A Quick Thought on Empathy, Humanity, and Animals


Respondents to my ongoing advocacy for veganism frequently retort that we need to deal with human problems first. Then we can start fighting for justice on behalf of non-human animals. On the surface, this line of attack appears to have merit. But what’s missed is something essential. Think for a moment about what a human being must discover within himself to nurture moral consideration for non-human animals. One needs to cultivate an inner sense of tolerance, empathy, and compassion, among other liberating qualities. In transcending the species barrier through these intellectual/emotional changes, humans, in getting in better touch with these qualities, better predispose themselves to apply them to humans. It’s hard for me to imagine an individual who has sharply honed his sense of compassion for non-human animals to exhibit the misanthropy that’s at the core of so much hatred and bigotry existing among humans today. It’s in this respect, more than any other, that animals have much to teach us. In interacting with them on peaceful terms, we learn how to do the same with our human neighbors as well.


About James McWilliams
I'm a historian and writer based in Austin, Texas. This blog is dedicated to exploring the ethics of eating animals and animal-based products.

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