1. It is fine for you to believe in animal welfare, but you shouldn’t tell other people what to do.
The fundamental principle that animal rights activists believe in is that nonhuman animalsdeserve to live according to their own natures, free from harm, abuse, andexploitation.
This implies animals have the rightto be free from human cruelty andexploitation, just as humans possess this right. Animal rights activists try to extend the human circle of respect andcompassion beyond our species to include other animals, who are alsocapable of feeling pain, fear, hunger, thirst, loneliness, and kinship.
Thus, the perspective here is one of rights, and not of choice. For example, humans have the ‘right’ to life, and one cannot refer to the same as ‘human welfare’, similarly, an animal has a right to live, to be free from pain etc.
If the question, ‘Why should I care?’ does indeed pop up in your mind, from the human standpoint alone, we still care about:-
• Minimizing suffering
• Improving the health of humanity
• Human starvation and malnutrition
• Preventing the disruption of our environment
• Preventing climate change and global warming
Under both conditions, animal rights hold high regard and value, and must be practiced.
2. What about all the customs, traditions and jobs that depend on using animals?
Throughout history, there have been varied national and international movements to end certain customs and traditions, slavery, public executions, torture, witch burning, female foeticide and Sati all deserve to die out. In today’s world, we should rightly add animal exploitation and enslavement to that list.
More importantly, the loss of any of these customs has not resulted in any lasting harm to human beings, be it economically, or socially. In fact, humans would only have gotten closer to civility with the death of these customs, there is no reason to say that the same will not hold true for animal torture.
Economically, two reasons are worth mentioning. The first is that, the profits from the animal industry seem to be backed by market demand and affluence. There is no reason to believe that this demand cannot or will not automatically redirected to other industries. The second argument is that, while a job is at stake for a human being, freedom from torture and exploitation and the possibility of a happy life.
3. How can you justify spending your time and money on animals when there are so many humans who need help?
To begin with, this question makes the assumption that it is more important to help humans, or the ‘human animal’, than to help non-humans, or other animals.
However, if one were to argue, and accept, that there is greater suffering and loss with regards to human life, that with regards to that of animals, one could still argue that it is extremely beneficial for human beings to work on animal rights and animal welfare. One simple example is that stopping the production of animal products would have a positive impact on our health as well as environment. Furthermore, fostering compassion for animals goes a long way in increasing the compassion of human beings as a whole.
Thus those involved in the animal rights movement are partners in the struggle to secure respect for human rights–the rights of women, for example, or minorities, or workers.
4. Some animals are bred to be eaten or experimented upon.
The idea that ‘human intention’(to breed or experiment) to cause suffering, can justify the suffering, seems rather illogical. It aims to justifying a belief that is otherwise morally condemned.
Let’s take an example. If we start breeding humans, only to enslave them, could we justify it by saying ‘they’re bred to be our workers’? Can we justify the countless murders of Indians during JailawalanBagh by saying that, ‘we rounded them up to be killed’?
One should now be able to see that the argument is a flawed one.
5. Since animals in cages and factory farms or labs have never known anything else, they don’t suffer much, do they?
Over years of evolution, things become natural behaviour to all animals, humans and otherwise. If we were to rear and breed human beings, they would, by evolution, feel the need to exercise natural behaviour such as movement, freedom from pain, fear etc.
The same also holds true for animals. Over a span of many years, all animals have developed certain natural behaviours , for example, cows and elephants form deep social bonds, while chickens and hens like to roost, dust bathe, peck and perch. Being prevented from engaging in normal behaviour and away from normal habitat causes an animal discomfort, just as it would to a human being.
Even if animals were unaware of natural behaviour, keeping animals restricted in cages or other intensively confined conditions has detrimental impacts on their health and general well-being. The same can be noted in the fact that these animals often have drastically shorter lifespans that their counterparts in natural habitats.
6. Animals are not as intelligent or advanced as humans, are they?
Everything science has learned about other species points out the biological similarities between humans and nonhumans. Charles Darwin once wrote that the differences between humans and other animals are differences of degree, not differences of kind. Since both humans and nonhumans evolved over millions of years and share similar nervous systems and other organs, there is no reason to think we do not share a similar mental and emotional life with other animal species. Furthermore, if possessing superior intelligence and advance knowledge does not entitle one human to abuse another human for his or her purposes, why should it entitle humans to abuse non-humans? Intelligence is highly subjective, and some animals can be thought of as even more intelligent, creative and aware than some humans. For example, a chimpanzee is much smarter than a human baby or person. A pig has the same level of intelligence as a 3 year old human baby.
If humans are to be regarded as intelligent civilised species, protecting the very environs that we live in should be a fundamental part of our existence. Thus, an argument of intelligence cannot be used to justify cruelty towards animals.
