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Ø Introduction: Humans share the same environment with many other living organisms including animals. However, humans’ behavior towards animals has not been justified and this behavior has continued from the past even till present times where awareness and education is deemed to be at a very high point (at least in developed countries). Unfortunately, still animals are considered as “objects” rather than living beings that can sense pain, hunger and thirst etc.
Ø Exploitation suffered by Animals at the hands of Humans. Human superiority in terms of language and intelligence as the main reason behind insensitive behavior towards animals. Types of cruelties inflicted on animals:
– hunting practices
– cruel treatment to pets
– Animal testing and other medical and experimental practices
– Rearing for food especially under unhealthy conditions
Ø Reasons why cruel behavior is unjustified:
– Evidence of animal consciousness
– animals are living beings, can sense pain, hunger, thirst etc
– They are an essential part of nature
– Ecological importance
– Cruelty is unjustified even if committed for experimental reasons since in today’s world of advanced technology, various other feasible alternatives exist
– Animal torture and cruelty can lead to widespread extremist behavior
Ø Societies for the Prevention of Cruelty against Animals (SPCA’s): Role of SPCA’s. Their origin, goals and achievements in brief.
Ø Evaluation: Statistical and behavioral evaluation calls for immediate change of human behavior towards animals. Widespread awareness programs are required
Humans co-exist in an ecosystem not merely with other humans but actually with a huge variety of living organisms, some of which are highly useful for mankind, including all sorts of plants and animals. Historical evidence shows that although humans are regarded as the most ‘social’, ‘civilized’ and intelligent of all creatures, their behavior towards other living beings, especially towards animals has been far from humane. People have undoubtedly taken animals for granted right from the time when they learned to gain control over them. Apparently animals have been actually denied their right of living in sanctity and tranquility. From the time they were domesticated and used for purposes like farming etc. to the time when they are being used for scientific experimentation; they have been denied the right of being classified as ‘living things’ and have been merely reduced to unresponsive ‘objects’.
Such ruthless attitude of people towards animals is highly regrettable and unjustified. If animals cannot protect themselves from and protest against humans’ brutal behavior, it does not by any means give us a license to manipulate them according to our needs. Animals have been mercilessly hunted, pitilessly sacrificed in huge numbers during scientific experimentation and ill treated as pets. Humans committing cruelties against animals seem to be completely oblivious to the fact that animals are alive; they have their distinct lives, have sensations and have a right to live their lives according to the rules set by nature. “Of all the animals, man is the only one that is cruel. He is the only one that inflicts pain for the pleasure of doing it. (Mark Twain)” (Hutchison Animal Rights)
Exploitation suffered by Animals at the hands of Humans
Since humans have mental superiority over other animals; they are self-aware, capable of advanced communication ways and the most intelligent creatures, they tend to overlook the fact that the other creatures on this earth are not merely inanimate objects but are in fact living beings having distinct characteristics and show all signs of vitality. Animals have senses, well developed body systems (unlike unicellular organisms-which are also alive), desires to eat, drink and also show sexual characteristics, nevertheless they are still exploited at the hands of humans as if they were nothing but articles created for human usage. Such kind of behavior towards animals is not a novel or unique one; it has existed for centuries, may be as long as humans have roamed the planet earth. Animals were hunted for their meet, hides and fur etc. for utilization by the humans.
Some people consider it akin to the ecological phenomenon of “survival of the fittest.” It may be held true in the past when humans also lived among other animals and struggled for the same resources. Humans had predator-prey relationship with other animals. However, what justification can man give for its brutal behavior towards animals in the modern age of advanced technologies? People have no justification to unjustly exploit the animals when there are numerous other alternatives available. “Many people think that the very idea of animal rights is implausible. Suggesting that animals are neither rational nor self-aware, Immanuel Kant thought of animals as ‘man’s instruments’ […]” (Cited in Sunstien and Nussbaum p.3)
Considering animals as truly ‘man’s instruments’ as described by Immanuel Kant, humans have inhumanely treated animals even after the hunting practices were no longer a necessity. Animals were domesticated and used for the purposes of traveling, rearing for meat, milk and skins. People try to justify these practices since they consider them to be essential for their own survival. The matter which should actually be considered is the unethical attitude towards these animals in custody. If people are bound to use these animals for their needs, they are also responsible to ensure their safety and well being. If ill-treatment towards animals is ignored then it is not only an act of insensitivity but also an act of discrimination towards another species.
For decades, animals have been used for the purpose of traveling; they were even used during war times and as compared to humans their diseases, injuries or other ailments were not only neglected but were considered as flaws in them and hence they were either done away with or simply left unattended as some ‘useless’ article, to die in solitude. The places which were provided for healthy and ‘useful’ animals to live, were extremely congested, unhygienic and poorly ventilated. Working animals were clubbed and tormented if they were unable to meet the owner’s demands. If animals fell ill and did not recover properly the only feasible solution was to ‘discard’ them by unrelentingly putting an end to their lives. Merciless killing and slaughtering of the animals was a common practice. These were the conditions which were prevalent in the past but have these conditions changed in today’s developed and civilized society?
