…. the ethical treatment of animals

by Philipp J. Kroiss,   guest blogger

Animal rights activists portray animals as having the same rights and needs  as humans.  This is much different than demanding ideal care  to ensure the animal’s welfare.  To secure human rights for animals  may be a nice in theory, but it is not realistic.  In fact, it is impossible to create such a world for animals, and it is probably not to their benefit.


Protecting nature

Humans are the only being, that are able to manipulate the conditions of nature in their interests.  A gorilla does not plant trees, or farm, to grow food for his or her own use.  Instead, he searches,  hoping to find enough to eat. Lions hunt wild meat and herd gazelles to ease their search for food. Humans can influence nature and building conditions to be independent from searching or hunting food; they can create their own nature-like environment and are not being completely dependent on gathering.   For example, man grows fruits, which are thus available for us the whole year and not only in the seasons they usually grow in our locale.


Hence,  a big difference between animals and humans is that we can create environments making us partially independent from nature; humans are still dependent on nature, but can be more flexible in nature.


I am not saying we are superior to animals, but we are different.  And we have mental constructs, such as ‘rights’, which are not animal constructs.  So animals cannot have human rights, because they are not humans!  Neither do we have animal rights!  The idea of ‘Rights’ is  completely human made – not only the rights themselves, but the whole concept of needing and having rights. For example we’ve got rights causing rules for negotiations about the hierarchy in our groups – animals don’t.  Animals will sometimes  kill one another in order to be the leader of a group or to have sex with another animal.  In animal society, this is not a crime.  It is normal.  This is banned in our human society for good reasons:  it benefits our wellbeing and survival.  The animal which  killed another to get in a certain position in a group is accepted and not accused for violation of a law. We recognize this in every animal group even with other “crimes” – dolphins rape, chimpanzees make crusades and many animals violate each other because of hierarchy.  Rights and laws are a concept only humans developed. That’s why animal rights are not needed – animals don’t need it.


But we live in a human dominated world.  Because of the “human supremacy”, as many people claim, we do need to protect animals and nature.  The nature-like environments people can create making themselves partially independent from nature can destroy nature.  This is a currently a huge consideration where extensive rainforest destruction is occurring in order to farm palms for oil, to the imminent danger of orangutans and many other species.  Nature must be protected in the interest of all beings on earth – including humans and animals.   Part of protecting nature is to conserve biodiversity.


Today we face a sixth extinction , because as a group, humans have been destroying nature.  We need to change.  We need to change  this maleficent influence and prevent it from occurring again.   Mistakes were made.  As a group, we did what we wanted, for money, comfort and convenience.  We did not care for, or consider, the cost to the rest of the natural world.   This is “estrangement of nature”.   This estrangement has to stop.   The hubris must stop.  We must become responsible stewards and we must protect and preserve nature, and the other beings on this world.  That’s why we need modern zoos, which are a window to threatened nature and a means to educate people on conservation, enlist their support, and earn money for conservation efforts in the wild.  Human managed care is also allows us to carefully study these animals, their environments, and to breed animals, and protect genetic lines so that hopefully they can be reintroduced later when people have better conservation measures effectively in place.   We need zoos conducting science and research projects making comprehensive conservation possible – some topics you can only research in the controlled environment of a zoo (e.g. echolocation of dolphins).


Modern zoos play an important role in supporting and promoting  conservation.  Zoos provide a means of reversing  mistakes made destroying parts of the nature. They are part of protecting nature and part of the effort  prevent the sixth extinction through research and breeding.


To declare animal have  rights and to pretend animals could be on the same stage as humans, will not stop this sixth extinction.  Rather, it will accelerate it,  because we would not be able to conduct projects like zoos or other concepts of animals in humane human care benefiting conservation of nature. So implementing animal rights would help cause extinction, because some species need the human care, research and conversation to survive.  Meanwhile we cannot even insure all humans have human rights, and human law courts are already clogged with  ineffective efforts to secure fair rights for humans.

Animal rights does not make sense…

The concept of animals having the same rights as humans is unnatural and absurd. It’s based on the idea that animals could survive and live successfully in what is, for them,  an artificial environment of laws they never developed or apparently have considered as needed.


Chimpanzees kill each other during crusades for no reason, which benefits some individual beings, but certainly not the chimpanzees who were killed. How will we judicially deal with it? There are two possibilities:

  1. We forbid the chimpanzees, like all other beings of the society of equal rights, such actions judicial. Of course chimpanzees wouldn’t care about it, because they don’t understand or need the concept of having a law.  It’s completely natural for them performing such crusades and when they do, they would violate the law. Do we then see a legal action against the animals?   How should that be done? The whole judicial system is not made to enable such a process.
  2. We allow the chimpanzees, like all other beings of the society of equal rights, such actions judicially.   So also we as humans come back to the natural right, in which everyone could kill each other and only the strongest survives.

