Animal Rights in Perspective - Making All Nations Great: Human Well-Being & Respect for All Life

“Every creature has its own reason to be. All its parts have a direct effect on one another, a relationship to one another, thereby constantly renewing the circle of life.”

-- Goethe

As societies evolve (as distinct from “progress” based on exploitation and “unavoidable” harm) we see the end of genocide, slavery, mutilation, solitary confinement and torture as culturally and legally accepted norms. To make America and other countries “great” advocates of animal rights and environmental protection, conservation and eco-justice around the world seek similar reforms and laws to prohibit animal cruelty, environmental pollution, destruction and desecration. Coupled with equal respect for human rights, commerce and world trade would then be closer to achieving a level field of fairness and sustainability on all sides.

But such advocacy is now being demonized as terroristic and a threat to national security and business interests that take precedence over bioethics and justice for all beings. Any threat to the status quo of exploitation is seen as anti-Nationalism, anti-progress. Advocates of respect and justice for all life have been harassed, received death threats, been imprisoned, fired from their jobs in academia, the news media and from both government and businesses as whistle blowers—-and even killed in some o countries.

Racism, sexism and speciesism are different coins of the same chauvinistic currency of prejudicial discrimination and injustice. When I wrote the book Inhumane Society: The American Way of Animal Exploitation in 1990 I expressed hope that reason and compassion would have a chance in any democracy and that we would see progress as a civilization in our treatment of other sentient beings and the environment we share. But now the very foundation of democratic governance is crumbling as advances in animal and environmental protection and social justice made over the years are being undermined by these same vested interests coupled with the needs of our expanding and landless numbers.

Many nations not yet ravaged by war are in a similar predicament where the demands of rising populations and extractive and polluting industries collide with the need to protect natural biodiversity and the rights and interests of indigenous peoples and species, wild and domesticated.

All indigenous animal and plant species and their ecosystems should have legal standing to protect them from human exploitation and other human impacts, direct and indirect, that cause suffering and loss of biodiversity. Anti-cruelty laws protecting some domestic species and not all species wild and domestic are borderline arbitrary and capricious as well as poorly enforced in many countries. Such protection should be provided under the laws of every country for all sentient species including “pests” and “vermin” and food animals (“livestock”, poultry, fish and other seafoods) where the most humane killing methods must be utilized when killing is. justified.

Our humanity is indeed endangered by our inhumanity. It is for those who care to choose in all good conscience in the market place and voting booth. We are not just of one nation, class or tribe but of one world where a sustainable economy, human and animal well-being and a viable future are interdependent under the banner of One Health. In civil society, the common good and the good of the commons are inseparable: One Health, One Wealth.

It is from this One Health perspective, independent from the prevailing, mammon-driven world-view of anthropocentric religious and secular beliefs and interests, that the causes and correctives of anthropogenic dystopias, biological, ecological, economic, social and spiritual, can be identified and rectified. One major corrective is how we treat other species, many of whom contribute more than we to maintain the health of terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems and whose interests and rights have yet to be recognized in the courts of law. But in the dominant culture of today there has been a moral inversion of the Golden Rule. Decisions, religious and secular, legal and political, economic and social, are then made in an ethical vacuum of self-interest rather than the good of the Commons. Those with the gold rule.

When our understanding and respect open us to what other living beings give to us and the living Earth and appreciate who they are, we realize their blessings in countless ways physically, mentally and spiritually: joy especially, which is good for the soul. But this means that we suffer with them when they suffer and so we commit to ensuring that their quality of life can be properly addressed by veterinarians and other responsible parties including ourselves and our dietary choices as well as the animals with whom we share our lives. We also suffer for them when they are subject to inhumane treatment, mass extermination, exploitation and threatened with extinction. Many who suffer for the Earth are calling for planetary CPR—conservation, preservation and restoration. CPR for the animal kingdom, long overdue, calls for active compassion, protection and rescue.

I especially like what ecologist and nature writer Sigurd F. Olson writes in his book Reflections from the North Country: “The world of nature does no violence to faiths that speak of personal immortality or reincarnation, for a basic truth encompasses them both.”

On a different note, but very relevant in these times when “economic growth” takes precedence politically over environmental protection and reducing climate change, he observes: “A civilization with no love of nature or appreciation of its true meaning as a symbol of God is doomed to primeval barbarism.”

Animals have indeed given us so much since the beginning of human history and it is payback time for us to acknowledge their intrinsic value and interests and apply the Golden Rule in all our relationships with them. Their CPR—compassion, protection and rescue—is surely an ethical mandate under the rule of law in any civil society. As a veterinarian, I see this bioethical mandate for the animals as professionally and socio-politically transformative— and all for the common good. As Émile Zola observed, “The fate of animals is of greater importance to me than the fear of appearing ridiculous; it is indissolubly connected with the fate of men.” Seeking to live in harmony with each other and with other species and respecting their interests and rights is the litmus test of civil society and hallmark of the civilized. It is enlightened self-interest because it is our only secure foundation for a sustainable global economy and a viable future with quality of life for all.

Michael W. Fox BVetMed, PhD, DSc, MRCVS Veterinarian, bioethicist, syndicated columnist (Animal Doctor with Universal-UClick). Website: Latest books: “HEALING ANIMALS & THE VISION OF ONE HEALTH.” “ANIMALS & NATURE FIRST: CREATING NEW COVENANTS WITH ANIMALS & NATURE” and “INDIA’S ANIMALS: HELPING THE SACRED & THE SUFFERING”, all with CreateSpace/