Probably these conditions might have changed towards pet animals like cats and dogs and in the developed countries animals are no longer used for transportation or as working animals on the farms. “When people think of cruelty, they often think of a person starving or beating an animal. In other words, they think of actions that are against the law. They may also think of things done by other nations, such as whale hunting, bear farming, bull fighting, or clubbing seal pups.” (“Cruelty” Animal Liberation) However, very few people consider the atrocities being committed to the farm animals, probably because they are considered as a property of the human race.
Animals still experience remorseless behavior at factory farms where they are reared for meat, milk, and eggs etc. Pigs, one of the animals reared for farming, are kept under extremely strict conditions. They are kept in congested enclosures with improper light and ventilation. “The baby piglet is forcibly removed from her mother and kept for most of her life in a stall so small that she can barely move. While she is weaning her piglets, the mother is constrained by an “iron maiden” which prevents movement altogether. Because of the stress caused by this cruelty, pigs kept in factory farms often bite each others tails. Instead of reducing the stress that causes this, farmers cut off their tails with a pair of side-cutters.” (Animal Consciousness Foundation) Hens which are reared for eggs are kept in tight cages were even being able to move is impossible. It is made sure that the only purpose they fulfill is egg laying. Even at times their beaks are removed through surgical operation to prevent them from harming each other. Same is the case with cattle, like cows, which are kept under despotic conditions. Calves reared for example for However, since they have to be consumed by humans the significance of their rights is not more than that of a non-living piece of furniture which can be kept in any way the owner chooses.
To make matters worse animals are used unethically in experimental procedures. Since it is unethical to test chemicals on humans, animals have been conventionally used as the best available alternative. After the advancement of technology in the modern society, the use of animal testing remains to be just a lame excuse for saving some money since using technology would prove to be expensive. “Contrary to what the mainstream media would have us believe, the majority of animal experiments are not part of essential medical research. Nor is the cruelty limited to rats and mice. Dogs, cats and even chimpanzees are regularly abused in experiments which are deliberately painful.” (Animal Consciousness Foundation) Cosmetic testing, safety testing, cloning and drug testing are just a few examples of the various experiments which are unreasonably conducted on the animals. These experiments are extremely horrifying. An example of such an experiment is the Draize Eye Irritancy Test used for judging a chemicals ability to cause eye damage. “Substances are put in the eyes of conscious rabbits. In a typical test, rabbits are held in such a way that they can’t use a paw to remove the substance from their eyes. Rabbits don’t have tear ducts like humans do, so the substance is not ‘washed’ away. Clips keep their eyes open so they can’t blink. The rabbits often scream when the substance is put in the eyes. Sometimes they even break their necks or backs while trying to escape the pain.” (Hutchison ‘Animal Rights’) There are many more horrifying examples like this one which are highly unethical, uncivilized and contemptible.
Reasons why cruel behavior is unjustified
Evidence of Animals Consciousness: Most of the animals have been made subject to cruel behavior because they have not been considered to be self conscious and self aware. Scientific research has proved otherwise. “Rather than insisting that animals do not think at all, many scientist believe that they experience at lease simple thoughts, although these thoughts are different from any of ours” (Griffin p.2) Although human consciousness is much more complex than the animal consciousness but a deeper research on animals has shown animal behavior to show evident signs of emotion, relationship building and presence of sensations. Evidence for inter specie communication is present for example in highly intelligent animals like dolphins, chimpanzees etc. Bee dance, birds’ songs, whales’ songs and communicating through change of color are all means of communication among animals (Animal Language, Wikipedia)
If language barrier or communication gap among animals and humans was the main cause of the negligence shown towards their rights then human offspring were not able to communicate up to the age of three years should they also suffer persecution? Handicapped people like the deaf and the dumb are a liability on the society should they be used in experimentation, should they be brutally treated? No, because they are humans and it is unethical to treat humans unfairly. As a matter of fact our humane instincts demand us to be merciful to all the creatures regardless of their communicative skills. If they cannot speak for themselves people can at least witness their suffering and prevent cruelties on them. “As Ludwig Wittgenstein argued, if someone is screaming, clutching a part of their body, moaning quietly, or apparently unable to function, especially when followed by an event that we believe would cause pain in ourselves, that is in large measure what it means to be in pain” (Animal Rights Wikipedia)
Animals are a part of nature: Animals are as much a part of the nature as humans are. Having higher level of intelligence does not mean that humans have a right to abuse other species. Let’s see it from this aspect, if intelligence or strength was the criterion of having more rights than savage animals like lions, bears, tigers etc should have more rights. Elephants that are so huge and powerful should be allowed to crush anyone they like. However this is not allowed by the modern civilized society. What happens to people’s own civilized behavior when the animals are concerned? Do people ever think that animals need to fulfill their desires like living peacefully in a less restrained environment than provided by the civilized humans? Many species have been simply wiped out and have become extinct due to the remorseless killing by hunters. Every animal has its own ecological importance and existence different animal species is interconnected. Unreasonable killing is not justifiable of a highly intelligent specie as humans. Even animals do not kill other animals without reason, like humans do when they hunt merely to satisfy themselves or boast of their hunting capabilities.
