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Are They Overreacting?
Academic affiliation: Oklahoma State University
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The purpose of this paper is to examine and report information on animal rights activists' views on the treatment of animals. The animal production industry has been a part of our society for many years, because of the many uses humans have for animals; they are a very important article of trade in our society today. Animals are used for such things as meat, fur, glue and cosmetics. The topic of animal cruelty reflects many people's view as to whether or not animals should be used as humans see fit, or if they should just be left alone. As author Roger Scruton states, "Animals were once regarded as things, placed on earth for our use and enjoyment, to be treated according to our convenience. This is no longer so" (7). However, some people think that animals should be left able to live a free life just as humans do. Scruton demonstrates to the reader that people do not realize how ridiculous they sound when they fight for animal rights, and there is no need to do so when the animals were put on this earth for human use.
Humans have always needed animals for survival. Animals have been obtained for these types of uses for many years, and certain people think that there needs to be a stop put to humans using animals as they please. Gene Bauston demonstrates how animals are mistreated in many aspects of the animal production industry, from dairy cows being overly used for their milk, to the transportation and handling of the animals. He describes the agriculture industry such as, "The wholesale commodification of sentient life has laid the foundation for the institutionalized cruelty which has become commonplace in modern agriculture" (5). Some animals are mistreated, however, some people think that the animals would be happier and healthier if they were to be free in the wild. Many humans are mistreated, but that does not cause everyone to stereotype the whole human race. No matter if the animals are being raised for slaughter, or if the animals are just for leisure, Bauston portrays American consumers as supporters of rampant animal cruelty (6).
Tibor Machan demonstrates that using animals for slaughter or any other purpose is acceptable, because that is why the animals were put on this earth. Machan explains that, "One reason for the propriety of our use of animals is that we, as members of the human species, are more important or valuable than other animals and some of our activities may require the use, even killing, of animals in order to succeed at our lives, to make it flourish most"(9). Machan also talks about the animal rights activists denying that human beings rank higher than other animals, or at least they do not admit that ranking human beings higher warrants our using animals for our purposes (10). This statement shows how some people believe that animals and human beings are both on the same level; therefore, the animals should not be mistreated. However, animals do not have the same mentality as humans, so they need humans to care for them and control their population.
Some animals that are developed for human use have been raised in large development facilities. These facilities can house anywhere from 1,000 to 600,000 animals, depending on the animal and how large the facility. Many people disagree with this type of development because the hens are placed in small cages where they hardly have enough room to move. As Suzanne McMillan reports from her visit to an ISE (International Standard of Excellence) egg farm facility in Maryland, "…the unfathomable overcrowding to which ISE-America subjects its chickens; the average number of hens in a cage 24 inches wide, 17 inches deep and 14 inches tall is eight. As many as 11 hens were found stuffed in one cage…" (12).
Roger Scruton, author, describes to the reader that it is hard to decide if humans should be able to do with the animals as they please. It is also hard to decide if the way humans treat animals is moral, however, the animals maybe treat humans the same way. Scruton explains:
"…it is hard to decide whether there is any rational basis for the moral distinctions that we seem to make among species, or whether we are guided by anything more than anthropomorphic sentiment in looking so coldly on those creatures, like fish and insects, which look coldly on us" (11).
Some people do not think how their treatment of the animals affects the animals, because they do not think that the animals have feelings or even have enough mentality to think about these types of things. As Roger Scruton explains, "Animals have sensations-they feel things, react to things, exhibit pain, irritation and the sensations of hot and cold" (14).
The agriculture industry is especially threatened by animal rights activists and being labeled as treating their animals cruelly. People involved in agriculture use animals for their survival as well as producing food for the rest of the country, which animal rights activists do not realize. Agriculturalists provide the animals with everything they need and more so that the animals will be healthy for labor as well as consumption. As author Bernard E. Rollin states:
"Humans provided food, forage, protection against extremes of weather and predation, and in essence, the opportunity for the animals to live lives for which they were maximally adapted-better lives than they would live if left to fend for themselves" (5).
Rollin explains a point that has most people in turmoil and is the main reason for activists to express their opinions. It is true that the animals on farms are treated better than if they were out in the wilderness by themselves. Most farms only use animals for the labor and food that they animals can provide, and if the animals become ill most producers are sure to give them medicine so that they restore to health.
