We use animals in all kinds of ways: for food, for work, for sport and for entertainment. But does it matter how we treat animals?
Hindus and Sikhs believe that the life of God lives in all things and that animals should be treated kindly. And in Hinduism, certain animals like monkeys, cows and elephants are given special respect. Most Buddhists, Hindus and Sikhs try to follow the principle of ahimsa, which means non-violence or doing no harm. So you will usually find that no meat is allowed in their temples, only vegetarian food.
Judaism, Christianity, and Islam all teach that animals are valuable because they were created by God. The Bible has a long list of laws about which animals can or cannot be eaten and most Jews still follow these rules.
The Quran allows Muslims to eat meat. But again, there are rules regarding which animals can and cannot be eaten. Islam and Judaism both have rules about how animals should be killed for food, in part to reduce their suffering, but some people believe these rules need to be updated to reduce the pain of animal.
But is it really necessary to use animals for food? Maybe we should think about the effect our love of burgers is having on the planet. Vast areas of the world’s forests have been cleared to make way for livestock, causing larger problems like climate change.
And in this country, there are industrial farms that raise thousands of cattle, pigs or chickens in cramped conditions within huge industrial hangars. Thus, more and more people are reducing their meat consumption or becoming vegetarian or vegan for ethical and religious reasons.
But we also use animals for entertainment, and animal rights activists want most of these practices stopped: bird shooting, greyhound racing, horse racing, circus animals and even zoos. The use of animals in scientific research is a very delicate area. New drugs and medical treatments are often tested on animals to ensure they are safe for humans. But some argue that scientists could instead use lab-grown cells or donated human organs.
So what do you think? Do animals count? Are they one of Earth’s resources that we can use or do they have rights that we should think about?