Why should cats be treated with the same respect as humans? Why should all animals be treated with the same respect as humans? It almost seems that the world is divided into two equal parts on this debate: whether to treat animals as creatures to be used by humans or whether to treat them as if we would treat humans, equally1.
I have always believed that humans are animals. We are human-animals. Animals are non-human animals. If you believe in a God then you would have to believe that he would create all living creatures as equals and therefore each animal is deserving of the same respect as another.
I have a strong belief that we are all equal. I also have a strong belief that as nonhuman animals feel pain, have emotions, can feel contentment and unhappiness it is impossible to treat them other than with respect because if we don’t we can hurt them and it is impossible for an intelligent human to allow himself to hurt a living creature because of a disrespect for that creature.
A major reason why I respect all animals is because I know that they feel pain and have emotions and I feel a strong obligation to ensure that they are as content and free of pain as possible. If an animal is in pain, I feel the emotional pain. I’m absolutely sure that many, many millions of people and particularly people who like and love cats feel the same way. They cannot stand the idea of an animal being in pain especially if the pain was caused by a person or people. It hurts us and we like to avoid emotional hurt. Being respectful towards animals improves the life of a thinking person.
It is a common belief that humans are superior to other animals due to his or her intelligence. But there are different kinds of intelligence and when we refer to “intelligence” we usually refer to the ability to do sums and work out problems etc. but animals have other types of intelligence and we should have open minds to, and respect, other types of intelligence. Also, being more intelligent does not mean that we should disrespect people or other creatures who are less intelligent. In a civilised society people who are more able to cope with life and who are more intelligent are called upon to help those who are less able and less intelligent. So it is a mark of intelligence to respect others who are less intelligent. That argument should extend to the relationship between humans and animals.
In well-developed countries with decent law, animal welfare laws are firmly based upon a respect for all animals. The more highly refined a country’s animal welfare law, the more civilised is the country. Across the planet there are wide variations in the quality of animal welfare laws. The quality of animal welfare laws runs parallel to the quality of the culture of the people of that country and the laws that they create for their own protection. The welfare of people and the welfare of animals are part and parcel of the same cultural attitudes.
If people treat nonhuman animals with respect and as equals, how far does that go? Even people who disagree with me, might agree that they should treat a primate (i.e apes) with respect and as an equal. But what about animals that humans would treat as pests? How can a human treat a pest with respect? Pests are to kill because they are pests. Well, to many people foxes are pests. It is just a label that people like to put on an animal that they wish to abuse for their own pleasure, which certainly applies to the fox in countries where there is foxhunting.
There is no longer any need for the human to eat the flesh of other animals because we are intelligent enough, and our digestive system is able to allow us, to survive perfectly adequately without killing and eating animals. I believe it is impossible, even with the best processes and practices, to kill animals for consumption without causing some pain, distress, discomfort etc.. Therefore in a highly refined society we should expect to see everyone being vegetarians.
The bottom line is this: I have a very strong gut feeling that we are all equal and that gut feeling is based upon a lifetime’s experience and it is in my DNA. There is nothing to suggest to me that we are unequal. If there is nothing that suggests to me that other animals are less important and less valuable than me then they are equal to me.
It is my belief that people who see animals as lesser creatures to hunt and to use or abuse for the benefit of themselves they are less well developed, less refined and less intelligent than people who respect all animals and treat them kindly. It is really a question of personal development and thoughtfulness. Different parts of the world have developed at different rates and that applies also to individual people. The more refined the thinking of an individual person the more likely he or she is to respect animals and of course the domestic cat. Conversely, the more ignorant and less refined the person the more likely the person is to disrespect animals and the domestic cat. If I am right in that assessment then it is another reason why cats should be treated with the same respect as humans.
- [Note: it is common knowledge that in many places many people treat other people as lesser creatures. We are well aware that this attitude is incorrect and lacks refinement and decency.]
- These are just some ideas about respecting the cat. It is far from a complete argument. Feel free to add yours.