Friday 16 June 2017

Do animals have the same rights as humans?                                              

There are four kinds of animals in which we can say that they have some of the rights of humans. They are; wild animals, domestic animals, circus animals and pets. They and we humans all have one thing in common. We all suffer from pain. Therefore, we cannot purposely cause animals to suffer from unnecessary pain any more than we can purposely cause pain to humans.

The Canadian Marine Mammal Regulations that govern the annual seal hunt stipulates that sealers may kill seals with wooden clubs, hakapiks (large ice-pick-like clubs) and guns. In the Gulf of St. Lawrence, clubs and hakapiks are the killing implement of choice however guns are more widely used (though clubs are frequently used to kill seals that have been shot and wounded)

It is notable that in the 50 years Canada’s annual commercial seal hunt has been the subject of consistent veterinary scrutiny, not one report has ever suggested the seal hunt is acceptably humane. It is notable that in the 50 years Canada’s commercial seal hunt has been the subject of consistent veterinary scrutiny. Not one report has ever suggested the seal hunt is acceptably humane.  In a 2007, a report by an international team of veterinary and zoology experts who studied the hunt, concluded that both clubbing and shooting of seals in Canada are inhumane and should be prohibited. Parliamentarians, journalists, and scientists who observe Canada's commercial seal hunt each year continue to report unacceptable levels of cruelty, including sealers dragging conscious seals across the ice floes with boat hooks, shooting seals and leaving them to suffer in agony, stockpiling dead and dying animals, and cutting open live seals.

Hunters of big game animals are required by law to follow a wounded animal they have shot if it has wandered off so that they can put the animal out of its misery.
On   September 13, 1916 a five-ton Asian elephant, also known as "Murderous Mary who had been performing in the Sparks World Famous Shows, killed a trainer in Kingsport, Tennessee.  The elephant was hanged by the neck from a railcar-mounted industrial crane between four o'clock and five o'clock that evening. The first attempt resulted in a snapped chain, causing the elephant to fall and break its hip as dozens of children fled in terror. The severely wounded elephant died during a second attempt

In many pig farms, pregnant sows are kept in individual pens in which their bodies are mere inches from the sides of the pens. When the male piglets are born, they are castrated without any form of anesthesia. The same applies to steers also.

In one animal slaughter house, the pigs are strung up by their necks as a means of killing them.  I witnessed pigs hanging by their rear feet and then having their throats cut while they are still alive. The humane way of killing them is to stun them with electricity or a recoverable bolt shot into their brain.

They are often transferred to slaughter houses in open transport trucks hundreds of miles in hot weather without being given water to drink

Anita Krajnc of Toronto was charged with mischief and faced jail time or a maximum $5,000 fine for providing water through the narrow openings of a metal trailer to the panting pigs as they were headed to Fearman's Pork Inc. in Burlington on June 22, 2015. It was a hot day and the pigs were over-heated. In May 2017, she was acquitted of any wrong doing.

Animals suffer for days in steel-jawed leg-hold traps before being killed by several methods such as standing on their chests to crush their lungs, clubbing them, stabbing them, or by other equally cruel methods such as being poisoned.

Many nimals live their entire lives in tiny wire cages where only minimal survival needs are met. Animals often become insane from lack of mental stimulation and sometimes mutilate themselves by chewing at their own paws and tails.

Animals on fur ranches are killed by a variety of methods, including anal electrocution. A metal rod is inserted into the anus and electrified as the animal is forcibly held down. Many are poisoned.

I won’t go on to tell you how chickens are treated in their farms but instead  I will go directly to the question of whether or not animals should be treated like we treat humans.

Now I realize that domestic animals are for the most part, slaughtered so that humans can eat their meat or wear their fur. I am not taking issue with that. I am taking issue with the manner in which they are treated before they are killed and the manner in which they are killed.

They are not humans but like humans, they too have brains and believe it or not, they also have feelings. Let me give you an example. 

My wife and I have a cat which was rescued by our daughter after the cat was born by a mother that was a street cat. We had our cat’s front claws removed and had it neutered and given a rabies shot. For the most part, it is now and has been for ten years a house cat although we let it outside once in a while to run about in our back yard.

