The concept of human rights is such a controversial topic because of issues that involve abuse. From centuries ago until now, human rights are constantly violated and brought up in the mainstream media. However, there is something rarely spoken of but just as crucial as well – animal rights.
Do animals have rights? It is but a valid question like human rights. Even though we think of animals as less superior than us, they are living beings too that deserve to treated right by society. But doesn’t evolution teach us that we evolved from Primates? If that’s the case, we are animals too, in a sense, right?
Abusing animals is no more justifiable than abusing people, writes Peter Tatchell. The moral touchstone is sentience, not species, and the ‘humans first’ ideology of speciesism is analogous to homophobia, racism & misogyny. Cruelty is barbarism, whether inflicted on humans or on other species. We need to recognise and accept our common animal nature.
Since we humans are an animal species, it is obvious that human rights are a form of animal rights; and that animal rights include – or should include – the human species.
Sadly, not everyone sees it this way. Many view humans and other animals as totally distinct: drawing a clear, sharp line between animal rights and human rights.
That’s not my view. Sentience is the bond that unites all animal species, human and non-human. I accept our shared animalism and advocate our shared claim to be spared suffering and accorded inalienable rights.
It is true that other animals are less intelligent than humans and lack our mental-physical skills and our capacity for culture and conscience. But this is no justification for abusing them. Just as we do not sanction the abuse of humans – such as babies and disabled people – who lack these highly developed capacities.
We accept that we have a special responsibility to protect weaker, more vulnerable humans. Surely the same reasoning applies to other weaker, more vulnerable thinking, feeling creatures?
Even zoos are not exempted despite feeding and caring for animals. Animal rights supporters imply that the zoo is not their natural habitat and thus they suffer from alienation and the loneliness associated with living in cages and be forced to entertain people.
Steven Wise, president of the Nonhuman Rights Project and chief counsel for the only chimpanzee plaintiffs in U.S. court, told Salon that visiting captive wild animals in zoos or taking your child to a circus is at best an inauthentic experience, and cruel. “Do you really want to take your child to see a animals that are being abused for your entertainment?” he asked. “It’s not something to teach your children, at all.”
Wise has been crusading for the rights of nonhuman animals for 30 years, and on March 16, he will argue in New York State appellate court that two chimpanzees from a new documentary he’s featured in should be afforded “person” rights. The film, “Unlocking the Cage,” can be seen on HBO and chronicles one of the legal battles in which Wise advocated for several captive chimpanzees to be treated like people (long called “person” status) under the law, not things.
“Those animals are extraordinary and should be free,” said Wise. “Also, the animals you’re seeing in zoos and circuses are really not like animals in the wild. They have been captive for years and years, and it’s like looking at a human who’s been in solitary confinement.”
Yes, animals have rights too. They are living creatures that can also feel even though we often question their ability to think for themselves. As the more superior species, it is our responsibility to look after them and make sure that they live as they should – free from threats of poaching and hunting out in the wild.
When you put animals in cages or on leashes for whatever reasons, you deprive them of their right to be free and live as they should be. If the roles were reversed, how would you feel to be treated that way? So, let’s leave the animals alone because they thrived in this planet for centuries even without our help. The least we can do is to limit our carbon footprint and increase environmental conservation efforts as the animals suffer the most from the neglect and abuse we inflict on Mother Earth.