The notion of animal rights has always been a sensitive issue for the sociologists and activists. Hypothetically, in a perfect world every living being has rights and they should be respected by others. The concept of animal rights and the violation of this involve several issues concerning misuse, abuse, neglect and hurting animals for recreational or experimental sake. While different people might have different perceptions of what are the rights of animals and what we need to do morally, however it is important to understand why does it matter to be morally responsible towards animals and how does it affect the society. There are several aspects of human psychology and cultural values related to the human animal interaction as well.
This paper researches into different aspects of animal rights. Firstly it intends to define the notion of animal rights, later the types of rights that are applicable and then the impact of animal abuse on the society.
Biologically, there are certain attributes and characteristics that are common between humans and animals, this might be a reason that humans have been close to animals more than any other living species. The human rights are usually defined around the feelings of hurt and pain experienced by a victim, similarly the rights for animals revolve around their feelings of pain. As human beings the morality requires to be considerate how we treat any one , since animals can feel the pain if abused, hurt or mistreated in any other way thus the moral obligation insists on being kind to them.
Thus “animal rights” describes the phenomenon that although animals do not possess the ability to voice or acknowledge their rights however they deserve appropriate kindness, consideration and freedom according to their nature. Psychologically it is advocated that just because animals cannot fight for their rights do not make them any less deserving to be cared for. The concept is often compared to the example of a mentally retarded or a paralyzed person who might not be able to raise voice against any mistreatment but still has rights that can be protected and advocated.
In many cultures and societies it is believed that human is the most superior of all the creatures, that puts a responsibility on the humans to respect and identify the rights for every life on the earth. Likewise, the activists for animal rights advocate that if human life is considered with empathy and blessing thus the life of any other living organism deserves the same compassion. Therefore the notion of animal rights includes respecting their life, freedom and basic necessities of life. The basic necessities in life include appropriate nutrition, shelter, healthcare and inherent need of every living organism to breed and mate. Being a superior life form, humans only has the ability to identify the rights of others and can establish the differentiation of what is acceptable and necessary to being unjust and misuse of other lives.
In an article “The Illusion Of Animal Rights” the author presents the concept of animal rights very interestingly. The author suggests that it is our duty to avoid any suffering and abuse to the animals even if those animals have no right to be served. The concept is very similar to the everyday moral acts we do to other humans such as being kind and caring to another human, that person might have no legal right to be attended with kindness but our moral obligations need us to be kind and respectful to others in distress. The author also projects the same concept stating that to fulfill the standard of humanity we have certain predefined attributes that include kindness, caring, making relations, understanding and being socially responsible. Any of those attributes if left unfulfilled make us less humane. Thus the importance of respecting and defining animal rights and welfare is not because the animals might feel abandoned though they have the ability to feel pain and loneliness, it is however to fulfill our standards of humanity and make us more responsible for the world we live in. In the next sections the types and stats of animal cruelty and abuse are discussed to understand the social standards of the acceptable versus violation of animal welfare behavior.
Animal Cruelty And Law
The acts of animal cruelty include various acts and gestures that may leave the animal in distressed or injured or might be a threat to it. The animal rights and welfare is defined legally through penal code and since the past decade people have acted more actively towards reporting animal abuse cases to the police. In several situations even punishments have been ordered for the abuser as well. Though the laws and regulations might differ among different countries or states the general laws are as follows.
Legally, the definition of animal cruelty or abuse includes the following acts done intentionally by any person under the jurisdiction:
- Torturing or being violent to the animal
- Failing to provide the basic needs that are food, shelter and care when in custody
- Abandoning or dumping an animal for no apparently lawful reason.
- Transportation or illegal trafficking in an inappropriate manner
- Killing and hurting for recreation or adventure
- Using an animal to hurt or fight with another animal, or as an enticement in dog race
- Overburden or overwork an animal.
These acts define the basic types of violation, the types can be projected further to understand how can a person hurt unreasonably.
According to the official stats presented by animal abuse crime database (The AARDAS project) there are various ways that people have abused and hurt animals usually pet and farm animals. The following graph (figure 1) shows these types of animal cruelty according to their prevalence:
The occurrence of animal rights violation is quite common but the actual occurrences are hard to record as it is highly unlikely that the abuse is reported or the pet is brought to the vet. The limited numbers of these incidents that are reported reflect the number of abused animals either found by others or mildly affected animals that are brought for medical help by some other family member. It is estimated that around 10,000 bull dogs die every year as a result of dog race or fighting. On average almost 13% to 15% pet animals are abused as a response to the domestic violence.
In a animal abuse complaints survey conducted by Center for Animals and Public Policy at Tufts University reported that out of the veterinarians interviewed 79% had only seen a single case of animal abuse and a mere 17% had seen as much as 5 cases. The actual number has to be quite more than that. Many abused animals are left abandoned or thrown away often taken by animal shelters where these pet animals are keep caged for years.
The laws and regulations for animal rights are in developing and enhancing phase due to the constant efforts by animal right activists advocating the sentiency of animals and also to show a possible psychological relation between the social behavior of humans and their violence towards animals. The laws for animal rights have been developed to encourage more effective reporting of animal abuse by common people as well as from veterinarians and lastly to make the abuser being fined or punished appropriately.
