I have always been a dog person; currently my family owns two dogs. Jack the Bird Dog is a lovable goofball; he trips over his own feet and likes having his ears scratched. Killer the Cow Dog is always ready to ride on the back of the pickup and wags his tail at the mere mention of his name. I am very fond of Killer the Cow Dog and Jack the Bird Dog, but I do not love either of them. They are important to us but they are not members of our family. Why, because they are animals. Let me give you an example that should make things very clear.
If one of my dogs was in danger and saving them meant risking my life, I would not. However, if another person, any person, was facing a life or death situation, I would, without a moment’s hesitation risk my life to save their life. If both a human life and the life of an animal are at risk at the same time, the decision to save the human life should be automatic. Yes, I hold the life of other human, even people I am not particularly fond of, in higher regard than the life of an animal, even an animal I am quite fond of. Sadly many of my fellow humans do not feel the same way.
We, as a society, have blurred the line between humans and animals. Why? Well many do not have the same contact with animals that those of us in agriculture do. Their only non-human contact is with the cat or dog they share their house with. They project human feelings and emotions on those animals, and I understand why.
It is easy for me to talk to Killer or Jack and believe that they understand. It is easy to believe that their loyalty is out of love for me. But here is the truth. Lassie never ran back from the well barking to save Timmy. Dogs are pack animals and their loyalty to you is because they believe you to be the alpha and therefore the leader of the pack. Cats, on the other hand, view you as an equal but tolerate you because you are the keeper of the feed bowl, period. That is why I am not a cat person.
In any case, they are animals and their actions are governed by instinct. As humans, our actions are powered by our intellect and fueled by reason. Those of us who work with animals on a daily basis understand that. We know what our animals are going to do because we understand the instincts that dictate every action or reaction. Everything an animal does is governed by the need to survive or reproduce.
Does the fact that I view myself superior to animals mean I treat them poorly? Not in the least. I understand it is my duty to treat them with respect and care for their every need. Whether it be a companion animal like my dogs or one of the steers or lambs I am raising for food, I take care of their needs and make sure they are well cared for. But I also understand they are on this earth for my use.
OK, I know I am preaching to the choir and many of you are wondering why where I am going with this. Activist groups like HSUS and PETA are playing upon the emotions and feelings the majority of people have for their animals. We have all seen the sad advertisements that play on TV and ask for your money to help protect abused animals. They are playing on the emotions of pet owners who see their companion animal as an equal.
From there it is a small leap to project the same emotions and feelings onto the animals we raise for food. If you view your dog or cat as an equal, then it is easy to view that cute pig in the same way. Sound crazy? Animal rights groups see no difference between the life of a human, dog or sheep and have stated such. Give them the same scenario I gave earlier and they say they would have a difficult decision of who to save.
So what should we do? That answer is simple. We need to help show the difference, and that means opening our farms and ranches up to others. We need to show that we genuinely care for the animals we own. We need to demonstrate that we give them the best care available and respect the lives we have been entrusted with but that we also understand that they are here for our use. Yes, that use might mean as a companion or it might mean as a protein source, but they are here for our use. Now please excuse me, Killer and I have cows to check.