Whether animals have rights, just like humans, is a topic that has remained controversial. Thus, the future of animals is under threat of extinction based on the primary conviction that animals do not have their rights. Indeed, the aspect has led to the risk of exploitation and neglect to the point where animal rights organizations have found the need to intervene. The recent past has witnessed an increase in the number of individuals in the United Kingdom who consider it illegal the act of killing or subjecting animals to suffering because of their fur or source of food. From an ethical and religious perspective, respect for animal rights has emerged. A good example is the Islamic religion, which recognizes the importance of animal lives and obligate people to respect and refrain from mistreating animals. Abu Hurairah once told a story of a man who was appreciated and forgiven by Allah based on his actions. The man while drinking from a well to quench his thirst found a dog that was equally thirsty and gave it water from his leather footwear.
Another story is evident based on hadith by Prophet Mohammed. The story is told of a woman who underwent the torment in hell due to her actions against a cat, locking it up until it died of hunger. Allah stated that it was right for the woman to either feed the cat or allow it to go out to feed itself. The two stories are clear indications of the importance of protecting and avoiding committing any harm or mistreating animals. The United Kingdom is among the countries that is believed to have adequate laws that protect the animals. Therefore, the research paper is based on the realization of the significant rights that animals have, just like humans, and the legal responsibility of people when committing violence against animals.
The core aim of this research paper is to clearly provide evidence to the argument that animals, just like humans, have rights and that those rights should be recognized by individuals and at the policy level. The research paper will answer the following research questions;
- Do animals have rights? And if they have, whether humans are adequately protecting these rights.
- Is there a policy by the United Kingdom government to make sure that the welfare of the animals is taken care of?
- How are animals different from humans, in terms of rights?
- Are there alternatives to the use of animals in testing?
The study use a qualitative research approach, which is appropriate in assessing the problem and the solutions to the problem related to animal rights, those domesticated as well as those in the wild. Secondary research was also used, which is comprehensive review of books, legal journals and other online articles by diverse researchers. The review of the documentary evidence provides the bulk of the evidence provided to support the thesis.
For understanding whether animals have rights, it is important to understand the underlying meaning of the rights in this context. Rights are legal, social, or ethical principles of entitlement or freedom. Thus, rights are basic normative rules relating to what is allowable to individuals or owed to a person based on the legal systems, social convention, or ethical theory. Indeed, such aspects have been revealed as being fundamental to civilization since they are pillars of the development of society and culture. According to the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, “Rights structure the form of governments, the content of laws, and the shape of morality as it is currently perceived.” From the perspective that rights are not granted, endowed, or fought for, has been used as the basis for denying animal rights, out of the claim that they lack the ability to fight for their rights. The argument has been used to deny animals their rights, which should not be the case.
Humans have commonly used animals for various reasons, including in producing different items, entertaining, sports, production of clothing, and drugs and in research, among many other uses. From drugs to consumer products and in the treatment of different diseases, tests are done using animals to avoid the danger of the experiments on humans. In fact, the reason animals are used in tests it to make sure that the drugs and consumer products are safe for human use. Animals are used as a source of entertainment for humans and in different sports such as circus, riding, hunting, among other sports. The desire for amusement by humans has been fulfilled using animals. Indeed, the use of animals for various reasons have remained a major topic for debate, the basis being whether animals have rights that should be protected just as it is the case with human beings. While some people agree that humans have rights that ought to be promoted and protected, others argue that animals should be used as human desires since they lack such rights.
From the perspective of animals, rights exist and should be protected and promoted, just as it is with the humans. From the utilitarianism (provided that rights tend to be minimal once they are not in existence within that philosophy), animal rights as a concept suggests that there are basic non-human interests that should be promoted and protected in the same way as they are done in humans. From the deontological perspective of animal rights, egalitarianism and libertarianism are used in promoting and protecting human rights. Based on the utilitarianism approach to ethics, animals should be protected from suffering caused by humans. While it is not possible for the animals to claim their rights, the aspects do not mean that humans should cause suffering or death to animals. The school of thought notwithstanding, there is an agreement between the supporters of animal rights that though non-human, animals should not be used for amusement, clothing, food, or experimentation.
