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Animal Rights: Animals Have Feelings Too
Pierre Troubetzkoy once said, “Why should man expect his prayer for mercy to be heard by What is above him when he shows no mercy to what is under him” (Quotations About Animal Rights). An ongoing debate in our society has been questioning whether animals should be treated like “things” with no inner-self or as a being with an essence. In the short story “The Most Dangerous Game,” the main character, Rainsford, claims that animals have no feelings. He hunts all sorts of animals and shows no compassion. After Rainsford gets hunted by the antagonist, Zaroff, he realizes, as a hunted animal, since he has feelings of terror, animals must too. Both sides of the debate have valid points. Rational thinking says that animals do have feelings. We can tell this by their nurturing abilities, survival abilities, and feelings of fear. The other side of the debate says that the strong survive, we must conquer those under us in the food chain, and that animals do not show fear but instinct. A few organizations, like the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) or People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), know animals should have rights and have set goals to help save these animals. People should not kill animals just because they have the ability. Animals have souls and feelings too.
The HSUS and PETA are two of the uppermost animal rights protection organizations on the planet. HSUS is supported by about one in every twenty-eight Americans or eleven million people. HSUS' main purpose is to take care of abused animals. PETA is nationally recognized also. PETA organizes many demonstrations such as killing of animals for fur called “Give Fur the Cold Shoulder” or the campaign against animal abuse through adoption called “Adopt; Don't Buy”. “PETA’s founders sought to give caring people something more that they could do (to help animals) and to provide them ways to actively change society” (PETA's History: Compassion in Action). PETA's first act to make people aware of animal abuse was to promote a healthy vegan diet and show how easy it is to shop cruelty-free. This made a difference in the way people viewed animals.
The animal rights movement traces its roots all the way back to the late 18th and early 19th century. Anti-cruelty to animals bills were first passed in New York in 1828, Massachusetts in 1835, and in Connecticut and Wisconsin in 1838. On April 10th, 1866, Henry Bergh began the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA). Then, in 1874, animals were legally protected from inhumane treatment, even when children weren’t. Finally in 1954, HSUS was established. Their mission is to create a world that is sustainable and humane, a world that will benefit humans and animals. HSUS made animal issues an important subject to a large number of Americans in the 1980s, with membership in HSUS increasing by 500%. Wayne Pacelle became president of HSUS in 1994. Commending the human – animal bond, the HSUS is one of the most reliable voices in the world.
HSUS supported the animal rights by “working to reduce suffering and to create meaningful and social change for animals by advocating for sensible public policies, investigating cruelty and working to enforce existing laws, educating the public about animal issues, joining with corporations on behalf of animal-friendly policies, and contributing hands-on programs that make ours a more humane world” (About Us: Overview).
In 2005 the HSUS made some changes in the culture, on humanity, and with animal laws. Pacelle announced the formation of a new “Animal Protection Litigation Section” within the HSUS, and dedicated it to the process of the research, preparation, and prosecution animal protection lawsuits in state and federal courts.
One of the major successes was when Pacelle had one of his biggest wins in Florida where an initiative passed that gave constitutional rights to pregnant pigs. A consequence of that win made it illegal for Floridian farmers to use “gestation crates.” Many farmers had to kill their animals as a result, and the pork industry in Florida is almost extinct. To this day, the HSUS keeps a track record in Congress, state councils, corporate boardrooms, and courthouses of effectiveness that has led to many significant accomplishments for animals. On the local to the national level, HSUS has opposed dog breeding, conventional livestock and poultry farming, rodeos, circuses, horse racing, marine aquariums, and fur trapping. HSUS has become so recognizable that local animal shelters are able to use the Humane Society name.
Unfortunately, there are some failures to animal rights, and HSUS, as well. This organization is big, wealthy, and very powerful. It is truly a “humane society” in its name, but in its name only. Many people are unaware that HSUS raises enough money to finance animal shelters in every state, and still has money to spare, but HSUS doesn't operate any of them. Instead, they spend millions of dollars on programs that seek to economically cripple meat and dairy producers; eliminate the use of animals in biomedical research labs; phase out breeding, zoos, and circus animal acts; and demonize hunters as crazed lunatics (Humane Society of the United States). The money they have should be used to finance local animal shelters too. This is why so many animal shelters are small, in poor condition, with volunteer workers only, and with enough money to keep some animal shelters open. This leads to more animal abuse since in some areas there is no place to take the animal that needs shelter or rescuing.
Different animal right organizations have tried to rid us of another abuse situation/water mammal abuse. Dolphins are very social and fun loving mammals, but when dolphins are captured and put into these facilities, they are ripped violently and traumatically away from their social units. Also, many people of the world look at mammals, like dolphins and whales, as a delicacy. Even though it is illegal to hunt dolphins and whales, no one can prevent these other countries from hunting them. One of these countries is Japan. The Japanese hunt these beautiful creatures often and mercilessly kill the sea mammals. There are some animal activists, like the Sea Shepherd, who are doing everything to stop these abhorrent, remorseless beings from whaling. Pacelle has said, “We will see the end of wild animals in circus acts... [and we're] phasing out animals used in research. Hunting? I think you will see a steady decline in numbers”. Although we haven’t seen any changes yet.
