DEAR DR. FOX: I just have to comment on the recent letter in your column (from T.V.H. in Tulsa) that said spending money on animals is immoral! Having a pet is a great joy, and also a responsibility. Feeding a pet and taking care of its veterinary and dental needs is a responsibility, while buying it toys and treats is a joy for both owner and pet.
Yes, people spend a lot on our pets; we love them and they make us happy. This spending also helps drive the economy, providing income for many.
How about telling all these billionaires with money stashed in tax-free accounts to open their wallets and help their fellow humans? Does anyone really need $100 billion dollars sitting in the bank? We only live for a certain amount of time. Set aside the money you need for the lifestyle you want, and donate the rest. Like they say, you can't take it with you.
I am relocating back home to Pennsylvania, and part of the reason is the rampant destruction of Florida's natural resources. Manatees are dying by the hundreds, and endangered Kemp's ridley turtles are turning up dead. We are also experiencing massive illnesses and die-offs of sea birds and fish. Red tide, blue-green algae -- all can be traced back to humans' lack of responsibility.
Large sections of the Everglades have been opened up for development. When developers clear a parcel of land here, they cut the trees, take the lumber and burn everything else to the ground -- including, I'm assuming, lots of little critters who lived there.
Environmental organizations such as the Conservancy of Southwest Florida are trying their best, but again, money talks. At least my tax dollars will no longer be paying for this destruction. -- L.D.R., Naples, Florida
DEAR L.D.R.: I appreciate your comments, as will many readers.
As for billionaires, many have made their fortunes at significant social and environmental cost, and Mother Earth is saying that it's payback time. All resources, financial and technological, need to be directed to restoring the environment rather than robbing future generations of their health and quality of life. These depend upon biodiversity and upon clean air, water and soil.
The climate and extinction crises are not fabricated conspiracies against unbridled capitalism and consumerism; they are scientifically verified existential threats, which we must all address for the greater good and the good of our beautiful planet. While some may deny this, there is no denying the COVID-19 pandemic. Epidemiologists warn there will be more epidemics and pandemics to come, the prevention of which depends on changing how we treat animals and nature.
As the dominant species on Earth, we need the humility, wisdom and compassion to put the planet before our own selfish needs -- as per my book "Animals and Nature First" -- to avoid ultimately harming ourselves.
Read on for another response to that same letter.
DEAR DR. FOX: After reading the letter in your column from T.V.H. in Tulsa (who argued that money spent on pets would be better spent on humans), I was outraged, and felt the need to reply. People have so many benefits they can sign up and stand in line for -- handouts from the government and many charitable organizations. Those who are capable and willing to work for a living also have that option.
Where are the benefits and handouts for animals? People who own pets and spend their money on food, toys, dentists and vet bills (as stated in T.V.H.'s letter) are being responsible pet owners. If others want to donate money and items to a charitable pet organization to help animals living in shelters, it is that person's choice to do so.
Animals were created before humans, giving animals priority. Massive and devastating harm would occur if we did not help our animals in today's world. I believe T.V.H's priorities are totally selfish and immoral. -- K.A.P., South Bend, Indiana
DEAR K.A.P.: The kind of reason and sensibility you embrace is something I call "enlightened self-interest." Unfortunately, many insist on putting vested corporate interests first.
In Minnesota, where I live, state Republicans are blocking essential funding for environmental protection and conservation by opposing "clean car" legislation, which aims to reduce air pollution and its related adverse public health effects. This pro-business, anti-science and anti-common-sense mindset is common in today's Republican Party. I call such thinking "bio-fascist." It is antithetical to the principles of democracy and economic sustainability.
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