Throughout my life, my parents have always emphasized tolerance of other people and their opinions, no matter how strongly you feel about the topic or their personal opinion. One of these controversial topics has always been the treatment of animals, both wild and domestic. Growing up and even now, I’ve always been surrounded by various critters of all shapes and sizes including fish, reptiles, amphibians, dogs, cats, and small rodents. Therefore, I tend to lean toward the side of defending and advocating the rights and kind treatment of animals but in a way that hopefully provides people with new knowledge rather than make them feel defensive or ignored.
What I’ve found is that many of the arguments for this issue from both sides revolve around necessity. Is it necessary to experiment on animals? Is it necessary to eat animals? It is necessary to keep them in zoos and amusement parks? Is it necessary to keep animals as pets? And what rights do animals have? They can’t talk after all. These questions most definitely do not have definite answers and each individual situation will result in varying answers and opinions from a variety of people.
But I think one of the most defining characteristics of this topic is that of respect and ethical treatment. Even this subject is difficult to define, what types of animals constitute certain levels of respect? Do only household pets deserve the highest level of respect? But then what about that goldfish swimming around in its dirty fish bowl? What characteristics or traits define an animal that deserves differing levels of respect? Four legs? Furry? Larger than a toaster?
Then, what about the rest of the animals that generally don’t live in homes like livestock and wild animals? It’s no secret that animals processed and kept for human consumption are frequently kept on large commercial factory farms with not the best living conditions. But they also play a major part in the human consumption of food and goods. And what about the animals used in research facilities around the world? These animals are often times the subject of cruel experiments for products, like cosmetics, medications, and surgical procedures, that ultimately benefit humans.
All of these arguments have valid reasoning and none of them can be cleanly disputed or dismissed without the potential for controversy and counterarguments. Proposed solutions always have both positive and negative repercussions. And these conflicting ideas often result in minimal change or improvement because both sides refuse to compromise in order for progress to occur. So, then what do we do and how can we make change a realistic movement?
Based on past experiences it seems like the only way for current status to change is to slowly and gradually make compromises that benefit both parties. For example, instead of attempting to eradicate all forms of animal testing and research, which will surely raise opposition, it might be more effective to enact and strongly enforce more detailed codes of ethical treatment and clearly outline standards of care and limitations for the use of specific animals and breeds. While this may not completely grant both parties what they want, this small step towards change and improvement is still much greater than none at all.
So, the next time you run into someone who is determined to convince you of their side of a controversial topic. Try proposing compromises even if they try to dispute all of your suggestions. By doing it in a kind, firm, and as civil a way as possible, the conversation opens up to new ideas and the environment becomes far more relaxed. It will probably get you farther than if you refuse to give any ground. One step in the right direction, is much farther than no step at all.