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Animal Rights…What is Humane?
Animal Rights…What is Humane?

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It is our duty to maintain the natural balance of our environment by protecting the animals and ensuring them certain rights to life, just the same as we have the right to live. Animal cruelty and the struggle for animal rights is a battle that has been fought for centuries. Although many scientists believe that animal cruelty and human cruelty are linked, state legistlatures are improving at a painfully slow rate. Animal cruelty takes many forms, but the most common are neglect, animal hoarding, puppy mills, and seal hunting. By examining the history of the animal rights battle, it is easy to see that many people care about what happens to animals, and that there are many different ways to take a part in the effort to gain animal rights. Each state is allowed to set their own laws, as long as they follow the federal laws that have been laid, however, between states, laws differ greatly because even the definition of the word “animal” has many different meanings to people in different states. This also makes it difficult to set fair penalties for people who violate animal rights laws.

“Animal Rights…What is humane?”

Every year high school kids all over the country involved in biology classes are given an assignment to dissect a fetal pig. Each student or pair of students is given a scalpel, dissecting tray and a fetal pig, along with a sheet of paper showing incisions and directions on how to open this pig. Although it is proven that there is no substitute for hands on learning, I feel that this assignment could be just as well learned through a model pig or by a computer simulation. I have seen first hand twice in my life how these fetal pigs are mutilated by immature high schoolers who seem to forget that this little pig was living at one time. One teacher even gave extra credit to the students who could successfully remove the brain and eyes of the pig. This is just one example of animal cruelty. Many educators may argue that the educational value outweighs the value of the pig, but I strongly disagree. As the dominant species on this planet, it is easy for us to forget about the other living things that we share this planet with. It is our duty to maintain the natural balance of our environment by protecting the animals and ensuring them certain rights to life, just the same as we have the right to live.
What exactly is animal cruelty? A general definition provided by online wikipedia says that animal cruelty treatment which causes unacceptable suffering or harm to animals. Unfortunately “unacceptable” leaves a large space between what one considers cruel to the next person.
Many people and scientists believe that animal cruelty can be directly linked to human cruelty. Many mass murderers have confessed to starting off with small animals and eventually worked their way up to humans “just for the fun of it”. Michael Cartier pulled the legs off of a rabbit when he was just four years old. He also threw a kitten through a closed window. His crime was that he shot Kristin Lardner in the head three times. She died. Albert De Salvo (The Boston Strangler) performed a sick routine before he started killing people. He would place a separator between a cat and dog, starve them both, and when he felt they were hungry enough he would remove the separator and watch the animals try to eat each other. He later raped and killed nine women by strangling them. Jeffery Dahmer participated in the deliberate murders of animals using his car. Later he murdered seventeen men. Next, Randy Roth taped a cat to a cars engine and used a belt sander on a frog. He then killed two of his wives and attempted to kill a third. Another unfortunate example is Luke Woodham. He set fire to his dog Sparkles. He poured accelerant down her throat and then set fire to her neck, both inside and out. He then went on a shooting spree which killed a sixteen and a seventeen year old girl after stabbing his own mother to death. He was sixteen when he went on his rampage. These cases represent only a fraction of the animal cruelty that is happening everyday…unfortunately animal cruelty was a gateway for murderers.
It is apparent that patterns of animal cruelty are developed at a young age. A few ways to prevent your child from developing these cruel tendencies are:

Do not ignore even minor acts of cruelty. Correct the child.
Take seriously children’s reports of animal abuse in the home, by a parent or child, it could ultimately put the child at risk for abuse to himself.
Report any suspect animal neglect/abuse to your local animal welfare agency.
Support legislation upgrading animal cruelty from a misdemeanor to a felony.
Finally, spread the word about humane treatment of animals.

There are many different types of animal abuse. One type is animal neglect. This is defined as failure to provide adequate care or adequate control of an animal, resulting in substantial harm to that animal. Animal neglect is a class C misdemeanor and is punishable by a maximum 15 day jail term and/or a fine that may not exceed five hundred dollars. That is hardly a sufficient punishment for such a heinous crime. Of course, it also has to be proved that the neglect was in fact intentional, which in nine out of ten cases it can not be proved.
Secondly there is the issue of “animal hoarding”. Animal hoarding has been linked to an obsessive compulsive disorder and causes a person to have substantially more than the typical number of animal companions. The large number of animals in one place inevitably means that there is insufficient shelter, nutrition, sanitation, and veterinary care which will also lead to starvation, illness, and death. Animal hoarding is also characterized by denial of the human inhabitant. The human can not believe that they are incapable of caring for their companions so therefore will not take responsibility if the animals become ill or die.
One example of animal hoarding happened in Los Angeles. Over 600 animals were found in the home of a woman. When she was arrested on suspicion of animal cruelty the animal control officials found ill and dead animals around the house. Some of the animals were starving and some so beyond veterinary help that they had to be euthanized (The act or practice of ending the life of an individual, in this case an animal, suffering from a terminal illness or an incurable condition, as by lethal injection or the suspension of extraordinary medical treatment.) by Animal Services. The woman insisted the animals were well-cared for and her home was clean, despite all of the evidence that was apparently to the contrary. She refused to voluntarily surrender the animals to animal control because she was afraid that they would be euthanized. This woman could be described as an animal hoarder. She fits all of the described symptoms, and although it seems that her heart was in the right place, she simply could not see that she was harming the animals more than she was helping them.

