Facebook is swamped with pictures of cats at shelters that face imminent euthanasia. Meanwhile, the World Wildlife Fund has an ad on the Tradera auction site that says “Soft, Orange and Homeless” and invites me to support orangutan shelters.
There’s a reason that these campaigns don’t feature fish or lizards. And that reason is that cats and young orangutans happen to be cuddly and the size of human babies. But disregarding our parental reflexes, there is no more (or less) reason to mourn a dead cat than the chicken you had for dinner yesterday.
But I’m willing to believe that an orangutan is sentient or smart enough to fall under the same rules that declare a human life sacred. And so, probably, are dolphins, octopuses and certain parrots. This is a dangerous argument though, because it removes the duty to care for severely mentally retarded humans.
Pragmatically, if you want to collect funds for orangutan shelters, it’s probably a good idea to appeal to our baby protection programming rather than our intellects. But really, if it was a question of rational argument in the competition against other endangered species that need support, it would have been better if the WWF had written “This young orangutan is smarter than you were at that age”.
I really don’t know why the PR firm thinks the colour orange makes you more deserving of protection though.