For years mankind has manipulated and neglected animals, whether it has been using them for entertainment, medical and scientific research, human consumption and in many more fields.In whatever field, animals have always been there for us, and because of this we have taken them for granted.We have treated them cruelly and inhumanely and have made them suffer in many different ways, and many of these have been horrific, such as using them to test household products, and forcing them to undergo painful tests in which many die or are injured for life.
There are many fields in which animals are used and subjected to cruelty, but the three main fields, and fields which have received the most publicity and criticism would have to be using animals in medical and scientific research, entertainment and sports and human consumption.
Perhaps the most publicised of them all, is the issue of animals used in medical and scientific research, or in other words, testing on animals. This means using defenceless animals for behavioural, surgical and transplanting studies, and to test substances which humans will come into contact with or use.Examples of these include substances used in industry, cosmetics, household products, food additives, tobacco, pollutants, various plant, animal and insect toxins, pesticides and many more.
In the January-March issue of “Animal Liberation Magazine” it was claimed that in the USA alone, 20 to 50 million laboratory animals are experimented on annually, and in the “Canberra Times” on the 5th of May 1993, it was estimated that 250 million animals were used in tests world wide.The use of animals has changed over the years as society becomes more and more informed and excesses are exposed. The introduction of legislation and codes of practice are indicators that the community in general and scientific community in particular have responded to the developing concern over animal welfare within laboratories.
The people that defend the use of animals in medical research, including the Australian Physiology and Pharmacological Society say that most of the information we now have about disease has come from experimental studies using animals, and that such research has been responsible for the alleviation and eradication of many diseases. However, the opponents to animal experimentation argue that because animals differ from humans and react differently to drugs, results obtained from animal experimentation will be unreliable. An example of this type of argument is using rats for cancer research.On the 25th of February 1993 it was reported in “The Age” that using rats for cancer research may be pointless as the gene repair systems of rats, it has been found, makes it unusually susceptible to cancer, and while it was once thought their responses paralleled to our own, it now appears that there are significant differences in the way humans and rodents repair genes damaged by chemicals, radiation or other agents that mutate DNA.
These reports are used by the opponents of animal experimentation to support their view that vivisection (dissection or other painful treatment of living animals) only really gives us information about the species of animal being tested and that scientists cannot necessarily use these results to help humans.There are numerous cases which highlight the absurdity, they argue, of assuming that humans and animals have a biology sufficiently similar for experimentation to yield useful results.For example, morphine calms humans but excites cats, cortisone causes birth defects in mice but not in humans, penicillin kills guinea pigs and hamsters and aspirin poisons cats.Indeed, if these results of tests on animals had been relied upon, we would not have penicillin or digitalis, which is a drug used by heart patients but which was withheld for a long time because it was found to raise the blood pressure of dogs.
The people that defend the use of animals in medical research disagree, and claim the development of vaccines to combat poliomyelitis, smallpox, diphtheria, tetanus, yellow fever, typhoid, tuberculosis, rubella (German measles), measles, influenza and hepatitis B, and the production of effective antibiotics to fight various infections, have depended on studying their effects first in laboratories using mice or rats.They also state that apart from benefits to humans, experiments using animals have also helped other animals.Improvements in veterinary practices and the treatment of animal diseases are the results of experiments on animals.
The RSPCA takes the view that any experiments must be of benefit to humans or animals or both and that they should not be carried out unnecessarily to reproduce results already well established.
The following poem, “A Black Rabbit Dies For its Country” written by Gavin Ewart, and extracted from page 8 of “Poetry For Living” outlines a rabbit’s feelings, emotions and views of living in a laboratory, and experiencing laboratory life.
