There has always been a tension between mankind’s civilization and the existence of wild animals. This conflict is often decided in favor of mankind, although it has become more and more popular in recent years to stress the importance of animal rights. In this sample paper, the author makes a compelling case in favor of strong, positive animal rights. This paper analyzes the situation from the human perspective, the animal perspective, and compares the two to reach a final conclusion. In order to analyze the situation, it must be considered what the human species is, and how it came to be.
The Human-Animal Conflict
Since the dawn of the human age, man has always shared this planet with other members of the Animalia kingdom. Since the Homo sapiens species was derived through the process of evolution between 4 million and 2 hundred thousand years ago, a great separation has developed between the human species and the rest. As humans developed bipedalism and the mental capacity for language and tools, the species as a whole was elevated to a level of advancement far beyond that of any species (Smithsonian). As a result, they begin to feel a sense of entitlement.
As both the humans and animals face the common struggle of nature, survival, the interests of the party with advantage most certainly supersede the interests of the party with the disadvantage. What proceeds is a period of worldwide human expansion as they continue to further their knowledge of the world and its resources, while most other animals have yet to reach even bipedalism. What many fail to realize is that most, if not all, of the animals the humans co-inhabit the planet with have been around for just as long, or even longer than, the human species. Therefore, it is without doubt that they have the very same right to survival as is emphasized by all humans through the United Nations’ The Declaration of Human Rights. However, this right to survival of the animals is violated by humans consistently.
The process of a primate evolving into a human being does not happen overnight, nor does it happen all at once. On the contrary, it happens one little feature at a time, over a tremendously long period of time, over the course of many generations. Fortunately for the human species, these evolutions accumulated into what is by far one of the most advanced species on the planet.
Humans, the most advanced animal species
But what does it mean “to be the most advanced species on the planet” ? Well for one, humans have developed multiple highly advanced language and numerical systems. Humans have also developed the mental capacity to engage in a highly advanced process of rationalization. Perhaps most importantly, humans in using this process of rationalization began using resources around them and manipulating them to create material objects such as tools, easing the struggle of survival, allowing them to produce more new tools, easing the struggle of survival etc. What results is the rapidly industrialized world that has sprung in the past 200 years along with highly advanced communication technology and legal systems. Meanwhile, even the closest animal to primates, the dog, has yet to reach any sophisticated level of communication even with domestication.
As the humans grown and spread to all corners of the world, the animals are pushed further and further away. This is evident in the migration patterns of the human species from their place of origin, Africa, into Asia and Europe, throughout the important stages of their evolution. Important however, are the specific changes made in Europe during the period of pre-colonization. In his book Guns, Germs, and Steel, Professor Jared Diamond attempts to describe why Western countries have “so much”, while other countries, like those in Africa, have “so little”.
At the time of European expansion into the period of colonization, they enslaved Africans and brought them to the Americas. At the time, they argued that these “people” were in fact animals, and used physical differences in traits and culture as evidence. With the power of the gun, the enslaved were powerless as they were forced to choose between life and death (Diamond 1998). What ensued is a period of the rigorous use of slavery.
However, there came a time when some of those in power began to realize the wrongs of their practices. Even Thomas Jefferson, author of the conclusion of World War II, after the holocaust, argued for a end to slavery during the period after the revolution according to The Jefferson Monticello. Meanwhile, a New York Times article written by Paul Finkelman describes Thomas Jefferson as “a brutal hypocrite” (Finkelman).
These polar opposite view illustrate the conflict of interest faced by humans during this time of development. Where the European people as a whole had these great ideas and interests for advancement, their interests required a massive amount of labor. As a result, they justify their use of slavery (free labor) by claiming the Africans are animalistic beasts and proceed to pursue their interests. But, seeing the African possess similar qualities in oxygen, food and water consumption, as well as the processes of rationalization and communication, some of those in power, such as Thomas Jefferson, were able to realize the errors of their practices and begin to correct them. As with evolution, however, this does not take place overnight.
The Halocaust and World War II
It has been determined at Dog fighting is a blood sport, that all humans have certain unalienable rights that they are born with, and therefore should have protected. And as people work to make the world equal for those at a disadvantage (such as women), the issue of animal rights is left under-discussed. Unfortunately for the other animals that have been on this planet just as long as the humans, they lack the capacity to communicate and reason with the humans in power. Therefore, they are left at the mercy of the tools man has created, as the Africans were to the gun during the period of colonization. This is evident through the major underground black market industry known as dog fighting.
Animal Rights and Ecological Justice
scorching of the earth to make way for more human goods to consume that involves, as might be guessed, dogs fighting each other with the expected outcome of severe injuries or death to one of the parties or the other. This sport takes place on almost all of the world’s continents for the entertainment of those people. The opportunity for heavy monetary gains through admissions fees and gambling provides incentives for those involved to continue. The dogs have no choice but to participate, for they have no way of saying “no” or even how to say “no”.
