May 13, 2007
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Sometimes I think that even animal rights activists need to reexamine our assumptions and expectations when it comes to animals. Especially, perhaps, the animals we save.
I notice this sometimes at Poplar Spring, in the way people relate to the animals there. It is not a malicious thing, it is more a desire to do good by them. Yet we sometimes place a burden on them. “I want to interact with you,” we seem to say, “so you need to fulfill that duty for me.” The reality is that they owe us nothing. If they don’t want to be around humans, who are we to be upset? Who are we to have expectations of them at all?
There are many animals at Poplar Spring who love interacting with humans. Simon and Louise, two friendly chickens, love to be held. Some of the goats and one of the sheep love attention. The pigs tend to view us as being there to scratch their backs. There are just as many sanctuary residents who actively try to stay away from humans. I can’t say I blame them.
The point is that while we should be there for them, they aren’t actually there for us. At a sanctuary, especially, we should be paying attention to their needs, even if that means ignoring our own. Isn’t that the point of giving them sanctuary?
They have complex social interactions among themselves, which we can understand only in the most basic way. If letting them be is what they need from us, that is what we should offer. It is nice, for us, that there are some who do enjoy the attention of humans. That shouldn’t be a requirement for our support, however. And when we go to a sanctuary to offer our help or simply view the animals who have been saved, we shouldn’t expect the non-human animals to express their gratitude. Our time, our effort, our money…they should come without strings attached.