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Thank you for your patience, and interest, and see you there,
29 June 2006

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Animal Rights/Welfare - do we know the difference?

Okaaaay, so I couldn't resist sending this email last night to the hosts of the 93.8 program that's running the radio segment at 12.20om today: Is Animal Rights Activism a waste of time and resources? I did get carried away.. just a little.

Hi Melanie, Eugene, This is going to be an interesting topic, but I just wonder how many people do appreciate the real meaning of Animal Rights, or are even aware that it is quite separate from Animal Welfare? It seems quite impossible to engage in meaningful discussion unless participants are able to recognise the two as separate in the first place. For example, I've known of animal-work volunteers who get asked the question: why do you bother with animals? It is more important to help people! Even my relatives have asked the same of me. My usual reply is: animals cannot speak, but that does not mean they don't feel anything, nor does this 'disability' of theirs give us the right to exploit and abuse them. Besides, I am being guided by my beliefs. You think it's more important to help people - may I know what have you done in support of your beliefs? Personally, I do believe both Animal Rights and Animal Welfare are important, and you can work for either or both at the same time. Time and resources channelled to these two causes are never a waste. As a friend say, the true waste is when you have a ginomous casino, and it's attendant ills, around - it takes time and resoures to build it, and it also takes time and resoures to alleviate the ills it brings. I say alleviate because realistically, nothing can resolve these ills while the source is open. It is like opening a floodgate, and then trying to repair the damage, while keeping the floodgate open. Another problem with being concerned for animal rights/welfare is the word activism or activists. It is actually a unwelcome brand those who don't 'get it' impose on the people working for these causes. These are viewed as dirty words within this context - along the lines of terrorists or crazed fanatics. Most people assume anyone who works on non-human causes are rabid extremists. That is just as condescending and discriminatory as painting all Muslims with the same brush because of 911 and Al-Queda! Most people assume too that animal activism is to the detriment of humanity. But is it? Ethics is, I believe, at the heart of the argument. "Compassion, in which all ethics must take root, can only attain its full breadth and depth if it embraces all living creatures and does not limit itself to mankind." ~Albert Schweitzer, humanitarian theologian, missonary, organist, medical doctor, 1875-1965 Note that this gentleman is a humanitarian, theologian and medical doctor. And yet he believes Ethics and Compassion cannot be exclusive to mankind. Ethics is founded on compassion. And compassion is neither selective nor discriminatory. So you see, you don't have to be an animal-lover to understand or appreciate why Animal Rights and Animal Welfare movements have their relevance. The true pre-requisites are compassion and ethics. I'd like to quote a few more enlightened persons to illustrate: Saint Francis of Assisi, 1181-1226quoted in Life by St. Bonaventura

If you have men who will exclude any of God’s creatures from the shelter of compassion and pity, you will have men who will deal likewise with their fellow men.

I am not interested to know whether vivisection produces results that are profitable to the human race or doesn't.... The pain which it inflicts upon unconsenting animals is the basis of my enmity toward it, and it is to me sufficient justification of the enmity without looking further. ~Mark Twain, writer (1835-1910)

Remember: The question is not, "Can they reason?" nor, "Can they talk?" but rather, "Can they suffer?" ~Jeremy Bentham, philosopher and jurist (1748-1832)

Exclusivity of any kind leads to discrimination. Today, the view may be non-humans do not deserve to live without pain and fear. Anything that a person doesn't like or agree with can be excluded. Btu what happens tomorrow? It is not a pretty proposition. It doesn't take much to extend this exclusion and discrimation to other humans whom the person view as different. I do believe this is one of the causes of human violence. With people, or animals, exclusion leads to an indifference to the excluded person or animal's ability to feel, and may spawn an urge on the excluder's part to get rid of the excluded object. I do think it's why FBI studies show a link between animal cruelty and violent crimes in 78% of convicted murderers and other serious cirme offenders. On a larger scale, it may become war. Actually, this has already happened throughout history, and we even don't need to look that far back: Hitler, the various discrimination-inspired wars that have happened on the last 100 years, or are taking place right this minute. Do we really need deja vu, redux 1000? Ultimately, it comes back to what we are and how we treat each other too. Us all, homo sapiens. Singapore is not too bad, really. But the problem is, neither are we fantastic in terms of our treatment and attitude towards animals. Anything that does not contribute directly to the economy seem to be neglected. We're definitely not 'there' yet either - far from it. Some excuse our indifference and apathy with the age of our nation. But is it valid? True, the places where people like to compare Singapore unfavourably to, are nations one, if not two hundred years old. But consider, ethics and compassion was given the room to develop and grow organically as these nations progressed. Singapore, on the other hand, simply neglected anything not contributing directly towards a productive economy. Singapore will be 41 soon. That is a long time to neglect such essential foundations of nation-building. We hothoused our economy, I hope it has not killed our soul. Whether animal welfare or animal rights, homo sapiens, Singaporeans or whatever, cannot continue to sweep the issues under the rug. First though, the question is still: Do Singaporeans even know the difference? But instead of continuing on a long-winded rant, allow me to, once again, quote Ms Dawn Kua of the Cat Welfare Society, because she puts the salient points across most succinctly. Thak you for your attention, Monday, May 29, 2006 Animal rights versus animal welfarism Calsifer sent an email to say that tomorrow at 12:20 pm on 93.8 FM they are discussing the issue of whether animal rights activism is a waste of time and resources. Thanks for the heads up Calsifer! People often lump the two together - and often in doing so, they try and point out that people who are interested in animal welfare are not for example interested in the welfare of people, which is patently ridiculous. It also allows some to say that they aren't interested in animal welfare by painting anyone interested in animal welfare as being a crazy activist who hurts anyone and anything in the process of saving animals. Here's the thing - someone may be concerned in animal welfare without necessarily being an animal rights activist. The question of whether you're interested in welfare is a simple one - do you believe that animals should not be ill treated and made to suffer? If you do, then tada! you believe in animal welfare. This does not touch at all on the fact whether the animal has inalienable 'rights' in the sense of the word. Let's give an analogy. For example you may believe that a chicken can be eaten as meat - this does not mean that you believe that you can do anything to that chicken in the process of it being killed, including mutilating, torturing and letting it die a slow, horrible death where it suffers horribly. At the end of the day, I would argue that someone who has no interest in animal welfare at all is someone I would view with suspicion. To knowingly partake of, enjoy or condone the suffering of an animal does suggest a rather alarming state of mind - and the repercussions are not 'just' about animals. "Animals cannot speak, but can you and I not speak for them and represent them? Let us all feel their silent cry of agony and let us all help that cry to be heard in the world."~Rukmini Devi Arundale Blog: purrsNswipes

(Powered by mental-brainjuice of 2 two whacked-out sibs) (Our awareness is the hope of voiceless animals and the underpriviledged among us.)

- Go to Pawprints: TNRM - Go to SINGAPORE UGLY / Casefile: Cruel Singapore. Hack-care Singapore. - Go to HDB bans cats - government body chronically misconceived - Go to Singapore's Love-Hate Relationship with Trap-Neuter-Release Management - Check out the purrsNswipes Adoption Guidebook - Meet our homeseekers - Go to Pawprints: TLC for cat minon requisite education - Go to SOS and see how you help some Singapore animals in need

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