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Choosing Animals Over People?

It’s a mistake to pit sympathy for animals against sympathy for humans. Compassion for other species can also nurture compassion for fellow humans. Empathy isn’t a zero-sum game.


NICHOLAS KRISTOF:
‘Are we betraying our own species when we write checks to help gorillas (or puppies or wild horses)? Is it wrongheaded to fight for elephants and rhinos (or farm animals at home) while five million children still die each year before the age of 5?… A research study found that subjects were more upset by stories of a dog beaten by a baseball bat than of an adult similarly beaten. Other researchers found that if forced to choose, 40 percent of people would save their pet dog over a foreign tourist… Does honoring animal rights come at the expense of human rights?…

It’s a legitimate question that I’ve wondered about over the years. But I’ve come to believe that on the contrary, conserving rhinos or gorillas — or speaking up for tortured farm animals at home — is good for humans, too. At the broadest level, it’s a mistake to pit sympathy for animals against sympathy for humans. Compassion for other species can also nurture compassion for fellow humans. Empathy isn’t a zero-sum game.

Overseas conservation organizations have also gotten much better at giving local people a stake in the survival of animals. The World Wildlife Fund, which helps manage the Dzanga Sangha Protected Area, supports a health clinic and is starting an education initiative. The refuge hires 240 local people, from rangers to trackers who locate the gorillas and get them habituated to people. “These efforts are good for us,” said Dieudonné Ngombo, one of the trackers. “We work and get a salary, and then our kids live better and we sleep well”.’ SOURCE…

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