Over the past few months I have tried to accomplish two things with respect to the topic of animal welfare:
- Demonstrate that animal welfare issues are central to environmentalism, and
- lay out policies regarding animal welfare that environmentalists should support.
In retrospect I think I skipped an important step: laying out the basic principles that underlie this connection.
So here is my first attempt at a statement of principles on animal welfare. Are these principles a reasonable starting point for the environmental community? Vote in the poll below. (Sorry, the poll you are seeking no longer exists. If you’re in a voting mood, suggest a poll and you might just see it on the site.)
Statement of Principles on Animal Welfare for Environmentalists
- Environmentalists are stewards of life on the planet and have a special role to play in how humans interact with the animal world.
- Environmentalists are committed to science-based views and policies; according to current science:
- animal life exists on an evolutionary continuum that includes humans; we evolved from animals and share the overwhelming majority of our DNA with animals;
- many traits once thought exclusive to humans — altruism, deep social bonds, self-recognition, the ability to learn, the ability to use tools, complex language — are in fact shared by many other animals;
- many animals experience suffering as well as pleasure; and
- humans affect all natural systems, “wild” and otherwise.
- While some people are threatened by the fact that human beings are not as exclusive or unique as once believed, environmentalists see this as evidence that humans are an integral part of the natural world and not separate from it.
- With respect to values, environmentalists accept that:
- animals have an intrinsic right to exist apart from any value that humans attach to them; conversely, animals do not solely exist in order to meet the needs and wants of humans;
- the welfare of animals should be considered in human decisions that affect them;
- good reasons should be given for killing animals or inflicting pain and suffering on them; and
- the more sentient and complex an animal, the more its welfare should be taken into account.