While most of these abuse types relate to pet animals, other animals such as livestock, certain wild animals and especially the rare animal breeds are also endangered due to violation of their basic right to live.
A large number of animals are used for scientific experiments and testing in various industries such as medicine, cosmetics and among theory based experimentation by scientists every day. In 2010, the statistics put forward by the US department of agriculture(USDA) the estimated number of animals used in laboratory is about 1,136,567, this estimate does not include rats, mice and birds and fish, their count approximates to around 25 million species being used for laboratory testing. The scientists claim that the animals are used in labs to test and retest life saving medicines and drugs, testing on animals has several benefits including the short life span as well as they are easy to keep. However, the animals for laboratory are kept in very restrictive environment for the sake of testing, they are given specific food and are denied of any companionship thus the basic needs of a life for animals is restricted for these animals.
The current century is also known as the era of fast food, US also referred as the fast food nation has the maximum utilization of fast food items and therefore needs huge supply of chicken and beef. In order to fulfill the industry’s need the concept of factory like automated farming was conceived. Animals are transported in highly inhumane conditions that is in small crates, dragged to be auctioned and than slaughtered. In these settings the animals are considered as production unit and several thousand animals are thrown or discarded like commodities if they do not meet the standards defined. The animal rights activist have been against the procedure mainly as it denies the freedom of reproduction among animal secondly it treats animals like objects. Several experts have proved that the factory farming based meat lacks the natural nutritional values and even has side effects due to the feed and the environment these animals are out in. These animals bear pain as they are injected with medicines and growth enhancers and are given only a limited time to live until their meat is ready to be used. These animals undergo this traumatic suffering just to fulfill the growing meat demands of the fast food industry and the typical conditions completely violate the animal rights or welfare.
Fur production has been the most controversial use of animals since long. It is a known fact that furbearing animals are raised on farms in various areas around world and are given the best food, nutrition and environment to get high quality fur. There are about 1200 mink and fox farms in North America only to raise these animals for fur. The fur farming industry also has a big need for special feed for the animals.
In contrast to these animals raised in highly feasible conditions, it’s been a shocking news that about 2 million cats and dogs were used for fur trade in China, Thailand and Philippines. These cats and dogs are either raised on farms or are captured as strays, though the slaughtering and skinning takes place in China, Korea or Philippines, the pelts are sold to France, Germany, Italy for finishing to be sold as final products anywhere in the world.
There are several other issues pertaining to animal rights for animals other than pet animals such as the living conditions, restriction for companionship for animals in entertainment parks etc. The above mentioned issues were the most common and raised issues related to the animal welfare.
Human Psychology & Animal Welfare
It is believed that the human psychology and behavior has effects on how the animals are treated generally, thus it can be said that the overall animal welfare in a certain society represents the overall social conditions of crime. The humane society of US (HSUS) investigated 1600 cases of animal cruelty in US during 2000 and stated that most of the cruelty acts about 94% were done by male member of the families, abused by younger boys aged 18 and younger were 31% and 21% were during domestic violence. Most of these abused animals were pet animals(76%), nest were farm animals(12%) and only 7% were wild animals . the study also showed that most of the perpetuators of animals were also violent or had criminal background somehow. Most of the domestic violence abusers were also animal abusers causing serious injuries and even killing these innocent animals. Several studies are still being done to examine the commonality in the behavior of animal abusers. One common factor considered is the urge to show power and control over others, these people often take out their frustrations on their families and pets being a strong part of it also become a victim.
The urge to hurt, Injure or kill an animal says lot about a human’s psychology. Firstly it shows that since the animal cannot raise a voice over pain and hurt thus hurting them does not make any difference, secondly considering them a lesser life suggests that their misery or suffering need not be considered and any behavior can be used against them since they are in their custody.
Animal rights and welfare revolves around the concept of providing adequate kindness, care and an opportunity to live a life with all the basic needs fulfilled. Animals cannot protest for their rights, as the nature has kept that responsibility for the human beings to identify and to provide the basic rights of life to the animals considering their lives as important as our own. Though animals and other life forms are all available to be used for humans for various purposes thus the animal rights do not preach being vegetarian, however it does restrict keeping these animals in inhumane conditions for being slaughtered and keeping them in suffering for the sake of food industry. Similarly, though a large number of animals are used in laboratory but the testing and experimentation is usually for a greater cause, use of these animals only to save budget is however a violation of animal rights.
The notion of animal welfare is a reflection of our own morality and psychology and has huge impact on our society as well. People who deny giving respect and basic right to live to these animals usually tend to feel the same towards other human beings. Understanding and respecting these animals show a character of empathy and compassion. Sociologically, it is not illegal to use animals for food, adequate clothing or experimentation however it is important to know and respect that an innocent animal lost its life to fulfill our needs thus they deserve kindness and shelter from us. Animals are being used everywhere mainly for the needs and companionship of human thus as part of our moral obligation we need to provide them the basics of a good life for the animals.
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