Another form of animal cruelty is puppy mills. Puppy mills are the breeding grounds for pure bred dogs. These puppy mills are in the poorest conditions possible. PETA did an undercover investigation on a puppy mill in Kansas called Nielson Farms. They observed small dogs in even smaller wire cages. Sure, they had food and water, but that is not enough to produce a healthy puppy. These dogs have not gotten the proper veterinary attention they need. PETA saw dogs with palm sized sores on their back ends from sitting in the wire cages all day and night, and the pads on their paws were bleeding from being forced to stand on the thin wire as well. They saw a little Labrador retriever that had outgrown his collar but it was never adjusted. The gangrenous skin around it was peeled away with the collar but the wound was only treated with a squirt of worm repellant spray. Tiny dogs who were cage mates with larger dogs were often terrorized by the larger dogs to the point that they were not eating or drinking. Perhaps the most extreme case of neglect and abuse on this puppy mill were the poor mothering dogs who are forced to breed short after giving birth to a litter. These dogs had gone made from confinement and loneliness. These poor dogs paced back and fourth in their puny cages, their pacing being the only way to cope with their despair. Fortunately, just weeks after PETA’s investigation Nielson Farms was shut down.
More recently, as seen in the news this week, Canadians are catching a fierce battle with animal rights activists everywhere. Canada’s largest seal cull is underway despite heavy protest. The Canadian government is allowing over three hundred thousand seals to be killed for their skins. The seal hunt in Newfoundland and Labrador decreased twenty five years ago as images of hunters clubbing infant seals horrified TV viewers across the world. The US banned imports of seal products in 1972 and the European Union followed a decade later with a ban on white pelt imports taken from the youngest babies. Now, however, fur has come back into the fashion industry and Canada has raised the quota from fifteen thousand seals allowed to be killed to over a million (over a three year span). The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) says government guidelines on humane hunting methods are being ignored. “We filmed and witnessed seals being skinned alive right in front of us,” IFAW activist Rebecca Aldworth told Reuters news agency last week.
“We saw live seals being dragged while conscious across the ice with boat hooks; we saw stockpiles of dead and dying seals. It was really horrific.” (1) In this case money is the driving force behind this crime against animals, and despite heavy protest around the world the government ignores their immoral actions.
The history of animal rights can be traced back to the late 18th century. This movement began to halt animal cruelty that was happening in England and America. In England, a man named Richard Martin made an attempt to convince the English Parliament that some animals have some rights. The Parliament passed a bill for the prevention of cruel and improper treatment of cattle. This was a huge accomplishment for animal rights activists in both England and America because after the bill was passed similar bills were passed in New York (1825), Massachusetts (1835), Connecticut (1838), and Wisconsin (1838). During this time also, the “Anti-Vivisection” movement began. Vivisection means to cut an organism while it is still alive.
Around this time many animal rights organizations began to form. In England, the first Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) was formed in 1824. Next, in 1866, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) was formed and founded by Henry Berg. After that, many large cities formed their own chapters of SPCA. New York was first in 1867, then Philadelphia also in 1867, and Boston the following year. These organizations made it possible to pressure congress who then passed laws “prohibiting the repetition of experiments on animals for the purposes of teaching or demonstrating well known accepted facts”. In the 1950’s the formation of The American Welfare Institute and The Humane Society of the United States marked another large stepping stone for today’s animal rights activists.
During the 1970’s three main protection groups formed and they varied in their tactics and philosophies. The three groups are Welfarists, Pragmatists, and Fundamentalists. Welfarists accepted most current uses of animals, but wished to minimize their suffering and pain. The ASPCA is an example of a Welfarist organization. Pragmatists were more radical. They felt that certain species (such as endangered species) deserved more consideration that other types of animals. They agreed with the use of animals if the use benefited the animals more than it made them suffer. They aimed at reducing the animal use through legal actions, political protest, and negotiations. An example of a pragmatist is Henry Spira who devoted half of his life to fighting for animal rights. Finally, fundamentalists were even more extreme in their approach. Fundamentalists believed that people should never use animals for their own pleasure or interests, regardless of the benefits. The Animal Liberation Front (ALF) is a good example of a fundamentalist group. They used illegal methods (breaking into labs, freeing animals and damaging equipment) and rejected existing animal protection laws. Many fundamentalists took it to the extreme of not believing in having pets and becoming vegetarian or vegan.
More recent organizations such as People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) have taken this fight one step further. PETA, who has over seven hundred thousand members, is the largest animal rights organization in the world. It was established and founded in 1980 and it is dedicated to protecting the rights of animals. PETA operates under the philosophy that animals are not ours to eat, wear, experiment on, or use for entertainment. PETA focuses on what they believe to be the largest four areas in which animals suffer. These areas are on factory farms, in laboratories, in the fur trade, and in the entertainment industry. They also work with a variety of other issues including cruelty toward junkyard dogs, the brutal killing of beavers, birds, and other “pests”. PETA works through public education, cruelty investigations, research, animal rescue, legislations, special events, celebrity involvement, and direct education.
