OF RIGHTS FOR ANIMALS & NATURE
MICHAEL W. FOX, B. Vet. Med., Ph.D., D.Sc., M.R.C.V.S.
We share this world with
other animals. They share our capacity to experience the pains and pleasures of
existence in their various modes of being, through which they contribute to the
life and beauty of the Earth: To the functional integrity of the natural
environment, upon whose healthy and productive ecosystems we humans and all
life depend. They seek physical comfort, freedom from pain and fear; and according
to their needs, seek emotional gratification as well as physical satisfaction
like we, and the security of social relationships.
The predominant belief that
humans are superior or categorically different from other animals in a
multitude of aspects we are the same. We live and breathe and flourish from the
same powers that create and nourish life, as we yield and succumb to those very
same forces that weaken and destroy life.
Humans are the dominant
species. There is no question that we can and do control the lives and
destinies of other species as well as our own. However, this aspect of our
being human is not the true measure of our worth, and purpose. What is most
remarkable about being human is not that we have the power and the intellect to
exploit and degrade other species, (as well as our own), but that we can use
this power of dominion to hallow, serve, and heal, and make the Earth whole and
healthy again. When we aspire to serve rather than destroy---to safeguard
rather than to squander---we have defined what it truly means to be human from
a bioethical, and operational perspective.
The humane treatment of
animals and the consideration of their needs not only safeguards these living,
feeling earth-relations of ours from harm and suffering, but also elevate and
refine the human spirit. If we can learn to be kind to, and consider the life
of the most feared and loathed as well as the most vulnerable and defenseless
---to those without the power to assert their will in our system of justice---then
and only then are we capable of learning how to be kind and just to each other.
We strive as a species along various ideological paths of progress toward peace
and prosperity, and thereby evolve apart from other animals who are by their
natures constrained to narrower paths that serve to greater good of the
planetary ecology and life community. Our strivings create a paradox, for our
moral progress and spiritual growth rest in the awareness that our treatment of
other beings is simply a reflection of how we treat each other.
All living beings are
endowed with sensory perception and varying degrees of cognition, and
therefore, warrant respect and moral consideration. They are part of the same
life or Earth community as we, and are linked with us biologically,
ecologically, economically, culturally and emotionally. The value of an
animals’ life cannot be measured simply in terms of human gratification or
perceived need. The worth of other animals, like any human’s, is inherent by
virtue of their very existence.
That animals exist and can
suffer pain and experience fear and pleasure requires that we do not lessen the
quality of their lives buy failing to give them equal consideration; by not
establishing mutually enhancing relationships and instead treating them as
objects, commodities; and by not conserving, preserving, and restoring the
habitats of the wild. As living, sentient beings, they are entitled to a life
free of pain and torment when confined to the various artificial habitats
within which humans place and use them as domesticated animals and captive
Those living in the wild are
entitled to fulfill their ecological roles and biological purpose in protected
If ever our needs conflict
with those of another species and we thereby act to deprive them of their
freedom or to cause them harm, we must ensure that the consequences of our
actions in the final analysis are truly benevolent toward animals as
individuals and members of the Earth community. Only then can these actions be
justified, as in population control, including our own, for humane and
environmental/ecological, and health reasons. As reasoning and feeling
creatures capable of moral judgment and possessing compassion, it is crucial
that we acquire the wisdom and the humility to enable us to live in harmony
with our fellow creatures---and at peace with ourselves. They contribute more
to sustain the planetary ecosystem---our life support system on space-ship
Earth---than we who now endanger all when we put selfish interests before the
greater good of all life.
Engaging in planetary
CPR-the conservation, preservation, and restoration of the natural world-will
not succeed if the health and welfare of domestic animals are neglected and the
ecological contributions of all indigenous wild species, and of ecologically
integrated farmed animals, are neither respected nor understood. In other
words, the integrity and future of the natural world-wild nature-will be secure
when the laws and conventions of every nation and community recognize that all
beings have rights according to their natures and mode of being; and citizens,
corporations and governments must act accordingly.
