Animal Rights Essay

Animal Rights

            Since many humans enjoy hunting, fishing, eating and wearing animals, it is easier for them to think of animals as object instead of living creatures.  Humans have been referred to as the top of the food chain and many feel it is human’s jobs to control the population of animals.  Throughout history people have used animals to serve their purpose.  They have used them for food, means of transport, protection, companionship and entertainment.  People use the animals as long as they are useful and then disposed of the same way a week old newspaper may be.

The truth is, however, that animals are not objects.  They are living breathing creatures who feel pain, loyalty, fear and loneliness. Genetics studies have shown that apes are well over 90% human genetically and other studies demonstrate that apes are intelligent, sensitive, loving and emotional creatures. (Luke and Verma, 1995)  Animals should have basic rights of humane treatment for ethical, emotional, environmental, social and psychological reasons.

Most states there are statutes describing what is considered ethical treatment of animals.  This requires animals to be given at least the minimal amount of rights.  It is often a misdemeanor to torture animals needlessly.  These laws also mandate packing plants to use what are considered humane ways of killing the animals.  This at least indicates that animals are somewhat higher in value than an old newspaper.  It indicates awareness by society that animals feel pain, but still does not take into account how important they can be to people or give them credit for having emotion.

Emotional issues can cover both the emotions humans have for animals and the emotions animals feel. No one denies that people can feel emotions towards animals, but many people fail to give animals credit for having emotions or feelings other than basic pain. Anyone who has suffered the loss of a long term pet knows what kinds of emotions are felt towards animals, but many people do not believe the bond can go both ways. Numerous studies have been done on how animals react when they are separated from their owners.  The reactions range from laying around to refusing to eat. Animals become very excited when an owner comes home.  In the 1970s, Dr. Francine Patterson began teaching Koko, a gorilla, to communicate using sign language.  Since her work began, she has gathered a significant amount of information to suggest the existence, diversity and degree of animal feelings and emotions. Her studies clearly demonstrate that animals feel both physical and emotional pain.  Initially, Dr. Patterson’s study focused on a female gorilla named Koko.  Eventually, Patterson got a second gorilla and named him Mike.  The gorillas in Patterson’s studies demonstrated behavioral traits indicative of hunger, love, hate, anger, humor and more.  Her animals even lied at times and at other times played tricks on one another and on their human associates and played jokes on humans!        When parrots and parakeets talk, they are not always merely mimicking the words they repeat.  Like gorillas, these birds sometimes appear to understand some of what they are saying and some of what is being said to them. (Patterson and Linden, 1981)  In the study of Koko, she had a pet cat, which was killed by a car.  Koko was observed sobbing over the loss of the cat. (Patterson, 1981)  Whether or not animals are given the credit for feeling emotions other than pain, the mere fact that people develop emotions for animals should be enough to provide the right of protection to animals.

In the case of environmental reasons, even the smallest of animals can be beneficial to the environment.  Some of the animals people would consider a menace are the most beneficial to the environment.  Spiders and bats eat bugs, bees pollinate plants and vultures get rid of dead animals.  More than half of the world’s diet of fats and oils come from animal-pollinated plants (oil palm, canola, sunflowers, etc.) (Martinelli, 2005) All animals play a part in the environment and should be respected as part of nature.  Although it is true that the overpopulation of any species can lead to disease and other problems, nature tends to take care of its own population problems and does not need hunting seasons to reduce populations of species.  Animals need the right to live without humans needlessly killing them.

