Why do we value animals over humans? 

Eric Williams, Staff Writer

When reports of animal victimization reach the news, they seem to overshadow traumas and tragedies that befall human beings. Not a month passes, it seems, without at least one story of some act of animal cruelty followed by hundreds if not thousands of people denouncing it. 

But do people really care more about harm to dogs than to humans? 

Results revealed a more complicated picture than assumed. Age, rather than species, seemed the primary influence on the reactions. The human infant elicited the most sympathy and distress from our students, but infants, puppies, and adult dogs all got greater sympathy than the 30-year-old human. 

The bottom line is that the subjects did not necessarily care more about dogs than people. They cared more about creatures who were perceived as innocent and helpless, regardless of whether they had two legs or four. 

Full-grown adults are more likely to be capable of taking care of themselves. Infants, puppies and adult dogs are not. 

Given our results, why does it seem like many people care more about the plight of animals than humans? Perhaps the answer lies in the way those violent episodes are reported. 

The media reports of horrific human violence tend to focus not on the victim but on the killers. Every aspect of their troubled childhoods, failed relationships and lack of success is presented in the detail. In some cases, the violent perpetrator becomes a national celebrity. All too often, the killer is remembered for decades while the victims are quickly forgotten. 

Maybe there is a lesson to be learned from how the media reports stories of animals being harmed. If people are becoming desensitized to the many reports of human suffering, then why not tell more about the human victim’s story? 

Perhaps then more people will be just as troubled, if not more so, when they read about the victimization of fellow humans.