Genetically, almost indistinguishable from the closest primate relatives, human beings are tiny branch of great evolutionary tree. The spread of civilization made human beings ruthlessly exploit nature. In this race for progress, we have failed to respect intrinsic value of animals. Almost all religions consider animals as symbolizing God. For Hindus, God appears in different forms at various times to fulfill specific purposes like Narishma. Prophet Mohammad is believed to say that all creatures are the family of God and he loves the most those who are the most beneficent to his family.
Animals are capable of enjoying rights due to the fact that they are sentient beings i.e. can feel pain like us. No one has a right benefit as a result of violating another’s right, whether that other is human or lower animal. According to the ‘Similarity argument’ all living entities must be given like treatment. So, all animals have a right to be free from oppression, confinement, use and abuse by humans. Wild animals must be able to maintain a natural balance without disturbance by human beings. The domestic or pet animals must neither be treated as property nor as pets. Both categories of animals have right of physical integrity. They should not be abandoned when remain of no use to owners such as on reaching old age or falling pray to incurable diseases.
All animals whether endangered or not have a right to live in open as per wishes. The survival of species does not justify the loss of their freedom. Zoos operating breeding programs for endangered species do involve an infringement on the rights of animals to be free. The removal of species from the ecosystem defeats the very purpose of protecting their relationship between partners of wild life. Even their use for entertainment in movies or circuses is against their rights.
All research that involves invasive procedures, constant confinement and ultimate death can be said to be against crucial interests of animals. Animal research and experimentation are ethically unacceptable and mere formality to legally authorize dangerous products. The 3Rs approach was developed in twentieth century which provides- Replacing animals with organs, tissues or cells; Refining the methods of research and Reducing the number of animals used in research.
We must accept that scientists try their best to escape research on animals and whenever they resort to animals, it is done for human benefit. The vaccine, kidney-transplants and heart surgery techniques have all been developed with the help of animal research. The biological and evolutionary similarities between humans and non-human animals promote scientists to use animals. They can easily be studied in their short life span and their environment can accordingly be controlled. We have been able to understand the cause and possible treatment of Heart disease, HIV, Cancer and Polio only by conducting research on animals such as rats, sheep, monkeys, chickens etc.
Thus, there exists a both negative and positive aspect of granting rights to animals. All animals seek to protect their own lives and preserve their freedom. We must remember that in their protection lies our own survival. Balancing human pride with basic interests of animals is the best solution to maintain harmony in environment. Efforts from all of us must flow to minimize medical research on animals and creating humane conditions of their treatment.
[Image courtesy: http://flickr.com/photos/hypertypos/2643887190/sizes/m/]