Human and Humane: The Realities of Animal Cruelty and Our Liability

I recently witnessed one of the most disturbing incidences of animal cruelty I have ever seen. As a former vegetarian, I suppose my opinions of such types of treatment are somewhat biased. However, I would find it difficult for anyone to feel unaffected by the torture that we, as humans, subject our helpless friends to every day. Such displays of dispassionate abuse and neglect had me wondering what it means to be human after all. In pursuit of the answer, I looked up the word ‘human’ on Dictionary.com. Without fail, every entry had some reference o the characteristic of being humane, which is distinguished “by tenderness, compassion, and sympathy for people and animals, especially for the suffering and distressed.” While it would be easy and convenient to claim this kind of inherent trait for ourselves, turningĀ a blind eye to the needless exploitation and injustices done to animals on a daily basis does not constitute humanity.

Just one example of the human capacity to be entirely inhumane is found in an undercover study done by PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) on a leading drug development services company, Convance Inc. The undercover investigation, which can be watched at this link, reveals the realities of drug testing on primates. In laboratory settings, primates are tied to dosing boards, stuffed into restraint tubes for blood draws, suffer from bleeding gums, necrotic tails, infected abdomens, and convulsions. PETA also mentions that primates are often denied veterinary treatment and care. After barely stomaching the video, I decided to visit Covance’s website, where I found that the company actually had an Animal Welfare Statement. In their declaration, they claim to “strictly follow all applicable laws and regulations for animal treatment,” while PETA and their video evidence proves quite the opposite: “Physical and psychological abuse at Covance violates federal law.” Referring back to the definition of “humane,” I find this “sympathy towards animals” completely absent in Covance’s case. Not only is it inhumane, but it is contradictory to oppress one group for the betterment of another. Is this not what we call cultural genocide in human terms? What gives us the right to take the lives of innocent animals in order to develop medication for ourselves?

Ultimately, it is not even the fact that helpless animals who, without voices are subjected to their deaths, that infuriates me the most. Even experimentation that ends in death can be done in a humane way, through the use of anesthesia, for example. When we fail to care for the feelings and sensitivity of animals, we run the risk of repeating history in a different kind of way. Why have humans excelled so much in the animal world? Many would say it is because we have natural and positive character traits, such as intelligence, which distinguish us from the rest of the animal kingdom. Somewhere along the line, however, we must have developed a trait of insensitivity as well. After all, in claiming to be a superior species, many have forgotten what it truly means to be human. Ignoring the facts does not exempt you. Knowledge is power. To reclaim the term “humane,” we must first make sure that it applies.

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