In my opinion the answer to why care about animals is broader than the question itself and is founded in free will. Some people freely choose to be altruistic and others freely choose not to be. Those who freely choose to be so cannot, in a manner consistent with their choice, freely ignore the feelings of something that is innocent whether it is a so called lower life form or not. On the other hand those who freely choose not to be so cannot, in a manner consistent with their choice, freely care about the feelings of something that is innocent even if it is human. The situation is as simple as that. The underlying dynamic is simply what type of value system a person has freely opted for. Those who care about animals but would eat them to saves themselves are not making the choice independently from duress. Their free choice is still to be altruistic. I never cease to be amazed when I learn that a video has gone viral simply because it is founded in the choice of altruism. I think most people have freely chosen altruism but, in being subject to duress, do not always make choices that are consistent with it.
When I was little, I would bring home stray cats, dogs, and children...lol. I brought little girls with lice home for my mon to fix them;;;lol
I have loved animals longer than I can remember. As for the animal welfare and animal rights, I am not sure what that means.
I do the best I can to help animals. I am a member of ASPCA and a member of Kanes Krusade. That is a group that provides warm housing for animals that are kept outside. I HATE to see animals outside all the time...but at least some will get warm housing.
Here is a link to Kanes Krusade :O)