Introduction: On the Relationships between People and Nature
There is no need to mention the sad fact that the relationships between people and nature, including most of its elements, have been rather complicated, especially since the advent of technological progress and the consequent pollution issues.
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According to the humanist principles, animals must be granted the right to live, as well as the right to be treated in a humane way.
However, in the late XX and early XXI century, with the progress of the humanist ideas peaking as they never have before, one of the aspects of the nature-vs.-nurture conflict has become especially debatable.
Since in the age of democracy, it has become obvious that every single person has his/her own rights and freedoms, it has been suggested that the concept of rights must be applicable not only to people, but also to every single living being, i.e., the animal world as well. Therefore, the given idea entails the prohibition of killing animals for the sake of fur, leather or food production (Fudge 75).
Although modern technologies allow for creating artificial leather and fur, the problem of substituting meat remains open. Since most people are not ready to become vegetarian, giving animals an indefeasible right to live might be a hasty decision.
From One Extreme to Another: From Beyond the Barricades
It is worth admitting that both sides of the argument, i.e., the people who believe that animals should be given their indefeasible rights, as well as the people who do not consider it possible to provide animals with rights.
To start with, the opinion of the proponents of animal rights crusade should be considered.
The reasons behind the actions of fighters for animal rights are quite simple.
According to what the activists like PETA say, animals are living beings; they can feel pain, switch moods, display certain social behavior, and, therefore, must be provided with legal rights (Fox 203). Simple enough the given argument is still very convincing.
The opponents of the fighters for animal rights often use the arguments of the latter to prove the point. According to what Cohen and Regan say, “for the advocates of animal rights in the strict sense, the utilitarian arguments of the ‘liberation’ camp are not only insecure but dangerous.
In some cases, at last, the calculations of good and bad consequences of animal use is virtually certain to yield a result not favorable to the animals. But in such cases the liberationist defense of animals must collapse, resting as it does on the calculations of the worth of outcomes” (Cohen and Regan 8).
It would be wrong, however, to consider that the arguments of those who are against providing animals with rights are restricted to nitpicking on the ideas of the animal rights proponents.
As a rule, the key argument of the people who believe that animals do not need the human concept of rights is that in the animal kingdom, there is no concept of morality.
Since rights arise in the sphere of the latter (Cohen and Regan 8), it can be considered that the concept of rights is inapplicable to any element of the animal kingdom, where morality as a notion does not exist and which is ruled by the key principle that only the strong survive (Jasper 170).
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Another argument that the fighters for treating animals like animals provide to the organizations like PETA is that animals are the only option for testing new medicine or conducting any other scientific experiments.
Indeed, given the fact that there is no alternative to testing newly developed medicine on animals, providing animals with such rights as the right to live will ensue a number of murder cases if some of the experiments prove lethal.
As a result, the newly created medicine will become less efficient and more dangerous to use, with a number of unpredictable side effects. As Cohen and Regan explain,
The animal rights movement… as I conceive it, is committed to a number of goals, including:
- the total abolition of the uses of animals in science;
- The total dissolution of commercial animal agriculture;
- The total elimination of commercial and sport hunting and trapping…
You don’t change unjust institutions by tidying them up. (Cohen and Regan 9)
Finally, admitting animals to have legal rights will presuppose that animals will be “considered to have legal standing” (Fox 204), which, given the gap between the development of animals and people, is simply absurd.
Therefore, the key reasoning provided by the opponents of the animal rights crusaders is that a) the concept of morals is inapplicable to animal world and 2) there is little to no alternative for the use of animals in medicine testing.
My Opinion: Why Sustainable Approach Deserves to Be Applied
Personally, I believe that the policy towards animals treatment must be less radical. To be more exact, it must be sustainable. To start with, it is crucial that animals should not be tortured in slaughterhouses and that the process of slaughter should be as quick and painless as possible.
In addition, the laws concerning the maltreatment of animals must be revisited so that the people whose pets are being mistreated should be detected and that their pets should be taken to the animal shelter where they will be taken a proper care of.
As for marketable fish, game birds, etc., there is no need to stress that people need these products to remain healthy. While protein can be obtained from the sources other than game bird and cattle, phosphorus contained in fish is not easy to replace with the phosphorus from any other sources.
