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Animal welfare  

Animal welfare

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Search the meaning of Animal Welfare

Animal welfare refers to the viewpoint that it is morally acceptable for humans to use nonhuman animals for food, in animal research, as clothing, and in entertainment, so long as unnecessary suffering is avoided. The position is contrasted with the animal rights position, which holds that other animals should not be used by, or regarded as the property of, humans.

History of animal welfare

Systematic concern for the well-being of other animals probably arose in the Indus Valley Civilization as the religious ancestors return in animal form, and that animals must therefore be killed with the respect due to a human. This belief is exemplified in the existing religion, Jainism, and in varieties of other Indian religions. Other religions, especially those with roots in the Abrahamic religions, treat animals as the property of their owners, codifying rules for their care and slaughter intended to limit the distress, pain and fear animals experience under human control.

Welfare in practice

From the outset in 1822, when British MP Richard Martin shepherded a bill through Parliament offering protection from cruelty to cattle, horses, and sheep (earning himself the nickname Humanity Dick), the welfare approach has had human morality, and humane behavior, at its central concern. Martin was among the founders of the world's first animal welfare organization, the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, or SPCA, in 1824. In 1840, Queen Victoria gave the society her blessing, and it became the RSPCA. The society used members' donations to employ a growing network of inspectors, whose job was to identify abusers, gather evidence, and report them to the authorities.

The main concerns of the animal protection movement since the 19th century had been kosher slaughtering and research on living organisms, issues the Nazis picked up on as soon as they came to power in January 1933 as part of their sweeping attacks on Jews, with the claim that research on living organisms was part of what they called "Jewish science." They passed laws regulating slaughter in April 1933, and banned vivisection in August 1933, removing the ban three weeks later when they were persuaded it would have a negative effect on research, and introducing regulation instead. On November 24, 1933, the Tierschutzgesetz, or animal protection law, was introduced, the first of a series of similar laws, giving Germany the most extensive animal protection legislation in Europe at the time. Hermann Gorging threatened to send anyone violating the vivisection regulations to concentration camps.

The legislation was retained in postwar Germany, east and west, although both the Jewish and Muslim communities there are now allowed to practise ritual slaughter, called Shechita and Dhabihah.

Welfare principles

The UK government commissioned an investigation into the welfare of intensively farmed animals from Professor Roger Brambell in 1965, partly in response to concerns raised in Ruth Harrison's 1964 book, Animal Machines. On the basis of Professor Brambell's report, the UK government set up the Farm Animal Welfare Advisory Committee in 1967, which became the Farm Animal Welfare Council in 1979. The committee's first guidelines recommended that animals require the freedoms to 'turn around, to groom themselves, to get up, to lie down and to stretch their limbs'. These have since been elaborated to become known as the Five Freedoms of animal welfare:

The five freedoms

   1. Freedom from thirst and hunger
   2. Freedom from discomfort
   3. Freedom from pain, injury, and disease
   4. Freedom to express normal behavior
   5. Freedom from fear and distress

Animal welfare compared with animal rights

Most animal welfarists argue that the animal rights view goes too far, and do not advocate the elimination of all animal use or companionship. They may believe that humans have a moral responsibility not to cause cruelty (unnecessary suffering) to other animals. Animal rights advocates, such as Gary L. Francione and Tom Regan, argue that the animal welfare position (advocating for the betterment of the condition of animals, but without abolishing animal use) is inconsistent in logic and ethically unacceptable. However, there are some animal rights groups, such as PETA, which support animal welfare measures in the short term to alleviate animal suffering until all animal use is ended.

According to Ingrid Newkirk in an interview with Wikinews, there are two issues in animal welfare and animal rights. "If I only could have one thing, it would be to end suffering," said Newkirk. "If you could take things from animals and kill animals all day long without causing them suffering, then I would take it...Everybody should be able to agree that animals should not suffer if you kill them or steal from them by taking the fur off their backs or take their eggs, whatever. But you shouldn’t put them through torture to do that.

