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Ethical Treatment of Animals

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    The issue of animal rights is very complex. There are both positive and negative sides which seem to have major contradictions. When referring to the ethical treatment of animals it seems as though everyone has an opinion. Some people are “meat eaters” and consume meat at nearly every meal. They would argue that this is survival and is justified; they would further argue that animals are not humans and were put on this earth for the benefit of man.

    Often they believe that it is necessary to use animals in medical research; their thought is that testing various substances on animals may lead to finding new medical solutions, medicines and treatments. There are those that believe vegetarianism may be in fashion while fur coats are no longer acceptable. When it comes to animals the range can be very vast from extreme animal haters to extreme animal lovers, the first group can be very cruel to animals and have no concern for their welfare, and the second group has more of a tendency to treat pets as idols and worships them, treating them as equals.

    Things are not just black and white areas when referring to the ethical treatment of animals, there also seems to be many shades of grey. In this paper I will discuss the ways that animals are being mistreated and exploited. I will also discuss the utilitarianism ethical theory, which is a theory that takes into consideration the interest of others. Utilitarianism is an ethical theory that places the focus of right or wrong solely on the consequences or outcome of choosing one action over another. I will also discuss relativism as it relates to the ethical treatment of animals.

    Relativism is no absolute truth. Each person has their own point of view on how to treat animals. The approach that I most agree with is the utilitarianism ethical theory this theory suggests that there is an obvious solution that is fair, and it may be one that appeals to common sense, also when faced with a set of choices, the chosen act should have the greatest number affected by the choice (Ethics & Social Responsibility 1-7). We must choose the act that minimizes pain and suffering and that will do the least harm.

    I am an animal activist and stand in favor of the protecting of animals; I cannot stand for animals to be mistreated in any way. The utilitarian theory allows us to examine ethical choices and in contrast, relativism allows us to determine our course of action with ethical values. Moral equal theories extend equal consideration and moral status to animals. (Ethics & Social Responsibility-1. 7) Are animals entitled to moral consideration on their own behalf? Some would answer yes, while others would say no. Those who would answer that question in a negative way are believed to dismiss animal claims all together.

    Other people may admit that animals are entitled to moral consideration will often give the problem a very low priority rating, never really stepping up and taking a stand against the cruel and inhumane treatment of animals (Midgely, 1983). People differ considerably on what they consider to be appropriate ethical treatment of animals. “Some individuals believe that practices such as sport hunting, the consumption of animal flesh, and the use of animals in biomedical and psychological research are unjustified and cruel; in some cases, the very thought of these activities result in emotional distress.

    For others, these practices pose no particular moral problem and prompt no visceral revulsion” (Galvin, 1992). It is my belief that animals are living breathing creatures capable of feeling pain, pleasure, and suffering just as humans do. I do not believe that the lack of intelligence in animals give us the moral freedom to inflict pain and suffering upon them. Human beings should treat animals as they would want to be treated. It is utilitarian that an animal have moral rights as a human being would. It is unethical for a human to take an Animal out of its natural habitat to be prodded, poked, tested, and in constant pain.

    Why should animals die because of a scientific experiment? Animals should have right to life; they are a breathing living creature, with a heart, a brain, and blood running through their vain just as you and I do. The ethical treatment should always be humane and morally right. Animals are often exploited for many different uses; the reason is that they are much like humans. But often it is done without a moral conscience to the animals; this reason being is that they are not human. Animal exploitation can take many different forms, mostly debated are testing for medical reasons and practices of slaughtering them for food.

    Animals are often abused for the reason that they cannot reason, cannot talk; they can however suffer because they are living beings. I believe with a very moderate outlook that animal exploitation should be curbed to the least detrimental and most humane way as it possibly could, without changing the basic needs of humans. It is almost impossible to count up how many animals are used for research. U. S. laws do not require scientist to report how many mice, rats or birds they use. They do require them to report how many dogs, cats, sheep, hamsters, and primates they use in animal research.

    In 2002, the USDA calculated 1,438,553 of these animals were collected for research. This is not counting the rats, birds, and mice that were collected that year. An estimated 2,000,000 animals are used in research every year this is just in the U. S. alone (2002). Smaller animals are kept in white plastic boxes the size as a shoebox and larger animals are kept in larger boxes but most of the time they keep more than one animal in a box. Dogs and cats are usually kept in wire cages with no attention from humans. They are kept with no care at all. They often sit in their own urine and feces. They have very little positive human reaction.

