The Importance of Being Human

I watched a news piece where Zoo animals were given Christmas presents. The zoo keeper was excited at the prospect of the animals opening their presents, explaining how wonderful it is for the animals to also receive presents during this time and not just humans. The gifts were full of the animals’ most lived treats and everyone enjoyed watching them open their presents. And to make sure that no animal is left out, the elephants (and other animals) would also receive gifts from santa.

I did a quick internet search and found websites that have “great ideas” on what gifts to buy for the “really special creatures in your life” this Christmas. Pets are treated as part of the family, not to be left out or ignored.

My question is where do we draw the line?

People are giving more preference to animals than to humans. One finds many households (mostly white, but also some black) which include “walking the dog” in the job description of their housekeeper and/or gardener. Some pet owners even go as far as buying their pets bottled water to drink – something they would not even think of doing if it came to most people. Celebrities flaunt their “handbag model” dogs for the world to see, while their assistants run around serving both the boss and the animal, because if the dog is ignored, their job is on the line.

Animals are constantly placed above humans in their level of importance, or even worse, humans are brought down to the level of animals. Phrases such as “the primal urge” or “releasing the beast inside him” give you an idea of how the link between animals and humans is being tampered with. This flows into of evolution, the idea that humans evolved from apes and that animals are our ancestors. As much as I love dogs, enjoy the solitary attitude of cats and like riding horses, I can’t understand how we can place greater importance on the life of an animal than the life of a person.

Different cultures seem to approach this matter very differently: most white households would not only keep their animals indoors, but also allow them to even sleep on their beds. They fight for the rights of cows not to be slaughtered and to treat animals with the same level of affection that one gives to humans. On the other hand, most black households keep the pets outside, do not even allow it to come indoors, feed it remains from whatever was eaten that day and they sleep in a makeshift kennel or anywhere they can find. Blacks are more than happy to slaughter animals for rituals or celebrations, something that constantly draws the ire of the SPCA.

Even though the above comments are a generalisation, there is truth to them. We believe in different approaches when it comes to animals and both sides present some validity in the way they behave towards animals. Animals provide close companionship if one shows them affection, which can result in strong bonds forming, but we must not let that be an excuse for treating animals better than people.

The clash of worldviews when it comes to animals is one of the many things that can come between people. We should not, however, give preference to animals over humans – it is not the way things should be. If you want to give presents, there are many families that would love to receive such love gestures. Animals can survive without them.

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