| This article is about the central
role that freedom plays in our sense of justice. According
to Ruut Veenhoven, a Dutch researcher on happiness, this
is the most important factor in seeking happiness. Should
that be any different for animals?
We only realize how important it is for us, living
in a democracy, when we're about to lose it. Remember
the Second World War, the people that have been taken
hostage and held captive for years in Lebanon or by
the ETA in Spain. Freedom is a basic human right, and
this is so obvious, that we easily take it for granted
and overlook it. People just tend to ignore it.
This is an injustice, because ignoring basic rights
is immoral, it is also immoral where animals are concerned.
Freedom for human beings and animals
Why is freedom
Ethics and responsibility
methods have to be limited
is understood by the right of animals to freedom?
rights to freedom for factory farm animals
declaration of animal rights
is freedom so important?
In the phrasing of our basic human rights in the constitutions
of many countries, freedom is the first
and the most important issue. A basic human right
is a right that is indisputable.
The history of freedom as a basis for our laws dates
back to the times long before the birth of Christ. In
both religion and spirituality,
freedom is the most important issue in rules that believers
impose on themselves, at least it is if you agree with
that the saying "do
unto others as you would have done unto yourself"
can be translated as "where the freedom of another
person starts, mine ends". This is also known as
the Golden Rule, the center of all human ethics.
Where people are concerned, it is necessary to enshrine
this basic right in civil and religious law, because
sometimes we have the tendency to cross other people's
boundaries, or restrict other peoples freedom. This
is not always done on purpose. Too often people only
realize a border was crossed after the occurrence.
The importance of freedom is similar to the importance
of health. Health is a form of freedom. We don't
know for sure whether or not animals can suffer and
become ill when they are robbed of their freedom, but
we do know that animals will do anything to keep themselves
from being locked up. That an animal suffers from a
lack of freedom or the ability to exhibit natural behavior
is often deduced from the behavior that animals in captivity
typically display. A common example is the restless
rhythmic swaying motion that polar bears exhibit when
their freedom of movement is restricted.
In nature freedom is evident. The term "Free
Nature" is testament to this. Lack of freedom among
animals only exists due to illness or old age, but luckily
death then quickly liberates the animal from suffering.
None of the many species in nature takes another species'
freedom away, except for a short period in which one
eats the other. However, neither human meat eaters nor
vegetarians have a problem when animals eat each other.
Finally, there is our instinct which tells us
to stand up for a group that is forced to live in an
Freedom is a good basis of ethics: what enlarges freedom
is right, what reduces freedom is wrong.
But freedom can't exist without drawing boundaries.
bounderies aren't fixed and more freedom brings with
it more responsibilities. Not everyone likes to carry
responsibilities, so therefore some people consciously
or unconsciously opt for less freedom, but feel freer
in the process.
Everyone has the right to draw his own border where
another person is concerned. It's not done (etiquette)
to force others to draw a border against their will.
So how about drawing
bounderies? Isn't that limitation of freedom?
It's not accidental that someone is sentenced to imprisonment
when he exceeds limits or crosses bounderies set by
society. The perpetrator is punished with what is most
dear to him: the taking away of his freedom. People
are free, unless they exceed the established limits
or clearly cross bounderies.
With animals it is more difficult to see whether we
have crossed their bounderies, we can't communicate
with animals about it. Animals have only limited means
to draw borders.
Drawing a border and trying to increase one's own space
is natural. When restricting someone else's space, which
is an invention of humankind, a human has to justify
himself for this act.
A human does not have to justify
himself where animals are concerned, except in the case
of deliberate abuse. How does the law regulate this?
objects of law
According to modern law, the
rights of animals kept in factory farms are irrelevant,
because animals are objects of law, not subjects of
law. In the spirit of the constitution, however, owners
of factory farms are committing criminal acts because
the spirit of the constitution breathes freedom for
all and everyone: freedom, equality and brotherhood.
