A few years back, there was a wonderful story about some elephants that very deliberately and cunningly freed some antelope that had been captured and penned up by humans. I won't rehash the whole thing, but the elephants waited until the humans were settling in for the night, circled the enclosure, and waited while the herd's matriarch figured out the latches on the gate. They waited until every antelope was out, then walked away.
There are many tales of elephants doing compassionate things like this. One story describes an elephant that was trained to place logs into holes for building a structure; the elephant balked at one point, and the mahout giving commands discovered that the elephant was avoiding harming a sleeping dog. There are plenty of stories of elephants being kind toward injured or helpless humans. They are also exceptionally compassionate toward one another, and become deeply grief-stricken when one of their herd dies, visiting the bones for years after the death.
They aren't perfect, of course. Elephants that have been treated badly by people sometimes snap and cause injury or death. They are fiercely protective of their young, and have no problem stomping someone who messes with a calf. Most cases of "killer" elephants that I have seen involve stressed out, abused, or sick animals, though--elephants treated respectfully are generally much kinder toward our species.
So why am I bringing up elephant altruism? The main reason today is that I want to point out that they make us look like savages. Yes, some of our kind help other species, some of us treat each other kindly, but there is a disturbingly high number of cruel people as well. When we spew hate at members of our own species over something as trivial as how fat they are (and that's just one example), I have to wonder why so many of us believe that humans are better or more important than species that display a greater level of compassion--not just toward their OWN kind, even, but toward other species, even ours!
But then, I remember that the elephants who don't behave this way are usually sick, abused, or protecting their young. The tremendous pressure our society puts on people to look and act a certain way can create insane amounts of stress. I can only explain some of the disturbing, hateful things said and done by fatophobes as the result of a mind that has been badly damaged by the cognitive dissonance that occurs when the messages being programmed into the populace's brains are at odds with what they perceive to be true.
Let me take a moment here to explain what I mean. For whatever reason, we are being endlessly told that food is a poison, that people eat because they are mentally ill, not because their bodies need fuel, and that death is right around the corner unless we lose 15 more pounds (and then it's fifteen more after that, and after that, too). What we perceive, however, is that "bad" foods aren't causing us to die, that we eat because we are actually hungry, that our bodies are run down and less functional when we don't eat enough, and that the never-ending demand that we becoming thinner and thinner can never resemble the reality of our bodies' autonomic management of our weight and metabolism. Some of us see the naked emperor and decide to live in reality. Those who have thoroughly bought into the myths, though, have too much invested in the fantasy of being thin, and thus cannot tolerate anything that rattles the foundation of their fantasy. They're stressed out, they're sick, and they react accordingly.
It's still no excuse.
An elephant that acts this way is frequently a prisoner of its abusers. Zoo and circus elephants snap and kill a keeper or trainer. People who have invested themselves in the fantasy of being thin, however, have a bit more choice. It's an uncomfortable choice, sure; it's hard to accept that the system that gives privilege to thin people is wrong. For thin people, they stand to lose all that they have acquired through that privilege. For others, they lose the (albeit misguided) hope that all they have to do is lose weight, and they will become a privileged member of society. They lose the idea that they have control over their status--or they lose an excuse for not developing themselves in other ways. I really do understand that it is hard, but come on already--it isn't doing you or anyone else any good. Try to be at least as good a person as the average elephant, would you?