Sample Social Work and Human Service Research Paper on Animal Rights vs. Human Rights

Animal Rights vs. Human Rights

No sensitive person can be unconcerned of the agony that animals go through. Mistreatment of animals, particularly domestic animals, usually evokes disgust even to people who never rear such animals in their homes. Some countries have established stricter penalties for hurting animals than the penalties imposed for hurting fellow human beings. Penalties for animal cruelty differ in each jurisdiction and state. However, all penalties have provisions for either a jail term or a fine. The practical reason for taking animal cruelty seriously is that cruelty towards animals is a demonstration of brutality towards humans. An individual who treats animals indifferently lacks conscience and, thus, the law should not have remorse on such behavior, but animals should not be awarded the same rights as humans.

Why some Countries Impose Heavy Punishment on Animal Abuse

The study of animal rights revolves around the notion that individuals are inclined to abuse animals in numerous ways. Supporter of animal rights have underlined animal cruelty as one of the worst crime against animals. According to Cassuto and Eckhardt, animal cruelty involves malicious acts on animals that could lead to pain or death of an animal (2). Just like human beings, animals feel pain and can suffer from stress. The capacity to cause pain and agony in animals is an indication of inability to empathize. A person who inflicts pain to animals is capable of replicating such behavior to another person in order to gratify his/her emotions. In this connection, it is ethical for an individual to be punished for being cruel to animals. Intentional behavior of cruelty can amount to imprisonment or heavy fines as such behavior can be termed as a psychological problem.

Some countries end up having stricter penalties on animal cruelty offenders than others due to pressure from interest groups. Interest groups have played a critical role in ensuring that cruelty towards animals attracts heavier penalties than cruelty towards fellow human beings. They influence policies that coerce states governments to institute environmental guidelines that go beyond the actual severity of the problem (Lutz, B. and Lutz, J. 262). The competing interests of various groups at the state level may also influence animal rights legislation. Policy outcomes on animal cruelty have been influenced by groups’ activities within several states as opposition towards animal cruelty gained popularity in the US.  When many people hold the opinion that animal cruelty should attract strict punishment, the state is bound to respect such opinion and execute its mandate.

For several decades now, some scholars have been arguing about ethical dimensions of advocating for animal rights without considering the legal framework. One of those scholars is Martin Heidegger, a German philosopher on traditions and hermeneutics, who endeavored to offer his opinion concerning advocacy for animals (Schalow 61). According to Heidegger, humans should contribute in the promotion of animal welfare, but his argument does not necessitate equal consideration with humans. This implies that Heidegger was doubtful of how animals should be awarded such rights yet the fight for human rights is still on. Laws on animal cruelty are vital in deterring unnecessary cruelty, but divergent approaches have emerged concerning jurisdictions on cruelty on animals.

Most states have a jurisdiction that directs the welfare of animals, but such jurisdiction can hardly be reduced, as it is based on the possibility inherent in portraying the primary directive. In the attempt to attain animal rights, incidences of lawfulness are not just written codes, but rather they replicate the interpretive projection. Although the US and Brazil have laws that protect animals from abuse, the two countries exempt agricultural animals from the statutes that declare animal cruelty as crime. In the US, anti-cruelty statutes have been enacted to discourage people against exploiting animals without moral consideration (Cassuto and Eckhardt 2). However, isolating some animals from legal protection indicates that humans have the right to decide how they should treat animals.

Having specific outcomes can influence countries to impose a harsh punishment on animal cruelty. Animal cruelty is rampant in Latin America where incidences of overworked and underfed mules occur on a daily basis. In Brazil, agricultural animals are exposed to systematic abuse due to exemption of legal protection on such animals (Cassuto and Eckhardt 3). Cases of abandoning pets and wildlife trafficking are quite common, as millions of animals are either found on the streets or forced out of their habitats. However, lack of political will has allowed people to exploit animals for profits even when the country constitution is quite clear on civilized treatment of animals. Since agricultural animals are perceived as a vital source of food, most people do not care much about protection of such animals.  

Some common practices carried out on farm animals lead to animal cruelty, but many statutes meant to protect animals choose to overlook them. Some of the practices that are widespread in the US and Canada include dehorning, hot iron branding, castration, and trans-vaginal ovariectomy (Whiting 1088). Such acts are only termed as quazi-criminal under the Animal Care Act (Manitoba) if they are morally on individuals who take control of the animals. In Canada, causing unwarranted pain or harm to an animal is crime. Under the Criminal Code, an individual can be sued in court for injuring his/her neighbor’s animal. The punishment for committing such offence ranges from a prison term not exceeding five years to a fine of at most ten thousand dollars.