According to the constitution there is no legal difference
whether you put a piggy bank or a meat pig in a shed
for a couple of months. It is unjust that there is no
difference between an object and an animal.
In order to draw bounderies for criminals we have
the police and the department of justice. They have
the means to protect our borders against people who
cross them. The police and the department of justice
are duty bound to deny criminals their freedom for only
as long as is necessary. In our system of law, freedom
is guaranteed to such an extent that even a criminal
has the right to freedom.
When talking doesn't help, it can and may be necessary
to force a person on moral and ethical grounds to respect
another person's bounderies It is the duty of society
to protect the weaker group, for example, handicapped
people are protected against unfair exploitation. The
animal is, compared to the exploiting owners of factory
farms, the weaker group that cannot stand up for itself.
In nature the law of the fittest, strongest, smartest
or fastest prevails. By protecting the weaker group
in combination with a guarantee for freedom we surpass
come first and last
Every call to make an exception to basic rights or
to bypass them is immoral. It does not matter whether
the call is based on economic or on emotional grounds
or whether the existence of factory farms is defended
with the argument that jobs and national interests are
'endangered'. Basic rights come first and last. To weight
economic consequences as equal is immoral.
policy concerning animals
Freedom for individual animals can suddenly no longer
be taken for granted if the species becomes economically
attractive or happens to taste good.
Humans thus have an inconsistent policy where animals
are concerned. An animal kept in a factory farm cannot
remove itself from this lack of freedom; not by buying
itself free, not by protesting, not by becoming ill,
and not by doing penance. But for animals in nature,
on the other hand, we are so generous that we release
them unconditionally. We even plan this freedom by restructuring
our countryside on the basis of ecological highways.
These paths give animals and even plants the ability
to move freely within certain bounderies and thus guarantee
the survival of the species.
As long as the commercial exploitation of animals is
'limited' to fencing off a meadow to keep the cattle
in, few people will object. It only becomes a problem
when this individual space is confined too much, leaving
no freedom of movement.
farming methods have to be limited.
Are we allowed to set limits for factory farms, or
do we, in so doing, impede the right to freedom for
factory farmers? Since we already have seen that freedom
plays a central role in our existence, we can only conclude
that even for a commercially attractive species of animal,
freedom is a basic right. It must be emphasized that
this is not a plea for the right not to be eaten or
to stay alive. Staying alive is not even guaranteed
in the constitution for human beings. We don't do this
because in extreme circumstances, like war or self-defense,
we want to have the right to kill another person who
wants to take our freedom away. An individual, e.g.
a vegetarian, can state for him or herself that an animal
has the right not to be eaten by him or her. This right
cannot be forced upon other persons.
what we do not plea for
This is also not a plea for equal rights for animals
and humans. This isn't necessary, just as it isn't necessary
to have to prove the fact that animals can suffer, have
feelings, have consciousness or intrinsic value, before
we take into consideration their basic
rights. This is a plea for equal rights among all
animals. Animal rights are about a life worthy of an
animal before death, just as humans wish for a life
worthy of a human.
farming methods should stop
We also have to conclude that in factory farming systems
the constitutional rights of animals have been
violated by the extreme confinement of freedom
of movement and the lack of opportunity to display
natural behavior. In factory farming systems and
sometimes in politics the right to freedom is
ignored and swept under the carpet. In a civilized
society that respects basic rights and tries to
uphold them, some animals will still be eaten,
but before death an animal will have a life that
is worthy of it. For the government,
this all means that it has the moral duty to abolish
all factory farms and create a form of farming
where freedom is the basis for the well-being
eating meat from factory farms is wrong
For the consumer this doesn't mean that eating
meat is wrong, but that eating 'contaminated' meat
is wrong. You are (free to choose) what you eat, but
if you choose to eat meat produced in factory farms
then you too are responsible for the continuation of
the violation of the constitutional rights of animals.