Care More About Animals Than People?

Care More About Animals Than People?

If you’re a vegan, vegetarian, or animal advocate of any kind, you’ve probably heard someone say to you, “You care more about animals than people.”

It’s not true. You care about people, too. In fact, that might even be part of your lifestyle choice. Maybe you stopped eating animals for health or environmental reasons. Well, that’s caring about people. Maybe you went vegan because you noticed the link between various forms of violence from family violence to war to slaughterhouse violence. Well, that’s caring about people. Maybe you participate in a wide array of activism, including human rights activism, not just animal rights. Well, that’s caring about people.

Whatever your position – whatever path you took to an animal-friendly life – there are a few good ways to handle the common criticism, “You care more about animals than people.” Here are some simple responses:

  • We can do both: human rights and animal rights.” – Here is an opportunity to discuss activism you’ve done that helped both humans and nonhumans, for example reuniting lost ‘pets’ with their ‘owners.’
  • I care about people, even you.” – An honest expression of care or concern disarms critical people. From there, you can move towards a kinder, more respectful conversation. This is the perfect response if a friend or family member criticizes your pro-animal perspective.
  • “Sounds like you’re concerned about human rights. Me too. That’s one reason I’m vegan. Veganism isn’t just good for animals, it’s good for people, too.” – Then you can move into a discussion about pollution or health. Or even, a discussion about world hunger and human rights abuses in meat packing plants.
  • You care more about fashion than animals’ lives.” – Depending on the situation, a response like this might be appropriate. It won’t win you points with the critical person, but it could sway onlookers. Depends on the issue, if it’s fur or veal, have at it. Those activities are not socially acceptable and anyone who wears fur or eats veal deserves VERY HARSH CRITICISM. But if the issue is something more socially acceptable, like eating burgers, snark won’t work.
  • Humans are animals, too.” – It’s the truth. Simple and to the point.
  • I don’t want to eat people, either.” – Jokes are a good way to diffuse a tense situation.

So there you go, some responses to one of the many empty criticisms of veganism and animal advocacy. If you have a good response, what is it?

When I was first asked, “Why don’t you care about people?” I was taken aback. I said something like “I do care about people.” I put on my ‘leafletter smile’ (the one where I try to look approachable because inside I’m very nervous and shy) and handed her a pamphlet. I’m not sure what she expected, but my response wasn’t it. She took a pamphlet and walked away.

For some reason, I was seething inside. I was so angry that she would assume I didn’t care about people. I was deeply hurt that a stranger would  attack me for “not caring about people” when all I was doing was trying to save animals’ lives, particularly when there were so many other people around she could have attacked who were more demonstrably “not caring about people.” We were in a New York Subway station, afterall. It made me very sad for my species that anyone would assume caring about animals meant not caring about people. And for a short while I lost a bit of hope for humanity. I wondered how screwed up we must be if saving animals’ lives was figuratively ‘spit on’ by so many people.

However, I overcame that anger and sadness. I realized that my ‘leafletter smile’ DID make me approachable. I realized this woman chose to speak to me because I WAS receptive to her and I DID demonstrate care for people. But mostly, I remembered that she had taken a pamphlet. Whatever her reasons for criticizing me, be they her own feelings of guilt or be they anger about the war or be they something else entirely, she was wrong: I do care about people.

My advice to any animal advocate: Don’t let the naysayers define you. We are changing the world for the better – for animals, people, and the entire planet.

This article was originally published in December 2008. It has been republished for a new audience.

29 Responses to Care More About Animals Than People?

  1. “I care about people, even you.” – An honest expression of care or concern disarms critical people.

    That’s a great response – hilarious but also true :)

    ~ Recent blog post: Echoes of Bobby ~

  2. Well…I’m a raging misanthrope, so I kinda don’t care about people. People suck. People are classist, racist, sexist, ageist, rude, mean, cruel, etc. Deer aren’t racist. Rabbits aren’t classist. When was the last time you saw a capitalist pig who was really a pig?

    I truly believe that being vegan is the best thing for all concerned…environment, animals, and people, but that’s because everything is connected. Not because I give two f*cks about homo sapiens.

