Different Perspectives On Animal Rights
This paper addresses the issue of animal rights from the perspective of six different disciplines, including biology, ethics, history, law, physiological psychology, and religion. Using an interdisciplinary approach, the information is integrated in an attempt to generate new answers to questions about animal rights.
Historical Perspectives: The paper discusses historical perspectives on the relationship between humans and non-human animals, beginning with the use of animals as a source of food, clothing, shelter, currency, and companionship. The long history of discrimination, oppression and speciesism has deep roots in the human psyche. Reasons for these attitudes toward animals include tradition, the capitalistic nature of humans, the view of animals as property, and the theory of contractualism, which views animals only as a means to an end. Professional fields such as sociology and psychology must help to change the longstanding views and attitudes that many in society hold of animals.
Medical Ethics: Studying animals provides a means of understanding life processes that began in ancient Rome and Greece. Medical experimentation has led to the cloning of animals, aimed at helping humans, although this is controversial. Some view genetic research as unethical, while some believe there is a moral obligation to minimize the suffering of animals. Others also argue that medical experimentation is unethical and that animals should not be used to further the cause of human medicine. There are many views, and society must decide the balance between medical advancement and eliminating animal experimentation.
Religious Perspectives: Religion, as defined by the Columbia University Press, is a system of thought, feeling, and action that is shared by a group and that gives the members an object of devotion, a code of behavior by which individuals may judge the personal and social consequences of their actions, and a frame of reference by which individuals may relate to their group and their universe. Religions have different views on animals, their rights, and well-being that continually shapes the thought processes of society and helps define our ethics and morals.
Legal Perspectives: Today controversy exists about the protection afforded to animals and whether they are property rather than legal beings who deserve protections under the law. If animals were given personhood status under the law, many of society’s views and laws on the nature and treatment of animals would have to change, resulting in large economic impacts. European countries have been more willing than the United States to embrace animal law.
Biological Perspectives: It is scientific fact that humans and some species of non-human primates share 99 percent of the same DNA. As scientific research breaks down the walls of human and animal genes, we may find we are more similar to our non-human counterparts than we may want to believe.
Physiological Perspectives: Physiological psychology attempts to understand the correlation between the mind, behavior, and bodily mechanisms. Pain and suffering are two distinct conditions, and one does not require the other to be present or felt. It is known that animals can feel pain, although the assessment of suffering is more difficult. Dawkins argues that the three criteria that need to be assessed in determining whether or not an animal is suffering are physical health, physiological signs of stress, and behavior. There are many arguments with regard to animal pain and suffering, and these considerations necessarily relate to whether or not animals should be afforded rights.