That being said, killing animals for the sake of providing people with the necessary minerals and vitamins is inevitable, and no alternative for the given process has been found to this day (Hester and Harrison).
Speaking of animals as resources various materials, such as fur, wool, leather, etc., one must mention that with the technological developments of the XXI century, providing the substitute for fur sand leather is relatively easy, which means that animals should not be used as the sources for various materials anymore.
Once adopting the sustainable approach towards wild animals and providing the rules for treating domestic animals and pets in an appropriate way, setting the bar for the concept of “mistreatment,” one will be able to provide animals with their rights without infringing the rights of people.
The Reasons for Holding the Universal Appeal: Why Giving Animals Rights Is not the Most Reasonable Idea
The key idea that makes me choose the reasonable (i.e., sustainable) treatment of animals and a humanistic approach towards them instead of providing animals with the rights that they deserve as much as people do is the fact that the need for animals to have rights comes from people’s concept of the universe.
To be more exact, the problem is that these are not animals who demand their rights – these are people who demand rights for animals; the latter are not aware of the concept of rights at all.
Therefore, the given situation can be regarded as an attempt to approach the principles of the animal world with the help of human morals, which is intrinsically wrong, seeing how animals do not have the concept of morals. As Fudge put it,
Think for a moment about who asserts animals’ rights. Is it a laboratory rabbit, veal calf, or hunted fox? Not at all. Animal rights is exclusively asserted by society and it is intended to restrain human practices.
It says that animals are morally the same as humans, and then asks humans to treat them as if they were human; it is up to us to struggle for animal rights because animals cannot fend for themselves. (Fudge 50)
Therefore, it is impossible to approach the idea of animal rights from people’s perspective. Truly, in the light of the fact that people are equipped much better than animals, they should be more responsible about the means that they choose to build relationships with nature.
However, there is a great difference between acknowledging the weakness of animals and, thus, being more responsible towards the wildlife and claiming that people have no rights to use animals for medicine testing, producing food, etc.
Therefore, it is necessary not to be cruel towards animals, yet, unless an alternative for meat and medicine testing is provided, claiming that animals must not be killed will come at a price of many people’s lives.
The Possible Objections: What Both Camps Have to Say
It must be admitted that both camps will argue against the solution that I have provided. The fighters for animal rights will point at the fact that my solution presuppose treating animals as a resource instead of considering them beings with rights.
Although the provided solution does allow to avoid cruelty in treating animals, it still fails to recognize their rights for the reasons mentioned above.
The supporters of the idea that animals cannot have rights will consider the given solution as restrictive in that it does not allow to satisfy the tastes of people who would like to cater not only on tuna, but also on more exotic types of fish or animals and to enjoy natural fur.
Therefore, their key argument may be that the provided solution infringes people’s rights, i.e., cares about animals better than it cares about people.
In Response to the Counterarguments: Reasonability and Adequacy
The latter argument can be argued by mentioning the fact that, though renewable, a number of natural resources, such as various species of animals, bird and fish, are endangered due to overconsumption.
Therefore, it is in the interests of gourmets to abstain from eating exotic animals for a couple of years until certain species replenish their population. Hence, the provided solution takes both the interests of people and animals into account.
As for the former argument, biologically, the human race is superior to any other species on the Earth, which means that people as superior beings must take care of animals instead of taking the campaign of animal rights to its absurd point.
In addition, the issue concerning medicine testing, unfortunately enough, still remains open, which means that while other solutions are being sought for, animals will be used for experiments.
Cohen, Carl and Tom Regan. The Animal Rights Debate. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2001. Print.
Fox, Michael Allen. The Case for Animal experimentation: An Evolutionary and Ethical Perspective. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1986. Print.
Fudge, Erica. Animal. London, UK: Reaktion Books, 2002. Print.
Hester, Ronald Ernest and Roy M. Harrison. Alternatives to animal Testing. Cambridge, UK: The Royal Society of Chemistry, 2006. Print.
Jasper, James. The Art of Moral Protest: Culture, Biography and Creativity in Social Movements. Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press, 1997. Print.