Animal Rights Essay

Pages: 7 (2596 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 5  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Animals

Animal Rights

Over the past several decades, the media and pro-animal groups have paid increasing attention to what Singer called in his 1983 book the "animal liberation movement."

The issue of Animal Rights has been argued from both sides for some time. Singer and similar activists advocate for the continued well being of all sentient beings that are conscious and feel pain. Otherwise, they consider it speciesism. Similarly, MacIntyre adds that animals are arbitrarily divided into "human" and "nonhuman" without any further consideration given to the fact that intelligent mammals have a lot more in common with humans than they do with reptiles and worms. He states that the simplicity of this human and animal dualism tends to obscure the extent and importance of the continuities between the two. MacIntyre exemplifies his argument by demonstrating the similarities between animals such as the dolphins and chimpanzees and humans in certain activities and capacities. He says that recognizing similarities is not just a matter of doing justice to animals, but to all of humanity, as well. It is important to see how those traits that are cherished in humans have emerged out of their basic animal nature.

On the other hand, individuals such as Anthony Kenny in Will, Freedom and Power clearly recognize that animals may have desires, thoughts and concepts, and act to achieve certain ends. For example, it is possible to say, without falling into the trap of anthropomorphism, that a dog thinks that a bone is buried by the flowers. However, this does not mean that this dog or other animals are an agent that acts for specific reasons or intentions as do humans, who are conscious and intentional. Kenny explains that an agent intends an action only if this person 1) knows he/she is doing it and 2) is doing it because of its own sake or to further some other end (56). Frey sides with Kenny in his distinction between animals and humans. He explains the difference between the two senses of "interest" and notes that animals have interests only in the sense that something could be seen as good or bad for them. He explains that humans can desire what they need or otherwise acknowledge it. In such a way, they have an interest in it. Animals can possess wants, a capacity attributable to all but the most marginal of human beings. However, this is not to say that these animals can take an interest in something extending far beyond their bodily needs. Animals lack beliefs, desires and wants, and only have needs.

It is possible to find a middle ground in this animal rights issue and list several points of agreement regarding what is ethically humane and for the animal's positive welfare. That is, the two opposing sides should be able to agree to the following without abandoning their basic positions: 1) Sentient animals do have sensations, such as pain, and emotional states, such as fear or suffering. Most recently, strong support has been growing for the proposition that at least vertebrate animals are very likely sentient (Rose and Adams); 2) In addition, many animals, at the very least mammals, are capable of having a variety of other mental states, such as distress and discomfort. Humane care consists of being cognizant of the animal's well being. This is why animal researchers are expected to use anesthesia or analgesia to reduce or eliminate pain and suffering; 3) Different animals have different needs. For example, highly social animals, such as apes, monkeys and wolves need social interaction with their own species and will naturally develop social structures with others like them, such as hierarchies and alliances. Depriving them of such relationships can cause harm; 4) Certain animals deserve to be protected, such as those that are endangered. There are also types of animals that when routinely killed, not for means of research, seriously disturb many people because of the role they play in a culture;

5) Alternatives to using animals for research, such as computer simulations, should be seriously sought to lessen any concerns of animal pain and suffering. In many cases, these alternatives could be an even more scientifically valid approach than traditional animal experimentation. Government and private organizations need to invest more than they have to date in the development of establishing such options to research; 6) Some animal research is justified in that it does not cause harm but is beneficial, for example observing animals in their natural habitats and conducting behavioral studies in laboratories; and 7) Housing conditions for research animals can and should be improved in both environmental and, when necessary, social aspects. These seven areas of agreement need to be kept in mind when looking at circumstances where animals are already located in experimental laboratories, captivity and zoos.

For example, a number of different threats have continually posed threats to many animal species and led to the need of captivity for the sake of the animals' continued well being and safety. Global warming is one such threat. Regardless of the underlying cause, a gradual increase in the Earth's temperature is significantly impacting wildlife habitats. Through evolution, polar bears have adapted to the Arctic conditions. Although they can handle subtle changes, specie adaptation is not possible when the pace of climate change is too great. Their ecosystem is the most sensitive to climate change. Research indicates that the polar bear habitat is melting faster than projected, and the extinction of these animals is a real possibility. As time passes, their population will suffer rapid decline. Except in captivity, statistics indicate that these bears may suffer extinction by year 2100. Some studies have information suggesting that as much as two thirds of the current population could disappear by 2050. To save them conservation efforts must attack the problem head on (Wildlife Conservation Society).

As with the polar bears, captivity is frequently seen as a means of benefitting the health and well being of animals if extinction is a major concern. Although the San Diego Zoo Wildlife Park has taken its hits due to keeping animals in captivity, it lists a number of what it calls "successes" (Eakins). These include the birth of 124 cheetahs since 1970; the birth of 91 southern white rhinos, 10 black rhinos and 50 Indian rhinos; the birth of 128 Przewalski's horses, the only truly wild horse species worldwide. The species was extinct in the wild, and many have been reintroduced to their natural habitat in Mongolia and China; the breeding of 300 Arabian oryx antelope, an animal that was near extinction in the 1960s. Some are now released to the wild in Saudi Arabia and Tunisia; and the breeding and introduction of California condors to the wild. This species has grown from 27 birds in 1987 to 305; of these, 140 are now released into the wild. In addition, the San Diego zoological park has established captive breeding or management programs of animals for reintroduction to the wild in other parts of the world. For example, they worked with Russia to preserve the Saiga, an antelope-like mammal.

Captivity has also helped a number of different animals that were becoming extinct due to predators and the billion dollar poaching black market (Claggett). The Mountain Gorilla, one of the two subspecies of the Eastern Gorilla, had been threatened by poaching, loss of habitat, and disease. After their cause was brought into the public's attention by conservationist Dian Fossey, their population has been able to remain stable at 340, an increase from over a decade ago. The Javan Rhinoceros once ranged from the islands of Indonesia, throughout Southeast Asia, and into India and China and was the most widespread of Asian rhinoceroses. Now it is believed to be the rarest large mammal on earth with only two known populations in the wild, and none in zoos. It is estimated that between 40 and 50 live in Ujung Kulon National Park on the island of Java in Indonesia and no more than 8 live in Cat Tien National Park in Vietnam. The decline of the Javan is blamed on poaching, especially for their horns, which are highly valued in traditional Chinese medicine. They can bring around $31,000 per kilogram on the black market. The Giant Panda, one of the most well-known endangered animals, is a mammal native to central-western and south western China. China has 239 Giant Pandas in captivity and another 27 living outside the country. The Giant Panda has been a target for poaching by locals since ancient times, and by foreigners since it was introduced to the West.

Although certain extreme individuals entirely oppose keeping wildlife in captivity, including zoos and aquaria, most recognize that this practice has continued for thousands of years' time and will continue to do so in the future. It is necessary, therefore, to do whatever is possible to ensure that these animals are maintained in a professional, humane and human manner (Martin, Wilson and Carpenter). Captivity poses a variety of challenges regarding ethical questions [END OF PREVIEW]

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