“A Black Rabbit Dies For it's Country” Born in the lab, I never saw the grass or felt the direct touch of wind or sun and if a rabbit’s nature is to run free on the earth, I missed it: though the glass never let shot shoot or predators pass, while I was warm against my mother’s side something was waiting in the centrifuge (the world’s a cage, although that cage is huge) and separate I lived until I died- watered and fed, I didn’t fret, inside, and all the time I was waiting for the paste, scooped with a spatula from the metal rim, the concentrate bacillus at the brim, and lived the life of feeling and taste, I didn’t know it.Knowing would be a waste, in any case, and anthrax is the hard, stuff that knocks out the mice, the dogs, the men, you haven’t any chance at all and when they’ve finished with you, you’re down on a card how could I know to be upon my guard, when they pushed the container into line, with the infected airstream?Breath is life: though something more deadly than a knife cut into me, I was still feeling fine, and never guessed the next death would be mine- how many minutes later lungs would choke as feet beat out the seconds like a drum, hands held me on the table:this was a sum with the predictable ending of a joke fighting I died, and no god even spoke.
Another issue that’s also of great concern to animal liberationists is the use of animals in sports and entertainment.This includes using animals in circuses, rodeos, fox hunting, cock fighting and dog fighting, horseracing and duck shooting and many more other events where animals are used to provide entertainment for humans.
There has been a change in the way in which we view circuses.Once, and not so long ago the arrival of a circus generated much excitement.This excitement was the expectation of seeing clowns, jugglers and acrobats, but it was also the thrill of seeing exotic animals such as bears, lions and tigers.This excitement was increased by the knowledge that the animals would perform and not simply sit passively or pace about in a cage as they did in many zoos.
However, today as people become more aware of circuses, they are starting to ask “What really gos on behind the scenes of a circus? Are the animals treated cruelly?”. This is what many animal liberationists think about circuses.Many think that the animals are subjected to cruelty in order to perform, and that is why so many people now oppose the idea of circuses.
The major objection that people have towards circuses is forcing animals to perform tricks which works the animal against its nature, and in training an animal to perform its will must be bent towards the stronger will of the trainer.A performing animal is denied the right to be itself and must instead parody human actions.This demeans the animal and is based on a belief that the animal’s own nature is of no interest or value. For instance, a lion being a lion will not generate applause.If however it jumps through a hoop or rides a ball around a ring, it is supposed to demonstrate that it is intelligent and worthy of applause and approval.Suppressing its essential nature and celebrating its ability to “perform” gives no information about an animal and creates in an audience the sense that animals are here to entertain us.This sense separates us from the animal world and dulls our capacity to accept animals as creatures worthy of the kind of respect which protects them from all manners of exploitation.
Other objections towards the use of animals in circuses focus on the conditions under which they live and the strategies used in training.The life of a circus animal is a strict one and large cats, such as lions and tigers are kept in small cages and are only let out to perform in the ring.Elephants and camels are always tethered or hobbled, which restricts their movement.Also, all circus animals are subjected to long journeys and the transporting of animals is a major cause of stress for them.
There is also an amount of people who defend the use of exotic animals in circuses, and who get particularly annoyed when animal liberationists try to introduce bans on circus animals.One scene which disturbed the people in defence of animals in circuses was when the ACT Assembly passed the amendment to the Animal Welfare Bill, introduced by David Lamont, to ban animals from circuses in the ACT.There was a big reaction to this move.
In an editorial published in the “Canberra Times” on 17 June 1992, it was claimed that the bill did not derive from any evidence that the public demanded action.The government was accused of “banning fun” and giving into a minority of “animal liberation theologians.”The editorial stated that existing laws were adequate to cope with the abuse and that the philosophy behind those laws was in step with general public opinion.”If Mr Lamont and other nannies want to stop circuses on principle, they should try persuading people not to go to them, rather than imposing their views on others” it was quoted.The editorial was praised by R.W Perry of Perry Brothers Circus, who added: “The people and kids of Australia see our animals every day:don’t you think we would be reported if they saw something wrong? Circus animals are our biggest asset: We cannot afford to treat them badly”. Circuses, he said are “....the cleanest, healthiest, uncensored entertainment in the world.”