    I see this kind of treatment as immoral; I view it as completely wrong. Of all the agricultural land in the US, 87% is used to raise animals for food. These animals are fed more than 80 percent of the corn and 95 percent of the oats the US produces. Meat animals of the world alone consume food equal to caloric needs of 9 billion people- more than the entire human population on earth. It takes 2,500 gallons of water to produce a pound of meat, but only 25 gallons to produce a pound of wheat. A vegetarian food will make ten times as many humans happier than a non-vegetarian one, not counting the happiness gained by animals.

    Meat eating results in a lot of wastage of food that would otherwise have fed many more people (Trivedi, 2002). Education could be a very valuable tool in helping people to understand that we can live health lives without consuming animals. If the public only bought products from companies that did not do any testing on animals or stood up to companies like fast food chains that care only about profit and not at all about the needless suffering of animals, I believe could end much of the cruel, inhumane treatment of animals. Much of the public is not even aware of the magnitude of the problem.

    The world produces enough vegetarian food to feed more than 15 billion people. We are incapable of feeding just 6 billion. This is not merely a problem of distribution. A huge amount of this food is force-fed to farm animals for meat production. If Americans just change one in ten of their non-vegetarian meals to vegetarian the world would be able to feed forty million more people. Every time people eat meat they are not only responsible for killing the animal, but also killing the environment and valuable resources to feed more people.

    Approximately, one animal requires about 3000 square meters of land area for about five years for producing meat that would be sufficient to fulfill the nutritional requirements for one person for fifty days. On the other hand, the same land would feed a family of four people every day for a year (Audi, 2011). Most utilitarianism theories deal with producing the greatest amount of good for the greatest amount of people, they explore all the consequences involved in everyone’s interest. From this point of view it would be said that it is ethical to harm an animal if the benefit is greater than the amount of harm that is caused to the animal.

    A utilitarian accepts two moral principles; one that is equality which says that every beings interest counts equally. Second is that of utility which says the act that should be done will bring the best balance between satisfaction and frustration (Regan, 1986). I view all animal research as unjust; others may view it to be quite ethical when the outcome is beneficial to human kind, and sometimes even beneficial to the animals themselves. The factory farming industry strives to maximize output while minimizing costs of course at the animals’ expense.

    The giant corporations that run most factory farms have found that they can make more money by cramming animals into tiny spaces, even though many of the animals get sick and die. There is nothing humane about the treatment of these animals. Sparboe Farms, the fifth-largest egg producer in the country and a significant egg supplier to major companies like McDonald’s, Kentucky Fried Chicken, Target, Sam’s Club, and other smaller companies, cram so many hens into one cage that the animals are unable to move around.

    When a hen dies it is left in the cage to rot alongside birds still laying eggs that will be sold for human consumption (PETA, 2011). How are animals supposed to be treated? That is a question that has been debated by many. There are those that wonder what is the right and wrong way to treat animals. Should there be animal testing? I personally believe that it comes down to an individual’s moral beliefs, and what they feel in their heart of hearts is right or wrong. Applied ethology has a continuing interest in the promotion of animal welfare and the ethical treatment of animals used in research” (Myers, 1990). According to the Business and Society Review little protection is afforded to animals raised for human consumption; they are subject to abuse throughout the process of production, transportation, and slaughter (Livingston, 2002). Some of the worst examples of abuse are found in factory farms where animals may literally never see the light of day or be afforded enough space to even turn around.

    A few specific examples that are noteworthy, critics of intensive animal farming contend: animals are often genetically altered to increase size and/or shorten growing times. In doing this, workers make animals fat fast and give the hormones that make them grow bigger than normal size. Animals potentially have deformities and even death from this process. Antibiotics are often laced into animal feed; it is used to both promote growth and importantly to fight animal disease associated with close confinement and stress associated with close confinement.

    Animal cruelty is quite common in domestic animals, animal shelters euthanize more animals then the adopt out recent studies show that 95 percent of the animals that are taken in by animal shelters are killed and less than one percent are adopted out to families (PETA, 2011). Another common problem is that people get pets and abandon or mistreat them, some people abuse animals for their own sick pleasure and simply because of the fact that they just can. I believe that it makes these individuals feel superior and in control and gives them a sense of power.

    I am an animal lover with numerous animals I cannot even imagine mistreating animals, but sadly it happens every day. I believe that any animal testing for personal care products is unnecessary and is terrible because it causes pain for those animals and many times permanent damage. Many people will argue that medical research is an acceptable reason for inflicting suffering. I don’t agree. There are now many reliable alternatives to animal experimentation, and I also believe that there is a great likelihood that there would be a whole lot more if researchers had been forced to develop them from the outset.

