FAMILIARISING WITH THE CONVERSATION
What is animal welfare?
The conversation about animal welfare has been influenced by the contact between animals and humans. Jennifer Grey in Zoo Ethics: The Challenge of Compassionate Account (2017) insists that the discussion gains life once we choose “to bring animals to our sphere of responsibility.”
However, animal welfare has greatly influenced ethical operation of zoos.
THE BIG QUESTION: REEVALUATING OUR RELATIONSHIPS WITH ANIMALS.
A presentation by Lesli Bisgould who is Canada's first animal rights lawyer.
Some concerns raised:
The notion of hindering ‘unnecessary’ suffering for animals somehow implies that there is ‘necessary’ suffering that can be allowed or overlooked.
The cost of research on the animals.
We classify animals as property so that we can treat them badly. So, if we can erode their property status then we can promote the appreciation of their rights.
Animals as subjects of a life (the difference in intelligent life forms is not a cogent criteria for mistreating animals)
Animal rights - having their fundamental status respected (animals are legal persons).
THE PHILOSOPHICAL UNDERPINNING.
The philosophical foundation of animal welfare is based on a range of discussions about animal ethics.
Fundamentally, the humane treatment principle stipulates that to bring unnecessary pain and suffering to animals is wrong. However, it is important to realise that the discussion broadens when we begin discussing about the basis, interpretation and the entailment of the principle.
NOTABLE PHILOSOPHICAL MENTIONS.
IMMANUEL KANT (Influential German idealist philosopher (1724-1804)) in Lectures on Ethics in 1700s states that:
“ANIMALS ARE NOT SELF CONSCIOUS AND ARE THERE MERELY AS A MEANS TO AN END. THAT END IS MAN”
Kant’s disregard for animals’ lack of consciousness does not warrant cruelty towards them. He insists that the way an individual treats an animal is a reflection of one’s indirect duty to mankind.
JEREMY BENTHAM (an English philosopher) in Introduction to the Principle of Morals and Legislation (1789) averred that:
“IT MATTERS NOT IF THEY CAN THINK—BUT CAN SUFFER”
This particular statement is acknowledged to have given birth to ethics for animals; a discussion that has now spanned for two centuries.
WILLIAM HAMILTON DRUMMOND (an Irish poet and controversialist) in The Rights of Animals: And Man’s Obligation to Treat Them with Humanity (1838) points out that;
WITHHOLDING BENEVOLENCE FROM ANIMALS WILL DEPRIVE HUMANS THE ‘MOST DELIGHTFUL ENJOYMENT’.
In his perception, humanity is inherently wired to appreciate and enjoy the company of animals wholly as part of God’s design.
He points out that;
ANIMALS “HAVE PASSIONS, FEELINGS AND SENSIBILITIES” BECAUSE “GOD DID NOT MAKE SUCH BEAUTY FOR MAN TO DESTROY.”
PETER SINGER is an Australian philosopher widely recognised to have greatly shaped the modern conception of animal welfare.
In his monumental text Animal Liberation (1975). Singer makes a number of compelling arguments on ways humans afflict animals.
His argument is based on the quintessential difference between animal rights and human rights.
Therefore, the basis through which animal rights are articulated ought to be unique to their existential condition.
In Animal Rights he writes that:
“THERE ARE OBVIOUSLY IMPORTANT DIFFERENCES BETWEEN HUMANS AND OTHER ANIMALS, AND THESE DIFFERENCES MUST GIVE RISE TO SOME DIFFERENCES IN THE RIGHTS THAT EACH HAVE."
CLAIRE PALMER is a British philosopher, theologian and scholar of environmental and religious studies.
In her book Animal Ethics in Context (2010) posits that when we accord animals a moral status alongside our direct duties to them, it is quite apparent that we cannot inflict harm on them.
In this controversial book (Animal Ethics in Context), Clare Palmer goes on and broadens the conversation on animal welfare by theoretically advancing that, in assisting animals, what is owed to one is not necessarily owed to all even if animals share similar psychological capacities.
If animals live independently in the wild, their fate is not any of our moral business. Yet if humans create dependent animals, or destroy their habitats, we may have a responsibility to assist them.
THE SCOPE: DOES ANIMAL WELFARE APPLY TO ALL ANIMALS?
The term animal includes every form of life between an insect and an elephant.
However, the containment of animals in captive settings makes the debate morally contestable since these enclosures are largely transparent.
Simplistically, welfare is often used to refer to the absence of pain and suffering, but modern conceptions of animal welfare include the ability to express natural behaviours and to show a sense of well-being.
Animal welfare now covers both physical and mental health of animals.
Currently, stakeholders in animal welfare questions how well an animal is coping with the environment of its habitation and the ways that environment (mostly artificial) meets the animal’s physical and emotional needs.
From a broader scheme of things surrounding animal welfare, the Five Freedoms model indicates the environmental factors that must be provided by those who hold animals if they are to increase the probability of delivering good welfare.
The five freedoms are:
Freedom from hunger and thirst.
Freedom from discomfort.
Freedom from pain.
Freedom from injury or disease.
Freedom to express natural behaviours.
Freedom from fear and distress.
David Mellor, a New Zealand academic has challenged the five domain model in an attempt to pose a more extensive understanding of animal welfare.