7. Animals kill other animals for food, so why shouldn’t we?
Predatory animals must kill to survive, in essence, to stop them from doing so would mean, killing them. Humans, in contrast, have a choice;
they need not eat meat to survive. Humans differ from non-human animals in being capable of conceiving, and acting in accordance with a system of morals; therefore, we cannot seek moral guidance or precedent from non-human animals. For example, in nature, animals steal food from one another, would it then be alright for humans to do the same?
Some ideals we expect our younger generation to live up to include preventing children from harming others, or from stealing and abusing. The same message should then be proposed for non-human morals.
Furthermore, we kill not just for food, but for food, curiosity, fashion and entertainment which cannot be justified.
8. If everyone turns vegetarian, what will happen to the excess chickens, pigs and goats?
As stated earlier, the market for animal-derived products is demand driven and functions just like it does for other goods. As the demand decreases so will the breeding of chickens, pigs and goats in factory farm to satiate that need. This need should then be replaced by other industries that could come in to take its place. A fitting example here may be the mock meat industry. One can also envision a rise in soy, coconut and rice milk production with a fall in animal milk production.
Thus, in due time, a fall in the demand will return these animals their natural habitat.
9. If everyone turns vegetarian, will there be enough for everyone to eat?
The idea of everyone turning vegetarian highly utopian, however, it could only mean good things for both, animals, as well as human beings. A major ramification of global vegetarianism would be expanses of new land available. Currently, grazing land for ruminants—cows and their kin—accounts for about 26 percent of the world’s ice-free land surface. Dutch scientists predicted that 2.7 billion hectares of that grazing land would be freed up by global vegetarianism, along with 100 million hectares of land that’s currently used to grow crops for livestock.
Furthermore, simple intuition tells us that if we feed 5 kg grain to produce 1 kg meat, then a more optimum utilisation of that grain may be feeding more mouths.
10. I have heard that vegetarian diets are protein deficient.
While protein is essential for the body, we don’t need as much protein as is commonly believed. The recommended amount of protein has halved in the last 20 years due as severe chronic diseases have been linked to the consumption of animal ( not plant) based protein.
On an average, human need anywhere between 45- 55 gms of protein per day. This chart below gives the protein percentages of common foods we eat.
Food g Protein/100g food Protein (% energy)
Almonds 16.9 12.0
Apple 0.3 2.6
Baked beans 5.1 31.0
Banana 1.1 5.6
Broad beans 4.1 34.2
Broccoli 3.3 57.4
Carrots 0.7 12.2
Cornflakes 8.6 9.3
Dried dates 2.0 3.2
Human milk 1.3 7.5
Lentils 23.8 31.3
Mushrooms 1.8 55.4
Orange 0.8 9.1
Peanut butter 22.4 14.5
Peanuts 24.3 17.1
Peas 5.8 34.6
Potatoes 2.1 9.7
Sweetcorn 4.1 12.9
Wholemeal bread 8.8 16.3
Given our food consumption patterns, it is almost impossible for a vegetarian diet to be protein deficient.
11. What’s wrong with drinking milk? Don’t dairy cows need to be milked?
Milk comes from lactation and lactation through birth. To ensure a steady supply of milk the year round, animals are artificially inseminated every year. By definition, if an animal is not inseminated, and does not produce a calf, then she will not produce milk. Thus, the process of milk production is a not a natural one. Furthermore, we have selectively bred cows to produce high quantities of milk. Erstwhile, cows used to produce as much milk as was required by their calves. Thus, cows don’t need to be ‘milked’; rather, they are made to produce milk regularly.
Drinking milk is wrong in the same way that consumption of any animal product is.
In natural circumstances, calves are entitled to cow’s milk, however, that would mean lesser supply for human beings, thus calves are often not given the milk that is ideally produced for their growth. While female calves are raised to produce milk, male calves are often abandoned or slaughtered. Because, of the rise in demand of milk and its’ by-products, cows are pushed beyond their natural limits, genetically engineered and fed growth hormones so that they will produce huge quantities of milk. Such genetic engineering has resulted in a slew of lifestyle diseases.
12. I sometimes see dogs with hairless patches – are they all rabid?
There are many signs and stages of rabies. First there are vague, non-specific signs such as fever, nausea or pain. Thereafter canine rabies can take one of two forms: “furious” rabies or “dumb” rabies. In the “furious” form there is great restlessness, abnormal behaviour, salivation, weakness of the back legs and paralysis. The dog is hyperexcitable and aggressive, biting even imaginary objects. In the “dumb” form, dogs show incoordination leading to paralysis, and want to hide in dark places. In both forms there are changes in the voice and inability to swallow. In the last stage, paralysis causes respiratory failure, leading to coma and death. As can be observed, hairless patches are not a symptom of rabies. Though a common problem in Indian street dogs, a skin infection is not symptomatic of rabies.