Like humans, animals do have a right to live and should not have their lives terminated for whatever reason. Animals have similar biological intricacy and the life they have is as important as that of man. When they are injured, they have the potential to experience pain, just like man. Thus, any inhumane treatment towards animals is as serious as would be subjected to human being. Animals have consciousness and experience anything that is done to them, whether bad or good even if they are not able to speak about what they experience. From the point of view that animals are capable of suffering, just like humans, then they should also have their rights protected, even without expecting them to fight for those rights.
Animals have interests; hence, the argument that they also have rights. In that aspect, it is evident in the way animals behave towards humans and their own. For instance, cats and dogs can love; elephants have been recorded digging out other elephants from the swamp, thus saving them from drowning; and leopards, in the big cat diary, have been revealed removing thorns from their offspring’s noses. In fact, such actions and behaviours indicate that animals can show empathy. Therefore, as people fight for the rights of the children and individuals without the mental competence to fight for their rights, they should do the same for animals. Animals, like children, are innocent and experience pain and fear. They also, like humans, have the strong desire to continue to live and have the emotional capability like humans. To be able to protect them, it is necessary to entrench animal rights in policymaking.
While there have been efforts, at the policy level to protect animal rights, humans still rate low regarding individual efforts to protect animals. The reality that humans have higher mental capabilities and feel entitled to use animals has not stopped them from using animals or considering their feelings. While there has been an increase in the realization of the need to protect such animals, there are still people in the United Kingdom who subject them to abuse, especially forced labor. Such animals should be handled with dignity as well as allowed adequate time to relax just like humans. From the domestic perspective, tamed animals have always been subjected to abuse and given substandard conditions, where in some instances they are violated by their owners. Many cases have been reported in the UK of cats and dogs that have been killed for minor reasons, which could be handled without necessarily resulting to such extreme actions. Such actions show that animal rights efforts are yet to take strong roots.
The citizens of the UK are expected to promote and protect human rights under the Animal Welfare in the United Kingdom. In whatever field, it is expected that humans are treated with respect and that their rights are protected. As opposed to animal conservation, the welfare relates to the proper treatment of animals in hunting, agriculture, clinical testing, and the domestic use. However, there are issues relating to the protecting of animal rights based on the economic value relating to the use of animals. In this case, the use of animals in testing drugs and consumer products is one of the prevalent actions in the country. However, people should try to prevent the use of animals, especially if they do not have to use them. In fact, about 50 percent of the people have been revealed in research to have embraced the need to protect animals.
Government’s Policy in UK
The United Kingdom has legislated laws to protect the rights of animals. In fact, the UK animal testing legislation has been revealed as the most stringent of such laws in the world. There is also the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986 (ASPA), which is used in regulating the circumstances for the occurrence of testing using animals in the country. The Animal Welfare Act 2006 has been recently passed, which blends the Abandonment of Animals Act 1960 and the earlier Protection of Animals Act 1934 to promote the welfare of animals. The law introduces serious legal consequences for any actions against the welfare of animals, including cruelty and neglect. The laws are in place to ensure that individuals and organizations understand the need to protect animals, both domestic and wild. However, regardless of the laws, there are still some forms of violation, especially in the use of animals for experimentation.
It is worth noting that the problem with implementation is related to the reality that the laws do not completely ban the use of animals in research experimentation. The result has been the continued use of the animals leading to the threat of extinction of some species. A good example has been the use of animals such as apes in testing vaccines and drugs’ development for treating diseases in humans, which led to the death of many primates, a situation that necessitated the ban by the government to use the animals. Given the fact that most of the studies do not yield positive results in developing the drugs is a reason for the complete ban on their use in research tests. Proactive actions have also been assumed by the government in ensuring effective implementation of the laws, particularly in the requirement to prove the rationale for the use of animals in testing.
The laws have achieved a milestone in protecting the welfare of primates, dogs, cats, and horses among other animals, which have gotten extra protection under the Animal Welfare Act based on the nature of their threat. Instead, the 2013 extension of the law made a proposal that those carrying out the tests should make use of animals like rats and mice in performing such experiments. The law allowed use of animals through authorization by the government only in the cases where there are no alternatives. However, the government should come up with laws that eliminate the clause allowing for the use of animals in research as the researchers use the excuse of no alternative in using the higher conscious animals. It is fair for the government to abolish the use of animals in research entirely.
