All vertebrates, not just humans, are sentient beings, who can experience pleasure and pain. Here are some simple steps to take to help end widespread animal abuse and exploitation.
The vast majority of animals raised for food do not live in pastures or barnyards, but on factory farms. On veal farms, calves spend their entire lives chained inside a crate too small even to turn around. Broiler chickens are kept in warehouses, each containing up to 20,000 birds.
The everyday food choices we make have serious environmental consequences, not only for ourselves, but for all life on Earth. The raising of animals for food is a leading cause of environmental destruction. Public lands that were once home to countless species of wildlife have been converted into grazing land for cattle.
As Tom Regan pointed out in The Struggle for Animal Rights, so-called "food animals" are not on all fours with heads of lettuce and stalks of celery. Like vegetables, sentient beings are alive, but unlike vegetables, they are somebody, not something. Their death marks the end of a biographical, not merely biological, life. To kill them inhumanely is, of course, to cause them gratuitous pain. But to kill them at all is to cancel their psychological sojourn on this Earth. It is to nullify their future, depriving them of those experiences that would have been theirs but for the hand of man.
The only plausible reason why people tolerate killing sentient beings for food is that they see animals as other than they are. Animals are "them." Humans are "us." The standards of decency that apply between "us" just don't extend to the treatment of "them."
The basic moral issue, then, is simply this: what justifies us in ending the biographical life of sentient, social, intelligent creatures, so that we might eat them?
Each year, an estimated 27 million animals in the United States are used in research, testing, and education. The Animal Welfare Act (AWA), the primary federal legislation "protecting" animals, does not apply to mice, rats, and birds, who comprise nearly 90% of all laboratory animals. Even for animals to whom the AWA applies, the regulations in place are sorely deficient. Animals may be burned, maimed, and killed without anesthesia.
The Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), which is responsible for enforcing the AWA, admits that nearly half of all facilities are in violation of the law. (Now under the US Department of Agriculture, APHIS, which also oversees the wildlife killing program known as Wildlife Services, is slated to become part of the new Department of Homeland Security.) With only 73 inspectors for approximately 10,000 sites, inspections do not provide a real picture of animal use programs.
You can help make a difference by purchasing products that were not tested on animals, and by using company toll-free numbers and websites to express your opposition to animal testing.
Each year more than 40 million animals are senselessly tortured and killed to satisfy the dictates of fashion. Fur is obtained by setting traps or snares to capture fur-bearing animals. Once an animal is caught it may remain in the trap or snare for several days starving or slowly strangling.
Although the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife sets seasons for commercial and "recreational" trapping of coyotes, coyotes may be trapped at any time if they are deemed a threat to livestock or crops.
While fewer people are hunting—the 2001 US Fish and Wildlife Service hunting survey reports a 7% decline since the last survey in 1996—hunters continue to dominate state wildlife departments. Calling for an end to the state's coyote snaring program, the Maine Sunday Telegram editorialized: "The hunting community's formidable influence in Augusta should be challenged by people of common sense who oppose this inhumane use of force."