Gabriela Gurvits

Introduction: With the spread of human population on planet Earth, our behavior towards animals has become a major point of discussion. We may feel empathy for the more vulnerable animals, yet we use them for our own advantage and, according to research, have caused 85% of all life to decline. Let’s explore, with Google’s definition of “empathy” in mind (“the ability to understand and share the feelings of another”), the importance of empathy and its effect on the way we treat animals.

Exploring the Effects of Perceived Vulnerability on Human Empathy

What is empathy? Empathy is, I quote from Google, “the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.” So, why is empathy important and how does it affect the way we treat animals? I read an article about the psychology of empathy, and in this article, they explained how a man, Jack Levin, performed an experiment to inform us how the human brain works. Levin gave a scenario in which he asked people to react. This scenario was that someone got hit by a baseball bat and broke numerous limbs. But, the only thing that changed was the victim.  The four different victims were a baby, puppy, adult dog, or adult human. The respondents showed empathy for everyone but the adult human, leading us to the conclusion that our empathy level has to do with perceived vulnerability. Vulnerability means how exposed you are to danger. Our brain tells us that adult humans can stand up for themselves, which is why we don’t feel as empathetic towards them. On the other hand, a one year old baby can’t defend itself, which is why we do feel empathy for them. 

Understanding Empathy’s Impact on How We Treat Animals

This leads us to our next topic–how does the empathy of a human connect to animals? It has to do with our empathy level. Maybe we’ll feel less guilty of killing an animal that’s already grown up because it could protect itself. Killing a fury baby would be much more difficult, but that’s because they have no source of protection–they can’t use their fangs, snarls, glares, or speed. Not only does hurting wildlife have to do with our empathy, but also with using the parts of an animal for our own good.

I’ve always been interested in animals and fascinated about their behavior towards us humans. Once I started to do some research, I now understand why humans harm animals unconsciously. Not only are we hurting creatures like this,  but we also kill them to use their skin and bones in medicine. For example, tigers. Tigers are magnificent creatures, every one having a different pattern of stripes on their fur. Did you know that the tiger’s stripes also appear on their bare skin if you shave off all of their fur? To survive in the wild, tigers use a method known as camouflage. They use their stripes to help break themselves apart and blend in. But this method works especially well for the tigers. Their prey, such as deer, only process the colors green and blue in their eyes. Thus, the tiger appears green to them, causing it to blend in with the rest of the background. This gives the deer a slower reaction time to escape. On the other hand, us humans can see colors like green and blue, but also red. This is why the tiger looks orange and, unlike to deer,  stands out from the background.

Made by Dall-E

We are so occupied with making our own lives better that we don’t even realize how we are affecting the things around us, like nature. Over 60 % of the U.S. lands permit hunting, and some places allow bear hunting around spring time, when bears emerge from their dens. Usually, mother bears are pregnant during this time, making them easy targets. If they die, their cubs will be left alone to starve, and then eventually die as well. I read another article on the effects we have on animals, and I learned something very interesting. It turns out that all the noise and fear that animals receive from hunters affects their diet. They won’t eat as much food, making it hard for them to survive during winter.  To summarize, our behavior towards animals depends on our perceived vulnerability. We feel more empathetic to animals that are more innocent. We also use them to our advantage, and next thing we know, the biodiversity on planet Earth will vanish. After humans entered this planet, they have caused 85% of all life on Earth to decline!  If we want to restore life and endangered species, we have to be more aware of our surroundings and more eco-friendly, like reduce, reuse, and recycle. We can recycle plastic and throw away our trash into the correct garbage cans.

image_printPrint this page.


0 0 votes
Rate This Post
Notify of
1 Comment
Oldest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
September 15, 2023 1:48 am

Dear, Gabriela

I am impressed with your post, “Selfish to Selfless” because it’s giving people awareness that they should stop treating animals for their own good. Even though hurting animals happens unconsciously it still happens and seems to be disappointing many about the way the problem is being ignored. Although, I would like to have known more about ho

One sentence you wrote that stands out to me is “We may feel empathy for the more vulnerable animals, yet we use them for our own advantage and, according to research, have caused 85% of all life to decline.” I think this is interesting because as human activity increases that means that the percentage of life will most likely decrease even more. 

Thank you for writing. I look forward to seeing what you write next because I like how all of the articles that you have written in the past are about human behavior toward animals.

Lettcy Covarrubias

Youth Voices is an open publishing and social networking platform for youth. The site is organized by teachers with support from the National Writing Project. Opinions expressed by writers are their own.  See more About Youth VoicesTerms of ServicePrivacy Policy.All work on Youth Voices is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License


Email Call or Text 917-612-3006

Missions on Youth Voices
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x

Log in with your credentials


Forgot your details?

Create Account