I've noticed that when people show a lot of affection towards their pets, for example claiming that the pet is their best friend or grieving for a very long period of time after the pet dies or paying for expensive veterinary care even for relatively minor injuries/illnesses, other people are quite scornful and say things like, 'It's only a dog' or think that the person is crazy. This seems unfair to me. If someone did that for another human it would be seen as honourable. Why is animal companionship seen as less valuable as human companionship, or the affection that a person can feel for a pet less important than what they can feel for a human friend? It's the same thing as that most people would often rather kill a goat than kill another person. Why do we value the lives of animals so much less than humans? Is it just natural to care more about what is like us (like an extended version of racism?) Or is it because we attribute most importance to a human degree of intelligence or emotion? Should it be like this? I understand that someone asked this in regards to religion, but I'm not sure that even religious people give animals the same importance as humans. Thank you.

You make several points here, and I may not respond to all of them. But first, there may be any number of reasons why people regard non-human animals as not meriting the same degree of moral regard as human beings. I think (given the format of this site) it is probably best here simply to provide some basic indication of how this might be appropriate, so think of it in terms of how we value reciprocal relationships. We value our pets, in this way of thinking, because they really do reciprocate our attentions and affections--at least, as far as they are able to do so. But the reciprocation that is possible between human beings and their pets is limited--far more limited than the reciprocation that is possible between human beings. So it may not simply be a matter of valuing certain traits (e.g. intelligence) in a prejudicial way, so much as the ways in which such traits allow for richer (and more reciprocal) relationships.

As for religion's regard for non-human animals, it will really depend upon the religion. The religions of South and East Asia (Buddhism and Hinduism, for examples) tend to value animals more greatly than those with their roots in the Middle East (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam). Recall that in Genesis, we are told that God gave human beings dominion over non-human animals, with the implication that the other animals came into existed for our use (e.g. as food, or as beast of burden).

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