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Animal Welfare; A local and International insight of legislation - M Uzair Mohiuddin.

It would barely be a factually incorrect and incoherent statement to make was one to say that animal rights are non-existential in some parts of the word, non-existent in the others, and the rest of the world is incognizant to their having any rights.

Animal welfare refers to the idea of providing, protecting, and safeguarding the interests and well-being of animals. Some argue that the scope of animal rights limits to letting them live a natural life with their modus-operandi. Some state the rights cover the extent of their right to be free from disease, injury, and be attended in a state of a medical emergency. With these thought processes, people use different grounds to view or judge for a certain treatment to comply with animal welfare.

Animal and human contact is inevitable, animals come into contact with our food, clothes, etc. They are our companions, guides, and quarry for sport. However, the treatment they receive, have received, and the trajectory that follows elucidates, the circumstances are only to worsen as they are used more and more for laboratory tests and, allegedly, inhumane testing.


Animal Rights and Animal Activism – The Inception

In a world that is so connected than ever before, it is but imperative to conduct discourse on the subjects of activism. United Nations, as the prime body governing global peace, international security, and a platform for a diplomatic discourse of nations, does not have an official Universal Declaration for Animal Welfare.

The United States of America, the country idealized as the champion of Human Rights and Animal Welfare, currently has 3100 non-human great apes in captivity, with about 1280 being under biological research facilities.

The first movement for the protection of Animal Rights was birthed in The United Kingdom. The first piece of legislation called Martin’s Act was passed in 1822. Two years later down the road, the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals was established. The Martin’s Act and the society’s initial manifesto limited to protecting and safeguarding horses and cattle. It was not until 1835 that the act was amended to include domestic animals, such as dogs and cats, against cruelty.

In the debate of Animal Welfare and their right to protection from torture, Henry Stephens Salt is credited to be the Father of Animal Rights. He was a widely respected and known anti-vivisectionist, socialist, and pacifist. He also wrote the book “Animals’ Rights: Considered in relation to social progress” later in 1892 credited to be the first book on the subject encompassing the variety of questions, perspectives, and stances that accompany the debate.

Whereas, later in 1866, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty of Animals was formed.

However, Switzerland stands to be the first country to include the protections for animal rights in its constitution. On the contrary, the UK has no constitutional status for animal rights and the law sees the animal as an object and any systematic representation of the animal in criminal and administrative cases does not exist.


Animal Personhood

As detailed, extensive, or meticulous the legislators may be – or may have been – when it comes to animal rights’ protection, and their welfare, the laws are barely implemented.

When rights are generally talked about, they are said to be belonging to someone – possession of the person whose rights are to be protected. But when it comes to animals, the law or the legislators posit those rights on behalf of the animals whose interests are to be protected and safeguarded.

Animal personhood is intended by some academics, lawyers, and activists to fill an inherent vacuum in the execution of animal rights legislation.

The purpose of bestowing the status of non-human legal personhood is to protect the animals from being subjected to cruelty. The status of legal personhood diminishes the idea of animals being the subjects of vivisection. The movement forces humans to treat animals as persons in themselves. In a paper called “Personhood Beyond the Human”, the author wrote:

“The case for nonhuman legal personhood has become increasingly pressing in light of the systematic failure of traditional animal welfare law to protect animals in any meaningful way.”

The question that needs to be answered is whether expanding animal rights – instituting legal personhood – is the better framework for protecting animal rights, or stricter animal protection laws, that seek to retain the status of the animal personhood as unchanged.


Social Movement Culture and Activist Philosophy

Several philosophers, researchers, and academicians have written on the movement culture of animal rights, and their stance has been in line and sync concerning the practices adopted by the animal rights activists. For all the primary movements that have taken the world aback, or brought about any revolutionary change in the then status-quo, their pivotal source of recognition or public reach, was their adherence to either philosophy or any academic idea, per se.

Contrary to the traditional practice, the animal rights movements have shown next-to-none adherence to any singular philosophical theory, or idea. One study conducted in 1997 showed how limited the role of philosophical theories, such as the egalitarian theory, rights theory, or utilitarian welfare-ism, was in the activism of animal advocacy. Some infer the reason for this restraint of choosing a specific doctrine, in particular, is to not limit the reach to the supporters of one philosophical idea, as it also does risk alienating other possible supporters.

However, it does beg the question as to whether or not animal rights activism, as a movement is adhered to by philosophy, or if there exists an ulterior motive to the whole rectitude of animal rights and animal welfare-ism. Some critiques also make the point that the existence of an ulterior motive is also alluded upon by the debate of change of behavior that harms the animals, contrary to the changing beliefs that harm the animals, which all points toward enticing or bringing people around to eat less meat.


Animal Rights Movements – An Insight

The Animal Liberation Front

The roots of the movement date back to December 1963. A British journalist John Prestige was sent to cover a Devon and Somerset Staghounds event, where he witnessed the merciless chase and kill of a pregnant deer. He formed the Hunt Saboteurs Association which evolved into a group of people trained to thwart the hunt of deers. Animal Rights Writer Noel Molland writes that one such group was formed by a law student Ronnie Lee. Ronnie decided and took it upon himself to adapt to militant tactics to be heard and be impactful. He revived the name of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, called it the Band of Mercy.

Later on, he was jailed and then paroled. When he got out, he recollected the people of the Band of Mercy and decided to establish a front for the recognition of animal rights and their preservation. He devised the name The Animal Liberation Front.

Their methods were always violent and incendiary. They were responsible for various arsons. However, today, the movement stands as an international, decentralized movement active in about 40 countries around the globe.

Much as their ideals are antivivisectionist and equalitarian, their modes of operation have remained to be violent. Their members have often been imprisoned.

Whether or not is Janus-faced for a movement that stands for peace and naturalism of the species is a question that needs to be answered, and among the notions frequently debated upon.

The Great Ape Project

The movement started in 1933, and they have created a declaration for the rights of non-human great apes. Per their manifesto, these species are the closest things to human ancestry, and their rights must be safeguarded.

They seek to establish the basic right to life, freedom, and non-torture of the non-human great apes – Chimpanzees, Gorillas, Orangutans, and Bonobos.

The current President is Peter Singers, the Great Ape Project aims to document a United Nations Declaration for the Rights of Great Apes.

Universal Declaration of Animal Welfare

The Universal Declaration of Animal Welfare is a proposed multi-governmental draft which seeks to establish that animals are sentient, prevent cruelty and suffering, and to update the standards under which farm animals are generally kept.

The declaration also sets upon humans, certain responsibilities towards the animals that are kept under the governance of humans. By 2014, the draft had support from about 46 member countries of the UN. However, some countries argued – and do so to date – that a step further should be taken and their rights must be eloquently established, contrary to having a charter for their welfare.

This Declaration, however, is not to be confused with the Declaration of Animal Rights as developed by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization.


Conclusive Remarks

The debate for animal rights is a polarizing one, not only those in favor and those opposing the rights but also between those who choose a certain philosophy to look at the debate, and those who oppose the specific angle, and prefer a different lens. Whether or not the movement is, partially or otherwise, hacked by the ethicists who pursue to ban eating meat can only have an opinion, and rarely ever an answer satisfactory to all.

With the most being content with the establishment for animal welfare, the battle for animal rights still resumes. While some countries debate on whether or not animal personhood and their sentience be universally recognized, countries like Switzerland are a step ahead with already having had the rights of animals recognized in their constitution. On the other hand, some countries and societies are too far behind to debate upon the rights and welfare of animals, let alone their sentience, whilst some countries, indeed, are incognizant of their having any rights.

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