Yesterday was India's Independence Day. I celebrated by taking my cat to the vet. It was Gandhi, I believe, who said you can judge the quality of a nation by how it treats its animals.
This is not an idle observation; in fact, it contains a depth of understanding that few in our culture might appreciate. Gandhi was saying that a healthy society treats all life, including human life, according to natural standards of dignity and respect. When those standards are violated in our treatment of animals (or, for that matter, children, women, minorities); then those principles will also inevitably be vitiated in our treatment of humans as well, usually starting with the children.
In other words, you can't have it one way or the other, as many would like to have you believe. You can't just say we must "love our own kind" to the exclusion of others who might happen to have two extra legs or a tail.
Respect for life encompasses all life; it honors Nature without discrimination. If you don't have animals in your life already, simply make a point of silently or outwardly showing respect and love toward the critters you encounter in your daily life. You'll be amazed at how easily you can live without the artificial boundaries of prejudice against another manifestation of being.