Reverential respect and
understanding are the antidotes to biological imperialism and chauvinism. To
this end, we must proceed to:
*** Develop a set of moral
principles and bioethical criteria that establish and define our obligations to
all sentient life.
*** Examine and reject all
conventions, cultural traditions, religious and secular beliefs, biases and practices
that cause animals to be harmed or degraded, or forced in any manner to forgo
the fulfillment of their existence.
*** Pledge never to take
another’s life or cause any other being to suffer unless there are no
alternatives and then only when the consequences are truly benevolent (to that
being in question), or to the larger life community.
*** Curtail all human
activities that harm wildlife by destroying natural habitat, as by
deforestation, agricultural and other commercial conversions and encroachments,
and by pollution.
***From these assertions, we
must, as a species, move to develop a set of laws that will incorporate these
fundamental moral principles to ensure that they become part of the framework
within which we operate and exist every day of our lives. As we exercise our
moral judgment and ethical discrimination for animals’ and natures’ sake, so
will we ultimately benefit ourselves economically, socially, and spiritually.
RIGHTS FOR ANIMALS:
THE UN CHARTER ON HUMAN RIGHTS AND THE
OF THE US AND ALL DEMOCRATIC NATIONS
Whereas animals have a
biological kinship with humans since Homo
sapiens is a species of animal,
And whereas nonhuman animals
are part of the same world-ecological community as we,
And whereas nonhuman
animals, including those that have been domesticated or genetically altered,
have a will to live, and interests, and a life of their own,
And whereas many nonhuman
animals have basic instincts, emotions and needs comparable to those that we
possess and experience,
And whereas it is a matter
of human dignity, self-respect, and progress for every nation to treat nonhuman
animals with respect and compassion,
And whereas it is contrary
to the ethics and morality of a civilized society to exclude by omission or
commission the rights and interests of all members of the world-ecological
community from equal and fair consideration,
So let it be resolved that
the United nations Charter on Human Rights and the Constitution of the United
States shall be so amended as to read:
***All nonhuman animals,
(including all invertebrate species) shall be given the right to freedom from
pain and fear; and the right to equal and fair consideration.
*** Neither cruel
exploitation nor subjugation or unnecessary incarceration of nonhuman animals
shall exist within member countries of the United Nations, or any place subject
to their jurisdiction.
*** All laws governing the
treatment of animals and the natural environment shall be harmonized and
equally enforced in all member countries, and set to the highest standards
based on an informed consensus of representatives drawn from a democratic
constituency of vested interests, cultural, commercial, humane and
*** Membership in the UN
(and in the World Trade Organization or WTO) shall be conditional upon such
harmonization, which in its absence leads to unfair economic advantage in the
competitive, rather than cooperative, world market, as well as much animal
suffering and environmental destruction and pollution.
*** Nonhuman animals have
fundamental interests that shall not be weighed against competing human
interests, since humans have no absolute right to place their own interests
over those of our fellow animals.
*** Alternatives to the use of
animals in warfare and military weapons (including biological) testing go hand
in hand with alternatives to the primitive and costly use of warfare as a
justified means to human ends.
*** Alternatives to the use
of animals in biomedical research go hand in hand with alternatives to the
medical professions’ reliance on various pharmaceutical and petrochemical
products and other treatments and diagnostic procedures that were first tested
on healthy, normal animals who were variously and deliberately infected,
traumatized, poisoned and killed: And on animals who have been selectively bred
or genetically engineered and cloned to be afflicted with a hereditary
disease/genetic disorder to serve as human surrogates for humans with similar
disorders in biomedical experiments that might be profitable for investors.
*** Alternatives to the mass
exploitation of animals for human consumption go hand in hand with advances in
medical knowledge and public health that both call for alternatives in what we
raise for food and consume. The first priority is the phase-out of concentrated
animal feeding operations (factory farms and feedlots) and the growing of
chemically-dependent commodity crops, many of which, like corn, soy and cotton,
have been genetically engineered. The adoption of humane, organic, sustainable,
environmentally friendly and socially just food production methods and
practices is a wise alternative to the continuance of an increasingly toxic and
dysfunctional agricultural industry and of dietary and nutrition-related
diseases associated with the products consumed from this monopolistic source.
