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Human Precedence – why humans always come first

Without probably realising it we are all influenced by the stance of the law towards animals because there are three major drawbacks with all animal law. The first is that animals always lose out as they are considered as chattels or things or the property of people. The second is that they are viewed more as ‘subjects’ of protection rather than having legal rights themselves and the third is that prosecutions are not taken seriously which is reflected in the paltry fines and punishments given. These factors demean the status of animals and conveys a message to us that it is not so bad to ill-treat or abuse them because we have the confidence that human interests will always be put above theirs.

Basically, property cannot have rights over humans and so whenever there is any conflict the outcome is predetermined.

Historically, livestock was kept for food production and wild animals protected for hunting, but the common theme was that they all belonged or were owned by someone and therefore animals became enshrined in law as property. Basically, property cannot have rights over humans and so whenever there is any conflict the outcome is predetermined. This mind-set is deeply rooted within us, so much so that we are now unable to contemplate viewing them in any other way.

Many people feel that they should possess the basic right not to be treated as a ‘thing’ and there has been a lot of comparison to the slave trade when slaves were not thought to have interests and were looked upon as things or commodities and even to feminism whereby historically women were oppressed. The situation is basically the same worldwide and animals are secondary to their ‘natural predators’ humans, possessing little legal protection from being caused harm and suffering by us as long as it is beneficial to us. This is one of the main factors why the animal rights movement came into being.

Animals will always come second to humans whatever the situation or circumstances as we could never bring ourselves to perhaps save an animal at the expense of a member of our own species.

Under the new UK Animal Welfare Act 2006 this premise continues and older UK laws like the Criminal Damages Act 1971 and the Sale of Goods Act 1979 declares them property or as goods and chattels, but at least these differentiate them apart from inanimate objects and treat them as living entities. This status under animal law has been the main factor in keeping them subjugated and allowing us to do basically want we want with them. If their property status was abolished it would be a great step towards their rights as it would make it almost impossible for us to exploit them and for that sole reason it will never happen because of the considerable detrimental impact it would have on the way we live.

Animals will always come second to humans whatever the situation or circumstances as we could never bring ourselves to perhaps save an animal at the expense of a member of our own species, but we could do more to protect animals from our mistakes. This very important fact probably passes most people by and is what, quite rightly, upsets so many animal rights advocates.

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Nothing Changes When Fighting Animal Abuse Issues

Conditions rarely improve for animals

A couple of years ago I was a participant at a conference on animal welfare issues where several animal charities had gathered to discuss how to tackle the cat crisis that existed in the UK. Having listened for an hour or so, I felt as though I had been transported back several decades, as I realised that the conversation hadn’t changed at all over that period. Talk of catching and neutering all the stray and feral cats and releasing them, educating the public over neutering and operating free neutering schemes had all been visited before. Obviously these had been of little success, but with nothing new on the table everyone was excited about putting all their efforts yet again into solving the cat problem once and for all, whereas my inner thoughts were of “here we go again”.

It was somewhat of an epiphany for me, as I suddenly realised that nothing really changes when it comes to solving animal welfare issues and despite endless national and international legislation, improved scientific and technological knowledge, rising educational standards and plentiful funding, animal abuse and uninformed pet ownership continues unabated in the UK, and around the world for that matter, and we appear unable or unwilling to do anything about it. Arguably it is on the increase, with few people sincerely looking out for animals’ interests, which is particularly galling for those of us who have spent lifetimes attempting to improve their lot in life.

puppies, unwanted, stray, dog pound
We have never been able to solve the continual problem of unwanted animals.

Animals seem to have few friends these days and their interests and welfare are getting lost, with those entrusted with protecting animals apparently apathetic to the task, unable or unwilling to make any progress. Whether it is the media, the law, governments, science, academia, industry, the veterinary profession or welfare and conservation groups, they all seem to have an agenda of going with the flow and maintaining the  status quo as there are too many conflicts of interest, economic pressures and self-interest involved which hinder any positive improvement.

“giving rights to animals would seriously affect global economies”

Many observers confidently believe that our attitude towards animals has improved over the last few decades and that there is now general recognition among the masses that they deserve to be treated humanely and have their rights respected, which has resulted in their welfare standards bettering across the board. During a career in animal welfare that has spanned this period, I have seen no tangible evidence that this is so. Realistically the problems are just changing and increasing to alarming levels as more people have the financial means to keep pets, farming methods change, cultures insist on continuing to pursue deep-seated outdated attitudes and traditions and the available land for free roaming animals diminishes.

Abuse is heavily weighted in favour of our well-being at their expense.

We each play a part in perpetuating the use and abuse of animals but are unable to consider ending our involvement as their use provides massive employment opportunities and huge financial rewards to the point where any curtailment in their exploitation or giving rights to animals would seriously affect global economies and would impact on our lifestyles and pastimes.

Most, if not all the exploitation is heavily weighted in favour of our well-being at their cost and we have become so self-obsessed that we are not only losing sight of our responsibilities to them but are increasingly losing our empathy and respect for them. To many they have no real purpose or value anymore in our modern society except as unwilling participants in all our pastimes and hobbies and of course to eat, and we find it impossible to consider that they may have interests of their own particularly in living lives unfettered by us. They touch most of our lives in some way and they provide many of us with enjoyment, faithful companionship and complete trust, but we seem to always let them down at some point. Solving the issue of animal welfare and rights to everybody’s satisfaction is fundamentally one of the world’s final frontiers.

Updated 2020