The headline of this editorial my not be factual, technically, but as far as I am concerned, emotionally, it could not be more accurate. Animals have feelings too. All are living creatures given the chance for life by our Creator and when they are in distress it bothers me to the core.
Just the other day I found a lizard inside my house. I coaxed it outside, and a few days later I found its dead body near my front door. Even though it did look like something that just crawled out of Jurassic Park, I felt bad because I was the cause of its demise.
Almost all of us, except for my two vegetarian and animal activist daughters, eat meat, wear leather and go to circuses and zoos. Many of us bought our beloved “pets” at pet shops, had or have guinea pigs, and maybe even keep beautiful birds in cages. We wear wool and silk, eat hamburgers, chicken sandwiches and fish. Many of us, myself included, rarely consider the impact of these actions on the animals involved. For whatever reason, after reading the above, you are now asking the question: Why should animals have rights?
In his book Animal Liberation, Peter Singer states that the basic principle of equality does not require equal or identical treatment; it requires equal consideration. This is an important distinction when talking about animal rights. People often ask if animals should have rights, and quite simply, the answer is “Yes!” Animals surely deserve to live their lives free from suffering and exploitation.
Jeremy Bentham, the founder of the Reforming Utilitarian School of Moral Philosophy, stated that when deciding on a being’s rights, “The question is not ‘Can they reason?’ nor ‘Can they talk?’ but ‘Can they suffer?’” In that passage, Bentham points to the capacity for suffering as the vital characteristic that gives a being the right to equal consideration. The capacity for suffering is not just another characteristic like the capacity for language or higher mathematics. All animals have the ability to suffer in the same way and to the same degree that humans do. They feel pain, pleasure, fear, frustration, loneliness, and motherly love. Whenever we consider doing something that would interfere with their needs, we are morally obligated to take those feelings and emotions into account.
Supporters of animal rights believe that animals have an inherent worth – a value completely separate from their usefulness to humans. They believe that every creature with a will to live has a right to live free from pain and suffering. Animal rights is not just a philosophy – it is a social movement that challenges society’s traditional view that all nonhuman animals exist solely for human use. As PETA founder Ingrid Newkirk has said, “When it comes to pain, love, joy, loneliness, and fear, a rat is a pig is a dog is a boy. Each one values his or her life and fights the knife.”
Only prejudice allows us to deny others the rights that we expect to have for ourselves. Whether it’s based on race, gender, sexual orientation or species, prejudice is morally unacceptable. If you wouldn’t eat a dog, why eat a pig? Dogs and pigs have the same capacity to feel pain, but it is prejudice based on species that allows us to think of one animal as a companion and the other as dinner.
I love animals; however, I am sad to say that I also have a very deep and passionate love of bacon. You can call me an animal rights hypocrite, but you can’t call me a person who does not care about every living thing on this planet – even snakes – as long as I never, ever have to see one.
In Seminole County we need to take some vital steps to cut thoughtless cruelty to animals out of our life. I see countless homeless stray cats and dogs roaming the streets and roadways of our community. We need to develop a humane way to take care of this problem: a local animal shelter, an agreement and partnership with the Decatur County Humane Society or something. I do not have the answer, but I would like to have a part in the process of finding one. Will you join me? Let’s get our city and county leaders together with each and every person who feels this same way and work together to make Seminole County the best place to live for each and every creature that calls this place home.
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