Animal rights & the 5 freedoms
Animal rights is the idea that some or all nonhuman animals are entitled to the possession of their own lives, and that their most basic interests – such as an interest in not suffering – should be afforded the same consideration as the similar interests of human beings. (Source: Wikipedia)
As humans, most of us (with the exception of a small minority) are naturally compassionate and would not accept blatant abuse or cruelty to any animal in front of our eyes. That is why we would stand up and object against any person hitting a dog or a cat. We see every bird and mammal caring for their young, building bonds with each other, avoiding injury and fighting death. Isn’t it naturally their right to live free and not have to suffer through life, for the pleasure of humans?
Through ancient history, man has respected animals as sentient beings and domesticated animals were a part of the family. In ancient India, several kings built hospitals for animals, Emperor Ashoka (304–232 BCE) even issued orders against hunting and animal slaughter. In the Qur'an, it is said that animals have souls, form communities, communicate with God and worship Him in their own way. The Prophet Muhammad forbade his followers to harm any animal and asked them to respect the rights of animals. It is a distinctive characteristic of the Shar`iah that all animals have legal rights.
As society has progressed over time, we have realised the importance of certain basic and intrinsic rights of all humans – embodied within our essential ‘human rights’ framework. Animals feel love, fear, pain and terror, similar to all humans. Are they too entitled to certain basic & intrinsic rights?
This question was examined in a 1965 report by the UK government on livestock husbandry, which led to the framing of what is termed ‘Brambell’s five freedoms’. These 5 freedom’s laid down the most essential & basic of rights (or freedoms) of all living animals on our planet. These have since been agreed upon globally as society’s framework of basic ‘animal rights’ which cannot be denied to any living animal.
Brambell’s 5 freedoms
- Freedom from hunger or thirst
- Freedom from discomfort
- Freedom from pain, injury or disease
- Freedom to express (most) normal behaviour
- Freedom from fear and distress
Ethnocentricity / selective denial of basic rights
Traditionally, ethnocentricity (the feeling that one group is superior to the other) has been responsible for gruesome atrocities being inflicted on ‘lower’ groups. Slavery, caste systems, women being treated as inferior beings or racism, all stem from ethnocentricity. We have had brutal struggles and uprisings to get basic rights for all, irrespective of gender, colour or ethnicity which is the essence of ‘civilized’ modern society.
Yet even in today’s civilised modern society, ethnocentricity and the blatant abuse of certain groups (considered inferior to other groups) of living beings continues to be rampant. Specifically, animals used for food, clothing and experimentation continue to be selectively and systematically denied their most basic of rights, all in the name of higher productivity and profits.
Factory farms and animal abuse
As demand for meat and dairy products continued to grow, small family farms started getting replaced by large scale industrialised units often handling thousands of animals within a single facility. To help deal with the large number of animals, the factory farming industry started creating ‘standard operating practices (SOPs)’ with relation to the processing of these animals for their meat, milk or eggs.
In a search for higher productivity and profits, it was easier to frame the SOPs by considering animals as inanimate objects, similar to coal and steel. The ‘ 5 freedoms of all living beings’ was an inconvenience while dealing with such large groups of animals in industrialised factory farms. Various of the SOP’s that have been created by this industry are an outright violation of the most basic of animal rights, and would be considered animal cruelty or torture liable for legal prosecution were these to be applied to any other animal.
SOP's in factory farms
Consider the following SOPs that are routine practices in factory farms globally (to name just a few):
- starving of animals to increase egg productivity
- mass killing or genocide of male calves and chicks by the egg and milk industries
- tying animals to a single spot their entire life and denying them any movement whatsoever
- painful body mutilations to animal children (for chicken the day they are born)
- denial of access to her child for a mother
- slaughter in automated assembly lines
The factory farming industry is well aware of it’s blatant abuse of the moral frameworks laid down both by society and infact of most of it’s consumers. However, the increase in productivity and profits by treating these animals as objects as compared to living beings, was simply too large to ignore.
How the meat & dairy industries keeps it's consumers from knowing the truth
As the factory farming industry continued to grow, it created a tremendous pool of profits that gave it the spending power to:
- Spend on large advertising campaigns and attractive product packaging, that depicted happy, content and health animals
- Lobby with the government to pass legislation making legal practices that were in clear violation of the ‘5 freedoms’
- Lobby with the government to pass legislation preventing the investigative filming of the conditions in factory farms