*** Alternatives to the
international trade in wildlife for the pet industry and for all other
commercial purposes go hand in hand with the conservation of indigenous
species, concern for animal welfare, and the protection of the publics’ health
from zoonotic diseases.
Be it resolved therefore
that the following basic rights for animals be put into law:
*** THE RIGHT of all animals
to be free from all forms of cruel exploitation and treatment; from avoidable
physical pain, psychological suffering, fear and distress, and freedom from
neglect and deliberate abuse.
*** THE RIGHT of all
domestic and captive wild animals to appropriate veterinary care when needed,
and to a humane death (euthanasia) when to prolong life would mean intractable
suffering and distress.
*** THE RIGHT of animals not
to be used in cruel and unnecessary experiments, and for the testing of
non-essential commercial products such as new cosmetics and household cleaners.
The use of animals in biomedical research shall be justified only when the
research intentions are primarily for their benefit, human benefits being
derivative or secondary.
*** THE RIGHT of farmed
animals to an environment that satisfies their basic physical and psychological
needs and behavioral requirements, and that facilitates their role in humane
and ecologically sustainable farming systems.
*** THE RIGHT of companion
animals to a relationship that is mutually enhancing and that is based upon the
responsible care-giver/guardian having the necessary respect and understanding
to help assure the animals’ emotional as well as physical well being.
*** THE RIGHT of wild
animals to a natural, undisturbed habitat, ecologically sufficient for a normal
existence and a self-sustaining species population.
*** THE RIGHT of animals to
have their interests represented in court and safeguarded by the law of the
BASIC “FREEDOMS” FOR
INTENSIVELY RAISED “FACTORY” FARMED ANIMALS
The Brambell (1965) Report
of the Technical Committee to Enquire into the Welfare of Animals Kept Under
Intensive Livestock Husbandry Systems. (Cmnd.2836). H.M. Stationery Office,
London identified the following five basic freedoms or rights that farmed
animals should be provided for their welfare and health:
Freedom from Hunger and
Thirst - by ready access to fresh water and a diet to maintain full health
Freedom from Discomfort - by providing an appropriate environment
including shelter and a comfortable resting area.
Freedom from Pain, Injury or Disease - by prevention or rapid diagnosis
Freedom to Express Normal Behaviour - by providing sufficient space, proper
facilities and company of the animal's own kind.
Freedom from Fear and Distress - by ensuring conditions and treatment
which avoid mental suffering.
JUSTICE FOR ALL BEINGS &
THE END OF TERRORISM
The road to peace and the
end of terrorism converges with the road to the end of our terrorizing animals.
The end will be reached with a radical shift on our collective consciousness
and conscience. Our children and the non-human ones whom we unjustly exploit
for pleasure and profit, will no longer be victims of terrorism, systemic
terrorization, crippling injuries and slaughter while being exploited and their
plight ignored by the corrupted politics of profit and pleasure.
This radical, transformative
shift means what Dr. Albert Schweitzer called living in “Reverence for all
life.” This is indeed a challenge, but one that calls on all of us to achieve
and connect deeply the plight of our own children around the world to those of
all other species, plant and animal, who contribute more to the life and beauty
and functional integrity of planet Earth than we.
To not make this shift,
which translates into addressing the best interests and first priorities of
civil society and the Earth community, and instead either ignore the tragedy of
reality and our responsibilities, or focus just on our children while
neglecting those of other species, will simply worsen the state of the world.
It will make the future ever more bleak for the health and well-being our
children’s children and those of other species whose inherent rights and
intrinsic and ecological value the judicial system have yet to be fully
acknowledged. Animals are treated as commodities, objects of property and
commerce. Such objectivism, which dehumanizes our relationships with each other
fosters the delusion of separateness (but no man is an island), and also the
hubris of superiority and control. Science runs the risk here, like religion
before it, of committing such hubris especially when the ends justify the means
as with interrogative human torture, invasive animal experimentation and
indiscriminate and cruel methods of pest and animal control. The corporate
sector, with its control of state and federal legislators and long history of
ecological terrorism and of terrorizing animals, has succeed in establishing
laws to protect the status quo and shield the livestock and other animal
industries from public scrutiny and accountability.
