People care more about animals than they do their fellow humans.
I almost feel as though that is not even a statement up for contention. My mother often jokes that she likes the dog more than my brother and me, and I think there is some truth to that. The dog never argues or has other plans, and the dog is always by her side, adjusting based on whatever is senses my mother wants. But could it really be true? If my brother or I were hanging from a cliff and the dog was too, who would my mother choose to save?
I started thinking about this after I watched a clip titled “A Guide for White People Supporting Black Lives Matter” posted by The Daily Social Distancing Show Youtube channel on June 17th. In it Jaboukie Young-White and Michael Kosta talk about how white people can affectively aid in the fight against police brutality in Jaboukie’s classic mock-interview style. What finally persuades Kosta to do more than just post a black square on Instagram is the statistic “that cops kill hundreds of dogs each year…most of them unarmed,” to which he replies with utter outrage and a call to “dismantle the entire military industrial complex.” Not that it is necessarily important, but the statistic may actually be true, although it is difficult to say with certainty as cops often misreport killings of BIOPIC individuals, so how can we believe they would honestly report a murdered dog.
The Daily Show joke is clearly addressing the recent altercation in central park. The event sparked immediate outrage over all platforms, and, arguably, prompted a great resurgence in the Black Lives Matter fight. However, a great number of people banded together to demand justice not for Christian Cooper, the man who was threatened, but for the woman’s dog that she was dragging around by its’ neck as she was phoning the police. Don’t worry, the dog was taken away from her.
That event does shed light on a much greater issue, however, and like seemingly everything else, it is political. One YouGov survey in the UK asked participants if they would rather donate to a human or animal charity, and shockingly, it was actually close. Twelve percent of people found the question too difficult and answered “I don’t know,” while thirty-four said they would look after animals, and fifty-three said they would donate to a charity that looks after humans. When we look into the demographics of those who voted “animals,” it is even less surprising. 54% of animal voters were women between the ages of 40 and 54. Or rather, the ‘Karens’ of the world. Politically, affiliates of the left wing were more likely to support human causes and members of the right wing were more likely to donate to animals in need. But wait, it gets worse. When the question was phrased differently as, “What are the top issues today?”, animal testing restrictions took the cake, followed by fox hunting. Then, with fewer votes combined, followed immigration, criminal justice, human overpopulation, trade unions, housing, tuition fees, railway nationalism, and academy schools.
Looking at this issue psychologically is imperative in trying to understand it. When psychologists scanned a mother’s brain while looking at her children, her pet, and unfamiliar subjects of both species, the brain reacted similarly when shown both pictures of her dog and her child. A similar study was conducted with college students, gauging their empathetic response to a news article describing the same assault on different victims. One was a 30 year old, one was a one year old, one an elderly dog, and the final victim was a puppy. People showed approximately equal empathetic responses to both dogs and the baby, but were significantly less empathetic to the human adult. Thus suggesting that what makes us so immediately responsive to an animal in peril is its inherent helplessness in our eyes.
Maybe the way to actually get people to put pressure on the systems in place is to highlight the ways in which they are threatening the lives of our sweet, furry friends. Somehow, we need to convey to people that humans are just as helpless as a puppy stuck on a freeway when it comes to our greater capitalistic structures. Now we all have to act in the same manner we would faced with that predicament: slow or halt the oncoming threats, carry it from the road to safety, and ensure it has access to medical care, food, and water. The analogy cannot be lost on you. It truly is simple, we just have to ensure our fellow human beings are treated with the same care as your grandmother’s cocker spaniel.