The Alliance for Animals is one of the most prominent organizations in the state of Wisconsin that is dedicated to increasing awareness of cruelty to animals and “promoting the humane treatment of our fuzzy (and scaly) little friends”.
The Alliance for Animals advances its goals through demonstrations, media outreach, conferences, investigations, legislation, and person-to-person contact. They contact their members through their website bi-monthly.
Lastly, but certainly not least, there is IDA (In Defense of Animals). IDA was started by one person who naively believed that if she acted with character and exposed the horrors that are taking place in today’s laboratories the outraged public would act on it and the cruelties would end over night. What she came to find out was that people were well aware of how these animals were being treated, they just did not care enough to be actively involved. The skin of the public was calloused and could not be broken. There were only those occasional caring people who dedicated a few of their hours a week. In Defense is one of the new organizations and they stick out like a sore thumb. Their members include only a couple thousand nationwide.
Today, there are two different types of animal cruelty objection. The first one is welfare. Animal welfare is what the majority of the world thinks about animal cruelty. It is a part of culture, there are laws to protect animals, rules for the treatment of farm animals, and many unwritten customs-all expressing the belief that animals should not be cruelly treated. People have a duty to look after their animals to the best of their ability. Many people who believe in animal welfare also believe that animals should be reared for food, hunted for sport, and in extreme cases killed if they become a problem. There is no single definition of what is good or adequate animal welfare.
Animal rights is the philosophical viewpoint. Some people think “better conditions for animals” when they think of animal rights, but it actually goes substantially deeper than that. At the core of the animal rights philosophy is the belief that animals should be treated on the same level as humans, the same moral system. Some people believe that if you do not give the same consideration to animals as you would another human being that you are a “specialist”, in other words, racist against animals.
Current laws are very strict on animal cruelty. The laws that are still honored have been added to suit the times. For example, Massachusetts’ ninety-second article in its legal codes, called “The Body Liberties”, which stated that “No man shall exercise anything Tirrany or Crueltie towards any Bruite creature which are usuallie kept for man’s uses.” Now a days these kind of set laws exist not only at the state level, but at the federal level as well.
At the state level, every state has put into effect its own set of laws prohibiting the abuse of animals. There are two parts to these laws. First, these laws strive to protect animals from mistreatment by imposing a penalty on offenders. Second, anti-cruelty laws are there to instill morals into warped individuals by deterring all forms of violent human behavior. Since it is now widely known that animal cruelty can lead to other forms of violent behavior, individuals who can be deterred from animal cruelty might ultimately be deterred from other violent crimes. The state laws include all of the following information:
Summary of the text of the state’s statue
Definition of the term “animal”
Practices that are exempted from coverage
Year that the statue was most recently amended
Definition and classification of the crime for a violation the statue
Penalties for violations
Whether forfeiture or seizure of animals is allowed
Any other conditions a court may impose upon a defendant
Although each state has their own law, these statues do share common provisions. For example, most statues make it an act of cruelty to “overdrive, overwork, or work an animal when it is unfit for labor”. Other common provisions include abandonment, poisoning, and failure to supply animals with food, water, and shelter.
The definition of “animal” can also vary from state to state. Most would think that an animal would be any living creature other than humans. On the contrary, Alaska’s definition exempts fish from the definition of animal. Delaware does not include crustaceans or mollusks in its meaning of animal. Also, New Mexico’s explanation does not include insects and reptiles. The penalties can be quite great with animal cruelty, and as well they should be. In thirty one states one could go up to a felony level depending on how severe the crime is. New laws passed in 2000 have made the penalties even harsher.
As crazy and foreign these horror stories sound they could be happening right under your nose. Your neighbors could be mistreating their pets or your lab supplier could be killing your dissections unlawfully. You never know. The important thing is that, it only takes a minute to step out and check on your neighbors dog from time to time or call your lab supplier and ask about their policy on following laws. Sure, these steps may be out of your way, but what harm can they do? This does not have to be done every day or week, just take enough time to about our fuzzy (and scaly) friends. If we do not care for them who will? If they could I am sure they would take care of themselves but they cant. Just like humans can not live a life of loneliness. We would go insane. Animals feel the same way. So when you go home, give your dog some water and a pat on the head, or give your cat a treat and pet her back. Its not that hard, unless you decide not to care. If that is the case than the only question left to ask is: Why don’t you care?

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