The central meaning of freedom for rights
Respecting animals, what does that mean in practice?
In various languages "to respect" is defined in different ways. According to the Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English it means….
to admire someone because they have high standard and good personal qualities such as fairness and honesty.
to be careful not to do anything against someone's wishes.
According to the Dutch dictionary "van Dale" it means….
to show respect (for) - to take someone seriously, to accept someone as he/she is
to treat something/someone with respect - to defer to, to regard
to observe regulations.
It sounds so easy: to accept someone as he/she is.
In Dutch law this also applies to animals, because
they are said to have an intrinsic
value as well. But what does it mean: "respect
the animal's intrinsic value" and "how
can we be sure of the wishes of an animal"?
Ask 100 people if they respect animals, and they will
all say "yes". Ask those same people to give a definition
of the word respect and they will not be capable of
finding a more clear description of the word respect
than those stated above. When you present 100 situations
that differ in the way animals are used, than there
will be little agreement on the question if humans show
respect in their behaviour. For example: when we cut
off chickens" beaks to decrease the results
of aggressive pecking behaviour in factory farms, does
that indicate a lack of respect for the chicken? It
has an harmful affect on the animal's physical
integrity, that's for sure, but how serious is
In another factory farm case pigs" tails are cut
off in order to prevent them from biting each other's
tail off in a later stage. Does that mean there is a
lack of respect for the young animal? The word respect
can be easily pronounced, but to many people it is not
a clear guideline to come to uniform decisions in the
contact with animals.
That is the reason for the proposal to define "to
respect" as: "to stand midway between being
concerned and maintaining a minimal distance".
Just like in the survey it is important to show interest
in each other, without wanting to know the ins and outs
of the person involved, indeed to be careful not to
do anything against someone's wishes.
Respect has everything to do with observing the limits of your own freedom and the freedom of others. Give others, animals included, enough space to be themselves.
In the case of productive livestock: give animals an
environment in which they can behave naturally. Allow
animals to range freely in the meadows.
If we take a look at our system
of justice, we do try to apply the right to freedom or
liberty to ourselves.
In the most important and first 17 articles that the Dutch
Constitution states, the classical basic rights, it has
been tried to ensure this right to freedom and in an equal
way for all people.
He who reads these articles and imagines that we would
grant equal rights to animals, will discover that such
a thing is quite possible. All it takes is that (within
broader limits than is the case now) we set the animal
When the animal is not allowed to behave free and in
its natural ways, in spite of properly being taken care
of, this represents a form of animal abuse.
The fact that breeding-sows are being fixed to a short chain for many months, is
a crying example of violation of their freedom to move.
Article 15 of the Constitution states that "with
the exception of cases determined by or under the law,
it is forbidden to take anyones freedom." What
crime did the porker commit that it has to live out
its life with far too many animals in a small, unhealthy
accomodation? As is the case with humans, this leads
to weariness and agression.
An other example: in article
11 of the Dutch Constitution the right to physical integrity
is described. Pulling teeth or neutering piglets (without
anaesthesia!), could very well be called a mutilation
of this freedom.
The separation of the cow and its calf immediately
after the birth, is a way of treating them as objects.
The function of the calf is to stimulate the production
of milk of its mother. Having done so, the calf is being
made ready for slaughtering as soon as possible.
Just as is the case with humans, animal rights ought
to be guaranteed by means of the same two concepts:
freedom and equality (for all animals). Also read: