Animal welfare

Animal welfare

Animal welfare refers to the viewpoint that it is morally acceptable for humans to use nonhuman animals for food, in animal research, as clothing, and in entertainment, so long as unnecessary suffering is avoided. The position is contrasted with the animal rights position, which holds that other animals should not be used by, or regarded as the property of, humans. [Francione, Gary. "Animals, Property, and the Law". Temple University Press, 1995; this paperback edition 2007, p. 6.]

History of animal welfare

Systematic concern for the well-being of other animals probably first arose as a system of thought in the Indus Valley Civilization as the religious belief that ancestors return in animal form, and that animals must therefore be treated with the respect due to a human. This belief is exemplified in the existing religion, Jainism, and in varieties of other Indian religions. Other religions, especially those with roots in the Abrahamic religion, treat animals as the property of their owners, codifying rules for their care and slaughter intended to limit the distress, pain and fear animals experience under human control.

Welfare in practice

From the outset in 1822, when British MP Richard Martin shepherded a bill through Parliament offering protection from cruelty to cattle, horses and sheep (earning himself the nickname "Humanity Dick"), the welfare approach has had human morality, and humane behaviour, at its central concern. Martin was among the founders of the world's first animal welfare organization, the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, or SPCA, in 1824. In 1840, Queen Victoria gave the society her blessing, and it became the RSPCA. The society used members' donations to employ a growing network of inspectors, whose job was to identify abusers, gather evidence, and report them to the authorities.

Similar groups sprang up elsewhere in Europe and then in North America. The first such group in the United States, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, was chartered in the state of New York in 1866. Organizations commonly associated with the welfare view in the United States today include the American Veterinary Medical Association, or AVMA.

Today, a number of religious denominations have added animal welfare to their list of ministry concerns. Animal-related ethics courses, animal blessings, prayer for animals and animal ministries have increased in popularity. In 2007, the Interfaith Association of Animal Chaplains was formed in the USA to assist clergy members concerned about animals and their welfare to network and share information easily over the internet. A number of Animal Chaplain's books and websites reference scriptural passages from the world's sacred texts supporting animal welfare.

Animal Welfare in Nazi Germany

The National Socialists embraced animal welfare as a central theme. Presenting Hitler as an animal lover was an important aspect of Nazi propaganda, and his close relationship with his German shepherd Blondi became well known. In 19th century Germany, various "Tierschutz" (animal protection) organizations had won high level celebrity support, from Richard Wagner for example, who famously remarked that he would not want to live in a world in which "no dog would wish to live any longer." [Tröhler, Ulrich and Maehle, 1987 in Andreas-Holger in Rothfel, Nigel. "Representing Animals". University of Indiana Press, p. 29.]

The main concerns of the animal protection movement since the 19th century had been kosher slaughtering and vivisection, issues the Nazis picked up on as soon as they came to power in January 1933 as part of their sweeping attacks on Jews, with the claim that vivisection was part of what they called "Jewish science." They passed laws regulating slaughter in April 1933, and banned vivisection in August 1933, removing the ban three weeks later when they were persuaded it would have a negative effect on research, and introducing regulation instead. On November 24, 1933, the "Tierschutzgesetz", or animal protection law, was introduced, the first of a series of similar laws, giving Germany the most extensive animal protection legislation in Europe at the time. Hermann Göring threatened to send anyone violating the vivisection regulations to concentration camps. [Arluke, Arnold and Sax, Boria. "The Nazi Treatment of Animals and People" in Birke, Lynda and Hubbard, Ruth. "Reinventing Biology", Indiana University Press, 1995, pp. 228-60; Arluke, Arnold and Sax, Boria. "Understanding Animal Protection and the Holocaust" in "Anthrozoös", vol. V, no.1, 1992; and (for Göring threatening to send vivisectors to concentratation camps) Rudacille, Deborah. "The Scalpel and the Butterfly". University of California Press, 2000, pp. 83-88, citing Arnold Luke and Clinton R. Sanders. "Regarding Animals". Temple University Press, 1996.]

