I have always been a big animal lover.  Whatever animal comes into my path and will let me, I will cuddle and pet it.  When I was a kid, I used to be fascinated by the birds feeding in my grandma’s bird feeder.  I would read nature books for hours.  In 6th grade, we had outdoor education and a prairie right on the school grounds, and I have to say that was my favorite part of the school year.  I even did the summer school program, which included field trips.  To this day, I thank my 6th grade teacher and my elementary school counselor for teaching me to respect the world around me.

Of course, I started out like many people, more focused on animal welfare than animal rights.  I still ate meat.  I still considered certain animals to be pets and some to be food.  I still killed insects.  I cheered when my mother bought mousetraps.  Then, the summer before 7th grade, I volunteered at our local animal shelter.  I started read copies of Animals Agenda magazine while on my break.  By the time I was 14 I was a full-fledged member of PETA; a few years after that I joined Best Friends Animal Society.  As I became more aware of animal rights and welfare and started realizing that humans are animals too that led to me joining Amnesty International.  All are still will always be an important part of my life, and I am proud to say I am looking at about 20 years of membership now with each one.

My activism has evolved into full animal rights activism.  I believe that all members of the animal kingdom-including humans-have rights.  It doesn’t matter if it is a bear or a mouse or an ant or even a flea, they all have their own purpose and that doesn’t mean only if they are useful to humans or cute.  Take for example the possum.  My friend saw a mother possum and took a photo of it.  Some would say the possum was ugly, but who are we to decide that? That mama possum was as beautiful with her babies as any mother.

What about parasitic animals (and I am talking about actual members of the animal kingdom.  Do a little researcher so you save me the time of having to go over basic biology with you), do they have rights? Should we respect them? First of all, technically we are all parasites.  We are all depended on someone or something else.  Second of all, most parasitic animals can be avoided or are harmless to humans.  Some are even beneficial; there are mites that eat our dry skin, their are roundworms making our soil fertile.  Without parasitic animals the world as we know it would cease to exist, just the same as if any other animal disappeared.

We treat the non-human animals of the world like commodities that were put here just for us, and then blame them when we do something wrong.  A little boy fell in a gorilla pit this week, so zoo officials shot the gorilla.  The child wasn’t harmed, in fact the gorilla was being gentle and protective, but the gorilla is now dead.  Why aren’t the parents facing some sort of punishment? Why do we even have zoos in the first place? Why circuses, marine parks, animal testing, anything like that? It is time humans start realizing that we are animals too, and that we need to treat our fellow animals  with the same kindness, compassion, and respect we should be treating each other with.  All most animals need is to be left alone.  Considering how we use and abuse them, I think that is the most respectful thing we can do.

Author: Stacie M Stark

Activist with 25 years of experience in human and animal rights and welfare. Specializing in children's rights and issues, LGBT rights, and companion animal welfare and rights. Member and always will be of Amnesty International, Best Friends Animal Society, and PETA. Mom, queer, vegetarian. Hello Kitty and Disney Princess collector. Cat lover. Sagwa fan. I want to live at the public library.

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