I have this cute little dog, an adorable fluffy white Maltese. Her name is Lola and she's one of those jocose little creatures that make you smile just thinking about her. You know that warm-and-fuzzy you get when you look at even a photograph of something or someone so adorable you just want to squeeze the picture? Well, that's Lola and me. It's so very true that dogs can melt away the stresses of our chaotic lives. It's practically impossible for me to be stressed around this little bitch.
I love all animals in general. I always have. I've grown up with animals all of my life. My family has always been surrounded by dogs, cats, rabbits, birds, fish, hamsters, and so on. Anyone that accuses me of not being an animal lover simply does not know me well enough.
I hate animal cruelty, too. I can't stand watching animals suffer. I literally cannot kill a fly. Wifey mocks me as I shoo a fly out of the house, I would rather it go kiting out of the front door than be crushed by a flyswatter, which I do reluctantly own. Animals are such an integral part of our world (food, clothing, medicine, companionship, etc.) that I feel we are obligated to respect and protect them.
I don't want to come off as a maudlin die-hard here for the animal cause, but I think any reasonable person would classify me an animal lover.
Which brings me to my point. When I read an article about Leona Helmsley's posthumous gift a few months ago, I became physically ill. Here was an insanely opulent woman who had donated her entire fortune to her cute little fluffy Maltese that looked exactly like my ineluctable Lola. My dog's body double had just inherited billions of dollars. Billions! I read the article with total revulsion.
Over the next few weeks, the television seemed to me to be saturated with commercials for organizations like the Humane Society. Cute little kittens and puppies asking for donations. And the puppies move me, they truly do. I really do want to make sure they are safe and warm and happy and fed.
But here is the problem: every 3.6 seconds, a human being dies of hunger (according to the World Health Organization). That's roughly 17 people a minute. Between the time you order a Big Mac and get it from the drive-through window, almost 20 people will have starved to death. And in between waking up today and waking up tomorrow, we will lose 25,000 more people from hunger.
So let's look at this with a little perspective. 25,000 people died today of hunger. 17 people this minute. How can i possibly live with myself if i were to donate to the little kitties' charities when there is a clear need to give to human kiddies first? If there is a god, and I think most of the world would agree there is, would giving to animals before giving to humans not count as a clear case as any of... "sin?" To let humans die and instead save little puppies and kittens? And speaking of gods and sin, there is even a charity that takes donations for animals in the name of god ("all of god's creatures" or some such name). I would think god may have intended that we ensure the humans are on the Arc before we start loading the giraffes and alligators and flamingos.
Just minutes after one of the kitten commercials ended, another commercial comes on with with the woman from the old Roseanne TV show, a sad mopey face who says she also wants my money, but this time, you see starving little children, skin and bones, dying, emaciated, almost not human.
I envisioned so many viewers that don't want to ruin their days with these ghastly images, so they change the channel in search of puppies and kittens. And they pull out their checkbooks and rescue a dog.
And 17 people die during that minute it takes them to write the check. 25,000 die in the next day.
The problem is that I am as much a culprit as anyone, because I own dogs, and i contribute to the following statistic: Americans and Europeans spend roughly $25,000 an hour on pet food.
Seventeen people die every minute of starvation. Which means around 1,000 people a day (17 people x 24 hours).
We buy $25,000 an hour of pet food. I think that comes to around $25 per person, per day.
So let's be very clear. $25,000 an hour could easily feed these 1000 dying people, but we instead choose to give it to Lolas and other cute little animals.
How are we not complicit in these deaths? How are we not responsible? How can any of us justify it? How do I justify it?
Here's the conundrum: I can't get rid of Lola, I really can't. She has become an intergral part of my family's life.
But what i can do is not give money to animal charities, money that can go to the 17 people that died during the time it took to write this sentence. If you put all of that animal donation money together, you can stop the human deaths. You can save lives, real human lives. We spend more on animal charities than we do on animal food.
The commercials are asking me to choose between saving the lives of dogs and humans. If you choose dog, you value a dog's life more than a human life. If you choose dog, you are in essence, killing a human being. Because you chose, by your own volition, to take that money that could have saved a human life, and you gave it to a dog.
Some people claim that you can do both, that they are not incompatible. I disagree. The problem with that argument is that most of us (except the malign Helmsley woman) only have so much money in our pockets. And because ANY money that we take away from the starving humans to give to animals is ....well...money we take away from starving humans to give to animals. We are killing humans to make animals comfortable.
I think I operate, for the most part, under the principle that human beings come before animals (which is not to say I do not consider animals at all). If I abide by that principle, then I will never give to an animal charity, as long as there are starving humans in the world. The Humane society's mission statement goes something like "celebrating animals, confronting cruelty." I say it's a noble goal, but a nobler goal is to celebrate humans first, and once we take care of our own, then and only then can we turn to the animals. To choose to help animals over humans in dire need is morally wrong. And Leona Helmsely should burn in hell for all of the starving people she let die because of her insanity.
Note: there are a few instances where I think it's permitted to donate to animal organizations while humans are starving to death: Organizations that control animals or animal populations that threaten human life or safety, organizations for animals that improve human life (seeing-eye dogs, police dogs, etc.).
I got some of my statistics from here.