No, I’m Not Gonna Call and Here’s Why

Wow, where to start. I was sitting here watching some random Ben Afleck Christmas movie when a disturbing commercial came on. I think the goal of the makers of the commercial was to disturb me in a slightly different way, but I am disturbed all the same. With a backdrop of a weepy Sarah McLachlan song followed by Sarah herself coming onscreen to make her plea, I was appalled and here’s why.

This commercial was in support of animal rescue and protection. Obviously, I am not against this by any means and even though I am not an “animal person” I do not think it is okay for animals to be mistreated. However, to have an entire minute plus dedicated to telling me about how I can be involved in “rescuing animals from abuse” makes my stomach churn. Kind of like when I was riding in a van in Mexico and had the person sitting next to me say, “Oh look at that poor little dog,” without bothering to see the naked, two year old little girl sitting beside it in the dirt. All life is valuable, yes, but using what resources we have to ensure the safety of a cat over a child is wrong. To think of someone donating $100 to Sarah and her pets instead of putting that $100 toward assisting the children of Uganda to escape being child soldiers, a country where 50% of the population is under the age of FOURTEEN, or about a million other human justice issues is extremely frustrating. I appreciate that Sarah is trying to raise awareness for something she is obviously passionate about, but man, think of what could be done if she would shift her interests or channel her obvious passion for justice toward and even greater cause?

I know that I am probably giving some of you a physical reaction, and I get that. I know that there are animal lovers out there, or some of you who think that animal life is as valuable as human life. I don’t and in any situation if there is a choice between helping a starving child or a starving dog I am going with the child. I mean, wouldn’t you? Even if we focus on our country alone, how can we possibly begin to worry about taking care of neglected animals when we are neglecting thousands of children? There are many in our communities who suffer daily feeling ignored, unloved, lonely and rejected by their families. We live in a world marked by injustice. Sitting back and pretending like it doesn’t exist isn’t an option. I just hope this Christmas, if you are considering giving away some of your financial resources that you might consider the child prostitutes around the world, the daily rape of women in Darfur, the kids in your city who go to bed hungry, or the children in Africa who could avoid malaria by the simple purchase of a mosquito net before giving to your local animal shelter.

Hate me if you want, write a scathing comment if you must, I’m fine with it all. I respect that you love your animals. Really, I do. Maybe if I went out and got a puppy my opinion would change…well, not likely, but perhaps it would soften me to the animal lovers of the world. At any rate, keep loving your pets and the animals of the world. Be a vegetarian if you must. All creatures of this earth should be treated with respect and injustice should be passionately fought at all times. I’m going to continue to buy cage free eggs, meat from cows who spent their lives grazing in the grass, and chickens who weren’t hopped up on hormones and drugs. But I will continue to live as an omnivore, to call those who take care of animals “owners” and not “parents,” and when given the choice between rescuing an animal or a person, I’m going with the person. That, my friends, is just how I roll.


8 thoughts on “No, I’m Not Gonna Call and Here’s Why

  1. Word. Thanks so much for your honesty. I grew up with pets, I love animals and I think they’re cute, I eat organic meat and dairy, and I’m even mostly vegetarian (just because I don’t like the taste of meat – no ethical reasons), but I could never value the life of an animal over the life of a human – and as much my heart absolutely melts over a cute puppy, as sad I am knowing that so many animals are euthanized every day and as disgusted I am by animal abuse, I just couldn’t imagine giving time or money to animal organizations when so many humans are living in poverty, dying of preventable diseases and a lack of clean water, and there is simply so much injustice and inequality going on in our world today. One of my best friends from high school is vegan (for ethical reasons) and is one of those people who is passionate about animal rights, and it’s so hard for me to understand how she could spend so much time, energy, and money on animal issues – and be so emotionally affected by them – when there are children dying or growing up without homes. One of the most interesting things I’ve encountered with her is that most of the vegan restaurants she goes to are located in the city and they’re not wheelchair accessible, so I can’t go. It’s kind of ironic — they care so much about animals, but don’t think that it’s important for people with disabilities to be able to access the location. And I know that not being able to access a store or restaurant might seem like a silly issue, but it really does show how our society feels about people with disabilities – that it’s not important for a certain population to be included or to fully participate in the community. The US has made so much progress in equal opportunities and access, especially compared to other countries, where even more people with disabilities are shut up in institutions or in their homes because of social stigma or they’re even left to die, but that same stigma is alive and well in the US today, where 9 out of 10 mothers who receive a prenatal diagnosis of Down’s Syndrome or spina bifida choose to terminate their pregnancy solely based on disability. It kills me how we can value animal life so much and yet disregard human life, especially when it’s not what we see as “perfect”. There’s an ethicist at Princeton who advocates for the right of parents to be able to euthanize their newborn if it has a disability – and he himself is a vegetarian and has written several books and articles on animal rights. What?? I know it’s politically incorrect, but until we see every human life as having value, no matter what their abilities, no matter what country they live in or what color their skin is, no matter their social class or how “unlike” us they are — I don’t really care about animals.

  2. Amy, I’m so glad you wrote this. My mother-in-law and I were just talking about almost this exact thing. After seeing the commercial for the hundredth time, she brought up how irked she was. And she brought up the pro-life issue. You were absolutely correct about the starving children and the child prostitutes, but there is also the issue of abortion. It seems that many animal proponents are also pro-choice and I just cannot wrap my mind around that. Saving animals is, for sure, noble. I just don’t understand why that same compassion doesn’t always go for actual human beings.

  3. Amy,
    I just spent an hour and a half on a “comment” and have now deleted it. The emotion this post stirred in me is not helpfully addressed in a blog comment. I appreciate the sentiment behind your post; I agree with your logic in fact. I am however troubled by the language and perhaps some of the tone or potential implications. I hope we can talk about this someday soon – I’ll look forward to that and I trust it will be a helpful dialogue.