In reply to such criticisms raised in the editorial, David Lamont wrote: “The philosophical position he [the editor] wants to deride rests on the belief that other species are not here for our demeaning, juvenile entertainment and that indifference to the pain and suffering of animals is not a mark of humanity’s higher sensitivities but a sign of sheer bone-headedness.There is cruelty to circus animals for anyone who has eyes to see it”.This was published in the Canberra Times, on the 21st of June 1992.
Then there is the issue of rodeos.Rodeos are only occasionaly seen in cities but the attention they receive highlights the polarisation of views about such events.On the 3rd of November 1993 a rodeo was held at the National Tennis Centre in Melbourne.The show was the inaugural Australian Indoor Invitation Rodeo and featured bareback riding, slalom-style barrel racing, steer western and bull riding.The star attraction, described as “the meanest of them all” was a bull named Chainsaw.Mr John Elliot, the editor of Australian Country Music, said of Chainsaw that he bucks the riders ‘straight off.Then he struts around arrogantly.He knows exactly what he’s doing”.When asked if bull riding was cruel to animals, Chainsaw’s part owner, Garry McPhee said: If it was cruel, the animals would soon let us know.They would be hard to load and they have a lot more weight that us.Why would I be cruel to my pets? They’re my livelihood”.This was published in “The Age” on the 4th of November 1993.
In many countries, rodeos are banned but they remain a popular spectator sport in Australia and the USA.It is argued, as it is with bull-fighting, that rodeos are part of the cultural heritage and should be seen in that light.Opponents of rodeos argue that they are events where animals are terrified, tortured, mutilated and injured.Horses and bulls are induced to buck by drawing tight flank straps which put pressure on their genital area.These animals are also given an electric shock to “get them going”.
The RSPCA of Victoria is opposed to rodeos and holds that these events “serve no useful purpose for the animals” and that they “bear no relationship to the Australian ethos or to existing Australian farming practice...These events are purely to exhibit “cowboy” skills which have no relevance to Australian tradition.”
A sport which has been around for a long time is the sport of “fox-hunting”.Foxes are an introduced animal into Australia and were introduced with the special aim of providing sport for settlers, with fox-hunting being a great tradition among the wealthy English ruling class.The tradition has, in the last few years, been subjected to increasing criticism from animal liberationists who argue that it is cruel and that the foxes are subjected to savagery and torment.
In Australia fox-hunting as a sport is alive and well.In Victoria, from May to August, more than half a dozen clubs hunt foxes weekly.Enthusiasts say the fox is not important.What matters is the tradition and the exhilaration of the ride.The fox, it is claimed, is killed quickly.Ms Catherine-Kennedy, the Master of the Oaklands Club, said that fox-hunting is the most humane way of keeping down fox numbers.
However, the RSPCA does not condone fox-hunting or the use of dogs for hunting anything.The President of the Animal Liberation Organisation, Professor Peter Singer, says of fox-hunting: “It is a despicable and barbaric practise which belongs somewhere in the Dark Ages”.This was published in “The Age” on the 31st of May 1993.
The RSPCA is opposed to the use of animals in all forms of combat, which includes cock-fighting and dog-fighting, two practises which are gaining popularity in Australia. In cock-fighting, razor sharp metal spurs are tied to the legs of each bird, and the birds then are pitted one against the other.Often both birds die of the injuries sustained in the ensuing fight.Money is bet on the outcome.Dog fights usually take place indoors.Pitbull terriers simply grab each other around the throat and hang on until one weakens.It is often the case that both dogs die.”Dogs are matched for size, held opposite each other and let go.If nothing is happening they are separated and put together again.They can be disembowelled, their legs can be ripped off.It goes on until one dog kills the other.” Says Kevin Apostolides.This was published in “The Age”, on the 23rd of October 1993.The participants in dog fights are hard to catch because they belong to no particular ethnic group and are close knit.It is known that syndicates operate, but they are difficult to catch in the act and to prosecute.
