The animal rights controversy
The animal rights issue continues to be a controversial topic of our time. Hopefully sharing a few of my thoughts here will promote better judgment rather than add to the controversy.
I love animals. I can't bear the thought of exploiting animals for sport or profit. Or hunting wild animals to the point of extinction. I wish I could be completely vegan but I know I can't, unfortunately I am a product of my environment and upbringing. I dream of a planet without animal testing though realistically I don't see that happening in my lifetime.
Animal rights is an innovative concept that began around the time of the Scientific Revolution in Europe. The concept slowly developed primarily in the Western World. Though the movement gained popularity in the 1980s and 1990s, it is still not clearly defined or widely accepted.
We agree that animals should not be abused, but often the definition of abuse is challenged even among law makers and self-proclaimed animal rights advocates.
Animal rights, also referred to as animal liberation, is the idea that the most basic interests of non-human animals should be afforded the same consideration as the similar interests of human beings. Advocates approach the issue from different philosophical positions, but agree that animals should be viewed as non-human persons and members of the moral community, and should not be used as food, clothing, research subjects, or entertainment. They argue that human beings should stop seeing other sentient beings as property—not even as property to be treated kindly.
The idea of awarding rights to animals has the support of legal scholars such as Alan Dershowitz and Laurence Tribe of Harvard Law School, while Toronto lawyer Clayton Ruby argued in 2008 that the movement had reached the stage the gay rights movement was at 25 years earlier. Animal law is taught in 119 out of 180 law schools in the United States, in eight law schools in Canada, and is routinely covered in universities in philosophy or applied ethics courses.
Critics argue that animals are unable to enter into a social contract or make moral choices, and for that reason cannot be regarded as possessors of rights, a position summed up by the philosopher Roger Scruton, who writes that only humans have duties and therefore only humans have rights. A parallel argument is that there is nothing inherently wrong with using animals as resources so long there is no unnecessary suffering, a view known as the animal welfare position. There has also been criticism, including from within the animal rights movement itself, of certain forms of animal rights activism, in particular the destruction of fur farms and animal laboratories by the Animal Liberation Front. (Source http://wapedia.mobi/en/Animal_rights)
A common fear is animal rights is a threat to human civilization. (Which essentially means people who defend animal rights are a threat.) In the book "A Rat Is a Pig Is a Dog Is a Boy: The Human Cost of the Animal Rights Movement", Wesley J. Smith argues that although human beings owe animals respect, kindness, and humane care our obligation to humanity matters more, and that granting “rights” to animals would inevitably diminish human dignity. (Source http://www.amazon.com/Rat-Pig-Dog-Boy-Movement/dp/1594033463)
On the contrary is the book "Rights/Human Rights: Entanglements of Oppression and Liberation" which offers a look at the history of Western "civilization", one that brings into focus the interrelated suffering of oppressed humans and other animals. David Nibert argues that throughout history the exploitation of other animals has gone hand-in-hand with the oppression of women, people of colour, and other oppressed groups. He maintains that the oppression of both humans and other species of animals is inextricably tangled within the structure of social arrangements. Nibert asserts that human use and mistreatment of other animals is not natural and does little to further the human condition. Nibert's analysis emphasizes the economic and elite-driven character of prejudice, discrimination, and institutionalized repression of humans and other animals. His examination of the economic entanglements of the oppression of humans and other animals is supplemented with an analysis of ideological forces and the use of state power in this sociological expose of the grotesque uses of the oppressed, past and present. Nibert suggests that the liberation of devalued groups of humans is unlikely in a world that uses other animals as fodder for the continual growth and expansion of transnational corporations and, conversely, that animal liberation cannot take place when humans continue to be exploited and oppressed. (Source http://www.loot.co.za/product/david-nibert-animal-rights-human-rights/mfgd-372-ga00)
It's evident that we have a long way to go with this issue. We have much more to learn about animals and the value of our relationship with fellow earthly creatures. I believe that open and candid discussions is a step in the right direction. The issue can be considered a threat to our current social order in that it forces us to examine our systems and ourselves. But perhaps it can lead to an improved social order.
As with other issues about rights and welfare (gays, women, race), until we realize what needs to be corrected and why, we won't be able agree on what is right and what is wrong.
February 2012: University of Toronto stops research on live monkeys
June 2013: India bans testing of cosmetics on animals
October 2014: Animal Cruelty Laws Don’t Depend on Animal Rights
October 2014: Expand the Reach of Animal Cruelty Statutes
March 2016: Do Animals Have Legal Rights?
- Basic Tenets of Animal Rights
Animal rights is the belief that animals have an intrinsic value separate from any value they have to humans, and are worthy of moral consideration. They have a right to be free of oppression, confinement, use and abuse by humans.
The idea of animal rights may seem foreign to many people because throughout the world, animals are abused and killed for a wide variety of socially acceptable purposes. What is socially acceptable varies from one culture to the next. While eating dogs is morally offensive to some, there are those who would object to the practice of eating cows. The fact that these socially acceptable purposes vary from one culture to the next is an indication that the moral justification for these uses and killings is ingrained culturally, and is not based on a consistent moral position.
At the heart of the animal rights movement are two basic principles: the rejection of speciesism, and the knowledge that animals are sentient beings.
- Why It’s Wrong to Test on Animals Vivisection and Animal Rights
- A Look at Modern Scientific Research Methods That Do Not Harm or Kill Animals Most people believe that experiments on animals are necessary for medicine and science to progress. However, this is not the case. The belief that we must experiment on animals is being challenged by a growing number of physicians and scientists who are utilizing many research methods that do not harm or kill animals. More and more physicians and scientists are also seeing the negative consequences of using one species to provide information about another species; often the results of animal experiments are misleading or even harmful to humans.
- Companies That Still Test on Animals (and associated brands) Many manufacturers of personal care and household items still test their products on animals, despite the growing number of alternative methods for evaluating product safety. The list contains all such companies known and their associated brand names.
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