However, there are some farms that are also targets for animal rights activists, because of the reason for the production of their animals. Most producers do not realize that the reasoning behind animal rights activists is that the activists have seen all kinds of treatment of animals and they do not want any other animals to have to be treated in ways that they have seen. Elisa Bob explains to the reader about Rick Swain's visit to a karakul fur production farm in Uzbekistan, where fetal or newborn lambs are killed for their pelts. He states, "One by one, the plant manager picked out limp bodies from the pile, explaining the qualities of pelts from lambs slaughtered at various stages of development" (30). These pelts are used for handbags, swimsuits, hats, and gloves (30). This type of production is considered in humane to animal rights activists and even to livestock producers that raise the livestock to just graze their land. However, what people do not realize is that everyone has to make a living and this is just one type of business that takes place in today's world.
Animals are a basis for human survival, which is why humans use animals for food, because without animals humans would not be able to survive. Animals are just as dependent of humans as we are of them. However, there are situations when animals need to be eradicated so that production does not decrease. For instance, prairie dogs are seen as adorable, cute creatures that are fun to watch as they run from one hole to another in their villages, as they are referred to, and completely harmless to humans or other animals. Many farmers and ranchers portray prairie dogs as nuisances to their land as well as their livestock, because the rodents root up the ground for their holes which could be used as farming land or grazing land. Most people that have seen prairie dogs do not see the problem with them inhibiting this land. As Nicole Rosmarino explains:
"Prairie dogs are not a problem for cattle ranching, and actually benefit rangeland health. Their digging, urinating, and defecating enriches and fertilizes the soil; their burrows channel precipitation to the water table; and their digging and clipping improves the ability of soil and plants to absorb and store water. In fact, the nutrient quality of the vegetation on the colonies is increased due to the animals' activities…" (25).Rosmarino proves a point that these rodents may help with the growth of the vegetation which in turn helps the livestock that graze on that particular land. However, prairie dog holes do present a problem, because these holes have been known to break cattle's or horse's legs when the cattle or horses step in these holes. As author Tibor Machan explains: If, by chance, the development of some human potentialities in medicine, research, adventure, athletics, or the culinary arts requires the use of animals, even the infliction of suffering on them, that may well be just what makes such use morally proper, unobjectionable" (12). This statement explains that even if the animals are going to suffer, human success is dependent upon animals no matter what the cost. Some people would not agree with his thoughts of using animals for whatever it is that humans need them, but some people do not realize that if humans do not use animals for what they need then certain productive companies may not be successful without these resources.
Animals have many uses for humans in today's society especially in the drug industry. Many people do not realize how many uses animals have towards the drug industry; a few examples are hormone pills and cosmetics. However, the ways some of the ingredients that are used for hormone pills are obtained in an interesting process. Susan Wagner explains her visit to one of the farms that obtains PMU (pregnant mare urine) which is a main ingredient for an estrogen replacement therapy (ERT) drug Premarin:
"…they spent most of their lives not as horses, but rather as four-legged drug machines who were repeatedly impregnated, confined for months at a time tied up in small, narrow stalls and attached to hoses that collected their urine" (23).
This type of use of animals is needed for human use and survival, which some people do not understand, because all the people see is how the mistreated animals are raised and do not see that not every animal is raised in that particular way. Tibor Machan explains:
"In any case, the higher status of human life in the chain of living beings and the nature of being human provide grounds for ascribing to human beings basic rights that would not make sense to scribe to other animals. It also justifies occasional use of other animals for human purposes, since, comparatively speaking, human interests merit greater service than the interest of non-human animals" (13).
This statement by Machan explains that animal use is necessary for human survival and anything that is needed for survival from animals should be obtained.
The claims made by all of the authors in this paper are very different but they seem to speak to each other and why each author has their views on the subject they have reported. These authors have either done research on their subject or actually been to the facility and have seen it first hand, which gives them every right to report their opinion on why they think using animals is right or wrong.
Bauston, Gene. Battered Birds, Crated Herds, How We Treat the Animals We Eat. Michigan: BookCrafter, 1996: 5-6.
Bob, Elisa. "Excuse Me Ma'am, Are You Wearing Fetal Lamb?" The Animals' Agenda 21.1 (2001): 30-31.
Machan, Tibor R. "Why Human Beings May Use Animals." Journal of Value Inquiry 36.1 (2002): 9-14.
McMillan, Suzanne. "A Battery of Evidence." The Animals' Agenda 21.3 (2001): 12-13.
Rollin, Bernard E. Farm Animal Welfare: Social, Bioethical, and Research Issues. Iowa, Iowa State University P, 1995: 3-26.
Rosmarino, Nicole. "The Ultimate Underdog: The Battle over Prairie Dogs on the Great Plains." The Animals' Agenda 19.4 (1999): 23-27.
Scruton, Roger. Animal Rights and Wrongs. London: Demos, 1996: 10-27.
Wagner, Susan. "Pissing Their Lives Away: How the Drug Industry Harms Horses." The Animals' Agenda 21.2 (2001): 22-26.
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