In Among Animals, I'm currently reading the short story Aren't You Pretty? by Patrick Hicks.
In this story, the main character's perspective comes from working an animal rescue/shelter worker (as far as I understand the story). She seems to share similar compassion for her animals as she does for one of her neices whom became a burn victim of a fire. However, her neice's dad appears to have trouble expressing such compassion for his daughter (the burn victim).
How can loving hurt people and survivors of tragedies be similar (or different) to loving animals (and plants) that have been through troubled times?
I happens more often than you think. Like people think sheep are dumb, but that is NOT the case, they are defenseless.
Did you know sheep can remember faces for up to two years? They do that because they are prey, so they have to determine if you are a friend, or you are foe. A silly sheep farmer will be mean towards a sheep, and the sheep will determine that farmer as Foe, and not respond well to them at all. But a sheep farmer that talks nicely, and never shows anger towards them, can lead their sheep anywhere they want to, because the sheep associates that farmer as a friend. How hard you want to work as a sheep farmer is determined not by the sheep, but by how you treat them.
My sheep, my dog, my bunny, my cat...even my gold fish, I treat as good as good as I can. But it may surprise people that I have put down my dogs when the time came. I am not heartless, it is just that I recognize that I will most likely outlive my animals, and if it is the compassionate thing to do, I can take their lives for mercy sake. Dead is dead, whether or not it comes from a vet's needle, or my own doing. And I will NEVER pass a nasty animal off to others because I refuse to deal with them, or do the responsible owner thing.
But end of life care does not mean the animals have a great life, and then one bad day. Far be from it! My animals have a great life, and then one bad moment. If they know what happened, I have done my job as a farmer wrong.
But I do priotize people over livestock. When a ram gets nasty, and two of mine have, they can take out knees and backs. Those are expensive surgeries, and also long recovery times. I will not tolerate a $5000 copay, and $25,000 from loss of income, from a $150 ram. I can replace a Ram; I cannot replace body parts.
But a person that loves animals, and detests a fellow human, is pretty rare in the big scheme of things. It is no real secret that seriel killers often start their reign of terror on animals first.
I think that in some instances, difficulty in demonstrating compassion may be related to a sense of guilt - regardless as to whether or not that feeling is justified. I have known people who felt guilty about situations that they really had no control over, nor any real power to change. Helping individuals acknowledge that feeling of guilt, and getting them to consider forgiving themselves, may be a necessary first step.