In the case of horseracing and horse events the RSPCA’s position paper states that there is no objection to horse events such as Show Jumping, Equestrian Turnouts, Working Horse Demonstrations, One-day, two-day or three-day eventing and novelty competition so long as no action by the participants leads to or causes cruelty in the course of the event or the training program.It opposes the use of spurs and whips.
The use of the whip is the major focus of concern in horse racing.The racing industry defends the whip and suggests that it is the best way of extracting the best performance.It agrees that the whip has been overused in the past and has introduced measures to insure that it is used properly.The whip has been shortened to a maximum of 56 centimetres and stewards keep a watchful eye on it’s use.Jockeys are fired or reprimanded for overuse of the whip.There is disagreement to whether the whip hurts the animal or merely shocks it.It is agreed that horses respond to it and whether it is a question of pain is disputed.A horse being cut or marked by a whip is rare, according to The Victorian Racing Club’s senior veterinary steward, John Burke.The RSPCA does not accept the necessity of whipping.There are no rules in Australia about what constitutes improper or excessive use of the whip.In England, a horse can only be struck 10 times during a race and 5 times during the last 400 metres.In Australia, this is left to the discretion of the stewards.In an industry worth billions of dollars, enforcement cannot be guaranteed and the temptation to use the whip must be great.
Last but not least in the sports and entertainment issue, is the issue of duck-shooting. The annual duck-shooting season brings with it a flurry of newspaper articles and television reports detailing the efforts of rescuers and the frustration and anger of shooters.
The annual conflict in the wetlands is fuelled by a philosophical and ethical opposition to recreational sports which involve the death or wounding of animals and by a conservation concern about the numbers of protected and rare species that are mistakenly shot.There is also a concern about the increased risk of lead poisoning for animals in the wetlands as the area is showered with lead pellets.
The gun lobby has no objections to shooting animals for recreation and is opposed to any restrictions on such shooting.In the case of duck shooting, it is argued that the season has no impact on waterfowl populations and that hunters are merely harvesting a part of a viable and renewable population.If some protected species are shot, and hunters agree this is the case, the solution is education, not banning.The Field and Game Federation believes it is more rationally attuned to conservation issues than many animal liberationists.Indeed, the federation points out, it has spent a great deal of money on wetland rehabilitation projects which will benefit both hunter and wildlife and general.The duck hunters also claim to “harvest”, not “slaughter”, and that they eat their catch just as many Australians eat fish, chicken, beef and sheep.The federation claims that animal liberationists are driven by ideology and are ecologically ignorant.
Critics of shooters claim that this is not the case and that animal liberationists are not merely emotional outpourings.In the first 2 weeks of the 1993 duck shooting season in Victoria, three times the number of protected birds were killed than were killed in the previous year.The population of the freckled duck dropped by a third, with 270 of this threatened species shot according to The Department Of Conservation and Natural Resources.In those first two weeks, 848 protected birds had been killed, compared to 250 in the previous season.Mr Ron Danby, quoted in “The Age” on 4th of April 1993, that the number of protected birds killed was ‘quite a low percentage of the numbers’ taken by hunters, while activists in the wetlands claimed that the number reported was only a fraction of the numbers which died.Activists argue that the number of birds shot does not reflect the number of birds killed.Ducklings are vulnerable to predation and exposure when the parent bird is killed or wounded, clutches of eggs go unhatched, and some species of bird are prone to deserting their eggs when disturbed. And editorial published in “The Age” on the 24th of March 1993, roundly criticised duck-shooting and called for a ban: “Duck-shooting is not a sport, it is an obscenity” it claimed.
The last issue, and one which is quite involved is the issue of “Animals reared for human consumption”.The domestication of animals as sources of food, clothing and power probably first occured in the Middle East between 7000 and 10,000 years ago.Agriculture, the domestication of animals and the cultivation of plants provided people with a food supply which was reliable enough to allow permanent settlement and the development of civilization.Today in Australia, the farming of animals is a major contributor to the strength of the economy, but as people are becoming better educated and more aware of the “cruelty to animals” issue, society is starting to question the way in which we slaughter and manipulate animals, and many people, including animal liberationists, are now totally opposed to the production of animals for human consumption.
