UNIVERSAL BILL OF RIGHTS FOR ANIMALS & NATURE
MICHAEL W. FOX, B. Vet. Med., Ph.D., D.Sc., M.R.C.V.S.
We share this world with other animals. They share our capacity to experience the pains and pleasures of existence in their various modes of being, through which they contribute to the life and beauty of the Earth: To the functional integrity of the natural environment, upon whose healthy and productive ecosystems we humans and all life depend. They seek physical comfort, freedom from pain and fear; and according to their needs, seek emotional gratification as well as physical satisfaction like we, and the security of social relationships.
The predominant belief that humans are superior or categorically different from other animals in a multitude of aspects we are the same. We live and breathe and flourish from the same powers that create and nourish life, as we yield and succumb to those very same forces that weaken and destroy life.
Humans are the dominant species. There is no question that we can and do control the lives and destinies of other species as well as our own. However, this aspect of our being human is not the true measure of our worth, and purpose. What is most remarkable about being human is not that we have the power and the intellect to exploit and degrade other species, (as well as our own), but that we can use this power of dominion to hallow, serve, and heal, and make the Earth whole and healthy again. When we aspire to serve rather than destroy---to safeguard rather than to squander---we have defined what it truly means to be human from a bioethical, and operational perspective.
The humane treatment of animals and the consideration of their needs not only safeguards these living, feeling earth-relations of ours from harm and suffering, but also elevate and refine the human spirit. If we can learn to be kind to, and consider the life of the most feared and loathed as well as the most vulnerable and defenseless ---to those without the power to assert their will in our system of justice---then and only then are we capable of learning how to be kind and just to each other. We strive as a species along various ideological paths of progress toward peace and prosperity, and thereby evolve apart from other animals who are by their natures constrained to narrower paths that serve to greater good of the planetary ecology and life community. Our strivings create a paradox, for our moral progress and spiritual growth rest in the awareness that our treatment of other beings is simply a reflection of how we treat each other.
All living beings are endowed with sensory perception and varying degrees of cognition, and therefore, warrant respect and moral consideration. They are part of the same life or Earth community as we, and are linked with us biologically, ecologically, economically, culturally and emotionally. The value of an animals’ life cannot be measured simply in terms of human gratification or perceived need. The worth of other animals, like any human’s, is inherent by virtue of their very existence.
That animals exist and can suffer pain and experience fear and pleasure requires that we do not lessen the quality of their lives buy failing to give them equal consideration; by not establishing mutually enhancing relationships and instead treating them as objects, commodities; and by not conserving, preserving, and restoring the habitats of the wild. As living, sentient beings, they are entitled to a life free of pain and torment when confined to the various artificial habitats within which humans place and use them as domesticated animals and captive wildlife.
Those living in the wild are entitled to fulfill their ecological roles and biological purpose in protected environments.
If ever our needs conflict with those of another species and we thereby act to deprive them of their freedom or to cause them harm, we must ensure that the consequences of our actions in the final analysis are truly benevolent toward animals as individuals and members of the Earth community. Only then can these actions be justified, as in population control, including our own, for humane and environmental/ecological, and health reasons. As reasoning and feeling creatures capable of moral judgment and possessing compassion, it is crucial that we acquire the wisdom and the humility to enable us to live in harmony with our fellow creatures---and at peace with ourselves. They contribute more to sustain the planetary ecosystem---our life support system on space-ship Earth---than we who now endanger all when we put selfish interests before the greater good of all life.
Engaging in planetary CPR-the conservation, preservation, and restoration of the natural world-will not succeed if the health and welfare of domestic animals are neglected and the ecological contributions of all indigenous wild species, and of ecologically integrated farmed animals, are neither respected nor understood. In other words, the integrity and future of the natural world-wild nature-will be secure when the laws and conventions of every nation and community recognize that all beings have rights according to their natures and mode of being; and citizens, corporations and governments must act accordingly.
Reverential respect and understanding are the antidotes to biological imperialism and chauvinism. To this end, we must proceed to:
*** Develop a set of moral principles and bioethical criteria that establish and define our obligations to all sentient life.
*** Examine and reject all conventions, cultural traditions, religious and secular beliefs, biases and practices that cause animals to be harmed or degraded, or forced in any manner to forgo the fulfillment of their existence.
*** Pledge never to take another’s life or cause any other being to suffer unless there are no alternatives and then only when the consequences are truly benevolent (to that being in question), or to the larger life community.
*** Curtail all human activities that harm wildlife by destroying natural habitat, as by deforestation, agricultural and other commercial conversions and encroachments, and by pollution.
***From these assertions, we must, as a species, move to develop a set of laws that will incorporate these fundamental moral principles to ensure that they become part of the framework within which we operate and exist every day of our lives. As we exercise our moral judgment and ethical discrimination for animals’ and natures’ sake, so will we ultimately benefit ourselves economically, socially, and spiritually.
CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHTS FOR ANIMALS:
AMENDING THE UN CHARTER ON HUMAN RIGHTS AND THE
CONSTITUTION OF THE US AND ALL DEMOCRATIC NATIONS
Whereas animals have a biological kinship with humans since Homo sapiens is a species of animal,
And whereas nonhuman animals are part of the same world-ecological community as we,
And whereas nonhuman animals, including those that have been domesticated or genetically altered, have a will to live, and interests, and a life of their own,
And whereas many nonhuman animals have basic instincts, emotions and needs comparable to those that we possess and experience,
And whereas it is a matter of human dignity, self-respect, and progress for every nation to treat nonhuman animals with respect and compassion,
And whereas it is contrary to the ethics and morality of a civilized society to exclude by omission or commission the rights and interests of all members of the world-ecological community from equal and fair consideration,
So let it be resolved that the United nations Charter on Human Rights and the Constitution of the United States shall be so amended as to read:
***All nonhuman animals, (including all invertebrate species) shall be given the right to freedom from pain and fear; and the right to equal and fair consideration.
