“Are they gonna kill that dog?”

“Are they gonna kill that dog?”

My child’s matter-of-fact question gave me chills—and a wake-up call.

The other day, my daughter and my husband were watching Mythbusters while I was working, and the boys—the guy with the funky beard and the guy with the annoying beret—were about to conduct an experiment on a dog. They were going to test the urban legend about a dog in a microwave and they used a variety of different experiment materials. My daughter turned to me and matter-of-factly inquired, “Are they going to kill a dog?”

What a question! She just assumed that these two men might kill a dog on television, without repercussion. How could one think of something like that in our supposedly civilized society?

I suppose it’s easy, given how we eat just about any animal other than a dog and a cat. It’s easy, considering how many dogs and cats we see roaming homeless, or hit by cars, or even abandoned that we’ve rescued ourselves. It’s easy, seeing how we lock animals away in circuses and zoos only to be seen bobbing their heads in complete distress. In my young daughter’s eyes—not yet schooled in how the law works to protect pets alone and no other animals—killing a dog on television could certainly happen.

Shouldn’t this tell us something? Shouldn’t this be a wake-up call for us, telling us hey, kids think that based on how we treat most animals, what’s the big deal in murdering a cat or a dog? Shouldn’t this make us reconsider how we treat ALL animals, in fact, and not just offer protection to the ones we call pets? What is it that dogs and cats have that cows and pigs and chickens do not?

Plenty of people have pigs as pets, after all; plenty of them also eat pigs. I’ve always wondered why we afford these protections to domestic pets and not other animals. Is it because of their cuteness? Because the rich corporate elite, who eat alligator and monkey brains and go on fake safaris in which they shoot zebras and giraffes to make pelts out of them, have pet fetishes and wouldn’t stand for anyone harming Fifi?

Of course I’m not saying that pets should not be protected—only that we should afford these same protections across the board to all life forms, not just our furry four-legged friends. Should that protection include not eating them? I would probably argue yes, in a perfect world. But if we can’t get to that level, it should at least put an end to violent, painful factory farming.