25/06/2015 08:52 BST | Updated 23/06/2016 06:59 BST

Why We Need to Start Taking Animal Rights Seriously


Social media is being overrun with petitions and protests against the Yulin dog meat festival in south-west China. It is impossible to avoid the sickening pictures of animals being burnt or skinned alive. But why should we care about animals when there are so many atrocities happening around the world?

Some comments about the Yulin festival have centred on the idea that we shouldn't judge another culture. With one Twitter user sarcastically saying "Yeh (let's) stop another cultures traditions because we think dogs are cute". As much as preserving culture is important we have to draw the line somewhere between tradition and unnecessary sadism. There are still thousands of people who believe in child marriage and female genital mutilation. But as a society we are, rightly so, actively trying to stop these, making people aware of the consequences of harmful practices. And finding something 'cute' is secondary to speaking up against the pain and suffering of humans or animals because they can't do so for themselves.

Up until now animal rights was often viewed as something that ageing singers babbled about occasionally. Queen guitarist Brian May has turned his Surrey estate into a wildlife sanctuary. And the Smiths front man, Morrisey controversially compared eating meat to paedophilia. Neither person is easy to empathise with for the normal public.

But even famous endorsement of animal rights is now being taken more seriously. Although ironically this has come in the form of a comedian. In recent months Ricky Gervais has been frequently in the media for his support of animal rights campaigns. Not that getting a celebrity on board with a cause should be the be all and end all, but Gervais has made people listen. It may be because of his direct approach, with tweets that never pull any punches against those that don't respect animal rights. He has strongly supported the campaign to cancel the Yulin dog meat festival, labelling the organisers "disgusting sub human c***s". Or perhaps it is his current iconic status as a multiple awarding winning comedian who also retains many normal human qualities. Whatever the reason for Gervais' appeal he is making more people pay attention to animal rights and overruling the idea that support is the preserve of manic vegetarians or badger look a likes.

However, there is a bigger picture here, where if we don't act it could be harmful to everyone. We will perpetuate the notion that it's everyone for themselves. It's about considering whether we want to have a world where you are all alone and only look out for yourself.

Standing up against animal cruelty is simply a show that human kindness and unity still exist. Attempting to achieve the cancellation of any barbaric or torturous event is actually a comparatively easy thing to do, if we all speak up until the right people get the message. Saving humans in a war torn country, stuck in the middle of disputes over land or religion is a difficult situation to solve overnight. But we can restore a lot of faith in society and fellow humans by pressuring people to stop cruel events or practices. By at least trying to achieve change we can all look on society and humanity as positive things. Even if it doesn't have immediate results, everyone should speak up for someone that can't. If we aren't using our voices to speak for those who don't have one, what is the point of interacting and engaging with anything in wider society?