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DON'T BE AFRAID OF THE TERM ANIMAL RIGHTS
Many lives worth their weight in gold. they have the right to their own lives, don't you agree?
Animal "rights" is a good thing
I read a hub earlier today which inspired me to share with you my understanding and support of animal welfare, animal rights, and animal protection. All of these disciplines represent avenues which we, caring members of organized groups, utilize in our desire to exact change inspired and encouraged through a more thorough understanding of our place on earth and the terms, “animal rights,” “animal welfare,” and “animal protection.”
While beginning a comment to one writer on hub pages, two more articles appeared which I will use to illustrate this article. When reading these hubs, one will, hopefully, gain a deeper understanding of the term “rights” when applied to sentient beings other than the human being. This is my hope. (links at bottom of this article)
I understand that these terms offend or repel some people. Please, bear with me as I try to disarm the more frightening and off putting aspects while defining, in an every day, useful way, the heart of the matter.
There are many organized groups worldwide which play a major or minor part in the quest to change the condition of animals. Some are “activist” oriented, some are “educational and outreach” oriented, several offer legal advice and guidance when issues regarding animals arise and others are hands on, no kill animal sanctuaries. Smaller groups, mostly supported by local city or county governments, known as animal shelters or pounds, are primarily designed to accept animals taken from the streets or relinquished by people who no longer wish to have them.
There is a major difference between the local animal shelter and the larger, nationwide animal organizations which include the ASPCA. SPCA, In Defense of Animals, PETA, American Humane Society, Animal Legal Defense Fund, among others. Local shelters, do provide temporary housing, food, along with minimal medical attention to abandoned, unwanted animals. This is a very good thing. Usually staffed primarily with volunteers, these small organizations do their best to place animals in permanent homes through local newspaper advertisements, fund raising events, etc. Not all small, local animal shelters are the same and not all are as good or conscientious as others. Some are no kill; others give animals only 3 days of life before being euthanized. It all depends upon so many variables including physical space to house the cats and dogs, funds available for upkeep such as food, medical care, litter and dog run space, and money needed for overhead costs including power, water, and other necessary daily needs. Volunteers, often, are hard to find and keep given the atmosphere surrounding these facilities due to the practice of euthanizing healthy but unwanted animals.
This said, I feel the need to add a bit of information about the larger organizations which exist across this country and worldwide. Many of these are dedicated to the education of people with the goal of changing attitudes towards animals; viewing animals as more valuable than is typical thus resulting in (a desired effect) better treatment and caretaking, overall, of our companion animals. The concept of not "owning" an animal is one of the terms which, by definition, tends to describe an animal as a 'thing.' This, in itself, lends to the misconception that animals have no inherent 'feeling' or are unlike us rather than more similar to us. Organizations wish to change the definition of the relationship between people and animals we've chosen to include in our households; our families. To "own" is vastly different than to "care for" or "have as a companion." Some might think that semantics are just that; semantics but, the premise is that, once considering and applying a different paradigm to our relationship with companion animals, we will begin to regard them w/more respect and love, seeing our animal friends as deserving the intrinsic 'right' to live a good, happy and healthy life much as we wish for ourselves.
Many large animal welfare/protection/”rights” organizations spend huge amounts of time and effort in educational pursuits and outreach programs as well as national television advertisements in an attempt to inform the public that there is a better, more humane way to relate to animals in our midst. These groups also branch out into additional areas of concerns about animals including sea life, wild life, etc. The ultimate goal is to create, through awareness and ideology; a new paradigm; one which includes other sentient animals (I say “other” because, dear reader; we are animals, too) in our circle of compassion as well as equality.
Animal 'rights' is often misunderstood as a political or philosophical term. It is...and, more importantly, is not. The true meaning of this phrase is incorporated in this thought: that animals have the right to their OWN life, their OWN preferences, to live out their lives to a natural end. By this, I mean, to enjoy the same “expectations” (if you will) that we do. We do not expect that our lives will be cut short because no one loves us at the moment. We do not expect that our lives will be ended because we have grown old or because we serve no (perceived) useful purpose.
One might suggest that, because it is commonly thought that animals are “not as intelligent” as we are; they, therefore, are not endowed with an innate ‘right to life.’ This specious argument has served to end many an animal’s life, over time, because we’ve given ourselves the right to decide this fate based on an incorrect assumption.
If we were to extrapolate from the above example to those among us who do not have the gift of mental ‘superiority,' or are intellectually impaired then, might we also believe that such a human life can be taken due to the fact that a lack of “intelligence” has rendered that person unable to contribute, unable to communicate, unable to perform as the average person does, so, therefore, their life is without value? I think not. I certainly hope not.
Imagine this: because we (proverbial 'we') have no room for or just don't want to be bothered w/that puppy, dog, cat or kitten, that animal's life might be in jeopardy because of this and, therefore, might be carted off to a 'shelter' or 'pound' w/a very small chance of being adopted. Once the time is up; that life is ended...simply because we deemed them so unimportant and because there is no penalty for this attitude towards the hapless and unwanted cat, kitten, dog, puppy. We suffer no consequences for our actions which, most likely, will cause the death the relinquished animal. For convenience.
My question is; "do we have this right? Is it our position and place in this world to determine whether another living being lives or dies at our pleasure? Because we have no "use" for them. Remember, we are a part of the "animal overpopulation" of unwanted companion animals; we have taken them into our homes, caused their life span to be extended through providing nutritious foods and shelter, and we've ignored, for the most part, our responsibility to spay and neuter. Therefore, animals are at our mercy, to a large extent, because of our role in the new definition of their lives.
I am aware that many find this ‘new definition’ of our relationship to animals threatening. We feel we may lose something if we relinquish our position of holding the top ranking in the hierarchy of life….our “superiority.” I believe the very translation of what it means to hold this position, to view ourselves as “above” other animals, and how this defines the ways in which we relate to other species, is where the fear factor emerges; takes on new significance. Perhaps, we can exhibit our 'superiority' in other ways rather than through domination.
Another response to this new paradigm is anger, defense; a primal urge to ‘defend’ our position because we have come to rely upon the separation of ourselves and the rest of the physical earth. This division provides food, sport, entertainment, pleasure, amusement, clothing, and more.
Since primeval times, mankind has depended upon animals for such things. We had not evolved; we were emerging from sheer instinct to a point in our history where we began to make tools, to discover and use fire; to remain in one place (as hunters/fishers) rather than being nomadic foragers and gatherers. We had reached the “next step” in our evolutionary climb. But, we're still growing..it's not time to stop, yet. We must take that next, evolutionary step and, personally, I think this one should include a giant leap in spiritual growth as regards the entire earth and inhabitants.
I contend that evolution is an ongoing constant. It didn’t stop at a certain point, not to be questioned or explored. You see, now, we are aware of this fact of life. Now, we can imagine; we are able to consider what might be thel next logical as well as beneficial (for all) step.
Looking back it is obvious that many many of our past behaviors are no longer necessary; no longer useful and, as a matter of fact, pretty brutal and ignorant. Might it, also, be possible to look in to the distant and not so distant future of our own kind; our planet? Might we conclude that our continued existence is not dependent upon other sentient beings, that, in fact, our behaviors are now driven by choice and not necessity. And, in realizing this, might we extend the olive branch to those creatures whom we have used in the past? Could it be that we reach an understanding that survival is not tied to the death of other species and, possibly, our experience here on earth could be, potentially, ’better’ over all if we were to alter those choices? Rise above instinctual urges, remove ourselves from primal fears … walk softly on this earth while we live and let live?
Something to think about.