Animal welfare is the viewpoint that animals, especially those under human care, should not suffer unnecessarily including where the animal is used for food, work, companionship, or research. This position usually focuses on the morality of human action, or inaction, as opposed to making deeper political or philosophical claims about the status of animals, as is the case for an animal rights viewpoint.
The history of animal welfare has been attributed by some to the time when a systematic concern for the well-being of other animals arose in the Indus Valley Civilization as the religious belief that ancestors return in animal form, and that animals must therefore be treated with the respect due to a human. This belief is exemplified in the existing religion of Jainism and in varieties of other Dharmic religions. Other religions, especially those with roots in the Abrahamic religions, have tended to treat animals as the property of their owners, codifying rules for their care and slaughter intended to limit the distress, pain and fear animals experience under human control.
From the time when in 1822 Richard Martin, a British Member of Parliament, shepherded a bill through Parliament offering protection from cruelty to cattle, horses and sheep, animal welfare has had human morality, and human behaviour, as its central concern. Martin was, in 1824, among the founders of what might be considered the world's first official animal welfare organisation, the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, or SPCA. In 1840, Queen Victoria gave the society her blessing following which it became the existing Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, or RSPCA. When originally established, the society used members' donations to employ a growing network of inspectors, whose job was to identify those who abused animals, gather evidence, and report them to the authorities. Subsequently similar groups and societies sprang up elsewhere in Europe, North America and elsewhere in the world. The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) Fiji was established in 1953.
A number of religious denominations have added animal welfare to their list of concerns. Animal-related ethics courses, animal blessings, prayers for animals and animal ministries have increased in popularity. In 2007, the Interfaith Association of Animal Chaplains was formed to assist clergy members concerned about animals and their welfare to network and share information. A number of Animal Chaplains' books and websites reference scriptural passages from the world's sacred texts supporting animal welfare.
In 1965 the UK government commissioned an investigation into the welfare of intensively farmed animals, partly in response to concerns raised in Ruth Harrison's 1964 book, Animal Machines. On the basis of this report, the government set up the Farm Animal Welfare Advisory Committee, later to become the Animal Welfare Council. The first guidelines recommended that farm animals require freedom to turn around, to groom themselves, to get up, to lie down, and to stretch their limbs'. These have since been elaborated to become known as the Five Freedoms of Animal Welfare:
1. Freedom from thirst, hunger and malnutrition;
2. Freedom from discomfort due to environment;
3. Freedom from pain, injury and disease;
4. Freedom to express normal behaviour for the species; and
5. Freedom from fear and distress.
A distinction can be made between animal welfare and animal rights. The former believes humans have a moral responsibility not to cause cruelty or unnecessary suffering to animals, and advocates for the betterment of the condition of animals, but not the elimination of all animal use. However, animal rights advocates campaign for the total abolition of any use of animals and argue that the animal welfare position is logically inconsistent and ethically unacceptable. Nevertheless, there are some animal rights groups, such as People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), which support animal welfare measures in the short term to alleviate animal suffering until all animal use is ended.
Some critics argue that, in practice, supporters of animal welfare sometimes demonstrate a form of speciesism' by showing a disproportionate concern for some species of animals over others without providing a rational or scientific justification for such preferences. In this regard they point to the tendency to be more concerned over the welfare of pets or companion animals over that of commercial animals; certain wild animals over domestic animals; or mammals over birds, reptiles or fishes.
Needless to say there will also be those who question why we, the human species, should concern ourselves about animal welfare when there is so much that needs to be done in various aspects of human welfare. Fortunately, when Noah found himself at the door of The Ark, and with the tide rising, he made the wise decision that it did not have to be either humans, or animals, and that it was important, and indeed possible, to take care of the welfare of both.
This article was based extensively on material derived from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, whose website is http//:en.wikipedia.org.
The SPCA (Fiji) wishes to invite any of its members or other readers who would like, on a voluntary basis, to write articles related to issues of animal welfare, pet ownership, and the work of the SPCA, for possible inclusion in this column to contact this week's contributor.
Pet of the week
Who is still waiting at the SPCA to go to the home that she really deserves!
Some of you may recognize Florence (pictured). Until recently her "home" was the MH car park at Flagstaff in Suva. A number of the regular customers at MH Flagstaff got to know Florence and some were kind enough to feed her. Once Florence got to know her supporters she would start to wag her tail as soon as she saw one of their cars entering the car park. In fact Florence was so pleased to see one that it was more a case of "the tail wagging the dog".
As one of her regular supporters said, "The amazing thing about her is that, despite the fact that she has obviously not had an easy life, she is such a sweet and gentle dog."
Although Florence has evidently found a way to survive the SPCA decided that she deserves more comfort than a car park and greater food security than hand-outs.
Therefore recently Florence was taken into the SPCA where she was neutered and now awaits adoption.
As can be seen from her photo she is cute and has a wire-haired light brown coat. Whoever decides to give Florence the home she deserves will indeed be receiving a very special dog and a truly faithful companion.
If you are interested in adopting Florence, or any of the other dogs, puppies, cats or kittens at the SPCA, please contact the SPCA on phone number 3301266 or via e-mail at: firstname.lastname@example.org.