Our love for other animals is a uniquely human quality. We involve them in medical therapy, go to expensive lengths to save and study them, and we share our homes and food with them. We generally tolerate sharing urban spaces with them and, these days, most accept the ethics and logic behind not eating them, even if we don't all act on it.
If you assessed the cold data on our relationship with animals, however, you'd probably arrive at a very different conclusion. We intensively farm them in the trillions, obliterate species on a daily basis, cage and abuse them for entertainment, purchase them as pets to be abandoned when a trendier variety is available. To those animals unlucky enough to be regarded as commodities rather than sentient individuals, every day is filled with terror when it involves humans.
But for one day each year, at least, we are encouraged to reflect on our complicated relationship with other animals and choose to base it on kindness, rather than cruelty. And it's apparent that kindness is growing.
First celebrated in 1925, World Animal Day on October 4th has grown to become one of the biggest days of the year in both traditional and social media. Last year, it trended globally on Twitter. Millions of animal lovers used #WorldAnimalDay to celebrate our lives with animals, and raise awareness of opportunities to help them.
This annual phenomenon is spearheaded by a small team of campaigners at Naturewatch Foundation, and our global network of 93 Ambassadors in 73 countries. But millions more participate in it. Here's a small snapshot of the diverse events being held this World Animal Day. Is one happening near you?
• A peaceful march by torchlight in Székesfehérvár, Hungary
• Blessing of the animals and a rabies vaccination day in Johannesburg, South Africa
• Low cost pet microchipping and neutering in Helsinki, Finland
• Taipei City's Mayor Ko Wen-Je will join Taiwanese bloggers in a musical flash mob (seriously!)
• M-A-S-H style vet clinic will aim to spay/neuter 1000 animals in Panama
• A Guinness World Record attempt exhibiting the world's largest amphibian stamp collection in Sarawak, Malaysia
• The United Nations, Kenyan Government and Africa Network for Animal Welfare will co-host a conference on the nexus between animal welfare, the environment and development.
• And here in the UK, so far there will be abseiling in East Sussex, a bake and craft sale in Southampton, a 10,000 feet freefall parachute jump in Cambridgeshire, and calls for crustaceans to be recognised as animals in the Animal Welfare Act.
Check out the full list of World Animal Day events.
For many people October 4th is simply a fun day of sharing cute cat pics on Twitter. But that's important too! Making animals front page and trending news is a vital catalyst for change. It reminds us that we're not alone on this planet; that our lives are intricately connected to other animals, and we can do better by them.
So let's do what we can to make our relationship with them positive, and celebrate our lives with animals.
You can get involved in World Animal Day too! Visit www.worldanimalday.org.uk to register or join events, or make a pledge to help animals.