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We Must Fight to Save ALL Lives

We Must Fight to Save ALL Lives

We must fight to save them all. That’s the answer...but what’s the question?

Nicholas Kristof asked in this recent New York Times article about whether it’s wrong to focus on animal protection when humans are suffering.  “Are we betraying our own species when we write checks to help gorillas (or puppies or wild horses)? Is it wrongheaded to fight for elephants and rhinos (or farm[ed] animals at home) while five million children still die each year before the age of five?”

He points to two studies – one study showed that research subjects are more upset by stories of a dog beaten by a baseball bat than a human, and the second study found if forced to choose, almost half of people would save their companion animal over a foreign tourist. Of course, Hollywood has known this for years. I remember watching the original Independence Day in a movie theater and experiencing my fellow movie-goers erupt in relieved cheers when Boomer the dog leaped over a car and into safety as most of a city, and its human inhabitants, were wiped from Earth. 

Kristoff himself comes to his answer relatively quickly – “empathy isn’t a zero-sum game.”  Like love, there is infinite room to expand our empathy for other causes. For example, I didn't have to make a choice to love my first child less in order to love my second, or my first dog over my second, and we don't need to delegitimize one important social issue in order to support another. In philanthropy, nothing stops any person (other than maybe financial ability) from giving to all the social causes they choose. And, as Kristof notes, in the context of conservation, and for replacing animals in labs with modern, human-relevant methods, what is good for the non-human animal is often "good for humans, too."

I couldn’t agree more, Mr. Kristoff – embrace those animal causes without a shred of guilt.