Do Animal Rights Matter?
Should animals have rights? If so, what kind of rights they should have? Why don’t they have the rights that they should have? And why should humans be the ones to give rights to animals?
We have been living with other animals on this planet and having empathy for them. Feeling concerned about animals suffering is not new at all. A vegetarian diet was already suggested for ethical reasons in the ancient Hindu and Buddhist scriptures. Some had argued that animals don’t have the ability to feel in the same way as humans, but even single-cell species like bacteria can sense pain, pleasure, fear, loneliness, or love. We, humans, use language to reason and claim rights. Even though other animals don’t talk in the same way as we do, they are given life by their parents and have opportunities to explore possibilities in their life.
Now we have more and more legislation and events about animal and nature protection in the post-industrial revolution. The demands for natural resources including animal-origin materials exploded to grow our economy, and many species have become extinct. We are trying to help animals to survive better. Will humans’ assistance be the solution for other species?
Why do animal rights matter now more than ever before?
You might already know that there have been 5 mass extinctions in the history of Earth due to climate change. Since the last mass extinction 447 million years ago, we now see the rapid loss of species today estimated 10,000 times higher than the natural extinction rate. Unlike the mass extinction events in the past, the current extinction appears to be responsible for humans.
We directly impact their lives by growing animals for our food, and hunting them for clothes, medicine, and other items. When we take advantage of animals for necessity, it is a part of the cycle in nature. However, we take their lives directly or indirectly for so many other reasons. For example, Rhinos are one of the endangered animals because their horns were believed to have medical value although there is no proof. Deer horns and tiger fur skin are also commonly used as a status symbols to display success and wealth. Live animals are traded illegally, some species are targeted because of their spooky look. The list goes on… Many animals are also struggling due to habitat loss from deforestation, dam development, oil exploration, and other commercial activities. They haven’t protested or launched a war on humans yet, but we should review how we changed their lives, then find solutions to improve. Because losing biodiversity will throw a big threat to our living environment.
What rights animals should have?
The UK Farm Animal Welfare Council formalized the Five Freedoms to outline the aspects of animal welfare under human control. The 5 freedoms are:
- Freedom from hunger or thirst
- Freedom from discomfort
- Freedom from pain, injury, or disease
- Freedom to express normal behavior
- Freedom from fear and distress
When we think about the rights of wild animals though, these freedoms are not possible.
In natural environments, all animals need to eat, fight predators, and survive all other challenges. Most animals have only 1 to 30% of their babies make it to their one-year-old birthday. They will hunt and kill other animals and plants to sustain their life as humans do. They also have behaviors that we feel are cruel. For example…
- Male lions occasionally kill other's cubs for their pride
- Hamsters and chimpanzees eat each other to protect their territory and have a higher chance of survival. In some cases, hamster mothers will eat their babies
- Male sharks bite a lot to get attention from female sharks
- Ants often invade other ants’ nests and kill the entire colony. They have no hesitation to start a big war
- A team of Orcas hunt their prays together and they are known for brutal hunting
It seems every species has its own rules and ways to survive. We humans discuss and set our rights in our communities. So, should humans decide what rights other species have? Probably not.
We should leave other species to deal with nature themselves and we should keep our distance from their territory rather than decide what they can do. Our discussion should be about how we can keep them undisturbed by us.
Are animal rights a social issue?
The notion of “rights” is a view of humans. We don’t truly know how other species live with or without ethics and morals. But we can imagine how a mother penguin would feel if her baby is taken by an eagle. Most of us unconsciously impact others’ lives by eating meat or fish, accidentally stepping on bugs, buying a leather bag, etc. How many of our activities would be considered a social issue?
Even though we don’t see it, we feel sorry for millions of hens sitting in squishy boxes and producing eggs their entire lives. Animals may or may not attend a court case, but many suffer from systemic and institutional forces. Therefore, animal rights are a social justice issue.
None of us can fully understand other species. Each animal has its way of living and rules to manage communities. Because we have limited knowledge about animals, we can discuss “rights” only from a human point of view. Therefore, we should focus on how to avoid negatively impacting animals’ lives and let them live their lives. Without understanding, we should not tell animals what they deserve or should be granted. We, humans, are a part of nature as an animal. We are not necessarily better than other animals or are not elected to rule the world.
Th big idea: should animals have the same rights as humans? - https://www.theguardian.com/books/2022/jan/24/the-big-idea-should-animals-have-the-same-rights-as-humans
How do sharks mate? - https://saveourseas.com/worldofsharks/how-do-sharks-mate
The Truth About Lions - https://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/the-truth-about-lions-11558237/
Why Do Hamsters Eat Each Other? The Sad Truth - https://firsthamster.com/why-do-hamsters-eat-each-other-the-sad-truth
Five freedoms - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Five_freedoms
Animal Rights is a Social Justice Issue - https://www.wellbeingintlstudiesrepository.org/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1008&context=anirmov#:~:text=(3)%20If%20animals%20are%20legitimate,is%20a%20social%20justice%20issue.