Hi Dr H,

Getting all student-y and academic, I suppose I'm saying that a have a problem with your “construct validity”. There are too many gaping holes in your indicators of animal lovin’ and animal killin’ for me to feel comfortable with the conclusion you’ve drawn from comparing the indicators. While I do support the overall point of your article (I agree quite strongly, actually), the statistics you selected to support the argument raise so many questions that I think it undermines your point.

The money that goes to groups like The Sierra Club and WWF is too highly influenced by marketing to be used as an indicator of animal love. Those organizations are supported by tree huggers (who care about saving rare plant species) AND animal lovers, not just animal lovers. Similarly, like your other responder says (the amusingly named Anon E. Moose), plenty of hunters consider themselves conservationists and invest in "conservation" of animal populations that they want to hunt in the future. Also, some hunters couldn’t give a toss about the animals, so long as they get an opportunity to shoot at something that moves under its own steam. The whole issue of whether hunters are merely animal killers or also animal conservationists is a vexed question.

Another gap in your argument is that there is a massive hole in your concept of animals. Not all animals are considered huggable or great for photo opportunities. There are huge numbers of boring animals that have been omitted from your consideration: the multimillion dollar (possibly billions of dollars) industries that protect farm animals (i.e. not pets and not hunted or protected wild animals). Most of the farmers I've worked with do care for their animals but we don't consider farmers to be animal lovers. Annually, they spend large portion of their farm budgets on vets for sick animals, and normal husbandry practices like vaccinations, drenching (deworming), and protection from predators like dingoes and wolves. They also periodically spend on capital works to protect animals like specialized farm designs that prevent animal injuries, shelter and ensuring water supply. Not all farm animals are raised to be killed (breeding stock, wool, eggs, milk, horses, ornament such as koi carp). A portion of farmers also contribute to the animal-killer side of your equation. Do you see how your argument omits a massive fraction of the population of animals on this planet?

The opportunity costs (income-earning opportunities that we forego) associated with national parks and aquatic reserves also should be considered. We spend some of our government budgets on setting up and managing reserves to protect wild animals (and their ecosystems), but we're also choosing to not make a profit from that land/water that we could cover with factories, suburbs, farms, or coastal resorts etc. It is probably also the other side of the argument posed by Anon E. Moose, that land we use for growing vegetables is a lost opportunity to support animals (s/he mentions mice but the argument could apply to moose too).

In conclusion, I agree that our self image is way out of wack; we're not the benevolent or clever species in control of our planet like we think we are. However, supporting your argument with indicators that have easily-identified holes distracts your reader and undermines your very good point.

To match your concluding "by the way" remark, I guess I have a foot in both camps; I'm a social scientist AND an environmental activist. I have a professional background in agriculture and natural environmental management, but now I am back at university studying psychology (in IL)