Society’s Responsibility to Animal Rights

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Man's reliance on animals in daily life is undeniable. Animals provide fodder for humans, provide fabrics such as wool and silk for clothes, and, in the case of donkeys and camels, act as a mode of transportation. The daily contact with humans and animals entails an implicit moral obligation on the part of human community members. The evolution of animal welfare and animal rights has arisen from a consideration of man's duty to animals. Animal rights activists, according to Strand (2014), “oppose any use of wildlife, no matter how compassionate or responsible.” This is unlike animal welfare which advocates for the more humane treatment of animals. The animal rights movement has been gaining popularity in the United States of late and according to a recent poll by Gallup, 32 percent of Americans are of the opinion that “animals should be given the same rights as people” (Riffkin, 2015). As human beings, we are collectively responsible for the rights of animals and should ensure this is attained by letting animals live freely in their “natural environment” and work towards the integration of animal rights into public policy.

The issue of human beings caring about animals is not a new concept but rather one that has evolved over thousands of years. It can be traced back to the Neolithic era when domestication of animals began. The prevailing notion in the past was that "if you take care of your animals they will take care of you" (Strand, 2004). The advent of modern technology has, however, had a negative impact on the relationship between human beings and animals. With man more concerned with what he derives from the animals, it is now all about putting animals in environments that does not hinder their productivity. This approach has led to animals being reared in conditions that have adverse effects on their well- being.

The relationship between human beings and animals should be guided by a consideration of not only the physical well- being of an animal but also their mental well- being. As Lubinski (2004) argues, “animals can and do exist independent from people and, as living beings, they arguably have interests separate and apart from their utility to humanity.” The five freedoms of animal welfare offer the ultimate guide to man- animal relationship. The aforementioned freedoms include the following, “Freedom from hunger and thirst; Freedom from discomfort; Freedom from pain, injury or disease; Freedom to express normal behavior; and Freedom from fear and distress” (American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, n.d.).

According to Stoop (2015), the five freedoms can only be attained and fully upheld if human beings were to stop eating meat and keeping animals as pets. This is a perspective that has received massive opposition from the public especially considering that about 90 percent of human beings consume meat in one form or the other (Loughnan, Bastian, & Haslam, 2014). The dilemma, in this case, is between the rights of the animals and the needs of the society. However, what many fail to put in mind is that the animals we eat are the ones that are actually mistreated the most. This can be explained by looking at the issue from a psychological perspective. According to Loughnan, Bastian, and Haslam (2014), “People who value masculinity, enjoy meat and do not see it as a moral issue, and find dominance and inequality acceptable are most likely to consume animals. Perceiving animals as highly dissimilar to humans and as lacking mental attributes, such as the capacity for pain, also supports meat-eating. In addition to these beliefs, values, and perceptions, the act of eating meat triggers psychological processes that regulate negative emotions associated with eating animals.”

An insight into the world of industrial agriculture shines light into the need for the consideration of animal rights by the society. In the United States over a billion animals are reared purposely for food. Bockman, Shapiro and Sheingate (2013) argue that “the vast majority of animals raised on factory farms are treated in ways that may cause them extreme suffering.” The authors of this article illustrate their assertion by using the example of layers that are usually raised in battery cages that restrict their movement thus denying them the opportunity to live as they would in their natural environment. It is important to note that animals that are regarded as “cute” and usually kept as pets by human beings are actually treated in a more humane manner as compared to those that have offer economic benefits.

The responsibility of the human society with regard to the rights of animals can be exerted variously. First, as voters, we can influence politics by voting in leaders who are more conscious to the issue. This would be starting point of integrating values associated with animal rights into public policy. However, institutional changes are only important if people change their attitudes towards animals. As individuals and consumers, we also greatly influence the demand and supply of commodities in the market. As such, conscious decisions by individuals can greatly propel the animal rights movement. Retailers also play a significant role, in this case since they can influence animal treatment in industrial farms using the strength of the bargaining power. Interest groups, however, still remain as the most formidable advocate of animal rights in the human society. In the United States, animal rights interest groups include People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), and the National Animal Interest Alliance (NAIA). “Interest groups can influence the public opinion and attitude by negotiating and providing information” (Stoop, 2015). Their actions have been credited for the decision by the Ringling Brothers Circus to withdraw its circus elephants by 2018 (2015).

The fair treatment of animals is the responsibility of every human being. Society's dependency upon animals is vast. As such, the manner in which animals are treated is imperative. It would be wrong, however, to think that the mistreatment of animals by human beings would change overnight. The ultimate goal of animal rights activism is to ensure that public policy explicitly denounces the exploitation of animals by human beings. The process to reach this point is a measured one, however. It can only be achieved through the recognition of our responsibility to animals which can in turn be achieved through “public education, protests, demonstrations, civil disobedience and advertising” (Stoop, 2015). This way, the human society will be more responsive to the rights of animals.


American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (N.d.). Five Freedoms. Retrieved from

Lubinski, J. (2004). Introduction to Animal Rights. 2nd ed.

Riffkin, R. (2015). In U.S., More Say Animals Should Have Same Rights as People. Retrieved from

Strand, P. (2014). What is Animal Welfare and why is it important? Retrieved from

Stoop, B. (2015). Who is responsible for human rights? Retrieved from

October 25, 2022

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