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 wildlife.
Those living in the wild are entitled to fulfill their ecological roles and biological purpose in protected environments.
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:
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:
Be it resolved therefore that the following basic rights for animals be put into law:
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:
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 interests, (mammonism).
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 interdependent part.
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