If someone hurt your pet, would you want them to face legal charges? If you answered yes then you are, at least to some extent, for animal rights. Animal rights are defined by Merriam-Webster as the rights to fair and humane treatment regarded as belonging fundamentally to all animals. In this essay, the pros and cons of having and enforcing animal rights will be weighed. Looking at how this would affect everything from those working in the meat industry to the average pet owner.
Within the nations that do have laws regarding animals, most are covered under the umbrella of property rights. If you were to smash someone’s television out of anger, a majority of courts would agree that you are now responsible for paying for the damage you caused or serving jail time. This then applies to a household pet or cattle under similar property rights laws. However, introducing animal rights would throw off this once-clear system. To give animals the same autonomy as humans in the court of law, a human would be required to represent any animal who may have had any rights violated. This added level of interpretation could lead to abuse of this system as fabricating a story for a party that is incapable of giving first-hand testimony would be all too easy. Furthermore, introducing animal rights would blur the line between man and beast and could infringe on human autonomy in the process. If animal rights were imposed to the same standards as human rights, meat consumption on any level would in turn be considered immoral and illegal. Not only could it be harmful to humans who are unable to sustain themselves on vegan or vegetarian diets, but removing the right to choose whether or not an individual consumes meat is taking away the right for said individual to make that decision on their own. In regards to dietary restrictions that would make veganism a near-impossible endeavor, Jason Cole, who has multiple food allergies including soy stated. “It’s just not a viable option for everyone, soy is a huge part of vegan diets and makes up for a lot of their protein intake. I cannot ingest soy though, a vegan diet would be awful for me and I’m pretty sure I’d get malnourished pretty quickly.” Additionally, in the realm of causing harm to humans in the process of giving animals rights; ethical meat farmer Kris Hirth had this to say. “I completely understand wanting animals to be treated fairly and ethically. That’s why we raise our animals in the most humane, stress-free way possible. Compassion for our animals is a top priority always, and that’s why we chose a free-range, grass-fed alternative – by making the meat industry illegal, including ethical farming, you’d be putting thousands out of a job. We’d have nothing, that’d be awful for both the economy and everyday people just trying to make a living.”
An adult pig, whose cutlets the average American doesn’t think twice about consuming, has the comparative intelligence of a three-year-old child. These animals along with many others such as dolphins, elephants, and chimps display traits entirely comparable to those of humans. If we’d expect the humans with traits similar to these animals to have rights, why would that not then apply to those same animals? Pet owner and breeder Brittnay Collines supports this notion, saying “I think of my dogs like my kids. If anything happened to them I’d pursue legal action without hesitation. People may not have had that deeply personal experience with an animal, and that’s why they’d see them as objects, but having animals – you know they all have different personalities just like people, and they become part of your family.” Many people who have owned a domestic pet know how much of an impact they can have on your life. This connection can push the owner to cut meat out of their diet entirely to further animal rights for both their own pets and all animals subject to animal agriculture. Animal protein is not necessary for human survival, and those who live vegan or vegetarian lifestyles prove this every day. In addition to this, cutting meat out would greatly reduce the overall water footprint produced by humans, which is becoming an increasing problem in the wake of climate change. To produce just 1 pound of beef requires almost 1,800 gallons of water. In comparison, producing an equivalent number of soybeans or corn would cost 216 gallons and 108 gallons. Cutting meat out of the average person’s diet would not only be a championing win for animal rights and environmental activists but would also be beneficial for their health. To support these health benefits Dr. Robert Ostfeld states regarding converting to veganism “When we are born, our bodies are turbo engines. A bunch of animal products and processed foods later, we turn our bodies into clunkers. The good news, however, is that it is never too early to live more healthfully, and it is never too late.”
Weighing the pros and cons of introducing animal rights reveals that the issue is far more complex than one might initially assume. Being an environmentalist, pet owner, and vegetarian myself I found the arguments presented by the opposing side far more thought-provoking than I initially assumed. I don’t feel that my own lifestyle will be swayed, but it’s far more understandable now why and how others choose to live differently. From an economic standpoint, it’s clear that removing the meat industry entirely would be extremely problematic, and the legality of things would be, by no means, perfect. However, I continue to wholeheartedly disagree with the industrialization of animal agriculture, as the effects it has on the environment are too profound to ignore. I believe ethical farming would be ideal for meat sourcing, and some, but not all individuals, cutting meat out of their diet would be beneficial for their overall health. Where I once thought I was entirely on the side of animal rights, I now find myself more so in the middle.
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