Ricky Gervais has "never understood animal cruelty," which is why he's made it one of his life's missions to bring awareness to controversial practices around the world like bullfighting, the Yulin Dog Meat Festival and general animal abuse.
"I have empathy for everything -- I'm hardwired to -- and some people think that animals are like inanimate objects without feelings and that dogs, say, don't feel sad," he told AOL Entertainment during a recent phone call. "But that's just not true."
Gervais has long been an advocate for animals, and he's continuing to walk the walk this month by donating a portion of proceeds from his upcoming shows in New York City and Los Angeles to various organizations dedicated to helping them. Proceeds from his Oct. 25 show at Madison Square Garden will go to the Delta Society and the ASPCA, while the portions from his show at the Dolby Theatre in L.A. will go to Larger Than Life L.A. and The Humane Society.
As is custom for any public figure that speaks out about, well, anything these days, of course, Gervais has received criticism for sounding off on traditions like bullfighting, which are cherished in other cultures.
"I'll tweet about a bull being tortured to death and say, 'Ban bullfighting,' and someone always says, like, 'What about the kids in Syria?'" he explained of the catch-22 that comes with being a celebrity. "People can always think of a more worthwhile cause than yours, but they're just trying to heckle you. They're heckling."
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But just because he isn't choosing to help every single cause out there doesn't mean that Gervais isn't able to still make a difference.
"We know that a dollar can save someone from going blind, right? But we don't keep sending a dollar every hour," he continued. "If someone came to your door and told you that a dollar would stop someone from going blind, though, you'd give it to them. I'm in a position as a famous person where everyone is at my door!"
Gervais admitted to us that, yeah, he could always afford to give more money, and he's bashful about any dent that he's making with his current efforts. "There are people that do ten times as much as me, but they're just not famous [so they don't get the credit]," he said before adding that he's "still got a lot [of money] left" when he makes donations.
"I'm mildly embarrassed for getting too much praise for it," he said of giving back. "There are people who actually go to Afghanistan and risk their lives to save dogs. It looks like I'm doing all the work, but I'm not. I'm giving away money that isn't even mine, and I'm tweeting about charities. I don't think what I'm doing is that big of a deal."
That being said, he always comes back to a fable he heard growing up when he gets called out for not doing enough.
"There was a guy along the beach, and he was picking up starfish and putting them back in the sea," he began to tell us. "Someone said, 'What are you doing?' And he said, 'I'm saving the starfish, because they're dehydrating and dying.' And they responded, 'But there are millions of starfish! It's pointless!' And the man picked up another starfish and said, 'Not for this starfish it isn't.'"
"Why would you not save one dog because there are a million you can't save? It just doesn't make sense to me," he continued. "I know it's a drop in the ocean, but that's no reason not to do it."
Ricky Gervais is currently on his 2017 Live Humanity Tour. Get tickets here.
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