I've been accused of caring more for animals than humans. All "animal-lovers" have been accused of this. But this is absurd to me. We who care for the helpless non-human animals are the same ones who care for the most helpless of our own species. We simply have different paths.
I watch a documentary about the lack of clean water in many areas of this world, and my heart breaks. I see the homeless walking the streets, rummaging through the trash cans for recyclable bottles, and my heart breaks. I read about the transgendered female murdered by her male friends when they found out she was a biological male, and my heart breaks. I hear about the 3 month old baby stabbed to death by an angry father, and my heart breaks.
Does your heart break? I bet so.
But what about the ones who accuse us of caring more for "animals" than for those of my species? Those who are not able to see the similarity in all of our paths of hardship - do their hearts break for the homeless? The hungry? The oppressed? So maybe, it all comes down to empathy. If your heart can't be affected by that homeless man, or that starving dog, maybe you simply don't understand the connection. What is the difference between a homeless man returning discarded bottles for money and a dog overturning garbage cans in search of food? The species. One is a man and one is a dog. Otherwise, their paths are the same. They are trying to survive. And THAT is what I care about. The survival. The dog wants to live as much as the man. In our desire to survive, we are all the same.
When I advocate for TNR of stray and feral cats, it's not because I simply like cats. It's because I have a respect for life. It's because I understand the struggle to survive. It's because I can empathize with the oppressed.
Nobody has the right to tell me that I am wrong to direct my life towards alleviating one particular species' hardship. I care about the afflicted and the oppressed REGARDLESS of species. I've been asked "Why are you spending all your time trying to help cats when there are starving children in this world? Aren't the children more important?" Um, not to be facetious, but have you brought them food? Hmm? How can you ask me that when you do nothing but sit on your behind and criticize what others are doing to make this world a little better? My life took a turn towards stray and feral cats. Another's life may bring water to the thirsty. Soup kitchens for the hungry. Safe havens for those sold in the sex trade. Education on Pit Bulls. Protection of endangered species. Sex education. Nursing. Therapists.
We are all in this TOGETHER. It sounds SO corny, but just as I cannot do all these things myself, neither can you. I wish I could help clean up the animals in the Gulf, stop circuses from using animals, stop pollution of our water and air, reduce plastic use, ban slaughter of animals for human use, and foster all the needy children in my area, but I can't. I can't do it all. I can't save the world. But I can keep hoping that we will be able to do it together.
I believe we should all take steps to support what we believe in. I won't ever go to a circus that involves animals again. I am researching cruelty-free and vegan beauty products for when my current ones run out. I am getting better at buying food without all the plastic packaging. I don't eat meat and am working on reducing the consumption of other animal products. Although I do not want to have my own children, I plan to foster needy children later on in life. But my life, at the moment, is driven towards spay/neuter of stray and feral cats.
I shouldn't have to explain that I care about ALL life. I shouldn't have to explain that we ALL have different paths. But there will always be people who need to belittle our efforts (in anything), to make us question the point. And though I never have the words in real life, I can write it down: my work in the feral cat colonies comes from my empathy for those who struggle to survive. My empathy relates to ALL animals, humans most definitely included. Had my life thus far not included one person or maybe contained an extra event, who knows: I may have finished college and become a therapist. I would have been on a different path - one that didn't include feral cats. But I would still be this same person who wants to alleviate the struggle of her fellow earthlings, humans and non-humans alike. I would still be me.
*I wanted to give this post a little more thought, but it is late and I am tired. Goodnight. = )