Most people (though not all, of course) would agree that human lives are more important than animal lives. We don’t usually say it so bluntly, because it’s a harsh thing to put a relative value on any life. But the way we live (eating meat, dressing in cow skin stamped with the Jumpman log, testing medicines on monkeys) and the way our society benefits from the harvesting of animal lives makes our values pretty obvious. I certainly put humans above (non-human) animals (though examining that value system too closely gets troubling really fast).
A familiar moral-decision hypothetical regarding human-vs.-animal life is easy for most to answer — as in, a dog and a human baby are drowning, and you can only save one. Well, you’re not a monster — obviously, you save the baby (even if the dog is arguably more friendly and less expensive given college tuition these days).
So, when I saw several of my Facebook friends today post memes pivoting off the Cecil-the-lion killing to talk about the #blacklivesmatter movement, I understood their impulse: It is absurd how difficult it is to gain empathy for innocent black lives lost at the hands of police officers, particularly when we’re seeing right now how broken-hearted the world is over the loss of a large feline.
(If you need a refresher: A dickwad Minnesota dentist recently “legally” — read: totally illegally — killed and beheaded a lion, who was a beloved resident of an African sanctuary. And generations of police abuse and killing of black people has started coming to light thanks to cellphone video. You know, in case you missed that.)
The intention of my friends’ posts is clear. And the statement they make is inarguable — “If you are upset that an innocent lion was killed, you should be more upset that innocent black humans are killed.”
But there’s still an atmosphere of hijacking about the statement that bugs me. Here is a rare moment for the cause of animal cruelty, a moment in which international attention is being paid to an often-ignored issue. But here you come saying another social issue is more important — even if it is. Some have been that blunt about it. I quote: “rich dude shooting lion < cop shooting human.”
Sure. Of course. But why are you changing the subject? People who shout “All Lives Matter” at Black Lives Matter rallies are being huge dicks. But the content of their statement is inarguable: All lives should and do matter. But why are they changing the subject? It does no good. The disproportionate and grossly unjust violence done to black lives finally gets some attention, and you want to shout about what we “should” be concerned about? A dickhead environmentalist could, should they desire, point out that climate change is “more important” than criminal justice reform. After all, less-violent cops won’t mean much in a world that’s no longer hospitable to humans.
But that would be pointless, and a douchenozzle thing to do.
To be clear, I’m not equating the smugness of “All Lives Matter” with memes pointing out the absurdity of caring for lions but not black Americans. I’m just saying — hijacking another social concern for (what you consider) a more important one is a bit dickish. Really, I just wanted to explain why these seemingly innocent posts bothered me.
Let’s hope some good comes to lives of animals after Cecil’s loss. And that human lives will improve thanks to social justice movements. Just, you know, don’t belittle something that someone else is concerned about.