Melissa Kaplan's
Herp Care Collection
Last updated January 1, 2014

How Humans Affect Animals

©1995 Melissa Kaplan


There are millions of insects, fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals, but only one kind of human. Human can do good things for animals: help save endangered species by breeding more animals and saving their environment; making sick animals healthy, and caring for animals who can no longer live in the wild. Humans can also cause harm to animals, on purpose or by accident.

Habitat Destruction
When humans destroy wild land to build homes, factories, shopping malls, amusement parks, garbage dumps, even to build a visitor center, store and restaurant in a park, the land is changed. The animals that once lived there, from the bugs that lived in the ground to the birds that ate them, all may disappear. Some can move to new home areas, but there are already other animals living there. There is not enough food, water or shelter for all of them. Many of the animals will die.

When farmers spray chemicals on their crops to save them from pests (bugs and molds and things that eat the plants), the chemicals get into the water and into the soil. Bugs that do not hurt the crops die. The birds and mammals who eat these poisoned bugs may also die, or they cannot reproduce, or their offspring die young.

Factories, automobiles, trucks and planes put chemicals into the air. The exhaust from their engines contains tiny specks of toxic chemicals that fall on plants, on the ground, and into the water. There, they get into the animals when the animals eat the plants, drink the water, or nest in the ground. These animals, too, can die or not reproduce.

Food and Fashion Industry
There are many people who do not eat animals or wear animal skins (leather). They are called “vegetarians.” There are others who will eat animals, but only when those animals are raised humanely (in clean places with enough room to move around in, with plenty of good food, and few, if any drugs given to them) and slaughtered (killed) without pain, and only when the whole animal is used. When we slaughter a cow, sheep, or pig, we use the whole animal: the slaughtered animal provides food for people and other animals, skin for leather clothes and other goods, even the hooves and bones are made into other things and used for people and other animals.

There are many types of farms and factories that raise animals for slaughter. Many of these animals are kept very close together, so close that they can hurt each other just by moving around. Many are fed foods and drugs to make them grow but that do not make them healthy.

Some animals are raised or hunted just for their skins, bones, shells or internal organs. Some are hunted for meat, but only part of the animal is actually eaten. For example, certain fishermen kill sharks, but just cut off and keep the fin. People kill large snakes and lizards just to get their skin; they don’t eat all that meat. Bears are killed just for their paws and gall bladders.

People buy and catch animals to keep as pets. Many of the people who have animals as pets do not know how to care for them. Pets, particularly ones like reptiles, amphibians, and fish, need special equipment, heat, lights, and food in order for them to be healthy and live. Between 50-90 percent of these types of animals sold each year dies because they were not cared for properly.

What can YOU do?
Every one of us is part of this world, and so what we do--or don’t do--has an impact on the world around us. We can all do small things, and ask our parents to do small things, too. The more people there are who do small things every day, well, they all start adding up to big things! Here are some things you can do:

  1. Don’t dump! Do not pour paint or chemicals into the ground or into the gutter. If you do, it will get into the water we drink, and into the lakes and oceans where it may harm the animals that live in the water and on the shore.

  2. Let worms eat your garbage! Americans throw out lots of food scraps and leftovers. If you can’t eat it all, let the worms finish it for you by making a compost heap. Use the compost to feed your plants instead of chemical fertilizers.

  3. Reduce-Reuse-Recycle! Try to reduce the amount of garbage you throw away. Recycle paper, cardboard, cans, bottles and plastic. Buy things that don’t come packed in lots of cardboard and plastic; buy bigger quantities--it’s cheaper and there’s less packaging. Buy products that come in containers and packages made of recycled materials.

  4. Got an A+ on your homework? Great! Now use the back of the paper to make notes for your next assignment! When you’ve used both sides of the paper, you can recycle into your compost heap or rip it up to make mulch for the garden.

  5. Make your voice heard! Find the name of your mayor, governor, senator, representative and the President of the United States in your telephone book. Write one letter a month to one of them and tell them what you think about something that affects the environment in your neighborhood, town, county, state or the country. You can even send email to the President, Vice President and many senators and congressional representatives. You can find their email addresses pointing your web browser to

Books to Read for More Information and Ideas

Check out your library, bookstore, and science and nature stores for the following books!

  • Applehof, Mary. 1982. Worms Eat My Garbage. Kalamazoo, MI: Flower Press. ISBN 0-942256-03-4

  • Klein, Hilary D. and Adrian M. Wenner. 1991. Tiny Game Hunting: Environmentally Healthy Ways to Trap and Kill the Pests in Your House and Garden. New York: Bantam Books. ISBN 0-553-35331-4

  • Lamb, Marjorie. 1990. 2 Minutes a Day for a Greener Planet. San Francisco, CA: Harper & Row. ISBN 0-06-250507-6

  • Lansky, Vicki. 1991. Another Use For...101 Common Household Items. Deephaven, MN: The Book Peddlers. ISBN 0-916773-30-2

  • Martin, Deborah L. and Grace Gershuny, eds. 1992. The Rodale Book of Composting: Easy methods for every gardener. Emmaus, PA: Rodale Books. ISBN 0-87857-991-5

  • Schwarts, Linda. 1990. Earth Book for Kids: Activities to help heal the environment. Santa Barbara, CA: The Learning Works, Inc. ISBN 0-88160-195-0

Do you have some ideas and suggestions you'd like to share with other readers? Please send them to me , include your age or grade and the state you live in, and I will post them here!


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