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.
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.