Philosophy - Index > Morality

Caring for those outside your circle of compassion
by Jamey West

We were all flabbergasted by the people who just laughed when we shouted about the suffering of circus animals (they were driving out and we were standing at the gate with signs). How could they not care?

Many people do not care about non-human animals. To them they are dirty, ill-mannered and good-for-nothing except making poop or whatever human beings can exploit them for. That is all they know. For many people that is all they will ever know. Their knowledge base is full in this information category. I could have been one of these individuals, if it had not been for a birthday present from my parents; an aquarium. Suddenly, these commodities were individuals with needs, moods, sickness and death. They depended on me just as an infant might. They were happy to see me. Soon, I began to just hang out at aquarium shops, just to watch the fish. Later, I evolved to zoos. Later to hikes in the forest. Ultimately, I have evolved to animal rights, and do not promote or participate in any of the aforementioned activities except an occasional hike in the woods. But, the point is that if animals exist in the minds of most people as enemies or mere abstractions how can we expect people to really care about their fate.

So often, all the general public hears from animal rights community is about the cruelty, the stats. Maybe, that is why Jane Goodall has such an allure. She does not focus on the cruelty, but on the individuals for whom she has compassion. People watch her and instantly love these beings. They are on their side. Why do you think there is so much more protest for doing experiments on dogs and cats than mice, or even goats or pigs?

Sorry, if I drifted from the initial question. But, with no moral authority dictating for whom we have compassion, I think that compassion will fall for whom it may naturally fall, kind of like rain does; in a seemingly random way. Not everyone is a philosopher; not everyone will try and deduce for whom he or she will have compassion. So, he/she who does not like or relate to animals would not be expected to have compassion for them. In a way "Love your enemy" is a contradiction of terms, as is "have compassion for those you do not like."

Jamey Lee West
Peace for All Beings