I have been writing the
nationally syndicated newspaper column Animal
Doctor for over 40 years to help improve the health and well-being of
companion animals and our understanding and appreciation of all creatures great
and small. I have come to learn from readers how deeply millions of people care
for animals, be they companions or wild. Many have shared their despair,
including veterinarians, animal protectionists and environmentalists and others
“in the trenches”.
It troubles me deeply that
the innate empathic sensitivity and ethical sensibility of our children are
being corrupted by the way in which society continues to condone the cruel
exploitation of animals, as in factory farms, research laboratories, by fur
trade trappers, circus to rodeo entertainment industries and other arenas of
animal cruelty and exploitation. Children are led to believe, by adult example,
that such mistreatment is morally acceptable. But this moral and civil
foundation is anthropocentric---for the greater good of humankind primarily,
and with a predominance of pecuniary interests. So we make our environment
carcinogenic and then make animals suffer in the hopes of finding find
profitable cures rather than addressing the harmful consequences of pecuniary
The moral injury inflicted
on those who care about other animals and the environment---our shared global
commons—(as well as various direct harms as per the looming global economic,
climate change, ocean acidification, population and public health crises
created in large part by ignorance and planetary plunder rather than humane
stewardship) has yet to be addressed by the judicial system and international
courts of law and trade organizations of global commerce.
A few decades ago I received
complaints from listeners of a radio interview in which I said that all
creatures should be given equal and fair consideration as members of Earth’s
life community, and that all children who eat animals should see how they are
killed, or at least how most are raised. So long as we continue to hide these
truths from the next generation, denying or justifying the emotional slavery of
many animals kept as “pets” and “companions” while others are exterminated as
pests and predators, killed for sport and for their fur and experimented upon
to find cures for diseases we largely bring upon ourselves, we will continue to
suffer the consequences of most communities, religions, nations and justice
systems marginalizing environmental concerns and denying the rights and
interests of indigenous species and peoples.
We need better laws and
effective enforcement and justice for all beings. While we strive to end the
child sex trade, organ trafficking, female genital mutilation and
disenfranchisement of indigenous peoples (genocide) the end of other forms of
terrorizing and harming the children of other species, including whaling,
trophy hunting, fur trapping, bull fighting, and dog fights, along with puppy
breeding mills, factory farms, commercial laboratory animal testing, wildlife
poaching, trafficking, trade and
habitat destruction (ecocide) must also be addressed nationally and
internationally. Progress on one front (the human) will not succeed without
progress on the other front--- animals and the environment--- because respect
for life is a boundless ethic. It must be absolute, or it is not at all. Our
indebtedness to all life on Earth that helps sustain our own calls for
trans-species egalitarianism and accepting the moral duty of responsible care
for the health and well-being of that Earth community of which our own is an
Two opposing cultures do not
make a society. Democracy turns into hypocrisy---what D.H. Lawrence called “the
equality of dirt”—when it purports to support the conflicting interests of
takers and transformers, healers and leavers; those who exploit and those who
protect; the cultures of commerce and consumerism and of service and frugality.
The latter was the primary, “greater good” ethos of social democratic
philosophy and intent, embracing neither unbridled capitalism and imperialism
nor unconditional altruism. This dichotomy of conflicting cultures will never
be resolved until both cultures give
equal and fair consideration to the rights of all indigenous species and the
global commons, and abandon their respective self-limiting perspectives of
materialism and anthropocentrism in the name of ecological and trans-species
democracy to embrace the best interests all species and communities, human and
non-human. This includes pathogens and parasites, a better understanding of
whom would help temper our pathogenic, parasitic relationship with the Earth
and all who dwell therein---and find the ultimate cure for most cancers!
For further reading on this
subject, see the author’s book Animals
& Nature First (2014) CreateSpace publ., Amazon.com