Kindness to Animals

Photo of a man petting a brown and white baby cow in a sunny open field
Source: iStock

From cock-a-doodle-dooing barnyard friends to teeny-tiny ocean crustaceans to the scuttering rats nibbling on Manhattan street pizza, all animals are deserving of kindness. But what qualifies as "kindness to animals"? Is it donating to an animal welfare charity? Adopting a pet from a local shelter or rescue? Sticking to a plant-based diet? Rejecting animal byproduct fashion? Buying cruelty-free cosmetics? Kindness to animals encompasses all of these commendable lifestyle choices.

What is the meaning of "kindness to animals"?

Animal kindness doesn't have a legal definition. That being said, kindness to furry, scaly, and feathery friends rejects abuse, exploitation, experimentation, and unnatural confinement.

The RSPCA has a fabulous definition: "Animal kindness is treating animals with compassion, empathy, and respect. It's about recognizing that animals have value in themselves and are sentient (they have physical and emotional experiences, and can feel pain). They deserve to be treated well, to be free from suffering and harm, and to live good lives."

The U.K. charity believes that the impactful decisions we make as citizens, role models, nature explorers, and pet owners shape our overall kindness to animals. Here at Green Matters, we use the term "pet parent" over "pet owner," as people shouldn't hold ownership over Mother Earth's creatures.

The American Humane organization even has a Kindness Pledge, which motivates people to only "visit certified zoos and aquariums" — though we maintain animals shouldn't be exhibited for human enjoyment (support an animal sanctuary instead) — "adopt from an animal shelter or American Humane certified pet provider," "watch movies that support animal welfare on set," and "buy humanely raised products." We encourage people to take the latter pledge point a step further and commit to a vegan diet.

What does animal abuse look like?

The Humane Society of the United States relayed that most animal abuse cases are not reported. "Unlike violent crimes against people, cases of animal abuse are not compiled by state or federal agencies," the nonprofit wrote.

While abuse against dogs, cats, horses, and livestock is commonly reported, factory farm industry abuse is typically only reported when it's shocking and "newsworthy." We've written at length about various instances of rampant animal abuse in the animal testing industry, the wool industry, the dairy industry, the fur and leather industries, and the zoo and aquarium industries (including the infamous SeaWorld).

The nonprofit specified that both intentional and unintentional cruelty to animals are forms of abuse. While men under 30 are most likely to intentionally abuse animals, according to surveys, women over 60 are most likely to unintentionally abuse animals via neglectful hoarding behaviors.

Organized cruelty is another type of intentional abuse, often in the form of deadly cockfighting and dogfighting — both of which are linked to gambling, drugs, and violent acts. According to the World Animal Foundation, dogfighting leads to the deaths of about 16,000 dogs annually. This illegal "blood sport" also continues long-held stigmas associated with bully breeds.

Show kindness by reporting animal abuse of any kind. For those unsure, American Humane offers a list of clear signs of animal abuse as well as tips on reporting.

What is Be Kind to Animals Week?

According to American Humane, Be Kind to Animals Week is the "longest-running humane education campaign" in the U.S. Since 1915, the rescue and kindness initiative has inspired Americans to direct their attention to the animals in their lives, their communities, and the world.

Though we mentioned some kindness-focused activities, consider fostering an animal, creating a safe and non-toxic sanctuary for birds, butterflies, and squirrels in your backyard, or giving your pet a special "spa day." There's no limit to loving animals.

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