He is called Happy and is a very affectionate cat. When my wife and I have left the house for a few hours and return later, Happy is waiting for us at the top of the stairs. He then jumps on the back of the sofa at the living room knowing that he will be cuddled and stroked. When it is time to go to bed, he is at the foot of my wife’s bed waiting for me to stroke him and then he moves closer to my wife after I have left her room and headed towards my own bedroom. When I am working in my study, he jumps onto my desk and faces me and purrs away. He also communicates to us when it is time for his twice-a-day meal. He will head towards his bowls which is his way of saying that it is time for us to feed him.

There is no doubt in my mind that this cat has feelings. There is no doubt in my mind that all animals have feelings of sorts. Elephants will stand around the body of a fellow elephant that has died as a form of mourning for the loss of the dead elephant.  In my opinion, animal’s feelings are similar to those of humans. They feel pain, fear, sorrow and affection.

If that is so, then why are they treated as property? I am going to approach the subject of animals as property in a manner that is based more on neuroscience instead of philosophical concepts. First of all, an animal does not understand an abstract concept such as being property or non-property. It is aware of its environment and that that humans can manipulate them to the animal’s detriment or well-being. Allen Yancy’s essay on “Veterinarians and the Case Against Legal Personhood for Animals. states that “although animals are currently considered property, the law grants them rights.”

To discuss whether or not animals should be property, we first have to understand what the word property means in a legal sense. When we own anything as property, we are allowed to do certain things with it. If we are farmers and own a cow or a truck, we can sell them, give them away, experiment on them, eat the cow and sell the truck. We can even put them in our wills, profit from them, or use them in our business. We are also allowed to buy another cow or another truck, slaughter the cow or do whatever we want to do with our truck. This is because they are property.

Aside from the fact that the cow is the property of the farmer, it differs from a truck because the cow feels pain, fear and has emotions towards its offspring, just as humans do.

There is a fundamental difference between cows and trucks. Cows feel pain and trucks do not. We are allowed to kill the cow for food but she must be killed in a manner that will not cause pain. Cattle and other domestic animals do not realize that they will be slaughtered. During handling they behave the same way at both a slaughter plant and in a feedlot in a farmer’s barn. If they knew they were going to die they would be wilder and more agitated during handling at a slaughter plant.

It’s ironic when you realize that the millions of Jews who were led into the gas chambers didn’t initially know that they were going to be gassed. They only knew when the gas was circulating in the enclosed room that they were being slaughtered. If they knew in advance, I am not convinced that they wouldn’t have walked so calmly to their deaths.

Domestic animals sometimes make active attempts to jump fences or run away from people. Active escape attempts occur more frequently when cattle are shocked with electric prods. The way the people handle the cattle has a much greater effect on their behavior than the location where handling occurred.

U.S. law and culture requires that even though a cow is property, a farmer has certain responsibilities for the cow but no moral responsibilities for his truck.  He can be charged with animal abuse and punished if he beats or starves his cow. These laws are designed to prevent the animal from suffering from pain.  Laws for protecting research animals require keeping them in social groups so they have the company of their own kind. As scientists learn more about animal behavior, additional protections may be needed.

The cow has legal protections that a truck does not have. These legal protections only apply to live animals that have a well developed nervous system. Science has shown that animals such as mammals and birds feel pain in a manner similar to humans. Insects, viruses and microbes are not able to feel pain or suffer. More research is needed to determine the extent that fishes and amphibians feel pain. Present research shows that they do experience fear. Fear is very aversive and animals should be shielded form unnecessary situations that cause them great fear. Fear will cause a great rise in stress hormones. Animals such as dogs also need to have environmental enrichments. Puppies kept in barren kennels became hyperexcitable and had abnormal EEG patterns which indicated extreme stress.

