Respecting animals, what does that mean in practice?
In various languages “to respect” is defined in different ways. According to the Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English it means:
According to the Dutch dictionary "van Dale" it means:
It sounds so easy: to accept someone as he/she is.
In Dutch law this also applies to animals, because
they are said to have an intrinsic
value as well. But what does it mean: “respect
the animal"s intrinsic value” and “how
can we be sure of the wishes of an animal”?
In another factory farm case pigs" tails are cut off in order to prevent them from biting each other"s tail off in a later stage. Does that mean there is a lack of respect for the young animal? The word respect can be easily pronounced, but to many people it is not a clear guideline to come to uniform decisions in the contact with animals.
That is the reason for the proposal to define “to
respect” as: “to stand midway between being
concerned and maintaining a minimal distance”.
Respect has everything to do with observing the limits of your own freedom and the freedom of others. Give others, animals included, enough space to be themselves. In the case of productive livestock: give animals an environment in which they can behave naturally. Allow animals to range freely in the meadows.
If we take a look at our system
of justice, we do try to apply the right to freedom or
liberty to ourselves.
He who reads these articles and imagines that we would grant equal rights to animals, will discover that such a thing is quite possible. All it takes is that (within broader limits than is the case now) we set the animal free.
When the animal is not allowed to behave free and in
its natural ways, in spite of properly being taken care
of, this represents a form of animal abuse.
An other example: in article 11 of the Dutch Constitution the right to physical integrity is described. Pulling teeth or neutering piglets (without anaesthesia!), could very well be called a mutilation of this freedom.
The separation of the cow and its calf immediately after the birth, is a way of treating them as objects. The function of the calf is to stimulate the production of milk of its mother. Having done so, the calf is being made ready for slaughtering as soon as possible.
Just as is the case with humans, animal rights ought to be guaranteed by means of the same two concepts: freedom and equality (for all animals).