Enforcement of statutes determines the level of punishment on animal cruelty. Countries that commit resources on the enforcement of animal rights encounter a few cases of mistreatment of animals. However, lack of training among the police force and other agencies responsible for investigating cases of animal cruelty makes enforcement of regulations extremely difficult. Consequently, animal cruelty offenders are released for lack of evidence to prove their cases. Sometime, police powers are delegated to humane societies, who also lack the capacity to enforce animal rights. In New York, the police powers are entrusted to an agency that advocates for deterrence of cruelty to animals, who investigates and enforces animal rights (Cassuto and Eckhardt 14). Such agency cannot impose heavy penalties to offenders since their investigative powers are relatively weak.

Individuals should be punished for failing to utilize moral concepts while handling animal. Unlike animals, humans understand when to restrict their behavior if they perceive it as harmful to others. Human cognition enables individuals to endure short-run negative experiences with an intention of anticipating long-term future goals. This makes individuals to restrict themselves from taking some types of food in order to lower blood pressure or lose some weight. However, animals do not have such cognition; hence, they cannot withstand the current miseries for the future benefits (Rollin 430). Humans enjoy rights because they are capable of applying moral concepts in their actions. Animals cannot exercise moral concepts with regard to other animals.

Several states in the US allow their courts to charge individuals who demonstrate cruelty towards animals because such individuals are a threat to the entire society. An individual can be incarcerated for a maximum of ten years if found guilty of animal cruelty, in addition to ban on owning animals in the future (Kordzek 603). The origin of the case also determines its punishment, as cases of animal cruelty that involve police officers are likely to attract heavy fines that cases that emanate from peace officers, owing to the strength of evidence. For organizations that treat animals viciously, courts might decide to impose a fine in addition to seizing the animals. Surprisingly, the US statutes on animal rights are not as harsh compared to those of human rights, since individuals found guilty of animal cruelty spend less time in prison than human rights offenders. Counseling is also possible for offenders of animal rights.

Some countries may perceive cases of animal cruelty from a financial perspective and decide on heavy punishments. According to Kordzek, prosecuting a cruelty case involving animals can be cost-prohibitive as procedures for animal care differ across states (608). Withhold animals seized from offenders is also costly, as the case might go on for a prolonged time. Unlike other property seizure, such as electronics or a bicycle, seizing animals necessitate the law enforcement agencies to cater for such animals. Animal welfare organizations or the counties where the animals originate from have to foot the bill. Defendants are unlikely to cater for the animals’ needs in custody unless they are compelled by the court to post bond to cater for the costs. In the US, animal care varies within counties, thus, making it hard to come up with the appropriate measure of cruelty.

Abolitionists advocated for an end to animal cruelty and exploitation by urging humans to stop treating animals as property or a means to attain human ends. According to them, humans should recognize animals as having an intrinsic right not to be injured, which is free from the problems of utility. People should be punished severely if they treat animals as tools. Whatever the merits that the abolitionists strived to gain, humans term the pressure to award animals excessive rights as traditional thinking, which is unlikely to eradicate animal exploitation. Human rights are not evaluated through pain, but rather through humans’ capacity to think and exercising logic. To enjoy rights, one should possess moral capacity.


            The law should be harsh on individuals who mistreat animals, but this does not mean that animals should benefit from equal rights as human beings. The reason why some countries impose harsh penalties on individuals who mistreat animals is to protect such individuals from expressing such behavior to their fellow humans. The pressure from interest groups also compels states to impose heavier fines for hurting animals than fines enforced on hurting another human being. Any country that value animals has to ensure that they are not physically abused through abandonment or starvation. Although animals feel pain when they are mishandled, human rights are not based on the ability to feel pain. Humans have the capacity to evolve morally; hence, setting a higher standard of survival than animals.

Works Cited

Cassuto, David N., and Cayleigh Eckhardt. “Don’t Be Cruel (Anymore): A Look At The Animal Cruelty Regimes Of The United States And Brazil With A Call For A New Animal Welfare Agency.” Boston College Environmental Affairs Law Review 43.1 (2016): 1-43. Academic Search Premier. Web. 19 July 2016.

Kordzek, Andrea. “An Exploratory Study Of Animal Cruelty Prosecution In New York.” Society & Animals 22.6 (2014): 602-622. Academic Search Premier. Web. 19 July 2016.

Lutz, Brenda J., and James M. Lutz. “Interest Groups And Pro-Animal Rights Legislation.” Society & Animals 19.3 (2011): 261-277. Academic Search Premier. Web. 19 July 2016.

Rollin, Bernard. “Animal Pain: What It Is And Why It Matters.” Journal Of Ethics 15.4 (2011): 425-437. Academic Search Premier. Web. 20 July 2016.

Schalow, Frank. “Heidegger, The Law Of Being, And Animal Protection Laws.” Ethics & The Environment 20.2 (2015): 61-82. Academic Search Premier. Web. 19 July 2016.

Whiting, Terry L. “Policing Farm Animal Welfare In Federated Nations: The Problem Of Dual Federalism In Canada And The USA.” Animals (2076-2615) 3.4 (2013): 1086-1122. Academic Search Premier. Web. 19 July 2016.