homeless man dog

People or Pets? The Charity Paradox

You have two million dollars to spend on your community.  You can either spend it on your local animal shelter or spend it fixing the teeth of poor children.   Which do you pick?

(These are your only two choices, and no dividing the money)

– TM in Royal Oak, MI

A couple notes here to set parameters :

1)      I’m assuming that my technically in-bounds answer of “Use it to fix the teeth of the kids, only if they sign a legally binding contract to volunteer 100 hours at the animal shelter in return.” is really not the spirit of the question, and

2)      When I followed up with the reader and asked “Just how fucked up are their teeth?  Is their health in danger?”

She replied, “No… But their teeth are really fucked up”


Within those bounds, what you have left is a long-standing philosophical riddle with no clear correct answer.

Anyone who has given of their time, energy, or money to support a charity that works for the benefit of animals has surely heard a snide “well, you know there are people out there who need help, too” from someone they know.

The flaw in that dismissive stance becomes exposed, as so many ideologies do, when taken to its logical conclusion – if we as the human race categorically ignore the welfare of the creatures sharing the Earth with us, even to the benefit of fellow humans, we still haven’t reduced the amount of pain and suffering in the world.  Sickness, death, and suffering would abound; we would  have simply shifted that curse from beings that can talk about it to those that can’t.  Unless we’re talking about parrots.  Never abuse a parrot.  They will never shut the fuck up about it.

Surely, religious beliefs factor in to the debate for some; if you view people as beings imbued with a soul that no other living thing has, well, you’re probably always in favor of helping the person before the animal, when given a choice.

From my perspective, there is no wrong choice when deciding how to share your resources with the world to make it a better place to live.  We are all conscious, living beings able to feel pain or fear, and mitigating those in any way you can makes this world a better place to be.

Since I have to provide an answer, though (it’s in the charter) , I would give it to the animal shelter.  Shouldn’t be a surprise if you’re read this, or this, or this, or this.  My rationale here, as it is so often when I have a chance to give to help a cause, is that the animals can literally do nothing to help themselves.  They are 100% dependent on our grace for their salvation.   Even when faced with staggering and unfair odds against them, the slightest sliver of opportunity to help themselves still gives people an advantage in moving out of the situation they’re put in.

I think this cat said it best :

You can judge the morality of a nation by the way the society treats its animals.
-Mahatma Gandhi

 

2 thoughts on “People or Pets? The Charity Paradox”

  1. As someone who spends a lot of time volunteering with pet rescue, I have heard the concern about “people who need help too”. It always comes from a person who does absolutely nothing to help anyone other than themselves. My thought is that if everyone did a little something to help another being of any kind, them we all could happily do good in the realm that makes us happiest.

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