Animal Rights: History and Scope of a Radical Social Movement

By Harold D. Guither | Go to book overview

16 Resolving Conflict: Hopes or Dreams?

How animals are treated and used in the future will depend on public attitudes and changing ethical and social values. If the European experience provides any guide, owners and users of animals can expect that step by step, changing values will influence animal production, marketing, processing, research, and entertainment practices.


Assessment for the Future

L ooking at the entire scope of human-animal relationships, one may wonder if there is any way to resolve the conflicts of philosophies, values, traditions, and economic interests between animal rights activists and animal owners, scientists, and practitioners. Bernard Rollin suggests that more public dialogue must be sought between animal activists and those who use animals. He believes such open dialogue could lead to the discovery of common ground where none was suspected. For example, he believes that there is plenty of room between keeping the status quo and abolishing research altogether.1


Public Attitudes Support Human Rights

The general public has mixed reactions to animal rights. A Parents Magazine survey published in 1989 revealed that a surprising 80 percent of its mainstream, middle-class readership believes that animals have rights -- though 85 percent also believed that it was morally permissible to use animals for human benefit. Similar results were obtained when veterinary students were surveyed. Therefore, at a minimum, 70 percent of those polled agree that animals have rights but that it is still okay for humans to kill and eat animals.2

A 1990 survey conducted by Opinion Dynamics showed that 76 percent believed that farmers treat their animals humanely and only 9 percent believed they did not. A majority (58 percent) believed that farm practices such as trimming the beaks of chickens, the horns of cattle, and the tails of pigs did not hurt the animals and that such

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