13. Zoos and circuses keep all animals happy, well fed and protected. What’s wrong with going to a zoo?
Zoos often keep animals in situations that are far from natural or adequate. The natural instincts and behaviour of these animals are suppressed by force. For example: Elephants are social animals and move in packs in nature, however, they are kept in isolated cages in circuses and zoos, supressing their natural behaviour and need to walk for miles a day. This hinders their most natural response of forming social bonds. As mentioned above, the lifespan of animals in zoos is often much shorter than that in the wilderness, justifying a case for their freedom.
By going to zoos, we continue to propagate a system which harms animals for profit motives.
14. We were all non-vegetarian in the olden days, why do we need to change our dietary habits now?
To begin with, the idea that we were ‘non- vegetarian’ implies nothing more than the fact that we could also digest meat. Studies now show that evolutionary theory suggests that meat consumption was not a regular item of food; it was something that one may occasionally pick up.
As a general source of food, nuts, leave and fruits formed a major part of the diet. The same can be observed even today in our near ancestors, i.e. primates such as monkeys.
Thus, the methods and forms of meat consumption that occur presently have little trace in our history.
Furthermore, consumption of milk did not form a part of the paleolithic diet, however, we chose to change our consumption patterns there as well. Thus, our present animal product consumption pattern points towards a change in itself.
15. Why don’t we take all street dogs and put them in a home, so that there are no more street dogs?
To begin with, a shelter home, or dog pound is the human equivalent of a hospital, where one would find injured, diseased or sick animals. The ideology behind dog shelters can vary, some keep certain animals for life, while others ensure that an animal is in a good state of health to return it to the streets. Thus, a shelter is no place for a healthy dog.
More importantly however, street dogs belong on streets. Their basic behaviours such as scavenging are fulfilled on the streets where they can roam freely and live fulfilling lives. Street dogs also serve the function of keeping certain diseases from spreading such as the plague.
Arguing a case against street dogs on streets is analogous to saying that we should put all old people in shelter homes so that there are no more old people on streets.
16. Dogs bite bystanders and pedestrians. Do you expect us to do, just sit back and watch?
The first expectation of any citizen is to be law abiding. Under Section 11(1) (a) – (o), of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960, hitting, beating, kicking, torturing, or indefinitely confining any animal, including dogs amounts to a violation of the Act and is punishable by law.
While it is rare for a dog to bite unprovoked, they can sense fear. If you’re scared of street animals, the best thing to do is to keep calm and maintain your distance from the animal. While certain dogs may be more pre-disposed to fights and biting than others, a general fall in aggression has been noted with the implementation of an animal birth control programme. These programs are effective in maintaining the overall health of a community. If you are seriously concerned about street dogs, getting a spay/neuter program in your area is an excellent idea.
17. What is wrong with overloading a truck with cattle when the poor farmer is running out of money?
To begin with, it seems narcissistic to put the needs of a human being, over that of an animal. The benefit to the farmer here would be a monetary one while that to the suffering inflicted on the animal may lead to its maiming, disease or even death. To gauge economic benefit while overlooking suffering would not be the standard of a civilised society.
Furthermore, there are certain standards within the Indian law that cannot be overlooked. A truck in Indian can legally carry a maximum of six cows or buffaloes, as each animal needs approximately 2 metres of space. Inability to follow such law can lead to fine, imprisonment, or both.
18. It’s better to test products on animals that getting a skin infection from cosmetics.
The practice of product testing on animals treats animals as renewable resources with no individual lives or interests is astonishingly cruel. Furthermore, it assumes that the risks incurred by one class of individuals can be forcibly transferred onto another.
One method of testing is the Draize irritancy test, in which potentially harmful products are dripped into the eyes of test animals. The harmfulness of the product is then subjectively assessed depending on the size of the area injured, the opacity of the cornea, and the degree of redness, swelling and discharge of the conjunctivae, and in more severe cases, on the blistering or gross destruction of the cornea.
Science and technology have rendered the need of such tests on animals absolutely moot, and unjustifiable.
There are plenty of products in the market that do not test products on animals, in fact, animal testing for cosmetics is altogether banned in India.
19. Street cows block the traffic and cause accidents. They should all be put in a shelter.
As mentioned before, a shelter for animals is the equivalent of a modern day hospital. Putting healthy and fit animals off the streets and into the shelter reflects an extremely anthropocentric way of looking at the situation. Street cows, like all street animals ultimately belong there.
However, if we delve a little deeper into the cause, it becomes clear as to ‘why’ there are cows on streets in India. The ‘white revolution’ gave a boost to milk production and we are currently at the helms of a second white revolution. Male calves and spent dairy cows – a by-product of the dairy industry often find themselves abandoned after they serve their ‘commercial purpose’. Thus animals found on the streets are directly related to our growing dairy and dairy product consumption.