Beginning about 15,000 years ago, human beings started bringing animals into the fold of their daily lives. It started out because of what they could do for us and eventually grew into a companion situation. Cats kept vermin down and dogs could stand guard, herd livestock and play a role in hunting, among other jobs.
Domestication took a while, but the early practitioners of animal husbandry seemingly passed down their genes to those of us who love animals.
It's in the Genes
According to John Bradshaw, best-selling author of In Defence of Dogs and visiting fellow in anthrozoology at the University of Bristol, the reason some of us are predisposed to loving animals is this:
"Groups which included people with empathy for animals and an understanding of animal husbandry would have flourished at the expense of those without, who would have had to continue to rely on hunting to obtain meat. Why doesn’t everyone feel the same way? Probably because at some point in history the alternative strategies of stealing domestic animals or enslaving their human carers became viable.
"The very same genes that today predispose some people to take on their first cat or dog would have spread among those early farmers."
As we've evolved over the centuries, we have subtly divided into two groups: those that feel an affinity for animals and those who are indifferent. But a surprising correlation has been made with these two groups, and that is that those who are pet people or animal lovers also feel more strongly in their concerns for the environment than those who aren't pet people.
A lack of environmental concern also correlates to people who look upon animals as dumb with no feelings. These people will readily admit they just don't "get it" when it comes to treating animals in a manner that is nearly on par with that of a human being. Their attitude is, "What's the fuss? It's only an animal. It doesn't know any better and it's not as if they have any feelings."
So, it looks like we have our ancient ancestors to thank for much of our outlook or worldview. While these are just theories based on evidence stemming from science's ability to determine when the break between wild animals and domesticity began, it could account for a lot and makes a lot of sense. What do you think? Tell us in the comment section below.