Tue | Dec 11, 2018

Animal and human rights: no longer in isolation

Published:Friday | July 20, 2018 | 12:00 AMKatherine Chen/Contributor

A distinctive characteristic of the human race is our exclusive ability to empathise. This concept is defined as humanity, a self-entitled idea that speaks to the willingness to give and a constant awareness of right from wrong.

The humanity we define ourselves by has enabled us to dominate the animal kingdom despite our apparent physical disadvantages. It has become something we pride ourselves in as we are able to differentiate between good and evil and develop coherent and transformative thoughts through this distinction.

Yet, our 'superiority' has blurred the very foundation of our race and twisted the true definition of what it means to be humane. Our humanity has been altered by the lenses of greed and fortune, making it less and less of a priority for our society, but more so a chore. This has led to a dilution of benevolence in all aspects of our lives, leading to the eventual change in who we are as a species.

By nature, our sense of order derives from our ability to segment and cement our society. Humanity is no different, governed by the concept of human rights. These 'rules' clarify the basic, inalienable rights that every human being has access to. Through the establishment of these rules, we are able to create a universal idea of what is morally right. Yet, despite these rules defining what is morally right, we tend to focus more on the 'human' part of the definition. Our morality is limited to our own species regardless of the undeniable influence we have on those we share our planet with.


Superiority complex


Biologically, Homo sapiens are considered members of the animal kingdom, yet we have demonised the word 'animal' into something inferior. This superiority complex we have developed has created this false sense of security that allows us to make immoral decisions with little consequences. The argument for the distinction between animal rights and human rights relies on this constant separation of humans from nature. Rather than think of our animal counterparts as residents of Earth with which we interact with for survival, we consider our intelligence as our right to dominate. However, our genetic sequence should not shift our sense of morality, but instead enhance it.

When considering the theory of natural selection, one can justify the blatant capitalisation of animals for human benefit. Yet, it cannot be that one is a champion for human rights but ignores animal rights. In the realm of human rights, we decide to champion for the universal receival of basic rights to every single human despite of their financial status, religion, race, gender or age. This means that we, as a species, have decided to care for those with weaknesses unfavourable for this environment despite the rules that govern natural selection. We make the conscious decision to dedicate our time to supporting those unable to help themselves, whether disabled, homeless or simply in need of help. Yet, this same theme of benevolence is not easily translated to the animals which surround us.

In that situation, the importance of superiority is emphasised and becomes the sole reason for domination. Is morality a concept limited to humans? If not, then what is the difference between the rights we afford humans and the ones for animals? Why do we, as a society, continuously find excuses for minimising the issues of other species? Our inability to empathise with those inferior to us is a reflection not of our superiority, but of our loss of self. The humanity that has enabled us to feel superior in the animal kingdom is the same one that we lose grip of every day. When we think of modern-day animal rights, we can no longer think of it in isolation of our own rights. The connection between the two is undeniable, and our approach to one is a reflection of the other.