Humans have granted certain protections to certain animals under certain conditions. For example, what is illegal if done to a dog or parakeet may be perfectly legal when done to a cow or chicken. And while there are many laws protecting dogs and cats in peoples’ homes, these laws do not apply to dogs, cats, or any other animals in laboratories. Our relationships with animals are inconsistent, and our choices about how to treat different animals are based upon our feelings, our traditions, and our habits — not upon nonhuman animals’ inherent capacity to suffer or their intrinsic value.
Animals are used, and abused, in many industries: food, entertainment, research, fashion, the military, education, the pet trade, and more. By far the greatest abuses are found in the food industry, where tens of billions of land animals, and trillions of sea animals are killed every year.
Ironically, the harm we cause to animals often harms humans and the environment, again reminding us of the connections among issues. For example, industrial animal agriculture is a significant contributor to carbon emissions; run-off from manure “lagoons” pollutes waterways; routine use of antibiotics in animal feed has led to resistant strains of bacteria and diminished efficacy of antibiotics in general; the consumption of animal products contributes to costly and deadly diseases such as cancers, heart disease and diabetes; and workers on factory farms and in slaughterhouses endure unjust and dangerous working conditions.
Humane education is the only educational movement that recognizes that animals should be included in the effort to create a more peaceful and just world. Humane education helps reveal our inconsistent relationship with animals, reminds us of the powerful connection we have with nonhuman animals, and inspires us to expand our circle of compassion to include all beings.