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Posts Tagged ‘debeaking’

The basis of all animal rights should be the Golden Rule: we should treat them as we would wish them to treat us, were any other species in our dominant position.
~Christine Stevens

Simple as it is, “The Golden Rule” is basically how I try to live my life. In my personal relationships, I try my best to treat others in a way that reflects how I want them to treat me. I don’t always succeed, granted, and I’m no saint, but I really do try, and I think most of the time I do all right. This philosophy has always extended to dogs and cats as well. As a kid, I was insanely in love with our farm cats and couldn’t get enough of them. I’d spend so much time outside in the summers and loved to pet them and play with them, and yes, probably squeeze them a little too tightly at times. As an adult, I have had a pet kitty for 7 years now, and got my dog 3 years after that. They’ve been like my children. I think about what I would like to do if I were a dog or a cat, and I make every effort to bring those things into their lives. My dog LOVES going on walks and being outdoors and going to dog parks, so I walk him a couple times a day, take him to the dog park as much as I can, and we sit outside and enjoy the weather when it’s nice out. My cat loves chasing around these little toy mice, so I make sure she has plenty of them (though they always seem to disappear…hm…).

Anyway, it was only in this past year that I extended this same empathy and compassion – the Golden Rule – to all animals. If I were a cow, what would I want to do? Would I want to be forcibly impregnated year after year, and have my baby ripped away from me so that humans could steal my milk? Would I want to spend my last few months of life in a feedlot, forced to eat food that makes me sick, and to stand in my own waste day after day? If I were a hen, would I want to have my beak cut off? Would I want to be crammed into a cage with several other hens, some of them dead or dying, so that humans could steal my eggs? If I were any other living being, would I want humans–a supposedly more “advanced” animal–to kick me, poke me, prod me, kill me, and eat me?

I don’t think anyone can actually imagine reversing roles with a cow or a hen and saying “yes, that sounds like exactly how I’d wish to be treated if it were me!” Animals of all kinds deserve fresh air, sunlight, clean living quarters, the ability to raise their young, to walk and run freely, and to LIVE.

At the very minimum, I think the Golden Rule requires this, don’t you? It’s simple: treat them as you would wish to be treated were they in the dominant position. More concisely: stop eating them; stop wearing them; and stop buying products that were tested on them. I promise it’s not as hard as you think.

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Many people confuse the terms “Animal Rights” and “Animal Welfare”.  Before I started reading about all of this, I think I just assumed that rights and welfare were the same thing, and I used the terms interchangeably.  The truth, however, is that that the two philosophies are strikingly different.

The animal rights philosophy argues that animals should not be used at all for human purposes, (whether for food, clothing, entertainment, or medical testing) because there is no morally justifiable reason why animals should have any less of a right to live free of pain and suffering than humans do.  Peter Singer explains it well in his book Animal Liberation.  His reasoning was that while we can’t know exactly how animals experience pain, it is safe to say that they do; if we agree on that, and it is generally accepted that humans have a right to be free from pain, then why should we treat animals any differently?  Some argue it is because animals don’t have human language or that their brains aren’t as complex as ours, but here we run into another problem:  Human infants don’t have language, and they don’t have reasoning abilities or a sense of morality, and yet we say that they deserve to be free from pain and suffering. Furthermore, there are many humans who have such severe disabilities that they will never have language or reasoning or morality, but we know that they can feel pain, and we would probably all agree that they deserve to be free from pain.  How, then, can we make a real morally relevant argument that animals – some who are as smart as 3 year old humans – should not also have this right?

Animal welfarists, on the other hand, believe that humans do have the right to use animals for purposes that benefit humans, but that we also have a responsibility to treat those animals with care.  The problem here is that differences of opinion will almost surely always exist regarding the definition of “with care”.  Does that mean making sure they are well fed?  That they have adequate housing? That they can practice normal behaviors for their species? That they are happy?  And how can we tell if an animal is happy?

I suppose the fact that I am vegan puts me in the Animal Rights category.  I don’t think humans need to eat animals for survival.  In fact, I think eating a plant based diet is in our best interest.  I also don’t think we need to wear animal derived products like leather and wool with all the great synthetics out there.  I think many animal-related medical tests are completely unnecessary, but I confess that I haven’t read quite enough about this yet to determine if I think any are justifiable (though if I say that some are, then I too am guilty of placing more value on a human’s life than an animal’s suffering and am probably not a very good vegan!)

I recognize that most people don’t share my views, and for that reason I am also a strong proponent of working toward better welfare standards for animals used for food, medical tests, etc.  I think asking someone to at least consider where their food comes from and how the animals were raised is a much easier sell than asking everyone to adopt a vegetarian or vegan diet.  I suppose in this sense I am something of a welfarist too.  I just hate all of the commonly accepted procedures that are done on these farms – debeaking, tail docking, and neutering without anaesthesia to name a few.  These practices are so unnecessary, and result in a lot of pain for the animals who endure them.  I think it is worth our efforts to eliminate these painful practices.  Perhaps the first step in transitioning people to a veg*n diet is to first get them to realize that they have some responsibility to the animals they consume.  Unless they understand that, the chances they’ll ever change their eating habits are incredibly unlikely.

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