Protection of Animals under the Law

The status of non-human animals in modern Western law is that of property. Human beings may own them, and ownership entails the right to use them as we fit and even destroy them. The animal is perceived, above all, as a good with financial value, determined according to "its" possible uses. Protecting an animal from his or her "owner" is a limitation of the owner's property rights. The perception of nonhuman animals as property is a complete contrast to that of animal rights advocates, who believe nonhuman animals have value in themselves. According to this position, animals have rights, such as the right to be spared harsh pain and the right not to be separated from their mothers right after birth-and thesecarry more weight than property rights. The law supposedly found a way to bridge the chasm between the conflicting worldviews. This "middle way," it is evident today, grants full validity to the property rights of the owner, leaving a marginal place for the "rights" of the animals. In light of the reforms taking place before our very eyes, we must remember that a complete recognition of animal rights will not happen before their status as property is terminated. Just as the abolition of slavery was a necessary step in achieving equal rights for African-Americans in the United States, the termination of ownership rights over animals is a necessary step in the achievement of true animal rights. Animal protection laws have existed since ancient times. Orders requiring rest for farm animals on the Sabbath appear in the Bible, as well as a prohibition against taking the eggs of a bird before her very eyes and a series of religious laws concerning animal protection. In Indian religions, the principle of "Ahimsa" - no harming, including animals - became rooted during the 6th century BC. In the 3rd century BC, Asoka, the Indian emperor, prohibited the killing of various animal species, the slaughter of pregnant or nursing animals and other practices considered especially cruel. During modern times animal protection laws resurfaced and most can be summarized as prohibiting "unnecessary suffering." Animal protection laws have aroused a discussion - as ancient as themselves - concerning the reason for their existence. Many scholars firmly rejected the idea that animals are worthy of protection in themselves. Instead, people argued that animal protection laws for were needed for other reasons


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