  3. Here Here! Love the post!

    Cheers and Happy Holidays,

    ~ Recent blog post: EASY Raw Vegan Soups – Now Available in Print! ~

  4. I feel ya! So, there I am, just minding my own business, trying to explain to people why its not cool up to kick puppies, set cats on fire, wear the embalmed corpses of dead animals or drink excretions from cows’ tits, when out of nowhere some guy comes by and yells at me saying I suck because I love animals more than people.

    “Huh?” I ask. “I’m just saying that it’s not cool to torture animals to death just so that some old lday can wear them as a hat.”

    “What about abortion!?!” He screams. “How can you care so much about animals when there are so many babies being murdered? Don’t you know that millions of babies are killed every year by their own mothers?”

    While I was being screeched at I noticed this guy is carrying a Starbucks coffee cup and I couldn’t help wonder if he yelled at the Starbucks clerk this way. “Coffee!?! How can you care so much about coffee when there are babies dying?”

    When I snapped back, I heard him carrying on about how hundreds of thousands of people are being hacked apart with machetes in some country in Africa and how children are being raped and prisoners are being tortured in Gitmo and suicide bombers are terrorizing innocent civilians.

    “So. . .” I said. “You’re telling me that I shouldn’t care that people are hurting animals for no good reason because people are raping, murdering and terrorizing each other too? Wait. . . Tell me again why I should love people so much.”

  5. In some ways we don’t really choose the things we care about most. They seem to choose us. There are millions of worthy issues to care about, big and small in scope. Fortunately there are also billions of people out there. If any one person chooses to concentrate on one worthy issue at the possible exclusion of some others… well, that can work out fine because there are enough people out there to pick up the slack on the rest.

    So what if someone cares about animals more than they care about people. They can work for animals in need, you can work for people in need, and overall we’ll just get twice the coverage.

    ~ Recent blog post: Short Stack Play Is Not A Fight Against The Blinds ~

  6. I’m glad you decided to write about this, because it is absolutely at the top of my list of pet peeves. Though the majority of my volunteer work is with animal rights, I’ve also volunteered for countless human-related causes and donate to several charities on a monthly basis. I always try to avoid buying anything made with sweatshop labour, and I stick to fair trade sugar and chocolate. Anyway, I go out of my way to care about people, and so it’s really frustrating when some idiot–who has never done anything more charitable than shaking his head in disappointment at human rights violations on the evening news–insists otherwise. (People who ACTUALLY work to end suffering–human or animal–tend to be too smart and aware to whine about the charity of others.)

    However, what really gets me about the “how come you don’t care about humans” question is that it’s wholly illogical. It’s just speciesism. You never hear cancer charities being accused of not caring about hungry children, or anti-poverty charities being told that they need to spend more time adopting puppies.

    My favourite story related to this happened recently, when a gentleman we’d been contacting for some time about the sale of fur-trimmed coats in his store agreed to drop the coats but couldn’t help but sneer (via email) that he only wished that our group would devote half as much time helping the homeless and hungry people in the world, who needed the assistance more than animals. We politely responded that we were in the midst of a vegan food drive for the local Food Bank, and that we’d love his help if he felt like donating anything! (Note: we collected 99 pounds of food overall–none of it from him, naturally!)

  7. I do care more for animals than people. I find it hard to feel much compassion for people.

  8. I dont understand how some people would rather defend an animal than a human. I’m talking about the people who genuinely disregard a human life over an animal. I’m sure if you were in a life or death situation, with only one choice on who to save and someone picked the golden retriever over you, you would be pissed. An animals life is not more important than a humans. But animals dont deserve to be abused and whatnot. *Sorry if that example is weak it’s off the top of my head*

    There are innocent people being abused and enslaved in this world and I find it strange that some people struggle to find any compassion for them. But when they see a poor, tortured, puppies face they are in tears.

    We are animals too and for me, it feels like some of you are way up there in the clouds and havent grown a backbone. It’s like you cant cope with the way we live.

    Can someone share what they are thinking? So I can understand better.

  9. Elliot, I’m not sure why people like Daniel feel that way, but it might be because animals (like children) are so innocent.

