that circus animals lead and about the cruelty inflicted on them. This year, I'm going to take it a step further and discuss why we should even care.

Those of us who work to help animals are often confronted with questions or comments such as "Why should I care about the suffering of animals when there is so much human suffering?" Here's why.

Animals are completely at the mercy of human beings. We have the power to do whatever we want to them and they can't protect themselves from us. When the victims of abuse are innocent and helpless, unable to speak up and act on their own behalf, it becomes imperative for compassionate people to speak up and act for them. Animals cannot return the favor of our mercy to us, repay us, or "scratch our backs" in return for our help. Helping animals is simply a matter of kindness and protection of the weak and vulnerable. Furthermore the very sentiment that " people come first" illustrates why animals are in such desperate need of our help.

We often hear about cruelties and violence perpetrated on humans. However, the large scale systemic suffering that humans inflict on animals is hidden from view. The animals' suffering is unseen and unheard. Most people have no idea as to the degree of cruelty inflicted on these helpless beings.

Both humans and animals have emotions, central nervous systems, the capacity to suffer and the desire to seek pleasure and avoid pain. But many billions of animals live lives of non-stop agony at the hands of human beings. What is done to them is unspeakable. As Edward Freeman said " The awful wrongs and sufferings forced upon the innocent, helpless animal race, form the blackest chapter in the whole world's history."

Furthermore, extending compassion to animals in no way hinders efforts to help people.

There is no contradiction in working to help people and refusing to contribute to animal suffering. As we extend kindness to all animals ( not just our companion animals) we are progressing as a species and moving towards a better more ethical world.



Nettie Schwager

Corvallis resident

ethical vegan

animal advocate