Animals Suffer Around the World
Michael W. Fox
I am often
asked what are the worst kinds of animal suffering in the world today? With
some 30 years experience as a veterinarian and animal care advocate working in
the US and in poor third world countries, I offer the following review. This
will, I hope, encourage international efforts focusing on improving the human
condition to also address animal concerns because Human Wellbeing depends on
the integration of Animalcare with Earthcare and Peoplecare.
Animal health, environmental health, and public
interwoven, but have been so neglected and disconnected that millions of people
around the world are
starving and diseased, along with their livestock, while on out of every four
Americans become ill every year from food poisoning. Similar numbers are
metabolically dis-eased (obese), have compromised immune systems, are dying from
cancer, as are their companion dogs and
of domestic animals improves public health and the livestock-based economy. A
healthy population of domestic animals also means fewer diseases being spread
to wildlife, an aspect of conservation that is too often neglected, along with
livestock invasion and livestock-keepers’ annihilation of indigenous predators
like the tiger and the wolf, the Bushman and the lion.
on how animals suffer around the world for many of the same reasons that people
do, will also help encourage donors, from both private and corporate and
government sectors, to give more support to animal and environmental care and
protection worldwide, and dispel the erroneous view that people must come first
and that human well-being has no connection with animal care and environmental
suffering is a worldwide problem. Most of their suffering is associated with
human poverty – insufficient resources to care for animals – as well as human
ignorance, indifference, need and greed. Progress in animal welfare and
protection, and ultimately liberation of animals from cruel domination and
exploitation, entails greater public recognition of the worldwide plight of
animals wild and domestic.
As we rank
animal suffering in terms of severity, we must consider the duration of
suffering, especially the deprivation of basic physical and psychological
needs, chronic diseases, malnutrition and cruel methods of human domination and
wild, animal suffering is minimized by predation where carnivores kill and
consume sick, aged and injured animals and help regulate herbivore numbers and
prevent habitat destruction from overpopulation/overgrazing. But wildlife suffer
from a host of human
influences, from habitat encroachment and destruction, and fall victim to
trapping, hunting, poisoning, and diseases spread from infected domestic
animals who compete with wild herbivores for food and with wild carnivores for
extinction process is being accelerated for wildlife by these and other
anthropogenic factors, including global warming, agrichemical poisons and
industrial pollution, the plight of domestic animals is no less pervasive
around the world; and their suffering is more severe because their lives are
not mercifully and swiftly ended by natural predators. Instead, their existence
continue because of various human influences, be it the garbage that keep third
world dogs and much livestock alive; and the antibiotics and vaccines that keep
factory farmed livestock alive to grow quickly for slaughter.
First, I would rank third world
street dogs, in terms of the sheer duration and degree of agony that
the animals suffer, and in view of the numbers of animals so suffering.
Millions are slowly eaten alive by mange, maggots, and internal parasites, and
endure only so long as they can find enough food so that they do not die from
starvation first, or before rabies or distemper puts an end to their lives.
Some of these common diseases that are easily
frequently transmitted to humans, especially children. Consequently, dogs who
are sick are often shunned, stoned, and clubbed. In order to control such
zoonotic diseases, both sick and healthy free-roaming dogs are often poisoned
by local authorities with strychnine, or are caught and killed with an
injection of Epsom salts, or are electrocuted, drowned, or killed with engine
exhaust fumes. Periodic dog roundups and the killing of dogs, many of whom are
owned and valued by the community, cause much anguish especially to children
who witness the mass dog massacres. In the absence of spay, neuter and
vaccination programs, these mass dog killings must be repeated at regular
intervals as the dog population increases.
Second, I would rank the plight of the
beasts of burden in the third world – the goaded and overburdened donkeys,
bullocks (oxen), ponies, horses, camels, lamas, and water buffalo. Veterinary
services are either too costly, or not available when needed for most of these
poor creatures, who, if too ill or crippled and malnourished to work any more,
are simply abandoned to fend for themselves.
would rank in Third place all the billions of livestock in the third world
who suffer seasonal starvation, die from thirst, and from the many diseases
that they too often spread to wildlife with devastating consequences. The suffering
of cattle, buffalo, goats and
sheep is aggravated by chronic overgrazing and lack of adequate feed and
veterinary care in most developing countries, and especially for the “sacred”
cows of India where the religious taboo against slaughter means slow death from
malnutrition and disease for millions of discarded, nonproductive cattle.
would put in Fourth place all caged, chained and confined animals, no matter
how ‘well fed’ and ‘kept clean’ they might be.
These include the billions horrendously confined
overcrowded animals in factory farms being raised for their eggs, flesh, fur,
and for their offsprings’ own milk, and for various medical products (like
pregnant mare urine and bile from bears in China). In this fourth rank are all
creatures who spend their lives
incarcerated in small zoo and circus enclosures and cages, or spend a life in
chains like the working and temple elephants, who have been beaten until their
spirits are broken into obedience. Also
in fourth place I put the millions of animals – mice, rabbits, monkeys, cats,
dogs and many other deprived species -- who live their entire lives in small
cages and are bred and used in often unnecessary and painful medical and
military research experiments, and in commercial product safety tests.
Fifth in the suffering rank are various
wild animals that humans kill, like
those who are trapped for their fur; who are shot and only too often not
quickly killed by non-subsistence “sports” and trophy hunters, and those like
the coyote and the panther are poisoned or killed by other cruel means by
government and private agents.
Sixth in rank of suffering are the confined
“pets” of the affluent sectors of first and third world countries, from
guinea pigs and rabbits to parrots and parakeets, who are too often deprived of
any contact with their own kind, and are forced to live in small cages for
most, if not all, of their lives.
many other human uses and abuses of animals, from horse and greyhound racing and
bull fighting and dog and cock
fighting, to animal circuses and “canned” trophy hunting, that can be added
to the above holocaust list and categorization in terms of severity of
justification/rationalization of human need, be it economic,
scientific-medical, or emotional and social/traditional, for the continued
exploitation and suffering of animals, be it long- or short-term, must be
examined from a bioethical perspective.
From this perspective, we ask is it necessary, is it avoidable, and are
there alternatives to satisfy our needs and wants that will eliminate or
minimize the suffering of animals?
The fatalistic acceptance of animal suffering
countries is linked with the hopelessness of people, often oppressed, living in
abject poverty. The politics of animal welfare and liberation, and wildlife
conservation, are closely tied to the human condition. Human overpopulation and
poverty are only part of the problem. Corruption and misappropriation of funds
and other resources to help people and animals are major factors that many
governments and non-government organizations continue to deny or discount, and
blame all on human poverty and overpopulation, which is used as a scapegoat.
perception of animals determines how we treat them and whether they suffer
under our dominion or not. Behind our
perception and treatment of animals lie our needs, wants, values, and cultural
and religious traditions. Until these are addressed, and our perception changed
so that there is empathy, respect and communion to end the holocaust of the
animal kingdom and the annihilation of the natural world, then the demise of
what we thought to be a civilized society will be certain. Already bankrupt
spiritually, the values of consumerism and materialism have brought us to the
brink of catastrophic climate change with the destruction of rainforests to
make kitchen floors and cabinets, the over-fishing of the seas, the poisoning
of the air and water, and the unhealthy foods and diets that bankrupt the
health care system.
virtues that makes us human – humility, compassion and selfless benevolence –
will not be crushed by the arrogance,
ignorance and selfishness of this epoch
when all who love trees and fellow creatures rise up and wise up the
politicians, the law makers and enforcers, and all the educators and managers
and keepers and users of animals and the natural environment. Reverential respect
for all life is enlightened self-interest.