Animal rights require protection; hence, the law should be made stricter to protect them from human exploitation. Like it is inhumane to harm or hurt a person, so should be the actions that are cruel to animals. Research should be carried out in the country to establish the ways of making the legislations more effective in protecting the welfare of animals. It is imperative to move further than the minimum acceptable standard as it is the case using the current laws. Besides the development of the new laws, there should be effective agencies for the reinforcement of current acts. In addition, stiffer penalties should be used against those found guilty of violating the laws. Like the protection of human rights is a fundamental legal principle, so should the animal rights. With such measures, the welfare of animals will be protected more effectively.
Humans Differ From Humans
Animals are not the same as humans, one of the reasons used by the opponents of human rights in claiming that animals cannot fight for their rights and thus, should not be granted the rights. A research done by Descartes, revealed that animals are unconscious being and are likened to robots which make any action through a command. On the contrary, humans can make conscious decisions and can tell the difference between the right and the wrong. In fact, such are the reasons why animals attack and kill humans based on the reported cases where dogs and horses kill their owners. Animals, supposedly tamed have escaped their cages in game parks and attacked humans. Such differences make animals lower, regarding mental capacity compared to humans.
Therefore, based on the aspect of lack of consciousness some people do not even consider honoring, promoting, or protecting the rights of animals. Some also claim that animals cannot feel fear or pain since they lack the emotional capability. However, this is not necessarily the case since even the children and other individuals with mental problems have rights. Therefore, animals deserve to be treated with respect and dignity because of their desire to live. In essence, it is evident that just as humans, provocation is the reason for some animals to become aggressive and that should not be used as the reason to deny them their rights. Research has indicated that animals handled fairly and provided the necessary support to have a good life tend to serve the people in a better way compared to those that are not. Thus, the issue of consciousness should not be taken into account, but that of if or not the animal is receiving good environment to survive and thrive.
Some alternatives can be used in the efforts to protect animals from use in experimentation. Some of the ways for addressing the inhumane treatment of animals are replacement, reduction, and refinement. Replacement suggests the substitution for a live and conscious animal. In this case, the aspect can be used in the form of mannequin or models of animals. The method refers to the reduction of the quantity of the animals necessary to gather information. Refinement is the decrease of the harshness or frequency in the use of animals. In practice, the three processes are more successful when applied in an overlapping aspect. For example, where refinement is not adequate to provide the necessary results, there should be use of reduction and potential replacements. Where such options are used, there will be a reduction in the threat on animals used in research.
Some alternatives have developed in the contemporary science and technology which can be used in the place of animal testing. A good example is the use of mannequin animals used in place of real or cloned animals. Koken Rat, created from silicon, is a good example of a model that can be used in the place of an actual cat. Given the fact that the model has the similar composition as the real animal, the outcome of the experiment will be the same as where a real animal is used. Technology has brought possibilities in experimentation that can save the lives of the animals from the inhumane treatment. In essence, the in vitro cell culture approach rather than the in vivo testing of animals, as well as the utilization of in silico computer simulations, have provided such possibilities to save the lives of animals. In explanation in silico computer simulations, it is suggested that use of models and computer simulations would be more appropriate rather than the use of the live animals. On the other hand, in vitro research would embrace such aspects where the use of cells or microorganisms of animals away from their usual biological contexts, like in the lab setup; for instance the use test-tube experiments.
Research is proving that just like humans, animals have rights that should be promoted and protected. Nonetheless, regardless of the legal efforts to ensure the welfare of the animals, they have continued to be used in various fields, something that should be minimized. Research also contrasts the idea that animals differ from humans as they lack conscious emotions and the capability to feel. However, it is evident that animals have all these capabilities. In fact, just as children and the mentally incompetent individuals have their rights respected, so should be the rights of the animals. The laws to protect the welfare of the animals should eliminate their use in different fields, including agriculture, hunting entertainment, and in research. Animals both domesticated and in the wild should be treated with respect and dignity. Those domesticated for use by humans should be treated with care, given food and everything else that they need to survive and thrive. Those in the wild should not be subjected to harm or death through hunting or entertainment. Animals should not be used at all in experimentation, in which case, alternatives should be sought in creating drugs or consumer products. Just like humans are protected from harm, so should animals regardless of the fact that they have a lower level of consciousness than humans. In essence, the government needs to use stricter measures to ensure that this end is achieved as the current laws remain inadequate.
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