The legislation was retained in postwar Germany, east and west, although both the Jewish and Muslim communities there are now allowed to practise ritual slaughter, called Shechita and Dhabihah. [Schächtet für Deutschland, Als Muslime schon einmal rituell schlachten durften (Schechten for Germany - when Muslims were allowed to do ritual slaughtering), FAZ Feulleton 17.01.02]

Welfare principles

The UK government commissioned an investigation into the welfare of intensively farmed animals from Professor Roger Brambell in 1965, partly in response to concerns raised in Ruth Harrison's 1964 book, "Animal Machines". On the basis of Professor Brambell's report, the UK government set up the Farm Animal Welfare Advisory Committee in 1967, which became the Farm Animal Welfare Council in 1979. The committee's first guidelines recommended that animals require the freedoms to 'turn around, to groom themselves, to get up, to lie down and to stretch their limbs'. These have since been elaborated to become known as the Five Freedoms of animal welfare:

The five freedoms

# Freedom from thirst, hunger and malnutrition
# Freedom from discomfort due to environment
# Freedom from pain, injury and disease
# Freedom to express normal behaviour for the species
# Freedom from fear and distress [ [ Farm Animal Welfare Council - 5 Freedoms ] ]

Animal welfare compared with animal rights

Most animal welfarists argue that the animal rights view goes too far, and do not advocate the elimination of all animal use or companionship. They may believe that humans have a moral responsibility not to cause cruelty (unnecessary suffering) to other animals. Animal rights advocates, such as Gary L. Francione and Tom Regan, argue that the animal welfare position (advocating for the betterment of the condition of animals, but without abolishing animal use: see veganism) is logically inconsistent and ethically unacceptable. However, there are some animal rights groups, such as PETA, which support animal welfare measures in the short term to alleviate animal suffering until all animal use is ended.

According to Ingrid Newkirk in an interview with "Wikinews", there are two issues in animal welfare and animal rights. "If I only could have one thing, it would be to end suffering," said Newkirk. "If you could take things from animals and kill animals all day long without causing them suffering, then I would take it...Everybody should be able to agree that animals should not suffer if you kill them or steal from them by taking the fur off their backs or take their eggs, whatever. But you shouldn’t put them through torture to do that." [ Interview with Ingrid Newkirk] , David Shankbone, "Wikinews", November 20, 2007.] But Newkirk raised a second issue related to animal rights: "Who are we that we have set ourselves up on this pedestal and we believe that we have a right to take from others everything—including their life—simply because we want to do it? Shouldn’t we stop and think for a second that maybe they are just others like us? Other nations, other individuals, other cultures. Just others. Not sub-human, but just different from being human."

Criticisms of animal welfare

At one time, many people denied that animals could feel anything, and thus had no interests. Many Cartesians were of this opinion, though Cottingham (1978) has argued that Descartes himself did not hold such a view.

An additional critique regards animal welfarism in practice, arguing that welfarists demonstrate disproportional concern for some species of animals over others without providing rational/scientific justification for such preferences - this goes by the term Speciesism. E.g., some critics say the movement favors companion animals over commercial animals, wild over domestic animals, or mammals over birds/reptiles/fishes. For example, the welfare movement commonly opposes anesthetized declawing of pet cats by veterinarians, but rarely contests the unanesthetized toe cutting of commercial birds by poultry workers. The critique is that much animal welfarism, in practice, is as prejudicial as an anthropocentric anti-welfarist view.

The movement is also open to criticism for targeting mostly those practices for cosmetic reasons, rather than ones of genuine welfare. For example, the debeaking of hens is unsightly, but is used to prevent cannibalism. Welfarists though, often point out that there would be no cannibalism among the hens if they weren't kept in such stressful environments to begin with.

Regional differences

British-style animal welfare has an emphasis on avoiding pain even if this means killing the animal. For example, killing laying hens after a single laying season as a means of avoiding the discomfort of forced molting. In the U.S., people often find this viewpoint shocking.Fact|date=April 2008

Urban/rural differences are also typical. People with a rural background see animals as a more complex and pervasive element of their lives. For example, when a farmer shoots a coyote to protect his chickens, the idea that the coyote's fur must be thrown away (due to anti-fur regulations) may seem not only arbitrary and wasteful, but also disrespectful to the coyote.Fact|date=April 2008

Animal welfare groups

"See main article": List of animal welfare groups

ee also

* Animal rights
*Cruelty to animals
* List of animal rights groups
* Ethics of eating meat
* Animal worship


External links

* [ US Library of Congress - Selected Internet Resources Animal Welfare, Companion Animals and Veterinary Science]
* [ Humane Education Past, Present, and Future] by Bernard Unti and Bill DeRosa, from [ The State of the Animals II: 2003] ISBN 0-9658942-7-4

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