When the structure of the brain and nervous system is studied, there is no black and white line between people and higher mammals such as chimps, dogs or cows. The Genome Project has shown that humans and mice share many genes (Gunter and Dhand, 2002). In mammals 30 to 40% of all genes are involved in nervous system development and function. The basic design of the nervous system and the neural mechanisms that process fear and pain are similar in humans and other mammals. (Rogan and LeDoux, 1996). Colpaert et al. (2001) They reported that rats will self medicate themselves with pain killers to relieve pain in arthritic joints.. Pain and fear both cause suffering. As nervous system and brain complexity increases the welfare needs of the animal increase and become more complex, but all animals that have sufficient nervous systems complexity to suffer from either pain or fear and for this reason, they need basic welfare protections. Animals with complex brains also have greater social needs and a need for greater environmental enrichment such as being with their own kind just as humans don’t do the same.

Human babies are given full protection even though a newborn’s cognitive abilities are less than the abilities of mature farm animals. A mentally retarded child and a cow may also have the same cognitive abilities. Babies are given protection because they will grow and develop into children and later into adults.  A farmer can sell or kill his cow but he cannot do this to newborn or his retarded child. Why should the retarded child or human newborn have more protection than a cow? One reason is that the newborn baby and the retarded child are our own species and we protect our own species. Even lions do not usually dine on other lions for their meals. There is an instinct to protect one’s own kind.

The cows and other domestic animals have legal protection from pain and suffering but they have less legal protection than a retarded child. We could be sent to prison for killing or selling a retarded child and we would not be allowed to do invasive research on the child. Human children are legally not property. Legally, a major distinction between property and non-property is that we can buy, modify, sell, give away or destroy property that we own but we can’t legally do that with humans.

We as human beings are the guardians of domestic animals and our pets and as such, it is incumbent on us as human beings to not deliberately cause those animals to unnecessary pain or submit them to terror even if they are our property.

In May 2015 in New York, lawyers acting for the chimps, Leo and Hercules, want them to be moved to an animal sanctuary. Researchers at Stony Brook University are using the chimps for research on physical movement. In a potentially significant ruling Judge Barbara Jaffe at one stage suggested the chimps had the right of habeas corpus which is the ancient legal principle under which the state has an obligation to produce missing individuals before a court. But having initially used the words "habeas corpus", the judge subsequently struck them out, suggesting the court does not consider the animals to be legal persons. Hercules and Leo's lawyers say they were not too dispirited as the court is still asking the university to justify why they are holding the chimps in cages.

The idea that animals could be considered legal persons with rights is relatively new. But in centuries past animals were quite frequently involved in court cases in which they were put on trial. Most were found guilty of offences such as murder and assault. Punishments included the hanging of animals found guilty.

Opponents of the concept of animal rights argue that since animals have neither a sense of morality nor an understanding of their duties towards others, they can't have rights. Others, in turn, dismiss such views as being speciesist. (such persons who believe in the assignment of different values, rights, or special consideration to individuals solely on the basis of their species.)

Attempts to understand the nature of animal behaviour have sometimes taken the form of highly unusual experiments. In one case, a chimp called Nim was brought up with a New York family so that he could mimic their behaviour. 

My wife and I have a cat which we love very much. My oldest daughter rescued it three weeks after it was born by a street cat. As our cat “Happy” grew up over the years, it has become very affectionate to my wife and me. At night when it is time for my wife and me to go to bed, Happy jumps on the foot of my wife’s bed waiting for me to come into my wife’s room to say good night. After I cuddle Happy around his neck, he then walks over to my wife to be cuddled. When my wife and I return from shopping, Happy is at the top of the stairs waiting for us to return. When we reach the top of the stairs, he jumps on the back of a sofa in the living room knowing that I will cuddle him around his neck. If I see him in a place he shouldn’t be in, I will say “Git’ and he scramble’s out of that location like a fleeing cheetah. Sometimes when he sees me approaching that location, I don’t have to say anything—he just bolts out of that location. When he is hungry and his bowl is empty, he will walk towards his bowl and sits there until we fill his bowl. Anyone who doesn’t believe that animals don’t have human traits doesn’t have a cat like Happy in their home. I believe he has all the traits of a human being other than the ability to talk.

As far as I am concerned, all animals that are wild, domestic and pets, should never be purposely submitted to unnecessary pain and those who inflict such pain on these animals should be severely punished. 

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