As an animal rights advocate, I strongly believe that the words we use are vitally important, and words like ‘animal lovers’, ‘love’, ‘compassion’ and ‘kindness’ are frequently used by many who protest about animal ‘cruelty’. Apart from the fact that all the words in quotation marks are subjective i.e. meaning different things to different people, I have previously written about why I am very sparing about my use of them in this post http://wp.me/p4TmPw-9s.
The risk of seeming over-sentimental, perceived lack of clarity and inconsistency are open invitations to many who latch on to any reason to trivialise or disparage animal rights and veganism.
Of course in choosing our words, it always helps to clarify our intentions if we substitute a comparable situation involving humans for the situation involving those of other species where we are promoting attitudes like ‘love’, ‘compassion’ or ‘kindness’. Quite truthfully I am unable to think of a single situation where, knowing that an action is totally unnecessary and causes harm to humans, we request that the perpetrators be ‘kinder, ‘more compassionate’ or ‘more loving’ whilst they continue their unnecessary behaviour. Examples of the sort of human related behaviours I have in mind include domestic violence, bullying, sexual molestation in all its forms, racism, sexism etc.
Nevertheless I still felt that there had to be a simple and clear definition to explain why I perceive a clear difference between actions and behaviours that are basic decency, and actions and behaviours that are ‘kind’ or ‘compassionate’.
The best explanation of my own view that I can come up with is this:-
1. For any human or nonhuman individual of whatever species, it is basic decency, respect and a matter of fundamental justice for humans to refrain from causing them unnecessary harm. This is essential.
2. For any human or nonhuman individual of whatever species, it may be considered by some to be ‘loving’, ‘kind’ or ‘compassionate’ for humans to take positive action that actually improves the wellbeing of others in some way. This is admirable and depends on our circumstances but is not essential.
Practical examples of this in a human context;
1 – means that we do not physically or verbally attack other people, steal from them or discriminate against them on the grounds of their gender, race, ethnicity, age etc. This is essential.
2 – might mean that we additionally do such things as spending time helping neighbours, doing charity work or giving time, items or money to groups or organisations that provide expert assistance to those in need. This is admirable and depends on our circumstances but is not essential.
Practical examples of this in a nonhuman context;
1 – means that we are vegan. This is the only way we can refuse to participate in causing harm to individuals of other species. This is essential.
2 – might mean that we additionally do such things as giving time and support to vegan places of sanctuary, or we may provide rescue, homes and care for those who are homeless or in shelters. This is admirable and depends on our circumstances but is not essential.
It is not essential to love the many people we deal with each day to know that harming them would be wrong.
It is not essential to love animals to know that veganism is the right thing to do. Be vegan.