Animals do not need to have higher levels of communication skills, higher intelligence or any proof of pain and sensations to get their rights. It is actually the duty of the humans to prove their higher levels of intelligence do not accept the inhumane attitude towards any species; they must ensure the protection of all types of animals irrespective of their social status (like better attitude towards household pets while excruciating factory farm animals) A positive alteration in behavior is all that is required.
Steps taken for Animal Protection
The establishment of Societies for the Prevention of Cruelty against Animals (SPCA’s) is a great step towards betterment of the conditions. Their establishment dates back to as early as 1824 (the Royal Society of Prevention of Cruelty against Animals-RSPCA in UK) (Wikipedia) however, it was not until the twentieth century that proper laws for the protection of animals were legislated and included in among the other laws of a country. “The main pieces of legislation protecting animals in the UK have been Protection of Animals act 1911 and in Scotland the Protection of Animals Act 1912.” (Dolan p.3)
Many other countries including USA, Canada, France and others have enacted laws for the protection of animal rights. Inability to meet the basic needs of the animal in a person’s custody and an inappropriate behavior like beating and putting extra burden on the animal may entitle a person for penalization. In Florida, for example, “A person who unnecessarily overloads, overdrives, torments, deprives of necessary sustenance or shelter, or unnecessarily or cruelly beats, mutilates or kills any animal or causes the same to be done, or carries in or upon any vehicle or otherwise any animal in a cruel or inhumane manner is guilty of misdemeanor of the first degree (Florida State Statute 828.12)” (Cited in Merez-Perez and Heidi p.11)
In addition to these laws the SPCA’s are working diligently for animal liberation in many parts of the world, including UK, USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and all over Europe. These organizations are non-governmental and non-profit organizations sincerely fighting for the rights of animals. The roles they play are including raising their voice for the emancipation of animals from the captivity of cruel owners, forbidding cruelty to animals in general, and dealing with the issues of housing, adoption and euthanasia. Some success has been gained by these activist movements and organizations however, more needs to be done do completely eradicate the idea of animal cruelty in our society and take up a truly civilized and humane attitude towards all animal species.
Conclusion and Evaluation
It would be unjust to say that prevention of animal cruelty and protection of animal rights is completely void from our civilized society since governments have shown sincere efforts in preventing brutal behavior against animals. The work of SPCA’s is also appreciable however, our behavior towards some species still remains to be inhumane. The high concern shown towards pets like cats and dogs and complete ignorance towards factory farm animals like chickens, cattle and pigs is really a great cause of concern. These animals also need respect and proper treatment. Keeping them like inanimate objects in small cages where even motility is impossible is highly disgraceful. A quick change in behavior is direly needed.
Making use of animals is neither forbidden nor illegal but it should be acknowledged that just to save a small amount people cannot and should not deprive animals of their basic rights. Their pain and suffering must be acknowledged and dealt with accordingly. The best possible step governments could take to ensure the protection of their rights if betterment is not seen in conditions is the banning of their use altogether. Actions like experimenting on animals have feasible alternatives hence such acts should no doubt be made illegal. Behaving in an uncivilized and unreasonable manner with other specie does not match the level of intelligence which the humans boast of possessing. Higher intelligence and better communication abilities like language development do not entitle humans to exploit other species and violate their rights
“Animal Rights” Wikipedia. 9 May 2008 ;http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Animal_Rights;
“Animal Language” Wikipedia. 9 May 2008 ;http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Animal_language;
“Cruelty” Animal Liberation Inc. (South Australia) 9 May 2008
“The extent of cruelty towards animals” Animal Consciousness Foundation 9 May 2008
Dolan, Kevin. Laboratory Animal Law: Legal Control of Animals in Research. Blackwell
Hutchison, Tania. Webpage for “Animal Rights”. 9 May, 2008
Merez-Perez, Linda and Heidi, Kathleen M. Animal Cruelty: Pathway to Violence against
People. Rowman Altmira. 2003
Sunstien, Cass R. and Nussbaum, Martha Craven. Animal Rights: Current Debates and New
Directions. Oxford University Press US. 2004