Criticisms of animal welfare

At one time, many people denied that animals could feel anything, and thus had no interests. For example, many Cartesians were of this opinion. Although Cottingham (1978) has argued that Descartes himself did not hold such a view, in fact, Descartes writes that animals act without sentience, much like a machine. They can react to stimuli, but have no mind that is consciously aware of it or that feels pain, pleasure, etc. from it. In addition, there are accounts of Descartes visiting slaughter houses to observe how animals died. Believing that the animals were devoid of sentience, Descartes thought the death throes of animals was akin to taking apart a spring-driven clock.

In the Discourse, published in 1637, Descartes wrote that the ability to reason and use language involves being able to respond in complex ways to "all the contingencies of life," something that animals clearly cannot do. He argued from this that any sounds animals make do not constitute language, but are simply automatic responses to external stimuli.

Universal Declaration on Animal Welfare

A number of Animal Welfare organizations are campaigning to achieve a Universal Declaration on Animal Welfare (UDAW) at the United Nations. In principle, the Universal Declaration will call on the United Nations to recognize animals as sentient beings, capable of experiencing pain and suffering, and to recognize that animal welfare is an issue of importance as part of the social development of nations worldwide.

The campaign to achieve the UDAW is being co-ordinated by the World Society for the Protection of Animals, with a core working group including Compassion in World Farming (CIWF), the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA), and the Humane Society International (HSI).

Animal law

Animal law is a combination of statutory and case law in which the nature – legal, social or biological – of nonhuman animals is an important factor. Animal law encompasses companion animals, wildlife, animals used in entertainment and animals raised for food and research. The emerging field of animal law is often analogized to the environmental law movement 30 years ago. The Animal Legal Defense Fund was founded by attorney Joyce Tischler in 1979 as the first organization dedicated to promoting the field of animal law and using the law to protect the lives and defend the interests of animals.

Currently, animal law is taught in 110 out of 180 law schools in the U.S., including Harvard, Stanford, UCLA, Northwestern, University of Michigan and Duke. In the U.S. there are Student Animal Legal Defense Fund (SALDF) chapters in 132 universities, with an additional seven chapters in Canada. SALDF chapters are student groups that are affiliated with the Animal Legal Defense Fund and share its mission to protect the lives and advance the interests of animals through the legal system.

A growing number of state and local bar associations now have animal law committees. There is very little pro-animal legal precedent in existence, so each case presents an opportunity to change the legal future for animals. The first animal laws worldwide were introduced in Germany, 1933.

Animal law issues encompass a broad spectrum of approaches—from philosophical explorations of the rights of animals to pragmatic discussions about the rights of those who use animals, who has standing to sue when an animal is harmed in a way that violates the law, and what constitutes legal cruelty. Animal law permeates and affects most traditional areas of the law – including tort, contract, criminal and constitutional law. Examples of this intersection include:

  • Animal custody disputes in divorce or separations.
  • Veterinary malpractice cases.
  • Housing disputes involving “no pets” policies and discrimination laws.
  • Damages cases involving the wrongful death or injury to a companion animal.
  • Enforceable trusts for companion being adopted by states across the country.
  • Criminal law encompassing domestic violence and anti-cruelty laws.

The comprehensive animal law casebook is, co-authored by Sonia S. Waisman, Bruce A. Wagman, and Pamela D. Frasch. Because animal law is not a traditional legal field, most of the book’s chapters are framed in terms of familiar subsets of law such as tort, contract, criminal and constitutional law. Each chapter sets out cases and commentary where animal law affects those broader areas.

The Animal Protection Laws of the United States of America & Canada compendium, by Stephan K. Otto, Director of Legislative Affairs for the Animal Legal Defense Fund, is a comprehensive animal protection laws collection. It contains a detailed survey of the general animal protection and related statutes for all of the states, principal districts and territories of the United States of America, and for all of Canada; along with full-text versions of each jurisdiction’s laws.

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