I don't believe animals are equal. I don't love or have an affinity for animals equally. I don't believe humans are equal. But I do, very strongly, believe in EQUAL RIGHTS for anyone sentient, based on being sentient. Those who are feeling, aware and conscious (sentient) deserve their inherent birthright to be honored equally under the law - not to be harmed by humans who can live without intentionally harming fellow species of the animal kingdom. Many long-time vegans like myself are living proof that we can live without exploiting animals.
Animals are not equal. To say 'animal equality' is not sufficient, the way I see it. Some animals can fly while others can't. Some can see and smell far better than others. Some have great cognitive powers while others don't. Some are cute and some are sort of unpleasant to look at. So - animals are not equal. They are closer to being equal in their capacity to suffer and feel pain. Animals have a brain, a nervous system, and pain receptors. So while I don't see animals as being equal, I do see them as having equal rights because they share the capacity to suffer and feel pain, as well as a desire to live their lives free from harm.
When I pass a squirrel happily eating an acorn, or a duck waddling by, or a deer laying next to me in a forest - my heart sings with joy. There's not much that makes me happier. When I see an animal hunting or fishing for another animal or just the very site of a snake, not only do I not feel joy, but the sight repels me. If I see a snake, I run like heck away from that snake. So I don't love animals equally. However, I respect their rights equally. I live by the philosophy that anyone feeling deserves basic respect not to be harmed by me. They equally have a right to be here on planet Earth and to live free of humans hurting them - because we can - which should be enough for any reasoning person. It's very easy to grasp; it's not complicated.
I don't believe in equality of humans either. For example, Adolf Hitler versus Sophie Scholl. One person was the epitome of racism and unjust, offensive cruelty. He is not equal, in my view, to Sophie Scholl, whose young prescious life was taken for informing people about what Hitler was doing to the Jews. She was beheaded at the age of 25, for telling The Truth. She was not Jewish, but she spoke up for these unjustly oppressed and persecuted people. This brave and virtuous person passed out literature telling of the Nazi regime's crimes against humanity in the face of great danger to herself. Sophie Sholl is a hero and Hitler is an abomination - they are not equal. Humans are not equal. But I will defend human and nonhuman rights. I know from the depths of my being that anyone, by virtue of being an animal; whether human or other species of animal, equally deserves the right not to be violently assaulted, owned, enslaved, objectified or oppressed by any member of the human race. This is the way that humans and other animals are equal. I don't believe in Equality - but I believe in Equal Rights; rights that are not based on irrelevant criterion such as race, gender, sexual orientation, what species of animal, or age, or human made-up hierarchal lies.
I do unto humans and other animals - as I would want them to do unto me. There's nothing wrong with the Golden Rule - it's a keeper.