    Very rarely do we find true conflicts between nonhuman animal rights and human rights of the same degree. That is, most of the time the conflicts between humans and animals arise when humans decide a trivial human interest trumps animals’ basic rights to life or freedom. When real conflicts exist between nontrivial interests, I agree that it’s OK to favor the human interests. But in the majority of cases – for example, the use of animals for food, clothing, or entertainment – there is simply no good reason to exploit animals.

  10. The only time im concerned about animals is when they are about to become extinct or when they are being used in like india for entertainment with rings through their nose and stuff. I dont see whats wrong with animals being eaten or used for clothes/utensils whatever for the people who need to do it like the native indians… some cultures still hunt in this world too. however when celebrities wear mink coats, leopard print, gator skin etc. thats wrong for sure. At the end of the day I dont think ill even be on the same page as any of you, ever. I realize now but thanks for helping me understand a little bit better.

  11. I forgot to say people in this world like their burgers and steaks. It just doesnt bother me that we consume cows and pigs etc for meat. If I ever went vegan or vegitarian… well I cant imagine it. I also dont believe I would be saving any cows or pigs from being slaughtered at the end of the day. I never seen the upside you know?

  12. Elliot,
    Perhaps these films will convince you to go vegan:

  13. I already know that the videos contain graphic nature most likely. And im going to politely say no thanks to the videos. I’m ok wih myself eating meat, currently. I just dont see myself changing Ive been eating meat too long. Thanks for everything though I understand another persons perspective a little better now. It’s helped me understand you guys a little more and I can look at both sides of the coin now instead of biased views.

  14. The first video has NO disturbing graphic images. NONE.
    It’s 100% positive.

  15. I think that when that woman said why don;t you care about people, what she was referring to was that in most cultures around the world it is accepted that there is an indisputable hierarchy of life forms and humans are above animals- i.e. a child suffering and a lamb suffering the same amount of pain are NOT equal, the child’s suffering takes precedence OVER the lamb’s suffering for the simple reason that the child is human and the lamb is an animal. The child’s humanity makes him/her infinitely more valuable than a lamb, than 10 lambs, than 1,000,000 lambs. Scientifically speaking, homo sapiens are classified in the animal kingdom- but again, whether one is religious, ‘spiritual’, humanist, or atheist we, the human race, believe that there is some intrinsic quality that sets us apart from animals, in an insurmountable, unquestionable way.
    For this reason, when one sees another human taking up the cause of ending animal suffering while there are yet so many humans that suffer, we view it as a betrayal of the deepest, most profound kind- mainly that those humans who suffer are beneath your attention and that you set them, in terms of priority, below that of animals. Which to most humans, especially those who have seen abject human suffering, is a very big slap in the face.

  16. My response to the “You care more about animals than you do about people”–No, it would be more accurate to say that I care more about animals than YOU care about people.

  17. And it’s not about what you “care” about and how much, it’s what you DO and how effective you are. Going veg does not take away any more time, effort, or energy than a non-Veg lifestyle, but it makes a diference in reducing suffering just by making more compassionate food, clothing, etc. choices. If I can do it, then it just can’t be that hard.

  18. With all due respect, Elliot, I’m pretty sure I know why you’re opposing to see those videos. You know how you will feel. You know that reality will slap you in the face. You know that you’re going to feel awful and be extremely guilty the next time you eat a hamburguer.
    You also know that you’re too lazy to do anything, so you’d rather avoid that ugly feeling by not seeing a disturbing video.
    I know it, because I was caught on the lights when I saw a video picturing a slaughterhouse for the first time. I felt awful, I had never seen something like that. I had eaten beef that very afternoon and my stomach literally did a flip.
    I also knew I hated the feeling that I would not be able to eat meat without feeling bad about it next day and thought to myself: “how long will it be before this nasty feeling leaves? How long before I can eat makis or steak or chicken without hating myself for it?”
    I was being lazy.
    I call it divine inspiration (and I am an atheist), but, someone in my head said: “maybe a week or two. But it’d be better if you just acted on your instincts about what’s good and what’s not instead of trying to appease your conscience”.
    And okay, that’s a dramatic way of saying it, but it actually worked. Next morning, boom! I was vegetarian (I’m gaving a bad time ditching cheese and it has been months. But I’m confident in myself).