You can see with this example, animals rights are not possible to implement without forcing animals in a, for them, unnatural life,  or by us  giving up human rights, entirely.


How will we deal with inbreeding, infanticide or violence within groups of animals occurring naturally, but which are not possible to allow legally, if we consider  animals to be responsible members  of a community,  rights and responsibilities equal to those of humans?   You simply can’t. We could also start more basically: How will you teach animals their rights and the methods of legal action? It’s impossible to explain that. That’s why judicial  convention is always only possible in communities being able to communicate each other on a similar level. You can give dolphins hand signs, but you will never have conversation concerning the theory of rights.


If you now think about species specific rights, you will also have to consider it as absurd, because there’s not such a difference between a mouse and a bird like between a mouse and a human: the special skill of humans to create a nature-like environment with partially independence from nature, legitimating a special status for humans, a bird and a mouse doesn’t have.


Furthermore, as already told, we as humans must conserve nature. For examples we need fishing quotas to enable the survival of certain fishes in the nature. How will you implement this for animals? You can’t communicate it to the animals and it would be unnatural to force the animal fulfilling this law.


Animal rights may be a nice theoretical concept, but there is no possibility to implement it in real life. Furthermore it wouldn’t help neither animals, nor their habitat, for us to implement such illogical assignments.   

How can people ethical treat animals?

What is a truly ethical stance on the keeping of animals, and the treatment of animals by human society.  We, as humans, should protect animals.   Power brings responsibility.   Animals are not able to protect nature, or themselves, from the actions of humans.  But humans can protect animals and nature from the actions of humans – if they will only fulfil this responsibility.   Because of the huge mistakes made by of some parts of the mankind towards nature, we now have to work diligently to reverse the damage we have incurred, and we have to prevent this problem from recurring.   This is our ethical responsibility, but also benefits us – we can’t live without nature.


In order to fulfil this responsibility we must protect natural environments, so animals can continue to live in the wild.  We have to support conservation efforts to help protect those efforts and animals, all over the world.  We have to raise money to support these conservation efforts.  We have to teach people the importance of doing these things.  And we have to study the animals and their needs, and help their populations recover to viable levels again.  For these reasons, we must house animals in human care.  It is not just ethical, it is essential for the continuance of many animals and many conservation efforts.  It is ethical to have them in our care in zoos, aquaria,  or other professional husbandry situations which  benefit nature conservation in situ or ex situ.  


This is true even though huge lobbyists against integrating animals with humans will tell us that having animals and people together is unethical.  For example, the lobbying group, PETA, denies that.  But, their ethical position is not really consistent in this matter.  Peta, declared to be a domestic terrorist group in the United States, has stated that animals are better off dead than kept by human care.  In fact, they report euthanizing over 90% of the cats surrendered to their care, whereas local shelters with meager financial support are able to place most of the cats they receive.  We should not let PETA define what’s ethical or not.  Especially when their limited interests put the well being of the greater populations of wild animals at risk.  


Within the science of philosophy, the applications of ethical or moral statements are well discussed. Despite all this discussion, there fails to be agreement on a single answer to define what is right, or ethical.  There is often more than one line of ethical argument. In the end, each human must decide, which way is considered right  – for him. Only a fascist would consider their way as beyond any doubt and generally right.   All people who respect human rights must respect the rights of each human to decide things for himself.  Maybe that’s why Dustin Hoffman called PETA “fascist”.  PETA seeks to impose their conclusions on all other members of human society.


Disarming comprehensive conservation and research is questionable to be named as “ethical”.  It is a common ploy of those who work to manipulate the opinions of others, to misuse important words and ideas to suit their aims.  PETA is neither ethical, nor advancing the welfare of animals.  Another lobbying group, HSUS, has similarly done huge harm to the long term survival of animals through pushing their agenda to remove animals from human society. For example, in forcing the orca breeding ban where SeaWorld is concerned.  Ahhh… but that is another blog, for another day.  


The Ringling Bros. decision showed us all that following the animal rights agenda – whether it’s done partly or completely – harms people caring and dedicating their lives to the welfare of animals.  Get prepared, and get involved!  

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(c) 2017 Philipp Kroiss and Kayce Cover