Freedom for human beings and animals
| This article is about the central
role that freedom plays in our sense of justice. According
to Ruut Veenhoven, a Dutch researcher on happiness, this
is the most important factor in seeking happiness. Should
that be any different for animals?
We only realize how important it is for us, living
in a democracy, when we're about to lose it. Remember
the Second World War, the people that have been taken
hostage and held captive for years in Lebanon or by
the ETA in Spain. Freedom is a basic human right, and
this is so obvious, that we easily take it for granted
and overlook it. People just tend to ignore it.
In the phrasing of our basic human rights in the constitutions of many countries, freedom is the first and the most important issue. A basic human right is a right that is indisputable.
The history of freedom as a basis for our laws dates
back to the times long before the birth of Christ. In
both religion and spirituality,
freedom is the most important issue in rules that believers
impose on themselves, at least it is if you agree with
that the saying "do
unto others as you would have done unto yourself"
can be translated as "where the freedom of another
person starts, mine ends". This is also known as
the Golden Rule, the center of all human ethics.
The importance of freedom is similar to the importance of health. Health is a form of freedom. We don't know for sure whether or not animals can suffer and become ill when they are robbed of their freedom, but we do know that animals will do anything to keep themselves from being locked up. That an animal suffers from a lack of freedom or the ability to exhibit natural behavior is often deduced from the behavior that animals in captivity typically display. A common example is the restless rhythmic swaying motion that polar bears exhibit when their freedom of movement is restricted.
In nature freedom is evident. The term "Free Nature" is testament to this. Lack of freedom among animals only exists due to illness or old age, but luckily death then quickly liberates the animal from suffering. None of the many species in nature takes another species' freedom away, except for a short period in which one eats the other. However, neither human meat eaters nor vegetarians have a problem when animals eat each other.
Finally, there is our instinct which tells us to stand up for a group that is forced to live in an unjust situation.
Freedom is a good basis of ethics: what enlarges freedom
is right, what reduces freedom is wrong.
So how about drawing
bounderies? Isn't that limitation of freedom?
With animals it is more difficult to see whether we
have crossed their bounderies, we can't communicate
with animals about it. Animals have only limited means
to draw borders.
objects of law
According to modern law, the rights of animals kept in factory farms are irrelevant, because animals are objects of law, not subjects of law. In the spirit of the constitution, however, owners of factory farms are committing criminal acts because the spirit of the constitution breathes freedom for all and everyone: freedom, equality and brotherhood.
According to the constitution there is no legal difference whether you put a piggy bank or a meat pig in a shed for a couple of months. It is unjust that there is no difference between an object and an animal.
moral obligation to protect
In order to draw bounderies for criminals we have
the police and the department of justice. They have
the means to protect our borders against people who
cross them. The police and the department of justice
are duty bound to deny criminals their freedom for only
as long as is necessary. In our system of law, freedom
is guaranteed to such an extent that even a criminal
has the right to freedom.
basic rights come first and last
Every call to make an exception to basic rights or to bypass them is immoral. It does not matter whether the call is based on economic or on emotional grounds or whether the existence of factory farms is defended with the argument that jobs and national interests are 'endangered'. Basic rights come first and last. To weight economic consequences as equal is immoral.
Freedom for individual animals can suddenly no longer
be taken for granted if the species becomes economically
attractive or happens to taste good.
Are we allowed to set limits for factory farms, or do we, in so doing, impede the right to freedom for factory farmers? Since we already have seen that freedom plays a central role in our existence, we can only conclude that even for a commercially attractive species of animal, freedom is a basic right. It must be emphasized that this is not a plea for the right not to be eaten or to stay alive. Staying alive is not even guaranteed in the constitution for human beings. We don't do this because in extreme circumstances, like war or self-defense, we want to have the right to kill another person who wants to take our freedom away. An individual, e.g. a vegetarian, can state for him or herself that an animal has the right not to be eaten by him or her. This right cannot be forced upon other persons.
what we do not plea for
This is also not a plea for equal rights for animals and humans. This isn't necessary, just as it isn't necessary to have to prove the fact that animals can suffer, have feelings, have consciousness or intrinsic value, before we take into consideration their basic rights. This is a plea for equal rights among all animals. Animal rights are about a life worthy of an animal before death, just as humans wish for a life worthy of a human.
factory farming methods should stop
We also have to conclude that in factory farming systems the constitutional rights of animals have been violated by the extreme confinement of freedom of movement and the lack of opportunity to display natural behavior. In factory farming systems and sometimes in politics the right to freedom is ignored and swept under the carpet. In a civilized society that respects basic rights and tries to uphold them, some animals will still be eaten, but before death an animal will have a life that is worthy of it. For the government, this all means that it has the moral duty to abolish all factory farms and create a form of farming where freedom is the basis for the well-being of animals.
eating meat from factory farms is wrong
For the consumer this doesn't mean that eating meat is wrong, but that eating 'contaminated' meat is wrong. You are (free to choose) what you eat, but if you choose to eat meat produced in factory farms then you too are responsible for the continuation of the violation of the constitutional rights of animals.