“Wild animals never kill for sport. Man is the only one to whom the torture and death of his fellow-creatures is amusing in itself. ” – James Anthony Froude, Oceana, 1886
The primitive men lived in harmony with nature, including the animal and plant world; and it is only after the spread of civilization that rights of non-human organisms faced danger. The differences between Homo sapiens and other animals are legion, but evolution teaches us that we are at a fundamental level bound by profound similarities.
Any practice that fails to respect the rights of these animals is wrong irrespective of human need, context or culture. The Hindu religion has enshrined respect for nature in three basic elements viz. faith in God, non-dualistic view of Purush and Prakriti and a set of rules for duties and worship. Animals and birds are thought not only as Vahanas or Vehicles on which God rides, but much more useful as well. Singer in his book Animal Liberation (1975) wrote that animals must be given moral consideration on their ability to experience suffering; excluding animals from such consideration is a form of discrimination known as ‘speciesism’.
In the use of animals in research, it must be recognized that contrary to human experimentation, consent can never be given; therefore, the animal knows no reason nor sees any benefit that may be derived from its use. Although man and other animals are known to be beneficiaries of research, it is the animal on experimental study which experiences the pain and the results of the procedures, and does not know when the pain might end or be relieved.
Animal rights advocates argue that animals should no longer be regarded as property, or treated as resources for human purposes, but should instead be regarded as legal persons. The phrase ‘animal rights’ refers to legal rights and not to moral or personal philosophy; changing the conditions suffered by animals from human abuse. They deserve autonomy in full form-forbidding human beings from hunting, trapping and confining them. The right of physical integrity encompasses right of no more bodily harm by interventions like genetic engineering or extreme unhealthy form of breeding. Wild animals must be able to maintain a natural balance without disturbance by human beings. Domestic animals deserve a kind human touch.
The step of Spanish Government in granting right to life, freedom from arbitrary deprivation of liberty and protection from torture to our closest genetic cousins-the great apes is recognition of the theory propounded by great philosopher Pythagoras who believed in transmigration of souls between humans and non-human animals.
Gone are the days when we could find lions, tigers, elephants and rhinos in large numbers in forests of India. Mankind often fails to give animals the respect and rights they deserve, they are treated as lifeless, unfeeling scientific specimens and items that we manipulate at our own convenience and for vanity’s sake. Herbert Gundersheimer remarked researchers often justify vivisection for its effects on human life, but these tests do not provide protection from unsafe products. Jonathan Balcombe found that even simple contact with laboratory works is scary for animals. Further he found that vivisection labs cause the animals, pain, misery and death and should be actively opposed.
The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine issued the statement that physiological stress levels go up among animals undergoing experiments. Animal research project implies a potential violation of six widely subscribed moral norms and values. These are the following: respect to animals as they are, perform good science, be a good citizen, have responsibility for future generations, have responsibility for environment and show respect for life style and religious orientation of people. Section 4, The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Acts, 1960 provides for the establishment of The Animal Welfare Board of India. Smt. Rukmini Devi Arundale pioneered the setting up of the Board, with its Headquarters at Madras. She guided the activities of the Board for nearly twenty years till her demise in 1986.
What Peter Singer has remarked we must remember “The animals themselves are incapable of demanding their own liberation, or of protesting against their condition with votes, demonstrations, or bombs? Human beings have the power to continue to oppress other species forever, or until we make this planet unsuitable for living beings. Will our tyranny continue, proving that we really are the selfish tyrants that the most cynical of poets and philosophers have always said we are? Or will we rise to the challenge and prove our capacity for genuine altruism by ending our ruthless exploitation of the species in our power, not because we are forced to do so by rebels or terrorists, but because we recognize that our position is morally indefensible? The way in which we answer this question depends on the way in which each one of us, individually, answers it. “
Animals, as sensitive beings, have shared life with us since our birth. They became food for us, means of amusement, protector and so on. Inspite of the fact that animals have not really interfered with our lives, we for reasons like research and making products are resorting to ruthless use of them. Centuries have passed of exploitation and discrimination; we must now discern the value and worth of non-human beings.