Many Australians are urban dwellers and think of farms as idyllic places, with green, rolling pastures where cattle lazily graze and where hens peck happily away at the grains lying around the hayshed.This image is certainly promoted in advertising and in children’s story books,but is not an entirely true one.Farming is about productivity, producing more meat, eggs wool and grain.Because of this, farming methods have developed to maximise output.An example of this is extensive or factory farming.This produces animals in a relatively small space , often indoors where food and water is brought to them and where their movements are highly restricted.Intensive farming is the subject of much debate worldwide, mainly from an animal welfare point of view.
Examples of two animals that are almost excessively produced through intensive farming are pigs and chickens.Intensive farming of pigs is the production of animals in a totally indoor environment.From birth to slaughter, the animals are housed in sheds with concrete floors.Under these conditions, the animals are totally dependent on the farmer for all their requirements.Piglets that are born in intensive farms are born in farrowing pens.These pens are designed to prevent the sow from sitting on her piglets.As such, the sow is unable to turn around and can only take a few steps forwards or backwards.
The issue of “intensively farmed poultry”, is also an issue which many people are against.About 95% of Australia’s egg production and 97% of Australia’s chicken meat production is produced by intensively farming poultry.The battery system is one of intensive breeding and rearing for poultry and egg production, and a system which many people are against.
Battery hens are housed in cages (45 x 46 x 41 centimetres high) where the maximum number of birds allowed to a cage is 3.The cages are elevated to allow droppings to fall to the shed floor, for later removal by front end loaders.The cage floors are angled so that eggs roll to a tray for collection.There may also be more than three rows of cages, one above the other.Temperature conditions in the shed are kept at 24°C which induces the hens to lay at a rate 10 to 20 per cent greater than normal than free range hens.At about 60 weeks of age the hens’ productive lives are over and they are slaughtered for chicken stock and soup. The sheer physical constraints imposed on the intensively housed animal are of major concern to opponents of intensive farming.The deprivation of such behaviours as walking, stretching and scratching, along with the deprival of satisfying the need to avoid other animals, to interact or explore are all characteristics of intensive farming.The animals are also thought to suffer stress, both behavioural and psychologically.Intensive farms also have minimal labour input per unit of production and so there is relatively little supervision of the animals.This means that sickness and injury often go unnoticed by farm staff so that animals may suffer and be deprived of adequate veterinary treatment.However, the sheer numbers of animals produced means that the farm is still economical to run and with losses through death of up to 20 per cent of its stock.
With high capital costs involved in the establishing and running of an intensive piggery, a battery hen egg farm or broiler farm, economic considerations are very important in management decisions to ensure production is maintained to meet demand.Opponents of intensive farming argue that it is only these economic considerations which drive management decisions relating to the production of animals in an intensive environment, and that ethical considerations are overlooked.The major lobby group opposed to factory farming is the Animal Liberation Organisation, a group which is active in many countries in also opposing animal experimentation and the fur industry.
There are also such issues as the fur trade, “The Live Sheep Trade”, animals that are used in advertising, animals used in warfare, fishing techniques and many others that need looking into and stopping.The Animal Liberation Organisation, the RSPCA and other organisations are working together to help stop the use of animals in such fields.They are gradually succeeding, but are having a difficult time battling people in the fields that they oppose, and so need the help and support of the general public to help put a stop to them once for all.The public can help by making donations, becoming a member of the RSPCA or of the Animal Liberation Organisation, or by just voicing their support and writing into newspapers, magazines etc in praise of these organisations. They still have a long way to go, but gradually with making the public more aware of these issues and making society realise the importance of animal rights, we will eventually stop the use of animals in cruel fields forever, and live in harmony with them as we once did, so very long ago....