  19. There is nothing I love more that a good [censored]. But dogs, there is nothing that makes me more than someone thats treats dog badly. Dogs are innsoent and can’t help but do what they have been tought. But people can. But the only thing that can bring me to tears is a family member dieing and an animal. The only reason I can come up with that is the fact that animals are pure and don’t have greed to effect
    Their decisions

  20. Lilamedusa – How true about what you said about Elliott. I was talking to a girl at work today and she commented that she does not want to know what happens to animals.I think she cares but that is a scary place to go and people would rather live in a box instead of facing reality. To Elliott if you are still reading these posts: go to Mercy for Animals and watch the video of the downed calves being smashed in the head with pick axes and hammers. All in the name of meat….

  21. Yes, im a raging misantrophee too, adn i dont care AT ALL about humanity, i would let 1000 people (children too) die to save A SINGLE ANIMAL and if i saw somebody dying or harmed i would let him/her die, so yes, there’s your answer, and no its not “care more about animals than people?” its more like i care ONLY for animals an not for people, except my beloved ones, i love them too, and animals are equals to them i care the same for them, and i would save real music bands, good videogame developers, real tv producers or artists etc just because they make me forget about the $#%& this world is, adn i would save people who deserve to be saved too (nice people), i wish i could read minds to be able to see who is a good person and who isnt.

  22. And yes, im considering to become a veggie, but since we have not much money i cant eat anything without meat, but as soon as i can ill do it, and ive read that sometimes veggie food tastes like meat (and without being an accomplice to a murderer)

  23. i am living in a third world country, and believe me, people in the country im in are the worst! some eat dogs and cats and frogs and crickets! it’s not because they have nothing else to eat because vegetables are just around.
    abusing animals is common for children and adults. perople here simply don’t care about animals. i am struggling to find people with viewpoints just like mine, perople with so much compassion towards these innocent beings.
    most people i talk with make fun off me, or of the animal issue i am talking about(and believe me i try to be really kind and humble and try to understand where they come from). still,they would even say im nuts especially when i turned veg! it really sucks to be here! but i guess that’s why i’m here. someone just has to care. i just hope i can make a difference, even the slightest.

  24. Scientific evidence contradicts the myth that veg*ns care more about nonhuman animals than humans:

    “An interesting recent study shows that vegetarians and vegans appear to have more of an empathetic response to both human and animal suffering.

    “FMRI brain scans showed that the areas of the brain associated with empathy (such as the anterior cingulate cortex and the left inferior frontal gyrus in this study) were more activated in vegetarians and vegans compared to omnivores when all three groups were shown pictures of human or animal suffering. Written questionnaires on empathy, in both this and other studies, seem to confirm higher empathy levels in vegetarians and vegans (Preyo and Arkiwawa, 2008; Filippi et al, 2010).”

  25. Humans are thought to be intelligent animals (sometimes they truly are!). So they can take care of themselves. Or else their dear ones are beside them to take care of them.

    But animals really need to be saved from this super intelligent animal called man. A man sees wood in every living breathing green tree. He has lost the gift of sight to see the infinite life breathing in the arms of a tree. God bless the man with wisdom to see the life and respect it.

  26. I care about animals and people. That’s why I’m vegan. Though I do understand the vegan misantropes… since I’ve felt the same a few years ago. It is because the way most people treat animals that misantropes lose faith in humanity and I admit I still find it hard to find compassion for the oppressors of animals. However, that doesn’t mean that humanity is hopeless, I’ve learned. Slowly, but surely, humanity will rid itself of speciesism.

  27. pfff, for me humans have the same value other animals. free all animals!
    but sometimes i really like animals more than human-animals.

  28. Thank you for addressing this topic. This is something vegans deal with quite a bit. The irony is that despite the ethics behind people’s choices to be vegan/vegetarian, due to the impact that animal agriculture has on the environment, having a plant based diet is doing just as much good for humans as animals. I write about this very topic, check it out if you like By saving animals we are saving humans too!


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