Taking steps toward animal rights

There are too many news stories about animals being mistreated and abused, and I am sick and tired of it. Animals are helpless beings that do not deserve the treatment they receive from some people, whether that is abuse, neglect, or any other form of cruelty.

On Oct. 15, language on animal welfare was included in the United Nations agreed text in “Principles for Responsible Agricultural Investments.” This is the first time it has ever been included. It may be a small step, but we’ll take it.

According to World Animal Protection, formerly known as the World Society for the Protection of Animals, it will “help guide agriculture investments to have a greater focus on animal protection.”

Infographic: The Majority of animals used for testing and cosmetic research in 2013 were mice. Infographic courtesy of understandinganimalresearch.org
Infographic: The Majority of animals used for testing and cosmetic research in 2013 were mice.
Infographic courtesy of understandinganimalresearch.org

Stephanie Hengst, the California Lutheran University contracted veterinarian, said she believes there are two frames of mind in the animal world, those who believe in animal rights and those whose ideal focuses around animal welfare. She is a strong believer in animal welfare, as am I.

According to thefreedictionary.com, the definition of animal rights is “The right to humane treatment claimed on behalf of animals, especially the right not to be exploited for human purposes,” while animal welfare refers simply to the well-being of animals.

“As humans it is our responsibility to provide proper housing, humane handling, management, and proper medical care (this includes disease prevention and treatment) to all animals,” said Hengst in an email interview. “My goal as a veterinarian is to do no harm, and do my best to provide any animal that comes in my door with proper prevention and treatment as well as arm the owner with their best ability to care for their animals.”

Unfortunately, not all people have the mindset of wanting to do no harm to animals. Animal testing is something that still occurs, and it is wrong on so many different levels. Just because girls want to create “cat eyes” with their makeup, It doesn’t mean a bunny does too.

LUSH, an organic cosmetics brand, recently held an experiment with humans that showed what animals go through during animal testing. The person who volunteered for this experiment was not actually harmed, but the point was to publicly show what the animals endure.

Naturally people were horrified when they saw this experiment, but that was exactly the point. Unfortunately, it does not motivate people enough to want to go out and help. It may affect them for the rest of the day while they shop, but it does not resonate enough for people to want to join a cause to help these poor animals.

“The best method we are armed with [to stop animal mistreatment] is proper education,” Hengst said.

It is the duty of veterinarians and animal rights organizations to inform the public on how to properly treat animals.

Holly Webb, co-president for the Cal Lutheran Pre-Vet Committee, is also an advocate for animal welfare.

“Most veterinarians and people within the animal and agriculture industry are animal welfare [advocates]. That’s the view that animals don’t have rights but that we should take care of them,” Webb said.

People who believe animals deserve rights basically view them as people. We’ve all heard of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, more commonly known as PETA. They are very well known for fighting for animal rights, because they see animals as beings with emotions and feelings, just as humans do.

“Animal rights groups have been very beneficial toward animal welfare, because they have pushed for higher standards within the different industries,” Webb said. “These groups may be a bit extreme at times, but they have what is best for the animals in mind.”

Cal Lutheran does not do animal research very often, especially on warm-blooded animals, but when they do, they make sure to follow all of the laws and regulations.

“The limitations are specifically about care. There is federal law that requires they are cared for and housed well, fed well, and have proper kind of bedding,” said Steven Hawkins, professor and chair of exercise science at Cal Lutheran.

He said the only expectation is that they don’t suffer.

“Typically scientific projects use animals to look at mechanisms of physiology because the need to be really invasive is not possible with humans. There’s really no limitations,” Hawkins said.

The argument for animal testing is that it is better to do it on an animal than a human, because killing an animal is less of an offense than killing a human.

For obvious reasons, I can see why people have this viewpoint. We can’t just bring people into the laboratory and test on them until they eventually die. But it still saddens me that animals have to go through this, because even if they don’t have the same rights as us, they should still have the right to live freely.

 

Isabel Kirsch

Published October 29, 2014