Through broad research, Mellor factors in the internal state of animals in order to develop a reliable way of assessing the subjective experiences of animals.
The model that Mellor formulated considers five domains of potential welfare that entail:
For more information look up his presentation at the National Animal Welfare Conference in Montreal (2019): Updating Animal Welfare Thinking: Moving Beyond the Five Freedoms Towards A Life Worth Living
NOTABLE MENTIONS TO FAMILIARISE WITH THE CULTURE OF ZOOS.
Regional governing bodies have been created in the twentieth-century to oversee ethical operation of zoos. These bodies have also promoted conservation, research and access to funding.
CAZA (CANADA’S ACCREDITED ZOOS AND AQUARIUMS).
It was formed in 1975.
CAZA is a private charitable organisation that represents the country’s leading zoological parks and aquariums. CAZA is committed to the advancement of accredited zoos and aquariums as humane agencies of animal welfare, conservation, science and education.
CAZA supports and enhances the conservation role of its members through a variety of public engagement and information initiatives and by partnering with like-minded organisations and institutions. Under it’s docket is a set of standards and ethics concerned with animal care and as a result CAZA has diligently created accreditation standards that have become recognised as among the best in the world. Here at home, they serve increasingly as a benchmark for quality animal care and welfare.
Here are some of the zoos in Canada accredited by CAZA by province: CAZA ACCREDITED ZOOS IN CANADA.
BIAZA (BRITISH AND IRISH ASSOCIATION OF ZOOS AND AQUARIUMS)
The British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums (BIAZA) was formerly known as the Federation of Zoological Gardens of Great Britain and Ireland until 2005.
The Federation was initially founded in 1966 with representatives from 9 zoos and bird gardens (Bristol, Chester, Edinburgh, London, Paignton, Dublin, Dudley, Tropical Bird Garden and Birdland), under the chairmanship of the Earl of Cranbrook.
The Federation aimed to see standardised principles and practices adopted in animal management in the British Isles, whilst ensuring members achieved and maintained high standards which was monitored through an inspection procedure.
FOR MORE INFORMATION: BIAZA WEBSITE.
ASSOCIATION OF ZOOS AND AQUARIUMS (AZA).
AZA was formed in October 1924 for the advancement of North American zoos and public aquariums in the areas of conservation, education, science, and recreation. It was initially regarded as American Zoo and Aquarium Association.
AZA represents more than 200 institutions which meet the highest standards in animal care, provide a fun and educational family experience, and dedicate millions of dollars to scientific research, conservation, and education programs.
AZA is the independent accrediting organisation for the best zoos and aquariums in America and the world, assuring the public that when they visit an AZA-accredited facility, it meets the highest standards.
FOR INFORMATION VISIT AZA WEBSITE: AZA.
Humane Canada, also known as the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies, is Canada's federation of SPCAs (Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) and humane societies. This organisation brings together organisations that work with and care for animals to end animal cruelty, improve animal protection and promote the humane treatment of all animals.
Founded in 1957, Humane Canada has earned quite a reputation and enviable credibility as the go-to national voice on animal welfare issues for industry, media, government, non-governmental organisations and the public. It works collaboratively and cooperatively with key stakeholders from across Canada, based on the premise that it can have a greater impact creating positive change by being a part of the process instead of being apart from it.
For more information, click here: HUMANE CANADA.
VOICE FOR ANIMALS SOCIETY.
Voice for Animals is a registered, non-profit organisation dedicated to the protection of animals in a wide range of circumstances.
The organisation’s focus is on local (Edmonton) and province wide issues. Going by the motto “think globally, act locally”.
Voice for Animals believes that it must lend its voices to speak out for animals who are abused and exploited.
The organisation insists that animals, whether domesticated or wild, need advocacy.
Voice for Animals’ scope entails:
Animals in entertainment.
Veganism ( any ethical principle or way of life which strictly avoids use of any kind of animal products and services that are based on exploitation of animals).
Sport hunting and fishing.
Animals in research and product testing.
Fur and leather.
Animal Justice leads the legal fight for animals in Canada. The lawyers work to pass strong new animal protection legislation, push for the prosecution of animal abusers, and fight for animals in court. This organisation among others creates an avenue to enforce animal law.
An example of animal law in practice is a bill to ban keeping whales and dolphins in captivity that was passed in the Canadian Senate this October . The senators voted to pass Bill S-203 late on Tuesday (23rd October 2018), and the legislation will now make its way to the House of Commons for further debate and voting. This groundbreaking legislation is now half-way to becoming law.
The legislation bans keeping whales and dolphins in captivity, breeding them, as well as import and export. There are exceptions for legitimate rescue and rehabilitation efforts.
FOR MORE INFO ON ANIMAL JUSTICE: ANIMAL JUSTICE.
MORE CONCERNS ON ANIMAL WELFARE.
Here is a Swedish document on Animal Welfare that will help you reflect on a number of things surrounding animal welfare through a contemporary lens.
THE DOCUMENT: A Swedish Report.
They questions entail:
Animals in performance (circuses)
Sexual exploitation of animals; animals in pornography.
Abandoned, stray and feral animals.
Breeding that causes suffering.
Alienated from their natural behaviour.