It is known through clear observance of nature that the animal’s sole interest is to survive; yet what happens to the dog in fact is a complete larceny of that right. And when the dog is placed in the ring, it’s a killed or be killed situation in which the dog has no way out. The dog’s interests are taken as an expense for the human’s entertainment and profits. This is a clear example of human interests overriding animal rights; even tough the humans themselves are in fact animals. What shows is as we eliminated on problem even if it violated some of our interests, but in place a vacuum has given rise to other “rights problems”, even if they are not human.
Survival as a right, not just a human right
Animals have been born with the same objective as the humans, survival. Each animal lives its life seeking food and habitat to live out the course of its life. And while animals, including humans, have a right to expand and make that survival easier, there comes a point where the expansion invades another’s territory. It can be said undoubtedly that humans have invaded the territory of many animals. This is evident through man’s invasion of rainforests, rivers, and Just as history presented with Thomas Jefferson and slavery.
Also, they enslave certain species of animals in masses to reproduce and then slaughter them to feed the rest of their population. This builds up to one of life’s greatest discrepancies: The man needs to eat to survive, but almost everything that can reasonably be consumed is just as alive and deserving of life as the man. Such a complicated issue requires a complicated analysis.
There are certain times where murder is justifiable, such as in the case of self-defense. And if mosquitos invade a household bringing a deadly disease, the household has the right to exterminate the mosquitos from their household. But if a tiger is surviving in its jungle habitat and a company comes with bulldozers and destroys the jungle, the tiger has no chance of survival. Unlike the mosquito, this tiger possesses some process of rationalization. If it is hurt, it will run away, when it sees a gazelle, it feeds its hunger, and when it sees its cubs, it loves them and protects them. Maybe the tiger does not have the mental capacity to argue its right to territory in front of a judge, but it does not mean that right does not exist.
Injustice to animals
As we continue to notice injustice done to the animal kingdom, there are some highly intellectual thinkers, such as Thomas Jefferson, that point out these wrongs and work for a solution. Among these is Australian philosopher Peter Singer in his book Animal Liberation. The book shows a man stuck on the team with the advantage, the humans, but still notices the injustices suffered at the hands of the disadvantaged.
He is guided and contributed by British scholar, Richard D. Ryder and his works Victims of Science (1975) and Animal Revolution (1989). Both of their works give rise to the term “speciesism”, which is described as racism towards animals. Just as history presented with Thomas Jefferson and slavery, despite the horrors and wrongs that may be committed by humans according to their justifiable reasoning and self-interests, there are still those, although few in number, that pay attention to these injustices and work to resolve them. And just as evolution does not take place overnight, neither do these corrections.
Today we see the rights of animals being addressed through various different methods to many different levels of severity. Some hold the abolitionist view, which argue the complete halting of animal use for human interest. Some, such as Tom Regan in his book The Case for Animal Rights (1983), hold the deontologist view, arguing any “subject-of-a-life” is deserving to be treated as a part of the team, not a tool for the team. There are many other views on the rights of animals at the hands of humans such as sentiocentrism, protectionism, and even Jewish, Christian and Islamic views. With organizations and law coming into existence with the objective of protecting animals, we can be confident that at least something is being done to protect this group at a disadvantage from the hands of those with an advantage guided solely by their self-interests.
In conclusion, identified were the major distinctions that separate humans from all other members of the Animalia kingdom. Next, it was shown how this advanced species, in pursuit of resources accumulation to make the common struggle of surviving easier, invaded the territories of other, and even their own, to accomplish their objectives. These objectives disregarded the rights and objectives of other species attempting to do the same exact thing. It was eventually noted by impassioned intellectuals that the treatment of other humans with slight differences was an injustice, and so they efforts were made to remedy this injustice. In the modern era, we as a people see these same injustices taking place, and make efforts to remedy the situation. It can be concluded that just like evolution does not happen overnight, equal rights for every living being on this earth simultaneously overnight is unimaginable. But, it can be said with strong confidence that effective efforts have been and are being made as we continue through this ongoing transition forward that we call “life”.
Diamond, Jared M. Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies. New York: W.W. Norton &, 1998. Print.
Finkelman, Paul. “The Monster of Monticello.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 01 Dec. 2012. Web. 01 May 2013.
“Introduction to Human Evolution.” Human Evolution by The Smithsonian Institution’s Human Origins Program. N.p., n.d. Web. 01 May 2013.
Regan, Tom. The Case for Animal Rights. Berkeley: University of California, 2004. Print.
Ryder, Richard D. Animal Revolution: Changing Attitudes toward Speciesism. Oxford: New York, 2000. Print.
Ryder, Richard D. Victims of Science: The Use of Animals in Research. London: National Anti-Vivisection Society, 1983. Print.
Singer, Peter. Animal Liberation: The Definitive Classic of the Animal Movement. New York: Harper Perennial, 2009. Print.
“The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, UDHR, Declaration of Human Rights, Human Rights Declaration, Human Rights Charter, The Un and Human Rights.” UN News Center. UN, n.d. Web. 01 May 2013.
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