Ricky Gervais sounds off on animal cruelty: 'It eats me up, and I can't stand it'

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."

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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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LATE NIGHT WITH SETH MEYERS -- Episode 554 -- Pictured: (l-r) Actor/comedian Ricky Gervais talks with host Seth Meyers during an interview on July 19, 2017 -- (Photo by: Lloyd Bishop/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - MAY 20: Ricky Gervais attends The Hollywood Reporter TV Talks and 92Y present Ricky Gervais in conversation with Tim Goodman at 92nd Street Y on May 20, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by John Lamparski/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - MAY 18: Ricky Gervais arrives to 'The Late Show With Stephen Colbert' at the Ed Sullivan Theater on May 18, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by James Devaney/GC Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 24: Ricky Gervais leaving BBC studios on February 24, 2017 in London, England. (Photo by GOR/GC Images)
Writer/director Ricky Gervais and partner Jane Fallon attend the David Brent: Life on the Road New York Special Screening at Metrograph on February 2, 2017 New York. / AFP / Angela Weiss (Photo credit should read ANGELA WEISS/AFP/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - FEBRUARY 01: Actor Ricky Gervais enters the 'The Late Show With Stephen Colbert' taping at Ed Sullivan Theater on February 01, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Ray Tamarra/GC Images)
NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 31: Actor/comedian Ricky Gervais attends TimesTalk at TheTimesCenter on January 31, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Desiree Navarro/WireImage)
THE TONIGHT SHOW STARRING JIMMY FALLON -- Episode 0613 -- Pictured: Comedian Ricky Gervais during an interview on January 30, 2017 -- (Photo by: Andrew Lipovsky/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 26: Actor/ Comedian Ricky Gervais is interviewed for SiriusXM's Town Hall Series with hosts Jim Norton and Sam Robertson on January 26, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Cindy Ord/Getty Images for SiriusXM)
LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 08: Ricky Gervais and Jane Fallon attend the London Evening Standard British Film Awards on December 8, 2016 in London, England. (Photo by Mark Milan/GC Images)
BEVERLY HILLS, CA - OCTOBER 28: Jane Fallon and Ricky Gervais attend the 2016 AMD British Academy Britannia Awards Presented by Jaguar Land Rover and American Airlines at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on October 28, 2016 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by David Crotty/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images)
BEVERLY HILLS, CA - OCTOBER 28: Honoree Ricky Gervais accepts the Charlie Chaplin Britannia Award for Excellence in Comedy onstage during the 2016 AMD British Academy Britannia Awards presented by Jaguar Land Rover and American Airlines at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on October 28, 2016 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images)
BEVERLY HILLS, CA - OCTOBER 28: (EXCLUSIVE COVERAGE) Honoree Ricky Gervais poses with the Charlie Chaplin Britannia Award for Excellence in Comedy during the 2016 AMD British Academy Britannia Awards presented by Jaguar Land Rover and American Airlines at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on October 28, 2016 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Frazer Harrison/BAFTA LA/Getty Images For BAFTA LA)
LONDON, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 06: Ricky Gervais and Jane Fallon arrive for GQ Men Of The Year Awards 2016 at Tate Modern on September 6, 2016 in London, England. (Photo by Fred Duval/FilmMagic)
LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 10: Ricky Gervais arrives for the World premiere 'David Brent: Life On The Road' at Odeon Leicester Square on August 10, 2016 in London, England. (Photo by Karwai Tang/WireImage)
LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 10: (L-R) Ben Bailey Smith, Andy Burrows, Michael Clarke, Ricky Gervais, Steve Clarke and Stuart Wilkinson attend the World premiere of 'David Brent: Life on the Road' at Odeon Leicester Square on August 10, 2016 in London, England. (Photo by Dave J Hogan/Dave J Hogan/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 10: Ricky Gervais and the Foregone Conclusion perform at the World premiere of 'David Brent: Life On The Road' at Odeon Leicester Square on August 10, 2016 in London, England. (Photo by Karwai Tang/WireImage)
THE TONIGHT SHOW STARRING JIMMY FALLON -- Episode 0491 -- Pictured: Actor Ricky Gervais on June 17, 2016 -- (Photo by: Andrew Lipovsky/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 15: Ricky Gervais attends AOL Build to discuss 'Special Correspondents' at AOL Studios on June 15, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Daniel Zuchnik/WireImage)
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 22: Producer Ricky Gervais attends the premiere of 'Special Correspondents' at Borough of Manhattan Community College during the 2016 Tribeca Film Festival on April 22, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Taylor Hill/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 22: Jane Fallon (L) and director and writer Ricky Gervais attends the premiere 'Special Correspondents' during the 2016 Tribeca Film Festival at BMCC John Zuccotti Theater on April 22, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Theo Wargo/Getty Images for Tribeca Film Festival)
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 22: Director and writer Ricky Gervais speaks onstage at Tribeca Talks After The Movie: Special Correspondents during the 2016 Tribeca Film Festival at BMCC John Zuccotti Theater on April 22, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Theo Wargo/Getty Images for Tribeca Film Festival)
BEVERLY HILLS, CA - JANUARY 10: Host Ricky Gervais (L) and Jane Fallon attend the 73rd Annual Golden Globe Awards held at the Beverly Hilton Hotel on January 10, 2016 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by John Shearer/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - SEPTEMBER 20: Actor Ricky Gervais speaks onstage during the 67th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards at Microsoft Theater on September 20, 2015 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Lester Cohen/WireImage)
LOS ANGELES, CA - SEPTEMBER 20: Actor Ricky Gervais attends the 67th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards at Microsoft Theater on September 20, 2015 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by John Shearer/WireImage)
NEW YORK, NY - JULY 07: (EXCLUSIVE COVERAGE) Actor/ comedian Ricky Gervais visits the SiriusXM Studios on July 7, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by Cindy Ord/Getty Images)
HOLLYWOOD, CA - APRIL 08: Actor Ricky Gervais and wife Jane Fallon arrive for the screening of Netflix's 'Derek' at Paramount Studios on April 8, 2015 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images)
THE TONIGHT SHOW STARRING JIMMY FALLON -- Episode 0239 -- Pictured: (l-r) Actor Ricky Gervais during an interview with host Jimmy Fallon on April 3, 2015 -- (Photo by: Douglas Gorenstein/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
Ricky Gervais and Jane Fallon arriving at the world premiere of 'House of Cards' Season 3 at the Empire Leicester Square in London. (Photo by Zak Hussein/Corbis via Getty Images)
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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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