*** Neither cruel exploitation nor subjugation or unnecessary incarceration of nonhuman animals shall exist within member countries of the United Nations, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.
*** All laws governing the treatment of animals and the natural environment shall be harmonized and equally enforced in all member countries, and set to the highest standards based on an informed consensus of representatives drawn from a democratic constituency of vested interests, cultural, commercial, humane and environmental.
*** Membership in the UN (and in the World Trade Organization or WTO) shall be conditional upon such harmonization, which in its absence leads to unfair economic advantage in the competitive, rather than cooperative, world market, as well as much animal suffering and environmental destruction and pollution.
*** Nonhuman animals have fundamental interests that shall not be weighed against competing human interests, since humans have no absolute right to place their own interests over those of our fellow animals.
*** Alternatives to the use of animals in warfare and military weapons (including biological) testing go hand in hand with alternatives to the primitive and costly use of warfare as a justified means to human ends.
*** Alternatives to the use of animals in biomedical research go hand in hand with alternatives to the medical professions’ reliance on various pharmaceutical and petrochemical products and other treatments and diagnostic procedures that were first tested on healthy, normal animals who were variously and deliberately infected, traumatized, poisoned and killed: And on animals who have been selectively bred or genetically engineered and cloned to be afflicted with a hereditary disease/genetic disorder to serve as human surrogates for humans with similar disorders in biomedical experiments that might be profitable for investors.
*** Alternatives to the mass exploitation of animals for human consumption go hand in hand with advances in medical knowledge and public health that both call for alternatives in what we raise for food and consume. The first priority is the phase-out of concentrated animal feeding operations (factory farms and feedlots) and the growing of chemically-dependent commodity crops, many of which, like corn, soy and cotton, have been genetically engineered. The adoption of humane, organic, sustainable, environmentally friendly and socially just food production methods and practices is a wise alternative to the continuance of an increasingly toxic and dysfunctional agricultural industry and of dietary and nutrition-related diseases associated with the products consumed from this monopolistic source.
*** Alternatives to the international trade in wildlife for the pet industry and for all other commercial purposes go hand in hand with the conservation of indigenous species, concern for animal welfare, and the protection of the publics’ health from zoonotic diseases.
Be it resolved therefore that the following basic rights for animals be put into law:
*** THE RIGHT of all animals to be free from all forms of cruel exploitation and treatment; from avoidable physical pain, psychological suffering, fear and distress, and freedom from neglect and deliberate abuse.
*** THE RIGHT of all domestic and captive wild animals to appropriate veterinary care when needed, and to a humane death (euthanasia) when to prolong life would mean intractable suffering and distress.
*** THE RIGHT of animals not to be used in cruel and unnecessary experiments, and for the testing of non-essential commercial products such as new cosmetics and household cleaners. The use of animals in biomedical research shall be justified only when the research intentions are primarily for their benefit, human benefits being derivative or secondary.
*** THE RIGHT of farmed animals to an environment that satisfies their basic physical and psychological needs and behavioral requirements, and that facilitates their role in humane and ecologically sustainable farming systems.
*** THE RIGHT of companion animals to a relationship that is mutually enhancing and that is based upon the responsible care-giver/guardian having the necessary respect and understanding to help assure the animals’ emotional as well as physical well being.
*** THE RIGHT of wild animals to a natural, undisturbed habitat, ecologically sufficient for a normal existence and a self-sustaining species population.
*** THE RIGHT of animals to have their interests represented in court and safeguarded by the law of the land.
The World Society for Protection of Animals (WSPA) is currently spearheading a campaign to achieve a Universal Declaration On Animal Welfare at the United Nations (UN). The current text of the Declaration which was agreed by 19 government delegations on the occasion of the Manila Conference on Animal Welfare in March 2003 recognizes that animals are sentient beings and that animal welfare is an important issue that should be considered as part of the social development of all nations. The text also cites the Five Freedoms (animals’ right to have sufficient freedom of movement to turn around, groom, get up, lie down, and stretch), in the preamble. Following are the principles of the declaration itself:
? The welfare of animals shall be a common objective for all nations;
? The standards of animal welfare attained by each nation shall be promoted, recognized and observed by improved measures, nationally and internationally, respecting social and economic considerations and religious and cultural traditions;
? All appropriate steps shall be taken by nations to prevent cruelty to animals and to reduce their suffering;
? Appropriate standards on the welfare of animals be further developed and elaborated such as, but not limited to, those governing the use and management of farm animals, companion animals, animals in scientific research, draught animals, wildlife animals and animals in recreation.
With the active support of a steering committee of five governments (India, Costa Rica, Philippines, Czech Republic and Kenya) who are championing the initiative in their respective UN regions, the WSPA is assisting the steering committee with the organization of a Ministerial Conference where representatives from UN member states will be able to endorse the initiative on behalf of their country prior to submission to the Economic & Social Council (ECOSOC) of the UN in 2008. It is anticipated that the declaration will then go before the UN General Assembly for final adoption. To help achieve this initiative, you can sign the petition at: www.AnimalsMatterUSA.org and for more information, you can contact: firstname.lastname@example.org. The petition will be presented to representatives from UN member states on the occasion of the conference in 2007 and at each key stage of the campaign following that to show global public support for the initiative.