What are animal rights?
Photographer : peta2slickr @ flickr
Animal rights are based on the idea that animals share similar emotional and physical feelings to humans, and therefore should have similar rights to health and wellbeing. They address the interests, welfare and ethical treatment of animals, including animal cruelty.
Why do we need animal rights?
Many people argue that it is inhumane to torture and kill animals unnecessarily just as it is morally wrong to exploit and cause another human to suffer or murder another human being. However, some people claim that it is natural for humans to hunt and kill animals for survival. They assert that animals are less superior intellectually, do not suffer to the same degree as humans, and therefore do not need rights. Where to draw the line on animal rights is under much debate.
Where are animal rights violated?
Just like humans, an animal can be mistreated, even in their own homes. Some of the main situations where animal rights are of concern include:
What happens when animal rights are violated?
- Factory farming—farm animals bred in large quantities are sometimes kept in inadequate environments, for example too many chickens being cramped in one cage
- Animals in sport—particularly in horse racing, and duck and quail shooting
- Animal shelters—where overcrowding and a lack of food supplies can cause health problems
- Animal testing—tests can result in pain and sometimes death of the animal
- When owners abuse or abandon their pets
When animal rights are violated such as in the cases listed above, the animal endures physical suffering. However in cases such as abandonment, animals may be left with no place to live and raise their young. The killing of animals for sport or commercial use can also increase the chance of certain species becoming endangered.
Who enforces animal rights?
- Animal rights/welfare organisations such as the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA), People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) and the World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA).
- Veterinary and community groups
- Individual animal owners and handlers
- Federal, state and territory governments
Each state and territory in Australia has a Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act,
which aims to enforce animal rights and prosecute those who disrespect the rights. This Act, except in NSW, controls the treatment of animals and the use of animals for research and experimentation. In NSW, animal experimentation is controlled by the Animal Research Act.
All states and territories, excluding Queensland and Victoria, provide protection for all non-human animals except fish. Under Queensland and Victorian legislation, fish and crustaceans are also protected.
Under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, prohibited offences include:
- Abandoning animals
- Giving poisons to animals
- Using certain electrical devices on animals
- Animal baiting and fighting
- The keeping of game parks
- Tail nicking/docking (the removal of the tail of an animal)
- The sale of severely injured animals
Those caught in unlawful acts are prosecuted by officers of the RSPCA. Animal rights involving animal trade are dealt with by the Australian federal government.
The Model Australian Codes of Practice for the Welfare of Animals is a guide which outlines national standards for animal welfare. The codes are prepared by the Animal Welfare Working Group which includes scientific specialists from organisations such as the Commonwealth Scientific and Research Organisation (CSIRO) and RSPCA. Animal welfare organisations are invited to contribute to the continuing development of the codes.
What else is being done?
Animal welfare organisations such as the RSPCA, PETA and WSPA Australia & new Zeland aim to create awareness and develop campaigns to fight for animal rights. Curent cmapaigns include the RSPCAx camapign for wider pet desexing; the WSPA's fight against bear farming, and PETA's camp[aign against a
Taking a political stance…
The Rudd government has plans to stop the slaughtering of whales by enforcing laws banning whaling in the Australian Whale Sanctuary (a dedicated marine area to protect whales). This will be achieved by monitoring and preventing whaling vessels operating in Australian waters and by establishing a national network of whale and dolphin sanctuaries. There are also plans by the Rudd government to end whaling in Japan by taking Japan to international courts.
The animal welfare of poilcies of the Australian Greens include banning the use of animals in cosmetic, industrial and military experiments; and ending the export of live animals for consumption. The Australian Democrats are advocating for the removal of non-domesticated and exotic animals from circuses and the banning of rodeos.
Around the rest of the world…
A Universal Declaration on Animal Welfare
had been proposed by the WSPA as part of their Animals Matter to Me campaign and is currently supported by 80 animal welfare groups around the world and the governments of Kenya, India, Philippines, Costa Rica and the Czech Republic.
The aim of the declaration is to:
- Improve animal health and wellbeing by creating better relationships between people and animals, particularly with companion animals and farm animals
- Improve practices for sustainable agriculture
- Reduce the risk of the development of diseases such as bird flu and rabies
- Provide for countries which do not already have legislation on animal welfare.
The WSPA has launched a petition
on their website where the general public can sign to show their support.
The UK and Australia have expressed their support for improving animal welfare worldwide, however have not committed to an international agreement.
How do I know this?
Animal Rights Advocates Inc., Animal rights philosophy
Australian Democrats, 2007, Animal welfare
The Australian Greens, 2007, Animals, http://greens.org.au/about/policy/policy.php?policy_id=18
Australian Labor Party, 2007, Federal Labor’s plan to counter international whaling
Cowles-Hamar, D., Food from animals
Government Department of Agriculture Fisheries and Forestry, 2008, Animal welfare
Government of South Australia, 2006, Codes of Practice
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals
Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Animal welfare
Taking It Global, 2007, Animal rights environment and urbanization
World Society for the Protection of Animals, 2008, Animals matter to me http://www.advocacyonline.net/eactivist/user/userC.jsp?13373&EXAMIN=1
World Society for the Protection of Animals, 2006, Universal declaration on animal welfare