This animal rights debate has made the news more than once. On February 24, 2010, a debate occurred because Tilikum, the oldest male killer whale at SeaWorld, had killed 40 year old SeaWorld trainer, Dawn Brancheau. The issue was what should happen with Tilikum? Tilikum had already been liable for two previous deaths, one in Canada and another at SeaWorld, Orlando before. The two options in the issue were either killing Tilikum or setting Tilikum free. The Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) prevented Tilikum from being killed and Tilikum was too important of a whale to just set free. If they had set Tilikum free, then there might have been chaos at beaches because people would think there was a killer orca on the loose. In the end, the court’s decision was to keep Tilikum isolated from all the whales and none of the trainers can swim with any of the orcas until further notice.
The clubbing of baby seals in Canada and Alaska is a very brutal process where a single man, or a group of men, have a club like a pickaxe and hit the baby seal until it is dead. Then the team of clubbers takes the carcass to the boat where they transfer it to a manufacturing company that skins dead animals. After they are skinned, the corpse is thrown away. None of the blubber, fat, meat, or bone is used. As for the skin, it is taken to be dried and cleaned, then put in a store to sell. This is useless malice. HSUS and PETA work to show us that animal cruelty is not a necessity. As perfectly stated by Murray Banks, “No one in the world needs a mink coat but a mink” (Quotations about Animal Rights).
In this world, we daily “confront national and global cruelties through major campaigns targeting the barbaric practices of dog fighting and cockfighting; abuse puppy mills where dogs are treated not like family but like production machines; the worst cruelties of factory farming in modern agribusiness such as confinement of animals in crates and cages; inhumane and unsporting hunting practices such as “canned hunts” of captive exotic animals; the slaughter of American horses for export to foreign countries where horse meat is considered a delicacy; and the clubbing of baby seals and other animals for the commercial fur trade” (About Us: Overview).
Through all these regulations and the debate of animal rights, an impact has been made on society. This has made people aware of cruelty. By making public animal cruelty and abuse cases, and by creating laws which control this cruelty, people realize that by killing these animals, they are killing themselves. By killing these animals, the food chain diminishes. If whales are being killed, then sharks and other animal populations that depend on that animal will suffer by being reduced. The “survival of the fittest” causes animals to search for another source of food. Killing the orca or other animals that feed on sharks will affect the sharks by causing the population of sharks to climb. With more sharks there will be more death to humans who live near coastal waters and swim in the ocean. This could also affect our economy because then sharks will eat more fish, the commercial fishermen won't have fish to catch, and then we won't have fish to eat!
In the state of Arkansas, there are certain laws for Animal Cruelty. In the Arkansas code of 1987, § 5-62-101, Cruelty to Animals, a person commits cruelty to an animal if; one, abandons any animal; two, subjects animal to any exploitation; three, subjects any animal of his/her custody to neglect or; four, kills or injures any animal belonging to another without any legal privilege or consent of the owner (Arkansas Anti-Cruelty Statutes). Also according to the Arkansas Cruelty to Animals state law, cruelty to animals is a Class A misdemeanor. In addition to this, the court may subject anyone found guilty of the cruelty of animals to psychiatric or psychological counseling or treatment. Last, but not least, if any person is found guilty, if the defendant pleads guilty, or nolo contendere to, the court is permitted to allocate the abused animal to a society which is incorporated for the prevention of cruelty to animals.
In today's society we can see the debate's influence. There are multiple debates regarding animals and animal rights and what we should do with these animals. For example, should swimming with dolphins in Las Vegas be banned or not? Should we put a stop to the slaughter of Yellowstone Bison or not? These debates and more can be found on websites like http://animals.change.org/.
Another example is the debate over the number of dogs that breeders can have in Jefferson City, MO. Missouri has the largest dog breeding industry of every state in the country. It is home to at least one-third of all licensed breeders by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Missourians will vote on ballot initiative Proposition B on November 2nd, and anyone who fails to follow these new regulations could and will be charged with a Class C misdemeanor. The Proposition B would allow all dog breeders to hold 50 female dogs for breeding per facility at a time. This would also emphasize the need of sanitary food, hygienic water, living space, veterinary care, standard exercise, and adequate rest between each dog’s breeding session.
The animal kingdom is not here for us to destroy as we see fit. We should protect creatures “lesser” than us, not just kill because we are at the top of the food chain. In the words of James Anthony Froude, of Oceana 1886, “Wild animals never kill for sport. Man is the only one to whom the torture and death of his fellow creatures is amusing in itself” (Quotations About Animal Rights).