    I do not have anything against people that eat meat; it is just my personal choice to be a vegetarian. My issue lies with the neglect and mistreatment of animals, as well as the horrible conditions that they are forced to live in. Just because “we are the only animal that is clearly aware of our own morality” we should not think of ourselves as mightier or worthier creatures. I do not think that we have the right to decide upon other animals’ life or death. How can we make such decisions, how can we deprive other species of their lives?

    Human beings are generally carnivorous (although, more and more of us are turning to vegetarianism) and they kill other animals to survive. True. However, we seem to overuse and/or misuse our “natural rights” and take too great an advantage of other animals. They are constantly made to suffer by our abuse. We breed them; feed them; take care of them, to finally kill and eat them that to me seems unjust. It confuses me that there are people that believe that it is ok, acceptable or not as bad to kill a cow, a pig, lamb or a chicken however they are completely against the killing of animals such as dogs and cats.

    I see animals as equal one is not greater or more deserving of life than another, There are those that would surely argue that a person probably cannot have the same affection or degree of affection for a cat or dog that is in the laboratory that we have for the animals in our household, nor can we have the same feeling for a stranger’s lost or abused child that we would have for our own child in a similar situation, “these special ties do bind” (Luke, 2007). I see two important factors that differentiate us from the rest of the animal kingdom when it comes to our treatment of other species.

    Firstly, we are the only animal that has the power to do harm on a grand scale, to devastate the environment and hold the power of life and death over other species in the full knowledge of what we are doing. Assuming that tyranny is not a desirable thing, I would argue that such power brings an immeasurably greater responsibility to refrain from exercising our destructive tendencies Secondly, we are the only species that has to any great extent evolved the luxury of choice.

    We no longer face starvation to the extent that we no longer need to go out and spear our food or pay others to do it for us in factory farms and slaughterhouses; in fact it’s fairly common knowledge that far more people could be fed on a plant based diet. Similarly we won’t freeze if we don’t wear the skins of other animals. So it really just comes down to personal preferences (Swanson, 2008). Animals are not ours to eat, wear, experiment on, or use for entertainment.

    As the organization’s slogan would go, PETA has been long channeling its efforts in the four areas in which the largest numbers of animals suffer the most intensely for the longest periods of time: on factory farms, laboratories, clothing trade, and entertainment industry. Shocking stories of greed, neglect, and inhumane treatment of animals in the slaughterhouses of the meat industry are enough to arouse anyone’s sentiments. We have just an obligation to protect them as we do to protect each other (PETA, 2003). In conclusion, I do not see an obligation for killing animals but many consequences.

    The ideal in life is to treat others how we would like to be treated in return. I do not believe that is acceptable to use animals in medical research. Animals are born with a soul and deserve to be treated fair and justly. They deserve to be respected. I do not believe that animals should be tortured and slaughtered for their fur. Therefore, I support the ethical standards for animals and believe there should be laws protecting them and supporting their lives.


    Audi, R. (1999). Moral Knowledge and Ethical Character. Ethics, 109, 645-48. Galvin, S. L. & Herzog Jr, H. A. (1992). Ethical ideology, animal rights activism, and attitudes toward the treatment of animals. Ethics & Behavior, 2(3), 141-149. Livingston, A. (2002). Ethical issues regarding pain in animals. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, 221(2), 229-233. Luke, B. (2007). Justice, caring and animal liberation. The feminist care tradition in animal ethics, 125-152. Midgley, M. , Midgley, M. , & Midgley, M. (1983). Animals and why they matter (p. 26). Athens: University of Georgia Press . Mosser, Kurt, (2010)- Ethics and Social Responsibility.

    Bridgepoint Education. http://ashford. edu/books Myers, C. (1990). PEOPLE FOR THE ETHICAL TREATMENT OF ANIMALS,’325,000 STRONG, ASSUMES INFLUENTIAL, CONTROVERSIAL… Chronicle of Higher Education, 37(6), A21. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (2003). . Retrieved 3/9/05, http://www. peta. org Regan, T. (1986). T/ie Case for Animal Rights. Swanson, J. C. (2008). The ethical aspects of regulating production. Poultry science, 87(2), 373-379. Trivedi, D. (2002, May 29). Ethics and Vegetarianism. Retrieved 3/9/05, http://www. vegdot. org/story/2002/5/29/75156/2496

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