The social aspect for animal rights comes about because of the social benefit animals play in society.  They not only interact with their own species, but can develop social bonds with humans as well.  They can learn to understand human language and in some ways can communicate with people.  In Patterson’s studies, whatever English Koko learned and understands was learned without having been taught.  It was picked up just as children learn their native language.  In fact, the researchers didn’t even realize Koko had learned English until one researcher realized that Koko was answering questions that people were asking the researchers before the researchers could respond.  When that, and similar situations began to happen on a regular basis, the researchers decided to test to see if the gorillas could actually understand English and were eavesdropping on human conversations.  They could and they were! (Patterson and Linden, 1981)  A dog or cat in China understands Chinese, one in Russia understands Russian, one is Spain understands Spanish, and so on.  Studies show that other animals seem to understand some aspects of language too. (Lilly, 1967, 1978)  Dr. Patterson devoted some time attempting to determine the extent to which Koko understood spoken language.  Koko has demonstrated her understanding of English in many different ways.  Once while transcribing an audiotape around Koko, Dr. Patterson was surprised to see Koko break a spoon after hearing the words “broken spoon” on the tape.  In another incident soon afterwards, Koko spontaneously signed candy when she heard a visitor say the word. treats”.  On another occasion, Koko laughed after hearing Dr. Patterson revise her praise to scorn for Koko’s performance during a test.  The revision occurred because, upon hearing the praise, Koko began charging about, displaying and misbehaving. (Patterson and Linden, 1981) Since animals obviously can communicate with each other and to some extent with humans, they should be treated as thinking creatures.

Although it is true that animals are not on the same intellectual level as humans, they play an important part in the psychological well-being of humans.  They even have a whole line of therapy called pet therapy, because the mere presence of an animal can improve people’s moods.  Animals, although many people state they do not have the ability to reason, have demonstrated the ability to sense people’s moods and even health changes.  Dr. John Lilly, a physician who has worked with dolphins for decades, has noticed that dolphins also reason. (Lilly, 1967, 1978)  He points out that dolphins can become angry with people and attempt to communicate both their anger and the reason for it to people.  In one such situation, after a few weeks in captivity an irritated dolphin had realized that humans do not easily hear sounds emitted under water.  So it began to express its displeasure by emitting sounds in the air above water aimed at the particular human in question. Animals can be trained to anticipate danger for the handicapped and help them to live independently.  Many have even been commended for going against their instincts to save the lives of humans.  Some studies recently have determined that having a pet can even add years to a person’s life.  Since the relationship between humans and animals is strong animals should have at least basic rights.

Animals play a very important role in the world.  They help the environment, the handicapped and make very good companions for the lonely.  They can develop strong enough bonds with humans that many people consider their pets as part of their family.  Animals can learn to understand human language and respond to human commands.  They become happy when their humans come home and exhibit sadness when they leave.  Although it is obvious that animals do not have the same capacity for knowledge or the same reasoning ability as humans, they have proven to be living, thinking, feeling creatures that deserve to be treated better than inanimate objects. Animals may not deserve the right to vote, but they certainly deserve the right to live free from intentional torture or cruelty inflicted by humans.  It may be impossible to avoid all intentional animal deaths such as hunting or packing plants, but there should be strict ethical codes and they should be enforced.  Since animal cruelty is sometimes an early sign of social and psychological disorders including potential human cruelty, the laws for animal cruelty should be much harsher.  There should be mandatory penalties for anyone who intentionally and without good cause inflicts harm, torture or death on an animal.  They should not be treated as a broken piece of furniture which is carelessly discarded when it is no longer useful.

Works Cited:

Allen, Arthur Henry Burlton (1930).  Pleasure and Instinct:  A Study in the Psychology of Human Action.  New York, NY:  Harcourt, Brace.

Lilly, John C. (1967).  The Mind of the Dolphin:  A Nonhuman Intelligence.  [1st ed.]  Doubleday:  Garden City, NY.

Marinelli, Janet. “Flowering Plants, Pollinators and the Health of the Planet”. Dorling Kindersley Limited (DK Publishing, Inc.). New York. 512 Pages.

Lilly, John C. (1978).  Communication Between Man and Dolphin:  The Possibilities of

Talking with other Species.  Crown Publishers:  New York, NY.

Loevinger, Jane (1976).  Ego Development.  Jossey-Bass Publishers: San Francisco, CA.

Luke, S. and R. S. Verma (1995). Human (Homo sapiens) and chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes) share similar ancestral centromeric alpha satellite DNA sequences but other fractions of heterochromatin differ considerably. American Journal of Physical Anthropology, 96:63-71.

Patterson, Francine, and Eugene Linden, (1981).  The Education of Koko.  Holt, Rinehart and Winston:  New York, NY.

Sheldrake, Rupert (1999).  Dogs That Know When Their Owners Are Coming Home, and Other Unexplained Powers of Animals.  Crown Publishers:  New York, NY.

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