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Jun-03-2019 13:00printcomments

National Animal Rights Day

Each state has enacted laws to punish those who engage in cruelty to animals.

national animal rights

(SAN FRANCISCO, Calif.) - The 9th National Animal Rights Day was celebrated on Sunday June 2, 2019. Let’s salute our non-human friends and companions.

Anyone whose family includes a pet knows that animals think and feel. In fact, a number of scientific studies has shown that animals are far closer to us than recently believed. The Cambridge Declaration of Consciousness in Human and Nonhuman Animals, signed by a group of leading animal researchers, asserts that mammals, birds and other creatures posses consciousness and, in all likelihood, emotions and self-awareness.

If we accept that animals are self-aware beings and have emotions, then this raises the question of whether we should keep animals in captivity (zoos), whether we should allow the cruel confinement and mistreatment of farm animals, and whether we should use animals for experimentation and research.

What's wrong with zoos? Zoos evolved at a time when travel for most people was impractical and few people had a chance to see wild animals up close. Today, we can take a plane to Africa, Australia, or Costa Rica for photo safaris or even watch nature documentaries on television or view live Internet videos, which can show animals’ natural behavior that in many cases cannot even be seen in zoos. There is no excuse for keeping intelligent social animals in cages for our amusement. In short, we shouldn't be confining animals to cramped conditions thereby depriving them of everything that is natural and important to them.

Farm animals are often the victim of cruelty. For example, ten or more egg-laying hens housed in a wire cage the size of a file drawer stacked several levels high. Or branding cattle with an extremely hot or extremely cold iron stamp without anesthesia or castrating pigs and cows -- a painful procedure -- or debeaking, the process of cutting with a hot blade, the beaks of chickens, turkeys, and ducks without anesthesia to reduce pecking among, fighting, and cannibalism of overstressed, overcrowded birds in factory farms or using cattle prods that deliver an electric shock to get cattle moving.

Animal experiments are widely used to develop new drugs and to test the safety of cosmetics and other personal care products. But many of these experiments cause pain to the animals involved or reduce their quality of life in other ways. Typically, a new drug or cosmetic is used on an animal to test its effectiveness. If it is found to be effective, it is then tested on humans. However, the research may show that the tested drug or cosmetic may be harmful or ineffective and never tested on humans.

The Animal Welfare Act (AWA) is the only federal law that covers animals in NIH-funded research but is recommended policy only, not a mandatory requirement. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is charged with enforcing the AWA. Under the AWA, research institutions are required to establish an Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC) “to oversee and evaluate all aspects of the institution’s animal care and use program.” While the USDA and the AWA and IACUC systems supposedly ensure “humane” treatment of animals in labs, the system is plagued with loopholes that leave animals with little or no protection.

But this begs the question as to why sentient beings are used for experimentation at all.

The Humane Methods of Livestock Act is a federal law designed to decrease suffering of livestock during slaughter.

The Preventing Animal Cruel and Torture (PACT) Act was recently re-introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives. PACT would criminalize "crushing, burning, drowning, suffocating and impaling animals." The measure would also address bestiality and other attempts to sexually exploit animals.

Each state has enacted laws to punish those who engage in cruelty to animals. And cruelty does not only mean physical abuse but also neglect. Although in some states animal cruelty is only a misdemeanor, not a felony.

Many studies show that violent offenders frequently have childhood and adolescent histories of serious and repeated animal cruelty.

In addition, many states have farm animal confinement laws laws, animal euthanasia laws, and laws concerning the sale of pets at retail pet stores. California is the only state to ban the retail sale of dogs, cats, rabbits

The Nonhuman Rights Project (NhRP) is using an interesting approach to freeing sentient beings by seeking writs of habeas corpus (literally to produce the body) on behalf of members of the great ape family (chimpanzees, bonobos, orangutans, and gorillas). The objective of NhRP is “to change the common law status of great apes, elephants, dolphins, and whales from mere “things,” which lack the capacity to possess any legal right, to “legal persons,” who possess such fundamental rights as bodily liberty and bodily integrity. The progress of these NhRP lawsuits is worth watching.

As a long-time member of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) with two indoor and two outdoor cats in our family, and participants in a number of African safaris to view animals and birds in their natural habitat, rather than animal killing for “sport,” I invite everyone to read ASPCA’s “Report Animal Cruelty.”

The goal is to crack down on animal cruelty by enacting and enforcing laws for their protection, thus making our communities safer places for our non-human friends. After all, it is their planet too.

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