    (please note that the following sentences were written by Nathan in response to the post prior to its editing and may not make sense now. also note that I fully support foster care and have nothing but the utmost respect and admiration for those who lovingly embrace and give all children a home. the reader is expressing his interpretation of my words, though any negative sentiment toward foster care was not my intention to relay).

    Suffice it to say, and I only do so publicly for the sake of others who may read this, I am concerned that being “ticked off” by people who see these issues differently may not be the most helpful response, moreover, I am sincerely troubled by the reference to foster care in the context of this post, and the phrase “unwanted children.”

    “Do you know what it is like to grow up in foster care…” is a loaded statement, the implications, given the context of your post, and our family, are hard for me. I trust you know that not all foster care is bad, even if what led to it likely is/was. I simply ask that you please be aware that questions like this, can perpetuate an already negative societal notion that foster care, and or all of the people involved with it are bad, sad, or for one reason or another appropriately referenced in the context of, let alone comparable to seriously troubling social justice concerns like child prostitution. I know this is not your intent, I am simply pointing out that there are a quite a few significant topics referenced in the post’s third paragraph, grouping them in this way may not be the most helpful.

    “Unwanted children” is not a helpful phrase either; no child, or adult for that matter is unwanted. His biological parents may not have been ready for him, or her family may not be able or fit to care for her, but there is always someone, if not God alone who wants all of us.

    Again, I appreciate your point, I only question how it is made. I too wrestle with people who value animals at the same level or higher than people, and yet, I trust that their compassion is rooted in something positive. You and I may believe it is misguided, however my hope is that such compassion may be a bridge to shared and or increased understanding. Appreciating that compassion could open the door for some powerful dialogue around its source, possibly even more powerful examples of it. Perhaps we could inquire of the people who would support Sarah’s cause, “what compels your deep concern for animals? Where do you think that comes from? What else do you care about so deeply?…”

    At the end of the day, like you, I have a really hard time when people notice the dog and not the child. Believe it or not, occasionally people who travel with Agros comment on the condition of animals over and above that of the people they are visiting. This boggles me, sometimes it infuriates me, and yet, I try to appreciate compassion for what it is, and when appropriate engage in the conversation.

    For what it’s worth, you know I am an animal lover, our dog is a rescue and yet I am constantly bothered by the realization that we spend as much on his food as we do to sponsor a child in Zambia. The only way I can reconcile this is with the hope that by caring for something if not someone other than ourselves we are nurturing and lord willing modeling a compassion that is then extended far beyond four legged friends. This may incite PETA or GreenPeace but my hope is that compassion learned and practiced on animals or the environment, both good and important, but in my opinion inadequate, will increase to compassion for fellow humans. We all have to start somewhere, let’s just pray we all keep moving.

    On another note, I appreciated Jen’s perspective as well. Her insight into the irony of our culture is the type of voice I need to hear more of – thank you Jen – and thank you Amy for caring so deeply and passionately and in doing so inviting others to do the same – I appreciate you! Thanks also for providing us all with something to work on.

  4. I have been thinking about this post, and although my comment may not carry near the weight and meaning of the last one, I think I want to say it anyways.

    While I personally agree with at least some of the idea of this post – that when it comes down to it, issues related to people are ultimately much more important to me than those same issues related to animals – the overall tone of the post bothered me. It took me a while to figure out why that was, but I think I understand it now.

    I think that any outpouring of compassion that improves the world around us, whether it be through monetary gift, a person’s time and energy, or any other type, is to be respected, honored, and valued. And that’s it, no qualifications or ranking whatsoever. To say that one cause or another is more valuable is a very dangerous road to go down. I feel like the most important thing for us as human beings is to be giving to the world, in whatever form makes the most sense and resonates the most with that particular person. We are all individuals, and by respecting that individuality, we allow all corners of the earth to be improved by our compassion.

    I do have a personal connection to this viewpoint. I work for a non-profit that is trying to eliminate a very specific type of blindness, which affects 10 million people globally. Which is a lot of people, but when you look at global poverty as a comparison, I am sure the number absolutely dwarfs that. (I have no idea what the actual numbers for poverty are – I just know they are HUGE) Does that mean that we should take our resources and redirect them towards global poverty? I don’t think so. We are a group of passionate people with a unique knowledge and skill set that have a real chance to make a difference at the specific thing that we are good at. I have to trust in the compassion of others that poverty, among a thousand other things, get the attention, time, and funds that they need.

    I understand that the example that I just gave is not a direct representation of what you said, Amy, but it is a logical extension of the tone that permeates the post. I don’t know that it was a tone that you intended, but it was there all the same.

    As I said before, for me personally, I would generally chose to support human issues over animal issues (although my cat came from a shelter and I absolutely love her), but I think it is a personal choice, and is one that cannot be graded as better or worse than any other person’s choices.

  5. I must say I agree with Nathan and Caroline. Anyone who helps make the world a better place is spending their time well and wisely.
    The world has more than enough resources and money for BOTH humans AND animals to be justly and ethically provided for. If the West would stop with its gigantic consumption, we’d all be better off.
    No one is asking you to choose an abused dog over a child in Uganda. You can choose both.

    1. Kim, thanks for your comment. I do not disagree with you or Nate and Caroline regarding the view that all compassion is good. While I don’t know you personally, I know the other two and I would say that from your words it seems that you, like them, are already a person of compassion who “gets it.” My hope is to stir people up to a place of action, even if it’s because my words are unsettling, because there are so many people who don’t give to anything that doesn’t concern their own family or world. I write in extreme terms with the hopes of at least getting people to think and I really appreciate your thoughts and know my readers will too. So, thanks for reading.

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